To fight climate change, the UK must rewild, state wildlife campaigners

There are many ways in which we, as a country, can go about reducing our carbon emissions to net zero, and in our humble opinion, we should be pursuing all of them. Yet, there is one method that has the ability to captivate the heart and mind more than any other, as it is based around the idea that we should return our green spaces to their most natural selves. This idea is known as ‘rewilding’.

In a new report, named ‘Rewilding and Climate Breakdown: How Restoring Nature can help Decarbonise the UK‘, published by UK-based environmental group Rewilding Britain, it states that to make a significant impact in reducing our net carbon emissions, we need to rewild at least 25% of our landscape. The plan sets its aims at targeting the subsidies that farming communities receive, arguing that they should be redirected onto efforts that support the restoration of wild areas such as peat bogs and marshes, and creating new ones such as biodiverse forests and meadows.

“Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself.” The Rewilding Britain page states. “It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.”

 

Last year, £3.1billion was spent on agricultural subsidies, with £400million, around 13%, going towards agri-environmental projects. The report by Rewilding Britain suggests that spending on these projects should increase to £1.9billion, which would support the sequestration of an estimated 47.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

The amount would be made up of “25.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in new native woodlands, 7.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in species-rich grasslands and 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in peatlands and heaths.” These figures add up to just over a tenth of the current UK CO2 emissions. This is an incredibly large portion, and it’s benefits would not be confined to carbon sequestration. Rewilding large amounts of land has the chance of improving air quality, and greatly improving levels of biodiversity. 

Rewilding Britain’s report calls for three changes to the UK government’s environmental policies:

  1. Integrate carbon sequestration into any new ‘public money for public goods’ mechanisms to incentivise large-scale natural climate solutions.
  2. Establish a mandatory economy-wide carbon pricing mechanism linked to carbon emissions to raise dedicated revenue to help fund natural climate solutions.
  3. Support locally-led partnerships to coordinate action across landholdings to ensure natural climate solutions are designed and brokered locally within each ecological, economic and cultural context.

It also takes aim at rewilding and restoring four key environments that call Britain a home; peatland, woodland, wetland, and marine. The report includes statistics on how much land is used for non-necessities, such as 270,000 hectares being used for golf courses, 1,344,000 hectares used for grouse shooting moors, and 1,830,000 hectares used for deer stalking estates.

The report comes in conjunction with the ratifying of a petition calling to rewild large amounts of Britain, which will now be debated in parliament after it received 100,000 signatures. The petition called for a “bold financial and political commitment to nature’s recovery”

The report goes on to suggest an initial yearly payment for each type of environment, such as £512 per hectare per year for woodland, which would go towards “old-growth native forests in order to remove any perverse incentive to deforest”, allowing the management of said areas to be undertaken more successfully.

Unfortunately, Britain happens to be the ‘slowest and most reluctant of any European nation to begin rewilding the land and reintroducing its missing species’, writes George Monbiot.

Perhaps this is connected to the fact that we have one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world. Large landowners, who are often (though not universally) hostile towards any animals that might compete with or prey upon the animals they hunt, and often deeply suspicious of proposed changes to the way they manage their estates, are peculiarly powerful her. Though they and their views then dot belong to very small minority, they dominate rural policy, and little can be done without their agreement.

In a response to the petition, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that “Our manifesto committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022, and in addition a further million trees in our towns and cities, and we also have a long-term aspiration to increase woodland cover from 10 per cent to 12 per cent by 2060,”. This is part of the government’s 25-year environment plan that was launched in January last year.

For further reading on rewilding, Deeply Good recommends investing in a copy of George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life, in which he puts forward the case for Rewilding in a very informative and emotive way.

We will be releasing an in-depth look into the Rewilding Britain report, so stay tuned.

School Climate Strike: Why we need the youth to protest

On Friday, schools across the UK noted a significant drop in pupil numbers. Those pupils were out on the streets protesting against the ineffectual governmental action on climate change.

When Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”, she couldn’t have been more correct. To see the youth of this country understand the issue and the drastic action needed to be taken better than those in charge, is both inspiring and shocking.

With at least 60 protests occurring from Glasgow to London, it is estimated that more than 10,000 pupils left their scheduled lessons to protest against the mounting ecological crisis, with some even being threatened with punishments of detention and suspension.

“The size of the Youth Strike 4 Climate is testament to the passion and awareness among young people that we need to fight for a future that simply doesn’t exist because we’ve been betrayed by the inaction of those in positions of power.” said Jake Woodier, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

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A protest held in Edinburgh on Friday. Credit: Fiona Mansfield

“Joining so many school children for the last Friday For Future School strike was very emotional.” said student and environmental activist Jo Becker, who attended one of the strikes in Edinburgh on Friday. ” Seeing these kids out of school to ask for a future made my heart ache. But also it was an extremely positive day. Seeing so many children from different age groups and backgrounds come together and taking the lead at a demonstration was truly empowering. Adults have a lot to learn from these passionate, brave youngsters – and we have to start listening to them if we want to ensure a safe future.”

The movement that led up to today’s protests began when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden who began protesting outside the Swedish parliament during her school hours over the effects of climate change. Since then she has gone on to become the face of the movement, and a prominent activist and voice within the environmental activism community.

Thunberg recently travelled to Davos to attend and speak at the World Economic Forum, where she told a panel “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people, to give them hope.”

The youth who participate in today’s protests, and the protests that will inevitably happen more regularly from now on, are doing what needs to be done in terms of negating the effects of climate change: they are speaking truth to power.

These grassroots movements such as #SchoolStrike4Climate and the work of Extinction Rebellion is being mirrored in political parties across the world, from the UK’s Green Party, to the recent Green New Deal being proposed by American congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. These are not the ineffective climate secretaries we have seen in the past, these are, like the youth that follow and emulate them, people who are more than willing to make drastic change.

In the midst of the strikes being held in Australia after the highest seaside temperature ever in the Southern Hemisphere was recorded, high school student Imogen Viner said “Without activism, there’s no point in going to school, because there won’t be a future we want to live in.”

Traditionally, climate groups have been passive, nonpartisan; but that is not the case anymore. With the rise of political interaction within the younger generations, and the worsening degrees of ecological destruction, these groups are becoming more militant, more passionate, and more social-media savvy. They call out fossil fuel industries, corporate powerhouses, and climate change deniers to their face, and take no prisoners while doing so.

While some within the older generations may feel a sense of complacency and comfort, the younger generations can see the future that is being given to them, and quite frankly, they fear it. 12 years is the number they have been given, 12 years to alter the course of global history for the better. It’s a gargantuan task, and the weight of failure is something too dark to think about.

17 year old Rosie Smart-Knight, who participated in the strikes, wrote in an opinion piece “Even if the climate strike doesn’t prompt the change we need and demand, it has given so many young people across the country a chance to raise their voice and make it heard. This movement is allowing young people to realise they’re not alone, that others care about the climate, and are worried about the future. I will continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and I will continue to demand change”

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An image of Extinction Rebellion’s first ‘Rebellion Day’. A large majority of the protesters were young.

One hopes that the momentum of the growing climate activism movement, which consists of a myriad of groups across the world, does not falter. Guardian columnist George Monbiot writes that, for the movement to ultimately succeed, it needs a rigorous framework from which it acts from. Monbiot cites the need for a ‘narrative’, writing that it may go something like this:

“The world has been thrown into climate chaos, caused by fossil fuel companies, the billionaires who profit from them and the politicians they have bought. But we, the young heroes, will confront these oligarchs, using our moral authority to create a movement so big and politically dangerous that our governments are forced to shut down the fossil economy and restore the benign conditions in which humans and other species can thrive.”

In his piece, the writer also calls upon the movement to develop for itself a set of key tenets or ‘tangible objectives’, such as a date by which we operate a zero carbon economy, or a promise from the UK government to completely divest in fossil fuels. “This ensures that the activists, rather than the government, keep setting the agenda.”

More strength within the movement will come from proper training, communication, and a strong defence against divisive political intent. Already the School Strike and Thunberg are being targeted by rumours, criticism, and misinformation. They also need to be prepared for the passion-draining effect of emotional despair. Already groups have sprang up on Facebook designed to assuage the effects of climate-based depression or anxiety, with one being aptly-named ‘UK climate grief & eco anxiety hub for academics and concerned citizens‘.

It is clear that while politics and bureaucracy have an important part to play, they will not be enough without the firebrand and emotive voices and actions of the younger generations all over the world, for it is those generations that shall eventually take on ownership of this world. They do not want to be left a barren wasteland, they do not deserve such a poor legacy to inherit.

We need the youth because they are not deeply entrenched within the ideologies of a world which is slowly breaking apart through it’s own devices.

 

 

‘Food in the Anthropocene’: new ‘plant-focused’ diet could save the planet

A new diet report, created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, has been proposed as a diet that could both poor global nutrition and avert environmental disaster caused by present-day food production methods.

The report states, “Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.”

Key tenets of the diet include a radical change in food production, a great reduction in red meat consumption in traditional western diets, and a reduction in sugar consumption.

“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts.” said Prof. Walter Willet, one of the leaders of the commission. “Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

The main bulk of the report itself is devoted to three sections, the goal, the targets, and the strategies. The goal stated by the EAT-Lancet Commission is ‘To achieve planetary health diets for nearly 10 billion people by 2050″. The targets include and require red meat and sugar consumption to be cut in half globally, while the consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, and nuts, must double. This range is not universal, but geographically specific, stating that instead of halving their red meat intake, North Americans need to eat 84% less, and up their bean and lentil consumption six times. In Europe, we must reduce our red meat consumption by 77%.

The report is wise in it’s differing estimations, noting that “some populations worldwide depend on agropastoral livelihoods and animal protein from livestock. In addition, many populations continue to face significant burdens of undernutrition and obtaining adequate quantities of micronutrients from plant source foods alone can be difficult” 

The introduction of the report stated that their were four scenarios that could develop in the future; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. According to the scientists behind the report, win-win would prevent the deaths of 11 million people worldwide, and prevent the collapse of the natural world, which is currently under an immense amount of pressure.

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An example of the plant-focused, flexitarian plates that the report endorses. Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

Our global food system is inherently broken, with distribution favouring wealthier countries, who both consume more than they need, and waste much. There are also issues with physical production, in terms of the environmental degradation caused by overfishing, and the footprint of the meat industry. Reducing meat and dairy products, or avoiding them altogether, may be the greatest way the individual can reduce their environmental footprint.

In a report published by Springmann et al, it was stated that a 90% drop in red meat consumption and reductions in other meat categories were essential to introduce into our lifestyles in an attempt to avoid the effects of climate breakdown.

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, another author of the report. “[This requires] nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.” The ‘planetary health diet’ strongly recommends only one portion of red meat per week, the size of an average beefburger, and stresses that most protein should come from plant alternatives. The steep rise in plant-based and vegan diets in the last two years has shown that, at least in western countries, this change in protein source is highly possible, and no longer a ‘radical’ idea.

Willett emphasises that this is not a diet of ‘depravation’, but rather “a way of eating that can be healthy, flavourful and enjoyable.”

To keep in line with the 2C limit of global warming set by the Paris Agreement we can assume that “world agriculture will transition toward sustainable food production, leading to a shift from land use being a net source of carbon to becoming a net sink of carbon. “

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“Actions considered for reducing environmental impacts from food production.” Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

“Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience.” said Prof. Johan Rockström, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Stockholm Resilience Centre. “It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”

In all, the report advocates the ‘Great Food Transformation’. “The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. Delaying action will only increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences. ” The report outlines five strategies for this immense change:

  1. Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets
  2. Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food
  3. Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output
  4. Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans
  5. At least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals

The report goes on to state that food will be the “defining issue of the 21st Century”. Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas, editors at Lancet, wrote “Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”

 

 

 

 

EU report names the UK as largest contributor of fossil fuel subsidies

A new report published by the European Commission, has shown that the UK has the largest amount of fossil fuel subsides in the EU, finding that £10.5 billion a year supports fossil fuels in the UK. This is in contrast to the £7.2 billion given to renewable energy. These remain at the same level as 2008.

What these subsidies do is act as an hindrance to what both the EU and the G20 pledged  in 2009 to do; phase out subsidies for fossil fuels in efforts to transition to renewable green energy.

While such policies are being pursued with intent to cut carbon emissions in an effort to meet the 2C warming limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement, fossil fuel subsidies within the EU have not decreased. The report stated that “EU and national policies might need to be reinforced to phase out such subsidies.”

“Spiralling climate change is going to cost people and our economy huge sums of money, through the damage, disruption and instability it causes.” said Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett. “It’s astonishing that the UK government is still throwing taxpayers’ money at some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Ministers must switch funding to rapidly boost energy efficiency and renewables.”

The report stated that €55bn was given as fossil fuel subsidies in 2016, and that “Overall European energy subsidies have increased in recent years, from EUR 148 bn in 2008 to EUR 169 bn in 2016”. The UK, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Ireland gave the most in subsidies to fossil fuels, while Germany provided the highest amount for renewables, at €27bn.

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Financial support to fossil fuels in the EU- Source: EC, Trinomics

While the news of the UK’s fossil fuel obsession is bleak, the renewable sector is looking promising. “The increase was driven by the growth in renewable energy subsidies which reached EUR 76 bn in 2016.” stated the report. 45% of the subsidies over the EU went to renewable energy, compared to 33% for fossil fuels.

“Renewable energy growth also plays a direct role in mitigating and diminishing the negative impact of uncertain global fossil fuel prices and exchange rate risks. Thus, the ambitious 2030 renewable energy and energy efficiency targets recently agreed will help reduce the EU’s dependence on fossil fuel imports and vulnerability to global fossil fuel price shocks and uncertainty.”

“At the same time, energy efficiency and renewable energy investments set the EU on the path to compliance with the Paris Agreement and will stimulate the innovation needed to achieve the energy transformation.”

“We do not subsidise fossil fuels,” a government spokeswoman said. “We’re firmly committed to tackling climate change by using renewables, storage, interconnectors, new nuclear and more to deliver a secure and dynamic energy market at the least possible cost for consumers.” This claim is based on how the UK government defines ‘subsidy’. It is however, false. The WTO definition of ‘subsidy’ includes the definition “government revenue that is otherwise due, foregone or not collected”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, said in September that the UK government had ‘forgone’ around £46 billion after it chose not to implement a scheduled rise in fuel duty, in apparent efforts to keep bills down. Germany and Italy call tax breaks, such as this decision to not raise fuel duties, ‘subsidies’. Providing a semantic smokescreen for fossil fuel subsidies is nothing more than “playing games”, as put by Shelagh Whitley of the Overseas Development Institute, who went on to say that the government’s claim of providing no fossil fuel subsidies was simply “continuing to prop up a centuries old energy system.”

 

 

 

Companies campaigning to end plastic waste ‘investing billions in new plants’

This week a number of firms announced their impending collaboration surrounding plans to tackle plastic pollution, while also being the world’s biggest investors in new plastic production plants.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of these companies: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

According to a European NGO Recycling Netwerk, the companies have invested an estimated £778m in reducing plastic pollution, and yet have tens of billions dependent upon the industry increasing in production over the next decade.

“The signatories claim to invest over a billion dollars to “end plastic waste”. But an overview of pending investments in the expansion of plastic production, quickly reveals the hypocrisy of the Alliance. Without tackling the production of plastic at its source, all clean-up efforts will be in vain”, Said the NGO. Click this link and scroll down to see the list of investments from each company.

ExxonMobil has begun production on a new polyethylene line in Texas, which will produce 650,000 tons per year. Shell plan to build a new plastic plant in Pennsylvania, which will turn shale gas into 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year. Given these investments, the Alliance appears to be nothing more than a ‘greenwashing’ operation.

Since 2010, fossil fuel companies have invested more than $180 billion in new fracking facilities, or ‘cracking’ as it is known, which will increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.

Rob Buurman, the director of Recycling Netwerk, said: “It is interesting to see [the plastics industry] finally acknowledge that there is a problem with their plastics. But unfortunately, this initiative does not tackle the problem at its source: the gigantic production of 400 million tonnes of plastic each year, with 60 million metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”

It is estimated that each year around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the sea. This plastic goes on to choke, infect, and kill multiple marine creatures, and can destroy habitats.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.

“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”

While both arguments are valid, it must be stressed that trust cannot be placed in the hands of big business. It has been a neoliberal con that has placed the consumer as the one who is to blame for plastic pollution. Public opinion in recent years, especially, 2018 has changed for the better, and yet it leads to organisations such as the Alliance To End Plastic Waste which talk of progressive change, but mask realities.

Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, said: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. In 2018 people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis, urging the industry to invest in refill and reuse systems and innovation. Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants Exxon, Dow and Total [which] fuel destructive climate change.”

“Make no mistake, plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and this announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

With many of the investments of these companies being linked to fracking, we cannot view an organisation like the Alliance as an inherently good thing, and must ask the question, are these apparent progressive environmental campaigns a costly but effective way of disguising and safeguarding future plastic investment and production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timber skyline: The rise of the wooden skyscraper

Rapid urbanisation of cities is becoming more and more apparent. This immediately presents issues in terms of the carbon footprints of buildings. The bigger cities get, the taller buildings get, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce in their construction. In order for us to make our cities bigger, taller, more environmentally-friendly, cities need to find ways to future-proof themselves.

By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion, and around two-thirds of us will live in cities. Of course, the solution to this in terms of space will be high-rise complexes.

The materials we use now to build with, mainly concrete and steel, have a large carbon footprint. The answer may lie in something called cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

We are currently in a somewhat renaissance for timber. Wood, of course, is a renewable resource. Currently, the world’s tallest building at 53m tall is the Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which was completed in 2017, just beating the then world’s tallest wooden building, the Treet building, at 52.8m, in Bergen. These however may be left in the proverbial timber dust, with a proposed building in Tokyo known as the W350 Project planned to reach 350m (although this is scheduled for completion in 2041).

In Brummundal, Norway, an 81m high residential building is being constructed from Norwegian timber. Vienna is currently working on an 84m high wooden building. In the Parisian district of Terne, an entire wooden building complex is under construction, and in Germany, an eight-story wooden house was built on an area that used to belong to the United States army in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. It is a current showpiece for energy-efficient construction.

Concrete and steel are both costly to produce and heavy to transport, whereas wood can be grown sustainably and is far lighter. Concrete manufacturing is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases, and is also 15 times less thermally efficient as timber.

Another boon to using timber as a construction material is it’s ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere as it grows, trapping that within it’s makeup. For example, Kielder Forest in Northumberland has 150 million trees. These trees sequester 82,000 tonnes of carbon annually. “This means that as a rough estimate each tree at Kielder is locking up 0.546 kg of carbon per year – equivalent to 2 kg of carbon dioxide.”

Credit: The Economist

It has been shown that a timber building can reduce it’s carbon footprint by up to 75% in contrast to a building of the same size made of conventional building materials. American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrell (SOM) , who designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, have designed a 42m tower, which, if built, will have a carbon footprint 60% less than a conventional build.

“Wood environments make people happy”, gleefully asserted the exhibition ‘Timber City‘ at the National Building Museum, which ran from 2016 to 2017. The exhibition included “architectural models, a video about managed forests and a world map that highlights more than 30 notable recent wooden buildings.” There was also a selection of tree stumps, wood manufacturing examples, and different types of lumber waste, nearly all of which can be used commercially and are recyclable in some way or another.

Regular timber unfortunately isn’t malleable like steel or concrete – it cannot be poured and set as those materials can. It is not strong enough to build high. This is where CLT comes in. It is a wood-panel product made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, with each layer glued perpendicular to one another. By gluing the layers perpendicular, the finished panel achieves better structural rigidity in both directions.

Whole sections can be pre-made and erected quickly on-site. Due to the relative strength and lightness of the wood, it is also suitable for closing gaps, or construction projects on existing buildings.

In April, plans were proposed for an 300m high wooden building, consisting of 80 storeys, which would be integrated with London’s Barbican Centre, a scheme which was developed between Cambridge University’s department of architecture alongside PLP Architecture and the engineers Smith and Wallwork. The project, if realised, could create over 1,000 new residential units.

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The skyline for the proposed timber tower at the Barbican. Image: PLP Architecture / Cambridge University

“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify”, says Dr Micheal Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”

For those of you whose immediate thought is – are we not forgetting the Great Fire of London? The fires that frequented the city of Edo (The name for 17th century Tokyo)? Fortunately for those afraid of house fires, CLT does not burn like conventional timber, as the above video will testify.

“Every well-trained firefighter knows today that an adequate solid wood construction made from cross-laminated timber will withstand fire long enough for them to rescue the residents,” said architect Tom Kaden.

Using CLT and other wooden materials offers new design potential, and ultimately, space to grow. The transition from concrete and steel to construction using timber may possibly have a wider positive impact on urban environments and build form.

It is possible that these new ideas will allow architects, designers, and engineers to reformulate the aesthetics of architecture, but also the inherent structural methodologies that architecture has generally become accustomed to. New innovations in timber could lead to a greener revolution in architecture for the 21st Century and beyond.

 

 

 

“Completely inconsistent” EU coal deal fails to deal with coal subsidies

Analysts have stated that an EU deal to phase out coal subsidies within the Paris Climate Agreement is “completely inconsistent”.

Negotiations at COP24 ended on Wednesday. A benchmark CO2 emissions standard of 550 grams per kWh for all European power plants has been set, with limitations set to be in effect by 2025. Unfortunately, a loophole has been secured by Poland, a coal-dependent country, which allows countries another year to negotiate new ‘capacity mechanisms’ that would be exempt from the deadline. This may allow for unprofitable coal plants to keep operating until 2035, which is five years after the projected cut-off for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Continued support for coal as just agreed by the EU is completely inconsistent with meeting the Paris agreement goals and in particular with limiting warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels].” said Bill Hare, the director of the Climate Analytics thinktank. “It appears to be a de facto rejection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding that coal needs to exit the power sector rapidly. In the EU this means by 2030.”

After the deal was signed, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, tweeted “A more flexible market will facilitate the integration of more renewables. We also limit capacity mechanisms and #support5050 to move #BeyondCoal. #CleanEnergyEU completed.”

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This has not been met with universal support. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace have said that the proposed capacity mechanisms and stay of execution for subsidies levied on the coal industry showed unequivocally that many EU governments were still not fully serious about or dedicated to tackling climate breakdown.

The deal “will help the transformation to cleaner electricity production” said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš. “It will open up more competition in electricity across the EU border – good for the climate and good for the wallet”.

Green MEP Florent Marcellesi said that the delayed introductions of an emissions standard guaranteed “a free licence to go on polluting despite the impact on climate and public health”, meaning that the deal is ‘insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The cost-optimal pathways show that to be in line with the Paris Agreement, the OECD and EU countries need to phase out coal the fastest – by 2030. China would need to phase out coal around 2040, and the rest of the world by 2050.”

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Image taken from Climate Analytics

 

Governmental cherry-picking: over 32,000 badgers killed in annual cull

During the annual badger cull this autumn, more than 32,000 badgers were killed. This was done with the intent to reduce tuberculosis in cattle.

While officials stated that the culls were effective in stemming the prevalence of the disease, independent scientists said the date said officials were quoting was cherry-picked.

In 2017, 33,000 animals that were infected with TB were slaughtered in 2017. Michael Gove, the current environment secretary approved a huge increase in badger culling in September, which could see up to 42,000 animals shot. The data published by the government on Tuesday shows that so far, 32,601 badgers have been killed, a record number.

It seems that this cull is nothing more than an effort to protect capital over biodiversity.

While some badgers will be spreading TB, it is poor biosecurity on farms and the frequent trading of cattle that has more of a negative effect on TB control efforts than badgers themselves. The increasingly high amount of badgers culled in efforts to stop the spread therefore seems meaningless. Around half the culls failed to meet their initial targets.

“The ways that these targets were altered varied between sites in a completely non-standard way,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, of the Institute of Zoology, who was part of a 10-year badger-culling trial. “The scientific term for this methodology is ‘making it up as you go along’.”

Woodroffe stated that there was no basis for confidence in the cull, since it was impossible to estimate from the information gathered.  “We are all used to politicians making optimistic statements based on unreliable data. For a scientist to do so is deeply worrying,” she said.

“Claims that the culls are reducing cattle TB is based on cherry-picking data from a report produced by government scientists. It states explicitly that ‘these data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle’.” said Woodroffe. The government focused on areas where TB seemed to be dropping, yet missed out areas where rates of TB seemed to be rising.

“This is the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.” Said Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust. “By the end of 2018, the government will have spent over £50m of public funds killing over 67,000 badgers [since 2013], which could push the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England where it has lived since the ice age. The badger cull is a cruel, costly and ineffective policy and its continuation is a national disgrace.”

We have to ask; what is the point of this cull? To simply protect assets? It is clear that government officials do not view natural biodiversity as an asset. Other options must be assessed.

 

£80m Eden Project North set to open in Morecambe in 2022

A proposed attracting may be coming to Morecambe in autumn 2022, which would be the latest addition to the Eden Project; Eden Project North, an £80m environmental attraction which will purportedly bring in up to 8,000 visitors a day.

Eden Project North will be comprised of a number of indoor and outdoor experiences, all set around or within a series of ‘biomes’, styled around mussels, a species that Morecambe is well known for. These biomes will house a number of different ecosystems.

Dave Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International Limited, said: “We’re incredibly proud to present our vision for Eden Project North and hope that the people of Morecambe and the surrounding area are as excited about it as we are.

“We aim to reimagine what a seaside destination can offer, with a world-class tourist attraction that is completely in tune with its natural surroundings.”

The hope for Eden Project North is that it will connect the local community to the internationally-significant natural environment of Morecambe Bay, creating a better understanding of natural environments and their fragility, and to also hopefull foster a better sense of well-being in the area.

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An artist’s impression of Eden Project North, a proposed new attraction for Morecambe . Credit: Grimshaw Architects

Grimshaw Architects, the organisation responsible for  the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, have designed the Morecambe-based structures with its focus on the marine environment.

The project is also being seen through by its partners the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. Lancaster City Council plan to invest £250,000 in the project.

Group leader and Labour Cllr Eileen Blamire said “We have all been impressed and enormously excited by the emerging proposals for Eden Project North. If this scheme happens it will have a transformative impact for Morecambe and the wider area.

“Eden Project North meets the criteria in terms of the Eden Project mission” Said Nick Bellamy, head of Eden Project International.

“To have all of this come together with support from Lancaster University, the city and county councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and other bodies is really rare, but very welcome.”

“2019 will be the year that this project really takes off. We’d hope to have full planning permission by 2020, and to be open in the third quarter of 2022.”

The front line of environments affected by climate breakdown will be coastal areas who will be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels. These are also areas where 17% of the UK population lives, and to draw attention to the fragility of those environments will be nothing but good.

“Our project in Cornwall was about the connection between humans and plants, and Eden Project North is about our connection with the marine and aquatic environment.” Said Bellamy.

“It will also be about health and wellbeing and that link to coastal communities, and how we can understand that better.”

“We’ve got an incredible vision for this place, and the question is, are you with us?”

You can find out more information on the projects of Eden Project International here.

 

 

 

 

 

An open letter: 100 notable figures from around the globe sign a call-to-arms on climate breakdown

100 notable figures from around the globe have come together to sign an open letter which calls upon concerned citizens of the globe to rise up and radically organise against current governmental complacency on the ecological and climate emergency we are facing.

The 100 includes Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Packham, Lily Cole, Bill McKibben, Dr Rowan Williams, and Bill Ripple of Scientists Warning amongst others.

The open letter, penned and organised by Dr Alison Green, Dr Richard House, and Dr Rupert Read, who are all representatives of climate advocacy and action group Extinction Rebellion, has been published today simultaneously round the globe, in media including The Guardian (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Taipei Times (Taiwan), O Pais (Mozambique), Aftenposten (Norway) and Al Wihda (Chad).

The publication of the letter comes at the same time as the COP24 United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is the first to be held since the IPCC report on climate breakdown and the proposed global temperature limitation of 1.5C was published in October.

At COP24, renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough declared in his speech, “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out.”

As an organisation, Extinction Rebellion ‘rejects the complacency and denial exhibited by business and political leaders, and insists that the truth about the climate crisis is told.’ It uses non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to bring attention to the apparent ‘criminal activity’ of governments.

The group’s demands are as follows:

  • The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
  • The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
  • A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

“We feel we have really struck a chord with this letter. People understand that there is nothing wrong with telling the truth,” commented Dr Alison Green, PVC Academic at Arden University.

“It has been heartening to have the support of so many high-profile people, and amazing that some of the biggest names were also the quickest to respond. Even people who felt unable to sign the letter commented that they supported the action.”

Fellow letter organiser and chartered psychologist Dr Richard House added, “I co-organised the famous press letter on ‘toxic childhood’ that went viral overnight in September 2006, and tellingly, the level of concern shared by our signatories to this letter surpasses even that. The ignoring or sidelining of this issue by corporations and governments is simply no longer an option.”

Read the full letter below.

Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens

This open letter appears today in major newspapers across the world.

In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.

Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis. If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable.

Complacency and inaction in Britain, the USA, Australia, Brazil, across Africa and Asia… – all illustrate diverse manifestations of political paralysis, abdicating humankind’s grave responsibility for planetary stewardship.

International political organizations and national governments must foreground the climate-emergency issue immediately, urgently drawing up comprehensive policies to address it. Conventionally privileged nations must voluntarily fund comprehensive environment-protection policies in impoverished nations, to compensate the latter for foregoing unsustainable economic growth, and paying recompense for the planet-plundering imperialism of materially privileged nations.

With extreme weather already hitting food production, we demand that governments act now to avoid any risk of hunger, with emergency investment in agro-ecological extreme-weather-resistant food production. We also call for an urgent summit on saving the Arctic icecap, to slow weather disruption of our harvests.

We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonization and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK).

We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their “business as usual” is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.

Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.

You can see a full list of signatories here.