Category Archives: Environment

G7 to cut down on burning coal. What about that mine in Cumbria that Boris Johnson supports?

Climate change champion? How can anybody believe Boris Johnson wants to reduce carbon emissions when he turned up at the G7 conference that announced an end to coal power in a chartered jet that put out five times the emissions a train causes?

The G7 weekend has turned into a terrible nightmare for Boris Johnson, hasn’t it?

He was slapped up and down the Cornish coast for signing a Brexit trade deal containing a Northern Ireland protocol that threatens the peace there, which he didn’t bother to read first.

He wouldn’t talk about his religion – because he couldn’t?

The G7 agreed to tax multinational corporations fairly – and Johnson’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak immediately asked for the City of London to be exempt.

And now he has to announce that he has agreed to phase out coal power – while also supporting the construction of a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The contradictions come out of this man so fast I’m amazed his tongue hasn’t tied itself in knots*.

The coal announcement came from the White House, which said it was the first time the leaders of wealthy nations had committed to keeping the projected global temperature rise to 1.5C.

That requires a range of urgent policies, chief among them being phasing out coal burning unless it includes carbon capture technology.

Coal is the world’s dirtiest major fuel and ending its use is seen as a major step by environmentalists, but they also want guarantees rich countries will deliver on previous promises to help poorer nations cope with climate change.

The G7 will end the funding of new coal generation in developing countries and offer up to £2bn ($2.8bn)to stop using the fuel.

But only five days before this, Sky News reported that the people of Whitehaven, in Cumbria, were urging Johnson to press ahead with the planned coal mine there because they need the jobs.

And that’s fair enough, because Johnson was all in favour of it back in February. Otherwise he could have told Robert Jenrick to block planning permission for it.

The BBC report of the time is hilarious in hindsight, because it focused on a leading climate scientist, James Hansen, warning that Johnson risked humiliation if he didn’t stop the mine from being built.

And now he is caught in a humiliating double-standard.

The G7 announcement – although far too vague for comfort – demands that coal be phased out in the 2030s.

But the Cumbria mine indicates a commitment to the emissions caused by coking coal until 2049 (because that’s the limit of the planning permission that was granted). That’s 14 years after all coking of coal must end in the UK, if the country is to meet its climate change targets.

I look forward to hearing him – or his more intelligent spokespeople at the Cabinet Office – talk his way out of this one.

That’s if he can get those knots out of his tongue.

*And wouldn’t it improve his speeches enormously if it did?

Source: G7 to agree tough measures on burning coal to tackle climate change – BBC News

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Doubletalking Johnson pollutes the skies with plane trip to Cornwall, then prattles about ‘Greener Britain’

Hypocrite: Boris Johnson on the boarding ramp of the plane he took from London to Cornwall, talking about creating a “greener” world after causing five times as much pollution as if he had just taken the train.

Once again, Boris Johnson humiliates everybody in the UK before the leaders of the world.

He said he will ask fellow G7 leaders to contribute to creating a “greener” world – but travelled to the meeting at which he’ll do it in an aeroplane. The short flight from London to Cornwall created almost five times more greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent train journey would have, according to the government’s own emission figures.

Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard said the stunt was “plane stupid” and This Writer agrees with him.

I stated in a tweet: “Typical doubletalk from Boris Johnson – claiming to be building a greener Britain while undermining it.”

Others were less charitable:

“The windup artist for the One Per Cent”? It’s a good point.

If the world is to reach “jet zero” emissions, how many of the flights that ordinary people take will be cancelled?

And how many flights taken by the super-rich, and by politicians like Johnson, will also be cancelled?

I’m willing to bet that the answers to those two questions are as follows: Many – and none.

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How could police raid G7 activist’s home without warrant or reason?

Police: it seems they are expanding their powers unilaterally, so they can harass you even before you have given them any reason to.

It seems Boris Johnson’s fascist government has decided to accelerate its attack on your right to protest by putting planned restrictions on your freedom into action before legislation has passed through Parliament.

How else are we to understand the raid at G7 activist Rob Higgs’s Cornwall home, workplace and the business where he keeps his boat, last Thursday (May 13)?

Rob, who is a theatre maker and co-founder of climate action group Ocean Rebellion, said of the raids: “They searched the premises without any warrants, interviewing all my neighbours and tenants, asking about me, what I do and telling people at the boatyard that I am a ‘person of interest’.

He told CornwallLive: “The police’s quote was, ‘We’re just letting you know that we will not in any way stop peaceful protest but we can arrest you at any time that we believe you might be considering disrupting the G7 Summit’, which wouldn’t be legal as normally you’ve got to break a law to be arrested, unless what they’re hinting at is conspiracy charges.

He added: “It’s because I’m a co-founder of Ocean Rebellion, which is an entirely peaceful, legal organisation trying to raise awareness of the oceans.

“We basically make photo shoots and small pop-up theatrical performances that gets good media and global coverage about ocean degradation and how the seas are dying. We’re trying to raise awareness of that and push legislation from the UN to reverse the ocean degradation.

“For the last few months the G7 police have been asking what our plans are and made contact early on saying they’d like to facilitate a peaceful protest. We said ‘thanks but generally you stop it whenever we tell you what we’re doing.’

“We’ve got a dedicated police liaison officer already who has been in discussion with them for months now trying to get them to tell us what we can and can’t do and where we can and can’t go, and we will design all our actions around that to stay within the legal frameworks. I don’t want to break any laws.

“They have refused to let us know, specifically on the water, where the exclusion zones are. They come back to our police liaison officer asking what we’re planning and we tell them we can’t say until they tell us where we can do it!”

Mr Higgs is filing an official complaint to the police and had also taken it up with the Cabinet Office.

What a bizarre situation – it seems the police are being deliberately obstructive of these campaigners’ attempt to mount legal protest, in order to have a reason to arrest them!

I think it would be hard to make a conspiracy charge stick when this group has a police liaison officer who has been trying to plan legal activities but has been foiled by the police’s refusal to co-operate in any way.

But it seems clear in any event that the police are being used as political tools – sent to harass this organisation in order to frustrate its efforts.

And what is the terrible, terrorist act that Ocean Rebellion wants to do?

It wants to raise awareness of the fatal effects of climate change and pollution on sea life – effects that will eventually impact on human beings like you and me in possibly catastrophic ways.

Bang goes Boris Johnson’s attempt to claim environmental credibility.

I can’t wait to hear him try to justify it but I bet he won’t even acknowledge that it has happened.

Source: G7 summit activist in Cornwall files complaint after police ‘raid’ his home and work – Cornwall Live

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‘Major Corruption’ mocked by Greta Thunberg over ‘bunny hugger’ stupidity

Too late, Johnson, you’ve already said it: and the prime minister may have cause to regret calling climate activists “bunny huggers” for some time to come.

I wonder how Tim Fenton of Zelo Street, and anyone else who got there first, feel about the BBC lifting this story?

Personally, I wouldn’t mind. The more people who get to see what an absolutely dunderhead Boris Johnson really is, the better.

But for the record, the Zelo Street story was posted at 10.38am, while the BBC’s version dropped a few hours later. It seems clear somebody at the Corporation realised it was newsworthy belatedly, after picking up on that story – or a similar one elsewhere that This Writer hasn’t seen.

The story is a cracker, and Tim broke it wonderfully.

Johnson tried to play the clown at the current climate summit – but fell flat on his globe-sized arse:

It’s vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive, politically correct, green act of … er … of … er … of bunny hugging.

Er, or, er, however you want to put it, I call it bunny hugging, but you know what I’m driving at, friends and colleagues.

“What a complete and utter numpty,” as Zelo Street observed.

Shortly afterward, this appeared on teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s Twitter account:

The BBC article hits the same notes but excises all the er-ing from Johnson’s comments.

All of which just goes to show that, if you want to know what’s going on, you should be following social media sites like Zelo Street (and this one) – and that and 18-year-old girl can get the better of Johnson, any time she likes.

Source: Greta Thunberg becomes ‘bunny hugger’ on Twitter – BBC News

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India’s plastic roads might be paving the way for a better UK environment

Take a look at this:

That’s right – India has been using its waste plastic to build roads that show no signs of wear and tear after years of use and are cheaper to build than those made of conventional materials.

Why aren’t we doing this in the UK?

In fact, there may be perfectly good reasons not to. I remember when the Wills cigarette factory was built in Hartcliffe, Bristol, it was an ugly block of metal squares – so the firm covered it in a special chemical that was supposed to turn a pleasant green on contact with the atmosphere.

The problem was that the atmosphere on which it had been tested was much drier than the humid south Bristol swamp. The building turned a rusty purple instead, and remained that way until it was knocked down to make way for (guess what?) a shopping centre.

It is entirely possible that an attempt to build plastic roads in the UK may suffer from similar local difficulties. But I have no evidence that any experimentation has been carried out. Wouldn’t it be a good idea at least to try?

Alternatively, this is a potential export market that we may all welcome. If we can’t build durable plastic roads ourselves (or even if we can; I’m sure there’s enough raw material to go around) we can always export our waste plastics to countries that can.

It would solve several problems at once – or so it seems to me.

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Worried about Amazon deforestation? Look to your own urban street trees too

Deforestation: 5,000 trees were chopped in Sheffield after street mainenance was taken over by a private contractor. The vandalism resulted in international headlines and worldwide condemnation.

Sheffield Council (famously) is likely to be one of many UK local authorities to have made entirely the wrong decision by felling street trees in our cities.

And in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the blunder is becoming increasingly more self-evident:

As the UK first entered lockdown in spring 2020… many people spent more time on their local streets and in parks. Online tree app Tree Talk saw a 50-fold increase in users as people fell in love with their local “ .”

And rightly so:

The wood of street trees stores carbon, while their roots and crowns support wildlife and slow rainfall, reducing urban flooding. Transpiration and shade from their canopies reduces temperatures in heatwaves, while pollution-trapping leaves lower the prevalence of asthma.

If these ecosystem services weren’t enough, having trees on our streets reduces crime rates and improves mental health and wellbeing. One mature street tree can have a net ecosystem service value of thousands of pounds.

Sadly, it seems protecting our eco-system comes with a slight maintenance cost that has become too much for some councils (probably due to cash starvation by central – Conservative – government).

That’s why – with no interest in the environment, health or crime – councils across the country have been chopping down trees like there’s no tomorrow (which is ironic when you consider that their actions are helping to ensure that there won’t be).

After the Sheffield debacle, in which 5,000 trees were felled by a private contractor in order to make street maintenance cheaper – but the resulting outcry led to international news headlines, councils have become more circumspect.

Nowadays they tend to sing from a hymn-sheet that declares they will plant several new trees for every old one that is felled. This is no justification:

Just as any child would understand they were being ripped off if given a 2p piece and a 1p piece to replace a pound coin, removing large species trees and replacing them with small ones results in a net loss of ecosystem services.

Size really matters with trees. The annual net ecological benefit of planting a large species tree is 92% greater than planting a small one. Mature street trees do everything from having a positive effect on infant birth weight in lower socio-economic demographics, to increasing resilience to major life events among people who live within sight of them. Consumers spend more on streets that are lined with large trees.

So if your local authority decides to start felling large, mature street trees – get organised and tell your councillors:

You won’t be fooled.

You won’t be fobbed off with a promise of more planting when saplings have only a fraction of the benefit of mature trees.

And you won’t tolerate the fall in public health – and the rise in crime – that your council intends to create.

Source: Why keeping one mature street tree is far better for humans and nature than planting lots of new ones

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David Attenborough is preaching to the wrong people

Misguided: David Attenborough’s A Perfect Planet preached the depressing truth that human beings are destroying their own ecosystem – to human beings who either aren’t or don’t have a choice – they must participate in it or starve. Nobody who can make a difference could care less.

Here’s everything that was wrong with David Attenborough’s A Perfect Planet yesterday:

Sarah Vine, if you didn’t know, is not only a right-wing journalist but the wife of Michael Gove, who happens to be the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – a very senior Conservative government politician.

She doesn’t care about the harm her husband and his government’s policies are doing to the planet. She just wants to see pretty photography of elephants before they become extinct due to her husband’s bad decisions.

And, by virtue of being married to him, she has influence over such matters. She would never use it to stop other Tories (and exploiters from other countries and political parties) from ravaging the world for the sake of a quick buck.

Meanwhile, David Attenborough has been on the BBC telling you and me – I can’t do a single damn thing to stop the destruction of our ecosystem in the name of profit; can you? – that we’re responsible.

Doesn’t he recognise the contradiction in his own stance? He’s saying this on a TV channel that is run by supporters of the Conservative government (current BBC chair Richard Sharp has donated heavily to the Conservatives – more than £400,000 by 2010) and broadcasts Tory propaganda instead of news.

Indeed, just to rub it in our faces, the BBC ran an advert for its news programme right after A Perfect Planet, telling us that while we might have had a rotten time for the last few months – and be in for worse in the future, and it’s all very depressing (they’re sure), we are “not alone” and they are on our side.

Mrs Mike and I stared at this in amazement and disbelief and then both uttered the same explosive eight-letter expletive at the television (I’ll leave you to imagine what it was, for your own entertainment).

If Attenborough really wants to change the direction of travel, he would be demanding change from his BBC bosses but he isn’t.

Instead, all he has done is upset millions of ordinary people who have absolutely no say in such matters and cannot do anything about it.

Some of us may even be employed in jobs that worsen the situation, coerced into doing so by the fact that there is no other work available and they must either take part in the long-term murder of the ecosystem or starve in the short term. Attenborough didn’t mention that on his programme last night but it is a policy of the Conservative government that his employer supports.

I’m not saying he doesn’t make a good point, or shouldn’t be warning everybody about what is happening.

I’m just pointing out that his argument is misdirected. The people who could make a difference simply don’t care. They think he should shut up and show them nice piccies of elephants.

Attenborough stated in the film that his hopes now lie in the new generation of human beings – avoiding the fact that the vast majority will be even less able to change anything than his, or mine, due to political policies across the globe that are concentrating power in the hands of very few people.

I remember back in the 1980s, in the Genesis song Land of Confusion, Tory Phil Collins singing that his generation would “put it right”. His generation didn’t.

My generation hasn’t (to my infinite chagrin).

The next generation won’t have the opportunity.

Attenborough, bless ‘im, needs to get to grips with that reality.

Otherwise, he might just as well give up and give Sarah Vine her elephant pics.

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If the long-awaited Environment Bill has to be delayed, why not use the time to make it useful?

Pollution: the Bill will contain provisions to improve air quality – but not in the immediate future, and the watchdog body it will set up is unlikely to have any teeth.

Do you think it’s bizarre that our government(s) tell us constantly that their actions are for the good of the country, but they always seem to postpone anything for the good of the planet?

The case in point is the decision to postpone, yet again, an Environment Bill that has been waiting for a reading in the House of Commons since 2018.

Campaigners say the delay will harm action to lessen air pollution and improve water quality.

Ministers say the delay is necessary because of the amount of time being taken up by the Covid-19 crisis.

Dispassionate onlookers might say this discussion seems pointless anyway, as Boris Johnson’s government has resoundingly failed to cope with the pandemic on any meaningful level.

The Bill sets out a framework by which ministers can impose new targets on vital issues like air pollution and water quality, waste, resource use and biodiversity, which were previously regulated under EU directives.

But the bill as it stands makes these into long-term targets, meaning direct efforts to cut pollution may be left in limbo.

If passed into law, the legislation will create a new Office for Environmental Protection – a watchdog body that campaigners fear will not be sufficiently independent or powerful under the current bill.

The bill also includes measures to ensure consumers in the UK no longer contribute to the destruction of vast swaths of forested land overseas, through new rules intended to stop the import of goods to the UK from areas of illegally deforested land. UK businesses will need to show that the products they source that could come from at-risk areas – wood, but also soy, palm oil, beef, leather and other key commodities – are from supply chains free from deforestation. Breaches of the rules will incur fines.

So all in all, the Bill looks like reducing, rather than increasing, environmental protections.

It seems to This Writer that, if it must be delayed, then this is an opportunity to do some background work.

I remember hearing that US president Lyndon Johnson used to do much of his work in the backrooms of Congress, persuading (I won’t speculate on his methods) Congresspeople to support his laws – or finding ways to make them acceptable.

Perhaps if the Tories currently working on the Environment Bill – Rebecca Pow is named in the Guardian report – spend the spring and summer polishing it up to ensure that there are quantifiable short- and medium-term targets, and their new Office for Environmental Protection actually has the clout to live up to its name, then the amount of discussion time in Parliament could be cut down, the Bill could sail through and everybody will be (belatedly) happy.

But that may be too much like common sense.

Source: Fury as long-awaited UK environment bill is delayed for third time | Environment | The Guardian

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‘Let’s kill bees!’ says the UK government after Brexit

One-third of the UK’s bees have died out in the last decade – but that’s not enough, according to our Conservative government.

It has authorised the emergency use of a bee-killing pesticide -containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam – in response to demands from farmers who want to save sugar beet crops from virus yellows disease. It has caused yield losses of up to 80 per cent for some growers.

But studies suggest that it weakens bees’ immune systems, harms the development of baby bees’ brains and can leave them unable to fly.

As pollinators, bees are vital, not only to the ecology of the UK but to that of the whole world.

The decision is a violation of a promise made by Michael Gove in 2018, when he stated: “We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

He added: “Unless the evidence base changes again, the government will keep these restrictions in place after we have left the EU.”

Perhaps the Tories think it’s okay to backtrack on this because 11 EU countries have also authorised the use of the pesticide.

But the evidence against it is very strong indeed:

Who can argue with that, all things considered? Lobbying has beaten scientific advice.

This should have particular relevance to us all as it may be applied to the Covid-19 crisis, also.

On a personal level, I can only agree with the following:

Credibility is not the Johnson government’s strong suit.

NOTE: If you want to join the call for the government to reconsider, please consider signing the petition here.

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Is the United States getting serious about climate change? If so, it could be a game-changer

It seems Joe Biden wants to tackle the climate crisis. Perhaps he sees it as a way to make his mark on history.

If so, he is to be applauded. If the United States commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it will take a lot of pressure from smaller countries – and pile it onto larger economies like China, Russia and India.

And while the UK has paid lip-service to climate commitments, the influence of America could force Boris Johnson (and his successors) to pay closer attention to making sure they are honoured.

This is another good news story. Perhaps the tide is turning at last.

The US will hold a climate summit of the world’s major economies early next year, within 100 days of Joe Biden taking office, and seek to rejoin the Paris agreement on the first day of his presidency, in a boost to international climate action.

Leaders from 75 countries met without the US in a virtual Climate Ambition Summit co-hosted by the UN, the UK and France at the weekend, marking the fifth anniversary of the Paris accord. The absence of the US underlined the need for more countries, including other major economies such as Brazil, Russia and Indonesia, to make fresh commitments on tackling the climate crisis.

Source: US to hold world climate summit early next year and seek to rejoin Paris accord | Climate change | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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