Policy & Politics Blog
Insights into environmental policy and politics at a UK, EU and international level.
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Don't you just love the European Union? I found the recent attacks on it from climate sceptic Lord Lawson and UKIP chief Nigel Farage made me want to hug it a little closer.
So this month's review of news, views and action from Friends of the Earth is dedicated to the European Union. That's not only because the EU - against the UK Government's wishes - just stepped in to give our bees some freedom from harmful neonicotinoid pesticides.
What's the EU done for the environment?
For Friends of the Earth, the EU law-making process has always been critical to securing environmental improvements in the UK. We have published a new briefing - produced for us by EU policy expert Dr Charlotte Burns at York University - outlining some of the environmental progress made in the UK because of the EU, and the risks from full or partial withdrawal. A quick taster - legal protection for birds, beaches and habitats appears to be most at risk. more ...
Posted by Mike Childs | 09 May 2013
I'm dashedly excited.
This Friday Friends of the Earth, together with a wide range of colleagues from different campaign groups and think tanks, will mount a major conference called Transforming Finance. It will look at what might be one of the most important nuts to crack for moving to a sustainable economy: how do we overhaul our moribund finance system, and how can we get it ploughing serious cash into genuinely socially and environmentally useful investment?
If ticket sales for the conference are any indication then this is an issue that commands extremely widespread interest. And so it should.
Even on its own terms, the finance system is broken. The fundamental things that brought the whole hubristic enterprise to its knees in 2008 are still wrong now: massive, interconnected, speculative banks which can not individually fall without bringing others down with them. The crash required colossal state bail out but still had big impacts on our economy, hitting the poorest hardest. more ...
Posted by Dave Powell | 08 May 2013
Industry has criticised us for raising concerns about the burning of trees in power stations. But is it right?
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has accused Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and RSPB in the Guardian of "spreading misinformation" when we have called for limits to "green energy" subsidies being paid to support the burning of wood in power stations.
So what's the story here?
Friends of the Earth believes that bio-energy has a role to play in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. But only if it is done in a way that protects wildlife, people's livelihoods and guarantees emissions cuts.
When wood is burnt in a power station CO2 is released into the atmosphere, just as it is with fossil fuels. But currently this CO2 is not counted in the Government's proposed greenhouse gas standard even though it is the single largest emission associated with bioenergy. This is justified by the assertion that the CO2 is immediately neutralised by regrowth in the forest from which the wood was harvested. more ...
Posted by Kenneth Richter | 03 May 2013
© Pacific Environment/Sakhalin Environment Watch
I've just read historian Stephen Mosley's book The Environment in World History, which reveals how human degradation of the natural world is not a new phenomenon; in fact huge amounts of environmental damage occurred centuries ago, long before the global population boom and the development of modern technology.
I found it a fascinating read.
Did you know: more ...
Posted by Mike Childs | 25 Apr 2013
© Friends of the Earth
We've done it! It took more than 15,000 emails from customers, hundreds of tweets, a kick-about with Samsung-sponsored Chelsea Football Club and a little decoration of the front drive of its European HQ in Surrey. At last though, we've persuaded the world's biggest-selling smartphone brand to publically acknowledge that its products do contain tin from the dangerous, forest-trashing and coral-killing mines on and around Bangka Island in Indonesia. Samsung says it will use its influence to address the horrendous mortality rate among independent miners and environmental destruction associated with the mining. more ...
Posted by Julian Kirby | 23 Apr 2013
© Friends of the Earth International
Like the terms 'peace offensive', Wigan Athletic and Hyundai Excel, I thought 'nice office' was an oxymoron, until I visited Bloomberg's headquarters yesterday. The business media company had tables full of fruit artfully displayed on immaculate porcelain, an art gallery, and a fish tank almost as big as a squash court.
It was also hosting an impressive event by finance experts Carbon Tracker, who were launching their new report on 'Unburnable Carbon'. A collaboration with academics at the Grantham Research Institute the report makes two main points.
First, that keeping to world Governments' pledges on climate change means we can burn less than a third of the world's proven fossil fuel reserves.
Second, this means that companies holding these reserves cannot use more than a small fraction of them, and so investors should steer clear of these companies, because they represent heavily overvalued assets. more ...
Posted by Simon Bullock | 19 Apr 2013
Last month I outlined our early thinking on cities, as part of our 3-year Big Ideas Change the World research programme. This month I want to share with you some of our early thoughts on bioproductivity, as well as my own top 5 reads on the subject.
When we talk about bioproductivity we mean the total amount of biomass nature manufactures through growing plants, animals and insects, plus nature's wondrous diversity, and the knowledge that flows from it which is so useful for medicines, etc; in other words, nature's bounty.
Bioproductivity is utilised by humans - eg for food, fibre, energy - and by wildlife for food and shelter. It also provides ecosystems services - such as climate regulation, nutrient recycling and soil formation.
There is an amazing rich literature on this subject which we'll synthesise as best we can and publish at a later date. But here's a taster of my own favourite reads: more ...
Posted by Mike Childs | 17 Apr 2013
© Friends of the Earth
Do you remember where you were when you heard Elvis had died? I do. I was on holiday in Scotland. When Nelson Mandela was released? At a friend's house in London. When the Twin Towers were attacked? On holiday, again, in Slovakia. And, of course, when Margaret Thatcher died? I was at the British Ecological Society's annual conference.
April 2013 may be remembered for this one momentous event. For this review of Friends of the Earth news, and views and action it would seem perverse not to mention it. Whether you loved or loathed her there is no doubt that she had an impact on the environment movement as Roger Harrabin reports.
Aside from Baroness Thatcher's death, here are ten other snippets of important news over the last month. more ...
Posted by Mike Childs | 10 Apr 2013
As we drove up to Mrs McKiernan's bungalow in County Tyrone, the garden looked more like a pond with a stream flowing down the drive and into the field beyond. The quarry on the hill behind discharged water right through her property. Most people would expect the council and Environment Agency to stop it within hours. It would be on the news, prosecutions might follow. Heads would roll if action was not taken. But this is Northern Ireland.
Quietly spoken, Mrs McKiernan stood on her doorstep, toes just out of the water and recounted events. The flooding began last autumn. It didn't seem weather-related. It was the latest incident with the quarry, following a legal suit by the quarry operator to force her to sell up so he could expand operations over her land. Mrs McKiernan had lobbied everyone - the council, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the police, the Environment Minister, her MLA. So far, everyone appeared to have passed the buck. more ...
Posted by Andy Atkins | 17 May 2013
A guest post by Ed Matthew from the Energy Revolution Campaign
Over the last decade successive Governments have failed to tackle the growing fuel poverty crisis caused by rocketing energy bills. There are now over 5 million households suffering and over 8 million households could be in fuel poverty within 4 years.
The human cost is horrendous. Over 7,000 people die every year from living in cold homes and illnesses related to fuel poverty cost the NHS over £1 billion each year. In fact the UK has the worst fuel poverty levels of any country in western Europe.
Children and the disabled are also badly affected. A recent survey for Netmums found that 1 in 4 of their members are having to choose this winter between heating and eating. This is a scandal for a developed country. Further research just published found that there are 1.6 million children living in fuel poverty and this could double to 3.2 million if energy bills go up by 25%. more ...
Posted by Ed Matthew | 27 Mar 2013
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© Friends of the Earth / Amelia Collins