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Coral reefs 'at make or break point', UN environment head says

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 05:59

Erik Solheim cites ‘huge decline’ in world’s reefs but says shift from coal and new awareness of plastic pollution are good news

The battle to save the world’s coral reefs is at “make or break point”, and countries that host them have a special responsibility to take a leadership role by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and impacts from agriculture, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has said.

Speaking to the Guardian after the launch of International Coral Reef Initiative’s international year of the reef, Erik Solheim said he expected governments to take their efforts on reef protection in 2018 beyond symbolic designation.

Related: Coral reef bleaching 'the new normal' and a fatal threat to ecosystems

Related: Great Barrier Reef tourism spokesman attacks scientist over slump in visitors

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Stuart Wenham: scientists pay tribute to 'Einstein of solar world'

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 06:12

University of New South Wales colleagues pay tribute to pioneer with ‘Crocodile Dundee persona’ who died age 60 from malignant melanoma

Australia’s scientific community has paid tribute to Prof Stuart Wenham, a solar energy pioneer described as the “Einstein of the solar industry”, whose research increased the efficiency of solar cells a hundredfold.

Wenham passed away on 23 December, age 60, after suffering from malignant melanoma. He was the director of the Centre of Excellence for Advanced Photovoltaics and Photonics at the University of New South Wales.

Related: How investing in solar energy can create a brighter future for Africa

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Categories: Sustainable Living

UK green energy investment halves after policy changes

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 13:35

Investment in green energy fell 56% in UK in 2017 – biggest fall of any country – after ‘stop-start’ support from government

Investment in clean energy plunged further in Britain than in any other country last year because of government policy changes, new figures show.

The amount companies spent on green energy in the UK rose during the years of the coalition government (2010-2015) but has now fallen for two years in a row under the Conservatives, according to analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Victoria may extend Yallourn coal licence despite zero-emissions pledge

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 05:52

Environment Victoria says extending Australia’s most polluting power station would pose an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the climate

The Victorian government is considering whether to extend the coalmining licence for Australia’s most polluting power station, Yallourn, in the state’s Latrobe Valley.

A spokesman for the resources minister, Tim Pallas, said the government’s mining industry regulator, Earth Resources Regulation, was assessing the mine licence extension application and was expected to provide advice to the minister shortly.

Related: What is the national energy guarantee and is it really a game changer?

Related: South Australia and ACT outvoted on national energy guarantee

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Categories: Sustainable Living

UK’s wasted chances to recycle and renew | Letters

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 19:15
Britain should follow China’s example on renewables, writes Feargal Dalton, and Ian Paul urges the UK to step up to the recycling challenge. Neil Sinclair wants a fossil fuel-free February, while Grace Hewson wants a plastic-free newspaper

In view of the appalling revelations that the UK has been shipping vast quantities of plastic to China for many years (Editorial, 8 January), would it not be a good idea to have the UK lead once more in something and have genuine recycling plants set up here in the country? I mean genuine plants to process plastic from the UK and the rest of Europe, not just depots for onward reselling as seems to have been the case. 

There are initiatives to use such waste plastic in innovative ways. For example there is a small startup company in Scotland, MacRebur, developing ways to reduce the amount of toxic bitumen in asphalt by substituting a proportion of waste plastic into the mix. Surely we should urge government and private industry to build and develop plants to deal with the problem now, before we are knee-deep in bottles?
Ian Paul
York

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Government indecision leaves £1.3bn Swansea tidal lagoon project in limbo

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 17:19

Fresh offer of ‘substantial investment’ from Welsh first minister raises hope for clean energy plan getting a green light from Westminster

Plans for a £1.3bn tidal power lagoon in Swansea could still be backed by ministers despite government indecision on whether to support it, according to the author of an independent review on the project.

Charles Hendry, a Conservative politician and former energy minister, enthusiastically supported the scheme a year ago as a source of clean power and UK jobs.

Related: No subsidies for green power projects before 2025, says UK Treasury

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Theresa May, prove your green vision isn’t just more ‘hug a husky’ cynicism | Sue Hayman

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 16:24

The idea that this pro-fracking, badger-culling government is committed to the environment looks as empty as one of Michael Gove’s reusable coffee cups

• Sue Hayman is the shadow environment secretary

The 25-year plan for the environment announced by the government today looks fairly weak on paper, and we’re not holding our breath when it comes to implementation. Many people will remember David Cameron’s “hug a husky” moment, and this plan looks like another cynical attempt to try to rebrand the Tories rather than a genuine commitment to improving our environment.

Related: Theresa May defends green plan as critics say it is too slow and vague

Will the government put its warm words into action where it counts, and back Labour's amendments?

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Big new renewable projects planned across Australia as Tesla effect hits

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 06:20

Following the success of Elon Musk’s 100-megawatt battery in South Australia, another battery and renewable power plant are in the works

Australia’s renewable energy sector responds to the success of South Australia’s Tesla lithium ion battery. South Australia will build the world’s largest solar thermal plant, and a Queensland wind farm may be the site of a new record-breaking battery.

The Aurora solar plant in Port Augusta, SA, will begin construction this year, and is slated to provide 100% of the state government’s electricity needs by 2020, the state’s acting energy minister, Chris Picton, announced on Wednesday.

Related: Higher electricity bills if Snowy 2.0 hydro not built, says Frydenberg

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Categories: Sustainable Living

China on track to lead in renewables as US retreats, report says

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 03:08

IEEFA report says China will dominate international investment in renewable technology over the next several decades

China is moving towards becoming a global leader in renewable technology as the US pulls away, a new report has said.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and still invests in coal but in recent years it has become the largest investor in domestic renewable energy. The country is now on track to lead international investment in the sector, according to the report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Related: Global coal consumption forecast to slow

Related: Energy agency rejects Trump plan to prop up coal and nuclear power plants

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Weatherwatch: can we keep the lights on when the wind fails to blow?

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 21:30

The UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country – but we need a plan B for ultra-cold winters with soaring energy demands

Last year was one of the greenest for power in the UK. Nearly one-third of all electricity came from renewable sources, and wind and solar provided more power than coal on 315 days of the year. Rapid growth in both solar and wind (the UK now has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country in the world) has enabled the UK to achieve these impressive statistics, but will the rise in renewables also make UK power more vulnerable to the whims of British weather?

Researchers working on the European Climatic Energy Mixes project have been investigating future risk by assessing how the UK would fare with a repeat of the unusually cold winter of 2009-10. From mid-December 2009 a southward-displaced jet stream allowed cold air to pour in from eastern Europe, bringing widespread snow and plunging temperatures. The mean UK temperature for the entire winter was just 1.5C, the lowest since 1978-79 when it was 1.2C . As a result power demand surged, with electricity consumption between 10 and 20% above average on a number of occasions.

Related: Europe's offshore wind industry booming as costs fall

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Daylight robbery: thieves steal chunk of China's new solar highway

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 04:21

Panels which lie under transparent concrete are dug up in what is believed to be a case of technology theft

Thieves in China have vandalised a newly opened solar highway, less than a week after the road was christened with much fanfare.

The one-kilometre stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan consists of solar panels under a layer of transparent concrete, allowing cars to drive over the photovoltaic cells.

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Higher electricity bills if Snowy 2.0 hydro not built, says Frydenberg

Tue, 01/09/2018 - 02:25

Despite costing up to $4.5bn, the feasibility study for ‘Australia’s biggest battery’ finds it would still be economically viable

Australians would pay more for electricity and have more volatile supply if the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydropower project is not built, Josh Frydenberg has said.

The energy and environment minister has strongly argued for the necessity of the scheme in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, despite the feasibility study revealing that its estimated cost had blown out by more than $2bn to between $3.8bn and $4.5bn.

Related: Malcolm Turnbull pledges more funds for Snowy Hydro 2.0 as Labor attacks 'gas crisis'

Related: A great year for clean energy in Australia ends, while bad news for coal continues | Simon Holmes à Court

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Five renewable energy trends to watch in 2018

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 11:17

Falling costs, Chinese dominance and competition in battery technology are some of the main developments to monitor in 2018

It’s been a rollercoaster year for renewables. The price of solar and wind plummeted, China smashed its target for solar installations – but Donald Trump also withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement. So what do the experts predict for 2018?

Related: The history and promising future of electric vehicles – in four charts

Related: 'A no-brainer': small businesses can be part of a renewables revolution too

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Brazil raises hopes of a retreat from new mega-dam construction

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 17:56

Hydropower policy to be rethought in face of environmental concerns, indigenous sensitivities and public unease, says surprise government statement

After swathes of forest clearance, millions of tonnes of concrete and decades of hydro-expansion, Brazil has raised hopes that it may finally step back from the construction of new mega-dams.

In a surprise statement, a senior government official said hydropower policy needed to be rethought in the face of environmental concerns, indigenous sensitivities and public unease.

Related: Why is Latin America so obsessed with mega dams? | John Vidal

Related: Green groups condemn UN plan to use $136m from climate fund for large dams

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Categories: Sustainable Living

From stools to fuels: the street lamp that runs on dog do

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 10:00

Turning turds into power is not new but most of this energy still goes to waste. A host of innovative projects aim to maximise poo’s full potential

A long winding road climbs into a gathering dusk, coming to an abrupt dead end in front of a house. Here, a solitary flickering flame casts out a warm glow, illuminating the nearby ridge line of the Malvern Hills.

Below the light sits a mysterious green contraption resembling a cross between a giant washing machine and a weather station. This is the UK’s first dog poo-powered street lamp, and it is generating light in more ways than one.

Related: Poo power: Dutch dairy industry launches €150m biogas project

Related: It’s not a load of crap: turn your urine and faeces into treasure | Zoe Cormier

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Is this the future? Dutch plan vast windfarm island in North Sea

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 06:00

Advanced plans by Dutch power grid aims to build power hub possibly at Dogger Bank whose scale would dwarf current offshore sites


Britain’s homes could be lit and powered by windfarms surrounding an artificial island deep out in the North Sea, under advanced plans by a Dutch energy network.

The radical proposal envisages an island being built to act as a hub for vast offshore windfarms that would eclipse today’s facilities in scale. Dogger Bank, 125km (78 miles) off the East Yorkshire coast, has been identified as a potentially windy and shallow site.

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Renewables generated triple the power of coal in 2017, UK figures show

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 05:07

As the worst-polluting coal plants near the end of their life, the focus must turn to tackling gas dependency, says analysis firm

British wind farms generated more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days this year, an analysis of energy figures has shown.

Solar also outperformed coal more than half the time, the data provided by website MyGridGB revealed.

Related: Nuclear and renewables provide record share of UK electricity, ONS says

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Categories: Sustainable Living

From 'angry summer' to 'weird winter': 2017 was riddled with extreme weather | Amanda McKenzie

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 02:17

Australia is the land of droughts and floods, but they are becoming more frequent and forceful. The window of opportunity to act on climate change is closing

The fingerprints of climate change can be traced across 2017, with extreme weather events witnessed around the world; from supercharged storms, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves through to bushfires. 2017 has seen it all.

As the year draws to a close, it remains on track to become the third hottest year on record and the hottest in a non-El Niño year. Despite the United States and Europe continuing their decade-long decline in greenhouse gas pollution, Australia has been missing in action. Australia’s pollution has been rising year on year since March 2015. This pollution is contributing to driving worsening extreme weather here and around the world.

Related: More than 200 killed in Philippines mudslides and floods as storm hits

Related: Australia's record-breaking winter beats average highs by 2C, Climate Council says

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Categories: Sustainable Living

UK energy cap could have been avoided, lobby group says

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 14:58

Body representing big six suppliers says price cap is not inevitable and could have been avoided if industry had acted more quickly on ‘rip-off’ tariffs

Energy suppliers could have avoided the government imposing a price cap if they had acted faster to shift customers off the tariffs branded a “rip-off” by Theresa May, according to an industry lobby group.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, also said he believed it was still possible the cap might not happen – if the sector can transform itself in time.

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Categories: Sustainable Living

Country diary: in Richard I's day this field was a hi-tech hub

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 05:30

Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire Grass-covered earthworks are all that remain of an abbey that built one of England’s first windmills

Patches of snow persist in the most sheltered spots alongside Harpers Brook, the pasture dense with a complexity of mounds and earthworks that hints at a significant history. The sloping field by the grey limestone edifices of Pipewell Hall is crowned with a variety of trees, some fairly ancient, and a medley of a dozen horses and ponies come over to say hello; each in turn blowing gusts of warm breath on to the back of my hand, some lingering to gently nuzzle or allow a brief stroke.

A Cistercian community, St Mary de Divisis Abbey, was established here in 1143. The monastery and cloisters were surrounded by many facilities – an infirmary, a bakery, a granary, a brewhouse, a quarry, a cemetery, a watermill, carp ponds and refuse pits. A little further to the west the community built one of the first English windmills.

Related: Funding boost to help save England's rarest species from extinction

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Categories: Sustainable Living