Could citizens’ wealth funds halt the dominance of the financial elite?

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/22 - 1:00am

The Conservative manifesto pledges to create ‘Future Britain’ wealth funds, and a shale gas fund is under discussion at the Treasury. Is the UK finally waking up to the opportunity such schemes offer for tackling inequality?

Tucked away in the Conservative Party manifesto, and largely unremarked, is a promise to create a number of UK sovereign wealth funds, to be called “Future Britain Funds”.

This builds on last year’s proposal in a Treasury Consultation Paper to create a “shale wealth fund” from tax revenue from the extraction, through fracking, of shale gas. Eventually the revenue stream could be significant. The stated aim is to ensure “the benefits of shale developments are shared by communities in which the resource is developed”.

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Categories: Environment

Adani rail line to Abbot Point not a priority, says Infrastructure Australia

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 10:11pm

Agency says it has not received a submission on the rail line from Queensland government and has not conducted any cost-benefit analysis

Infrastructure Australia has not identified a proposed rail line linking the controversial Adani coalmine with the Abbot Point port as a priority, and it has not consulted the body which is expected to stump up a concessional loan.

The chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, Philip Davies, told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday that the rail line – which has been pushed assiduously by the federal resources minister, Matt Canavan – was not “something we’ve currently identified” as a priority project.

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Categories: Environment

Lancashire's poster-place for the access revolution

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 9:30pm

Clougha Pike, Forest of Bowland Once forbidding and forbidden, ringfenced for shooting, this is still a secret, silent place

Find a big map and you’ll see there’s a monstrous, heart-shaped blank in the middle of north-west England. You’ve passed it probably, but the big roads skirt it with such circuitous subtlety you don’t notice you’re orbiting something. For years, unless you paid to shoot things, it might well have remained more a brooding feeling than a sight, its extent out of view beyond this brow or that.

But then wildest Bowland became the poster-place for the second access revolution. The first was Kinder Scout, for its trespass in 1932,which legitimised the case for national parks. Bowland epitomised the unfinished business: the Countryside Rights of Way Act.

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Categories: Environment

Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 1:45pm

Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and airborne particles affects sleep efficiency, says medical professor

Air pollution might be linked to poor sleep, say researchers looking into the impact of toxic air on our slumbers.

Related: Looking tired can harm your social life, say researchers

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Categories: Environment

Time for the oil industry to snuff out its flares

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 1:30pm

The World Bank reckons the 16,000 flares worldwide produce around 350m tonnes of CO2 each year, causing untold harm

The emission of air pollution from traffic in our cities is the last step for a fuel that produces air pollution at every stage of production, often starting with flaring at a distant oil well. The World Bank estimates that the 16,000 flares worldwide produce around 350m tonnes of CO2 each year.

Black carbon from sooty flames adds to the problems, especially across the northern hemisphere where it darkens arctic and mountain snow encouraging melting. The flared gas is also a wasted resource.

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Categories: Environment

Cock-of-the-rock rules the roost in Peru's Manu cloud forest

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 1:30pm

We had come to see one of the greatest bird spectacles in the world: the courtship display of the Andean cock-of-the-rock

Our guide unlocked the wooden door. “Here” he announced to his still sleepy audience “are the keys to paradise.” José Antonio has probably used this line before, but none of us was complaining. For as dawn broke over the Manu cloud forest, in the heart of Peru, we were assembling on a wooden platform perched on the edge of the mountainside. We had come to see one of the greatest bird spectacles in the world: the courtship display of the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus).

Cocks-of-the-rock (note the pedantic plural) are very striking birds indeed. About the size of a collared dove, though much plumper, they sport a prominent crest, which they use to intimidate their fellow males, and attract females, in the avian equivalent of the red deer rut.

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Categories: Environment

Government warned Australian energy market is at 'crisis point'

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 1:16pm

‘There is an acute danger of politicians panicking’ about energy demand and costs, Grattan Institute report warns

A new report has warned the Turnbull government the national electricity market is at “crisis point”, with rising energy prices for consumers and increasing concerns the grid cannot meet demand.

The report by the Grattan Institute says urgent action is required before summer to safeguard against the risks of blackouts, but it also cautions against political “fixes” – like Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 plan or the South Australian government’s plan to boost energy self sufficiency.

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Categories: Environment

Privatisation, water poverty and leaks | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 11:48am
Emanuele Lobina makes the case for public ownership of the water industry, while Peter Simpson of Anglian Water defends the privatised company’s record on reducing leaks

Nils Pratley (Labour’s water renationalisation plan is a damp squib, 17 May) argues that there is no need to renationalise water because regulation is enough to tame the monopolistic behaviour of the private operators. This argument is not convincing when you look at the experience with water privatisation since 1989.

Related: 'Water poverty' to rise in the UK as scarcity pushes up bills

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Categories: Environment

Sea lion grabs girl from dock and pulls her underwater

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 11:03am

Girl shaken but physically unharmed after large sea lion grabs her dress and pulls her into the water near Vancouver, Canada

A young girl and her family were left shaken after a large sea lion grabbed her and pulled her underwater near Vancouver.

The girl was sitting on a dock in Richmond watching the animal in the water before it grabbed her dress and pulled her into the water.

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Categories: Environment

New coalmines will worsen poverty and escalate climate change, report finds

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 11:00am

Oxfam attacks Australia’s ‘climate policy paralysis’ and urges it to promise no new coalmines and end public subsidies

New coalmines will leave more people in poverty, Oxfam has said in a new report, calling on Australia to commit to no new coalmines and to end public subsidies for coalmining.

The report comes as the Queensland and federal governments continue to push for the controversial Adani coalmine in the Galilee basin, signalling potential infrastructure support and “royalty holidays”.

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Categories: Environment

Mount Everest's Hillary Step has collapsed, mountaineer confirms

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 8:17am

Tim Mosedale says destruction of rocky outcrop, possibly in 2015 earthquake, may make climbing to summit more dangerous

A British mountaineer has confirmed that a famous rocky outcrop near the peak of Mount Everest has collapsed, potentially making the climb more dangerous.

The Hillary Step, named after Sir Edmund Hillary who, along with the sherpa Tenzing Norgay, was the first person to climb the mountain in 1953, may have been destroyed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

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Categories: Environment

Norwegian Seed Vault Guarantees Crops Won't Become Extinct

NPR News - Environment - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 4:13am

Burrowed into the side of a mountain, on a Norwegian island deep in the Arctic, is the Global Seed Vault, a small building where vital seed varieties are kept in a deep freeze year round.

Categories: Environment

Shell shareholders to vote for new climate change goals

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 3:38am

Investors including the Church of England and activists will send signal to Anglo-Dutch company’s board at AGM this week

Shell shareholders including the Church of England, European pension funds and Dutch activists will send a signal to the board of the Anglo-Dutch company this week by voting for it to set new climate change goals.

The challenge comes from a Dutch group of retail investors, who have tabled a resolution for Shell’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, asking the company to establish carbon emission reduction targets.

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Categories: Environment

Charging ahead: Welsh battery scheme may aid growth of green energy

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 3:21am

One of the UK’s largest battery storage schemes, built next to a windfarm, will offer vital services to the National Grid

Nestling alongside rows of conifers and wind turbines in a Welsh valley, a pioneering project will materialise this summer that could prove a blueprint for unlocking Britain’s renewable energy potential.

The Upper Afan Valley near Swansea is already home to the biggest windfarm in England and Wales, but in July work will begin there on one of the UK’s largest battery storage schemes.

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Categories: Environment

‘Spiteful and petty’: Maine governor bans signs to Obama-designated monument

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 3:00am

As Trump administration reviews 27 national monuments, conservationists fear a federally mandated effort to strip public lands of environmental protections

A decision by the Republican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, to ban signs to Katahdin Woods and Waters, a national monument designated by Barack Obama, has been described as “sophomoric and petty” by a member of the family that donated the 87,563-acre tract to the nation.

Related: 'This is our land': New Mexico's tribal groups gear up to fight for their home

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Categories: Environment

Charities may face criminal sanctions as 'gagging law' backdated before election

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 2:00am

Electoral Commission says charities must declare all campaign spending since June last year, despite them not knowing a snap election would be called

UK charities face a permanent “chilling effect” on their campaigns after the Electoral Commission said they must declare any work that could be deemed political over the past 12 months to ensure they are not in breach of the Lobbying Act.

At least one charity has been warned that if it does not, it may face “civil or criminal sanctions”.

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Categories: Environment

How do the four main parties compare on the environment?

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/21 - 1:30am

Environment experts weigh up the manifesto pledges on issues such as air pollution, climate change, energy and waste

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Categories: Environment

Florists and farmers call on patriotic shoppers to buy British blooms

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/05/20 - 11:00pm
Campaigners call for all cut flowers to have ‘grown in UK’ label

When you’re searching for the perfect bunch of flowers at your local supermarket or florist, how many of those blooms do you think are grown in Britain? The perhaps surprising answer is typically just 10% to 12% – a percentage that has been shrinking rapidly over the last 30 years.

Now the National Farmers’ Union, backed by growers and florists, is taking matters into its own hands. It is spearheading calls for “provenance labelling” of cut flowers in retailers and florists to enable the public to better recognise which are homegrown. By doing so it hopes to persuade consumers that local and seasonal are the way to go.

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Categories: Environment

The eco guide to unusual materials

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/05/20 - 10:00pm

Fabrics such as cotton come at a dear cost to the environment. Look for progressive alternatives made from pineapples, eucalyptus, even mushrooms

Future generations will shake their heads at our loyalty to a handful of fibres with terrible environmental profiles, such as cotton (thirsty for pesticides and water) and plastic (oil based). They’ll want to know why we didn’t display more imagination.

Many innovations in the fashion industry have a distinctly mushroomy flavour

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Categories: Environment

The Observer view on Scotland’s windfarm dilemma | Observer editorial

Guardian Environment News - Sat, 2017/05/20 - 4:04pm
The government must find a way to proceed with green energy projects while maintaining responsibility for its environment

For anyone who has concerns about our environment and about humanity’s future in a rapidly heating world, the proposed construction of massive offshore windfarms in Scotland’s Firths of Forth and Tay poses a dilemma of some magnitude. On one hand, the four projects – Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo – offer the prospect of generating enough electricity to power 1.4m homes without burning fossil fuel or producing carbon emissions. At the same time, between £314m and £1.2bn could be generated for the Scottish economy. Such prospects – claimed by the Scottish government and local industry – are powerful inducements to proceed with the farms’ construction.

But some environmentalists point to the cost. Every year, the windfarms’ 335 giant turbines could kill thousands of Scotland’s seabirds – puffins, gannets and kittiwakes – when they stray into the giant blades that have been erected in their feeding areas. Hence the RSPB’s dismay at last week’s decision by Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, to reverse previous legal bans on the projects. As we report, environmentalists are now locked in opposing camps. One side claims the windfarms will help make Scotland the green energy leader of Europe. Others point out that the country’s nesting seabirds make a crucial contribution to Scotland’s highly lucrative tourism industry. Their slaughter could have serious financial consequences. More importantly, the nation has a duty of care to its wildlife.

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Categories: Environment
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