Maitland/AMO Green Monitor – 8 November 2018

8th November 2018

In Business

  • GREEN APPLE: Apple has unveiled its latest MacBook which it calls the “greenest ever”. The laptop has been made with recycled aluminium and tin.
  • CARRIED FROM THE SEA: Marks & Spencer unveiled a new range of reusable carrier bags made with 75 percent ocean-bound plastic in a bid to raise consumer awareness and money for recycling infrastructure. The plastic waste was sourced from Plastic Bank, an initiative in Haiti and the Philippines that pays members of the public to collect plastic litter.
  • WHITER THAN WHITE: Colgate Palmolive, owner of Colgate toothpaste, has announced a scheme to recycle empty toothpaste tubes, used toothbrushes and dental floss containers both in the UK and US. The company has partnered with TerraCycle to develop a way of washing, shredding and melting the plastic for reuse.
  • WIND THAT ROARS: The UK’s renewables capacity has overtaken fossil fuels for the first time according to a report from Imperial College London and energy firm Drax. Wind energy continues to dominate the sector, with solar and biomass also providing significant energy. However, the milestone refers to capacity – not generation, and this week EY released its latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness which revealed the UK had experienced a “marked slowdown” in clean energy investment ahead of Brexit.
  • ASCLEPIUS REWARDED: The Royal College of Physicians has been recognised by the Carbon Trust Standard certification. The association has recorded a 30 percent reduction in its carbon footprint over three years. It is the first royal college to achieve the certification.

In Politics

Brexit Update

GET GREENING: MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee have urged the Government to strengthen the commitments made in its 25-year Environment Plan. The committee claim that the UK risks losing one-third of green legislation if there is no Brexit agreement with the EU.

RAIDING PARTY: The Environmental Audit Committee also condemned the government’s moving 400 civil servants away from Natural England, and other environmental agencies, to work on Brexit preparation. Calling it a “raid” on staff, chair of the committee, Mary Creagh commented: “Preparations for leaving the EU must not get in the way of protecting our treasured natural spaces and iconic British wildlife.”

  • WADE INTO THE FRAY: 20 British companies including IKEA, Marks & Spencer, Siemens and Nestlé have called for legally binding environmental targets. The Treasury and Department for Environment and Rural Affairs are debating whether to legally enshrine a new set of environmental targets. In a letter to the prime minister, the Chancellor and DEFRA, the business group dismissed business fears and argued clear rules would help Britain lead in the race to develop profitable green business.
  • TRAPPING HOT AIR: The government has announced plans to compel more landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties.
  • GRIND DOWN: A special “meat tax” on processed meats, such as sausages, has been proposed by academics at the University of Oxford. The academics argue this would help improve both the health of the planet and its people by reducing meat production and contributing more than £7m to the economy through reduced healthcare costs.
  • GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND: Glasgow City Council has launched an ambitious plan to become Scotland’s first “circular city”. It aims to reduce its domestic and commercial waste footprint and encourage reuse and recycling. The council will publish a detailed “route map” by the end of 2019.
  • BEJEWELED: A survey by the National Trust for Scotland reveals 92 percent of Scots want greater protection for their landscape including restriction on large-scale industrial development in National Scenic Areas (NSA). NSA’s have been described as the “jewels in Scotland’s crown”.

In Innovation 

  • YOU WANT FRIES WITH YOUR FORK? Potato peelings have been made into “alternative plastic” by researchers at Sweden’s Lund University. The potato cutlery, straws and salt bags can biodegrade within two months.
  • BIONIC TOADSTOOL: Researchers using 3D printing to attach energy producing bacteria to the cap of a button mushroom have successfully produced electricity. The fossil-free fungus can generate a small amount of power as it provides the ideal environment for  cyanobacteria which are able to turn sunlight into electrical current.
  • HOT ROCKS: Drilling on the UK’s largest geothermal energy project is set to start in Cornwall. Geothermal Engineering Ltd has announced plans to drill two deep wells into the granitic rock. The deepest well is set to reach 4.5 kilometres.

In Peril

  • NO SANCTUM: Plans to create the world’s largest ocean sanctuary in the Antarctic have been blocked after members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources failed to agree on a consensus for the maritime protection zone. Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have blamed Russia, China and Norway for blocking plans. The sanctuary will be considered next year.
  • LUSH TO DESERT: Swathes of the Amazon rainforest are dying as many of its trees fail to adapt to climate change. A study by the Amazon Forest Inventory Network and Edinburgh University has found drought is killing off areas of the rainforest.
  • COVER UP? Scientists have dismissed “impossible” claims by the Indonesian government that populations of its critically endangered orangutans are recovering.
  • NOT YET BANKED: Seed bank projects, which preserve the seeds of plants and trees in case of disaster, cannot save over a third of critically endangered plants. These seeds do not survive conventional storage techniques. A team of Kew Garden scientists have called for research into alternatives to ensure survival.

In Life

  • ITS ALL IN THE WORD: Collins dictionary has named “single-use” as its word of the year.

In Travel

  • MISERY TOURISM: New research, led by the University of Surrey, has found travel associations are failing to tackle cruel tourist attractions including elephant rides, tiger “selfies” and dolphin aquariums. Of 62 worldwide travel associations assessed, only six communicated about animal welfare to their members. Of these six only two associations, and one tourism standard setting body, included guidelines on animal welfare as part of their sustainability programmes.
  • HOLIDAY PHASE OUT: Thomas Cook has unveiled a phase-out of plastic for its airlines and hotels. The company has pledged to remove more than 70m single-use plastic items, including cutlery and straws, from its aircraft, airport lounges, SENTIDO Hotels, Sunwing Family Resorts and Cook’s Club hotels before the end of November.

In Investment

  • BLUE ECONOMY: The European Commission, European Investment Bank, World Resources Institute and World Wide Fund for Nature have collaborated on the world’s first global framework to finance a sustainable ocean economy. The launch of the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principals aims to ensure ocean-related investment delivers long-term value without negatively impacting marine ecosystems or the livelihoods of people who depend on the oceans.
  • TARRED: The Church of England’s pension fund has rebuked five of the world’s largest oil companies for failing to set climate change targets. Royal Dutch Shell and Total, the only major oil companies to have set long-term climate targets that shadow the goals set by governments within the Paris Agreement, have been praised by ethical investors.
  • REPORT CARD: The Corporate Reporting Dialogue will launch a new initiative to align different environmentally focused corporate reporting schemes. The initiative is aimed at collaborating on standards and “improving overlapping disclosures and data points to achieve better alignment, taking into account the different focuses, audiences and governance procedures.”
  • GREY TO GREEN: A Pinsent Masons survey has found just five percent of the UK’s largest pension fund managers have a specific policy on climate change in place. Despite this, the same survey reveals 74 percent acknowledge the risks that climate challenges pose to the finance sector.

Drone Footage of the Week

Researchers at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Marine Mammal Research Program have released incredible drone footage of humpback and grey whales. The team are using drones to observe behaviours not visible from a boat.

Good news of the Week

A UN report has found the ozone layer is beginning to heal itself from damage caused by aerosol sprays and other chemicals. A concerted effort was made to clamp down on chlorofluorocarbons chemicals after their damage to the ozone was discovered in the 1980s. The upper ozone layer above the Northern Hemisphere should be completely restored in the 2030s, though a hole over the Antarctic is not expected to disappear until 2060.

Interview of the Week 

In an interview with the Telegraph, Sir David Attenborough reflects on his career. He credits the BBC with blazing a trail for other channels and audiences to become interested in natural history. He comments “The big unspoken factor is the acceptance that animals are under pressure…Our job is to raise people’s passion and belief and desire to recognise that animals have a right to some sort of space.” The interview comes amid anticipation at a new five part series, Dynasties, which will focus on the lives of a single group of animals in detail each week.