Hello, I'm Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report. This is the edition for Friday, 11 May and there is a wide and wild selection of topics.
The podcast is at www.susbiz.biz and also on iTunes
First of all
...there's news of a net improvement in the volume of plastics in the oceans. Barclays are still banking on fossil fuels and I can tell you about the enchanted forest which made some environmentalists very disenchanted indeed. Spurs, the football team plans to kick single-use plastic into touch. In Scotland there is a new tidal project, in Sweden there’s an electric road and in California there’s an electric Apple. BP says it's going greener, the Filipinos are going to law, EDF is going slower–at least at its nuclear plant in northern France, while Scott Pruitt and colleagues are going first-class. Finally, was the beast from the east more than just a cliché?
Hello and welcome
...and a special welcome to all my patrons. I really appreciate your continuing support. If you too would like to be a patron well, just hop across to www.patreon.com/sfr. Your contribution can be as little as a dollar a month and it helps me to pay for hosting the Sustainable Futures Report including the 200+ episode archive.
Plastic at Sea
David Attenborough, through his Blue Planet TV series, has made us all aware the vast quantities of plastics floating in the ocean. In fact, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is reputed to be three times the size of France, and there are three or four other debris islands across the world. The problems with plastic in the oceans are many. Discarded fishing tackle accounts for by far the largest proportion of plastic in the sea. Floating plastic traps and drowns fish, animals and birds or chokes them when they try to eat it. Gradually this plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. To start with it floats on the surface where it can become contaminated with oil and other pollutants. Gradually it can sink to the ocean depths, taking with it polluting materials which have never previously penetrated into deep water. These small particles may also be absorbed by fish and marine organisms and thereby find their way into the human food chain.
Given the enormous size of these rafts of plastic it would cost unimaginable sums to send ships to collect it all up. Now 23-year-old diver Boyan Slat has come up with a system of floating barriers or screens. They are up to 2 km wide and drift with the current, but are held back by sea anchors or drogues. This means that the plastic debris is trapped against the barriers while fish and all marine animals can escape around or underneath them. Using barriers to concentrate the plastic in small areas makes it relatively easy and cost-effective to send ships to collect the debris and return it to shore for recycling. It is estimated that this technique could clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in as little as five years. Presumably as long as we stop adding to it.
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is on the case.
The club is pledging to eliminate all plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery from the opening day of its new £850 million stadium in north London.
None of these items will be stocked in future nor will alternatives come in disposable plastic packaging. All new supplier contracts will also contain a requirement to reduce single-use plastics and the club will replace its current 5p carrier bags with ones which are biodegradable.
To eliminate waste we need to rediscover thrift.
That’s the title of a TED Talk by Andrew Dent. Search the TED website for Andrew Dent, or find the full link on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report .
...plans to continue to invest in fossil fuels despite protests at its annual shareholders meeting where protesters were carried out by security staff. Barclays is financing the construction of a pipeline in Canada to take product from the tar sands to West Coast ports for export to Asia. Clearly Barclays sees this as a good investment. It's interesting how this contrasts with the presentations at a meeting of the Leeds Climate Commission which I recently attended. The theme was financing low carbon and the speakers were finance professionals who were confident that low carbon solutions were viable and profitable. One speaker reminded us that we can only burn a relatively small proportion of the earth's remaining fossil fuel deposits before we cause irreparable environmental damage. Apparently this is not a concern for the managers of Barclays or indeed for their shareholders. I won't be investing in them and I'm glad that Barclays doesn't manage my pension-fund.
And now to an enchanted forest,
or how going green can leave you up to your neck in greenwash.
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld used the enchanted forest idea as a backdrop those Chanel fashion show in Paris. The models walks down what appeared to be woodland paths strewn with leaves beneath wild woodland trees. Campaigners said the grand couturier’s attempt to present Chanel’s green credentials had badly backfired and revealed the fashion house was “completely divorced from the reality of protecting nature”. The organisers obtained oak and poplar trees, some over 100 years old. After a few hours as part of the Chanel backdrop they were discarded. Lagerfeld's team insisted that none of the trees was more than 100 years old and said that they were had agreed to plant 100 Oaks in the area where the trees were felled as a condition of being allowed to them. Nonetheless, protesters attacked the company’s pretensions to environmental responsibility saying that whatever Chanel's intentions, they had clearly failed. FNE (France Nature Environnement ) published pictures of tree stumps in what it described as the “disenchanted forest” on Twitter.
Others said that Lagerfeld should simply have relocated his show to a real forest.
BP goes Green
Climate Action reports that BP’s Chief Executive, Bob Dudley, has told an audience in London that the petroleum giant will place a cap on carbon emissions out to 2025.
The plan, outlined in a new report, will see the company take baby steps towards a low-carbon future.
Mr Dudley stated that even as BP grows total carbon emissions each year from now until 2025 will remain no bigger than in 2015 when the Paris climate accord was signed.
In addition, BP has set a target to cut carbon emissions by 3.5 million tonnes over the next eight years with investments in energy efficiency, tackling the intensity of methane emissions, and reduced flaring at oil and gas sites.
If these measures don’t work then investments in ‘high-quality’ carbon offset projects will be used instead. Carbon offset projects of course are a whole debate in themselves.
BP are talking about limiting carbon emissions from the company itself. The carbon emissions created by BP's customers using BP's products are a completely separate and very much larger issue. It makes me think a bit about having a smoking ban in the offices of Imperial Tobacco
Climate Liability News reports that the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines is holding the first public hearing of its investigation into whether fossil fuel companies have violated the human rights of its citizens, who have endured devastating climate-related disasters in recent years.
The five-person commission heard emotional testimony on Tuesday about the impact of severe drought and extreme storms on farmers, fishermen and their families. They also listened to scientists who laid out global and Philippines-specific data on climate change and presented research that attributed two-thirds of the man-made emissions since the start of the industrial age to 90 oil, gas, coal and cement companies. The two-day hearing continued on Wednesday.
Zelda Soriano of Greenpeace Southeast Asia delivered the opening statement, which compared the health and environmental impact of climate change—and the companies involved—to smoking and its health effects.
“Today, there’s that little government warning on every cigarette pack because once upon a time, some people sued the giant cigarette companies, and the courts listened to them and rejected the excuses that the impacts of smoking cannot be quantified,” Soriano told the commissioners.
The commission launched the investigation in 2015 after receiving a petition from a group that included Greenpeace, community groups and 18 individuals. The case targets 47 so-called Carbon Majors, which includes the world’s largest oil, gas, coal and cement companies, even those that don’t operate in the Philippines.
Clearly something else for BP to think about .
There comes a tide in the affairs of men…
…and the potential for the tides to generate clean, reliable electricity has taken a significant step with the completion of a flagship project in Scottish waters.
The innovative MeyGen tidal array has recently finished construction and is now connected to the UK’s mainland national grid. It represents the largest tidal energy project in the world with four 1.5 megawatt (MW) turbines being placed on the seabed in the Pentland Firth, 1.2 miles off Scotland’s north-east tip.
The area is known for its choppy waters and some of the fiercest tides in the world; strong currents coming in from the Atlantic Ocean flow through the area into the North Sea.
The final 6MW tidal project can power a maximum of 2,600 homes and has already shown its potential with record-breaking generation over summer last year. It will stay in operation for 25 years; however, the developer, Atlantis Resources, has plans, and permission, to build at least four more phases of the array with the hope that 296 turbines could be constructed.
Undersea turbines are a way of generating electricity,
Electric cars are a way of using it. The electric car issue is always the question of range anxiety. Will the car run out of charge before I reach my destination? Will there be a charger at my destination? Now a Swedish consortium has addressed this by developing a system which can charge cars on the move. They have installed an electrified rail into the surface of a 2 km test track. Vehicles have a pantograph rather like an electric train, except that this pantograph engages with the rail rather than with an overhead wire. Technical details are sketchy but looking at some of the reports it appears that this is not just a simple rail. After all, you need two poles, a positive and a negative, to make any electrical item work or to charge any battery. If the rail was just a single charged bar that might give you the positive and of course trams connect to the negative through their iron wheels in contact with the metal rails. The bar in this Swedish system actually appears to have two slots in it and therefore there must be two separate collectors: live and return, incorporated into the collecting arm. Apparently this arm can be rapidly retracted if the driver wants to overtake the vehicle in front. The system is for charging, not for powering the vehicle, so the car can run perfectly well without contact with the rail. Supporters of the scheme say that their charging rail is many times cheaper than the installation of urban tram systems. That may be true, but I fear that it is a false comparison. If your only objective for electrification is to eliminate emissions, then both the electric car and the electric tram will achieve this, but a tram will carry far more passengers per m2 of road space and you don't have to park your tram, you just send it on its way keeping it in nearly constant use.
Another system developed in Israel for recharging electric vehicles while on the move does not use a conducting rail but relies on induction coils embedded in the road surface. There is no physical contact between the vehicle and the charging circuit. The vehicle enters a magnetic field which induces a current in the charging system and recharges the batteries. This is the same principle as used by some smartphones which incorporate wireless charging. As far as I am aware, this is only about 60% efficient. That may not be much of a problem when you are charging a smart phone, but it sounds like a very wasteful way to recharge an electric car or an electric bus.
Another note on energy generation
EDF Energy has warned that the flagship nuclear power station it is building at Flamanville in France could run further behind schedule and over budget, after it detected faults at the €10.5bn ( £9.2bn) plant.This plant is of the same design that EDF are using to build the U.K.'s latest nuclear power station at Hinkley C. Reactors of this design are all years late and significantly over budget. For example, the Flamanville plant was scheduled to begin production in 2012, but is still not complete.
One of the first things that Mrs May did when she became prime minister was to put the Hinckley C project on hold. This lasted for only a few weeks. Maybe she should have held to her decision. The plant should have started production in 2017 but is now not expected to be complete before 2025, by which time the whole energy generation landscape it Is likely to have completely changed.
Another report from Climate Action reveals that Apple now claims its entire global operations are powered by renewable energy.
This means that all its retail stores, data centres and offices in 43 countries either directly use clean power, or are offset using renewable energy certificates. This is common practice within the industry and helped Google meet its own 100 percent target, officially announced last week.
On the manufacturing side, Apple also announced that nine new partners have committed to power its production facilities using 100 percent renewables, which now means 23 of its suppliers have made the pledge. However, the company has at least 200 global suppliers helping to make the majority of its products.
I once developed a training course called the green supply chain. One of the basic principles was that whether or not you believe that going green and reducing carbon emissions is a good idea, you may get these principles forced on you by customer expectations. So if any of you out there are actually supplying to Apple or to any other major companies with a green agenda, take note. Training course still available.
There’s been debate in the United States about the fact that Scott Pruitt, head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, flies first class. Of course he is a senior government official, so why shouldn't he? The debate is centred on the fact that he usually takes along his security detail and they all fly first class as well. As we know, flying is bad for the planet because of carbon emissions. First class flying is the worst, because there are fewer first class seats on each aircraft and therefore the carbon footprint per first class passenger is significantly greater. But Scott Pruitt, the man in charge of the American environment, doesn't believe in climate change. So that's all right then.
Thinking of moving?
Do you want to live in a co-housing community?
Well, there was a 2 Bedroom ground-floor flat available at LILAC in Leeds, but I’m afraid the deadline for applications for this particular opportunity has passed. LILAC stands for ‘Low Impact Living Affordable Community’. Established in 2013, there are currently 35 adults and 13 children living in 20 low impact straw bale homes. To reduce their environmental impact and create opportunities to socialise they have some shared facilities, including a separate ‘Common House’.
LILAC is a co-operative and a ‘Mutual Home Ownership Society’, meaning members own LILAC together. This innovative financial model aims to make housing affordable, forever.
No chance of joining them this time then, but if it’s an idea you might like they are running a learning day on 19th May.
Other co-ownership projects are available.
Find out more about LILAC at http://www.lilac.coop/
The Beast from East made headlines a few weeks ago. The media love these catchphrases, don’t they? Unusual weather brought snow and freezing temperatures to the UK in late March, followed by a short heatwave and then one of the worst Aprils on record. Now we have started May with record-breaking temperatures again. It's easy to forget these extremes on a warm and sunny day like today, 9th May, but some people have expressed concerns that in recent weeks London has been colder than the North Pole. It's easy to say that climate is unpredictable and that we can neither forecast or change the long-term weather. At the very least we should be aiming to mitigate its effects, and first of all that means anticipating what they might be. If we flipped back into cold weather later in May we could have a devastating effect on agricultural crops. The season is already late, and the growing season will be curtailed. And then there's the issue of flooding as polar ice melts and sea levels rise. The old adage says that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I think it's probably the price of avoiding wet feet, or worse, as well.
And on that happy note
...we come to the end of another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report . As I said before I'd like to thank you for your continued support and to assure you that I am getting things back to normal so I fully intend the next episode to be available on Friday 1st June. As always, your ideas and suggestions are most welcome. I have a couple of interviews lined up for future episodes and if you have a message and you'd like to be interviewed do get in touch. Or if you have an idea and you’d like me to investigate further get in touch as well. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And so that really is it. I'm Anthony Day, that was the Sustainable Futures Report and let’s all go out and enjoy the sunshine.
Bye for now.