Environment

EU rules out tax on plastic products to reduce waste

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 6:53am

EU opts for public awareness campaign on the impacts of plastics on the environment saying a tax would not be sustainable

The EU has ruled out penalties on single-use plastic products, in favour of raising public awareness of the damage consumer plastics are doing to the world’s oceans.

Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European commission, said a tax would “not be sustainable”, but that changing the way plastic was produced and used could work. “The only sustainable method is to create recyclable plastic and take out microplastics. You can’t take out microplastics with a tax. You need to make sure things are reused, and not put in the ocean.”

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Categories: Environment

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 6:29am

A lost leopard, a wounded rhino and a sunbathing iguana are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Categories: Environment

Climate change in the Caribbean – learning lessons from Irma and Maria

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 3:43am

Increasingly unfamiliar and unpredictable weather events mean that business as usual is not an option for these islands to survive

As a Caribbean climate scientist, I am often asked to speak about how climate change affects small islands. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, one of two category five storms to batter the eastern Caribbean in just a week, three words resonate in my mind.

The first word is “unfamiliar”. Scientific analysis shows that the climate of the Caribbean region is already changing in ways that seem to signal the emergence of a new climate regime. Irma and Maria fit this pattern all too well. At no point in the historical records dating back to the late 1800s have two category five storms made landfall in the small Caribbean island chain of the eastern Antilles in a single year.

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Categories: Environment

Peru urged to ban oil firms from isolated indigenous peoples' land

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 3:25am

Indigenous leaders say operations in the remote Amazon violate rights and risk fatal epidemics

There are more indigenous peoples living in “isolation” in Peru than any country in the world except Brazil. All live in the Amazon - the majority in poorly-protected reserves, or areas where reserves have been proposed but never established, or “protected natural areas” such as national parks.

For years indigenous federations and other civil society organisations in Peru and abroad have worked for the territories of indigenous peoples in “isolation” to be made off-limits, citing Peruvian and international laws, emphasising their rights to self-determination, and stressing their vulnerability to contact because of their lack of immunological defences and the risk of epidemics and fatalities. The biggest dangers - in terms of outsiders entering their territories, exploiting resources and/or actively seeking contact - are oil and gas companies, loggers and logging roads, narco-traffickers, evangelical missionaries, Catholic priests, artisanal miners and highways.

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Categories: Environment

Sadiq Khan asks car manufacturers to give funds towards tackling London’s toxic air

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 2:34am

Mayor has written to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen urging them to contribute funding to help combat UK pollution as they have done in Germany

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has written to three leading car manufacturers asking them to contribute to the fund set up to tackle the capital’s air pollution crisis.

Khan has accused BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen of “double standards” after it emerged they had paid £223m to the German government’s Sustainable Mobility Fund for Cities earlier this year, but have given nothing to the UK.

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Categories: Environment

EPA's Scott Pruitt Vows To Speed Toxic Superfund Site Cleanup

NPR News - Environment - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 2:00am

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to clean up toxic Superfund sites faster. We visit one place where the process has dragged on for decades.

Categories: Environment

Protect indigenous people to help fight climate change, says UN rapporteur

Guardian Environment News - Fri, 2017/10/06 - 1:53am

World leaders must do more to defend custodians of natural world whose lives are at risk from big business, says UN rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

Global leaders must do more to protect indigenous people fighting to protect their land and way of life if the world is to limit climate change, according to the UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Speaking ahead of key climate talks in Bonn next month she urged politicians to recognise that indigenous communities around the world were the most effective custodians of millions of hectares of forest “which act as the world’s lungs”.

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Categories: Environment

Essen's experiment: can going green revive a post-industrial city economy?

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 11:30pm

The German city is working to shake off the coal dust of the industrial Ruhr, but will green tourism be profitable enough to regain its former economic strength?

The shores of Baldeneysee, a ribbon of a lake that feeds into the Ruhr river near Essen, are busy. Schoolchildren cannonball into the water as sunbathers sit on beach chairs, nurse their beers and watch the paddleboarders pass by.

It wasn’t always like this. “When I was a little boy in the 70s, every morning we used to sweep coal dust and ash off our window panes,” recalls Frank Martini, an Essen resident. “Emissions from the furnaces and ovens of coal and steel industries stained our clothes left outside to dry.”

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Categories: Environment

Queensland tree clearing wipes out federal emissions gains

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 9:49pm

Accelerating rates of land clearing in Queensland are undermining Australia’s Direct Action greenhouse gas cuts

Accelerating rates of tree clearing in Queensland are wiping out any cuts to greenhouse gas emissions the federal government has made through its $2.55bn Direct Action fund, according to the latest data released by the Queensland government.

The results also point again to apparent holes in the federal government’s greenhouse gas accounting, as its official figures maintain that land clearing in Queensland is reducing, and that changes in land use across the whole country are cutting emissions rather than adding to them.

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Categories: Environment

Butterflywatch: could be worse – verdict for the 2017 season

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 1:30pm

A wet July and August in Britain put a dampener on our midsummer butterflies

I am still seeing butterflies almost daily, sunning themselves when they can and feasting on late-flowering ivy. Most are red admirals, a large, dark and powerful presence sailing through autumnal skies or feeding on rotten fruit in orchards.

It has been a vintage red admiral year, with numbers up by 75% on 2016 in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count. But sadly it has not been a vintage butterfly summer.

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Categories: Environment

Carbon emissions from warming soils could trigger disastrous feedback loop

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 11:00am

26-year study reveals natural biological factors kick in once warming reaches certain point, leading to potentially unstoppable increase in temperatures

Warming soils are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break.

The increased production of carbon comes from the microbes within soils, according to a report in the peer-review journal Science, published on Friday.

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Categories: Environment

Honey tests reveal global contamination by bee-harming pesticides

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 11:00am

Neonicotinoid insecticides are found in 75% of global honey samples and half contain a cocktail of chemicals

Honey from across the world is contaminated with potent pesticides known to harm bees, new research shows, clearly revealing the global exposure of vital pollinators for the first time.

Almost 200 samples of honey were analysed for neonicotinoid insecticides and 75% contained the chemicals, with most contaminated with multiple types. Bees range over many kilometres to collect nectar and pollen, making the honey they produce an excellent indicator of the pesticide pollution across their local landscape.

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Categories: Environment

Giant stick insects found on Lord Howe Island a genetic match for 'extinct' phasmids

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 10:43am

Scientists confirm creatures discovered on Ball’s Pyramid in 2001 are the same species rats were believed to have killed off a century earlier

Scientists have confirmed that giant insects found on a rocky outcrop off Lord Howe Island are a genetic match for the island’s stick insects that were believed to have gone extinct almost 100 years earlier.

The species were assumed to be one and the same. However significant morphological differences between the Lord Howe Island stick insects collected in the early 1900s and stored in museum collections, and the phasmids discovered in 2001 on Ball’s Pyramid (a remnant volcano about 23km off the main island), created a suspicion the latter could be a related species – rather than the original back from the dead.

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Categories: Environment

Farm animals can eat insects and algae to prevent deforestation

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 10:09am

WWF says alternatives to industrially farmed animal feed must be developed to stop biodiversity loss

Farm animals could be fed on insects and algae, potentially preventing significant amounts of deforestation and water and energy waste, according to environmental campaigners.

“We’re a bit squeamish about eating insects in the UK,” said WWF’s food policy manager Duncan Williamson at the Extinction and Livestock conference in London. “But we can feed them to our animals. We are going to need animal feed for the foreseeable future, but algae and insects are an alternative to the current system.”

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Categories: Environment

Toxic firefighting chemicals may have been spread across Victorian waterways

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 10:00am

People warned not to eat animals from the Heart Morass wetland, but fishing industry says ‘ranching’ practice may have already spread the threat

Potentially carcinogenic firefighting chemicals discovered in a Victorian wetland may have been spread across the state because of a commercial fishing practice known as “ranching”.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority said testing by the Department of Defence had discovered “elevated” levels of per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances – commonly knows as PFAS – in animals from the Heart Morass wetlands near Sale in eastern Victoria.

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Categories: Environment

'Supreme wake-up call': Prince Charles urges action on ocean pollution

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 8:42am

Prince says catastrophic hurricanes are consequence of climate change and welcomes growing awareness of plastic pollution

The world’s oceans are at last receiving the attention they deserve, as the scale of plastic pollution is finally becoming clear, the Prince of Wales has said, hailing this growing awareness as the first step to saving the marine environment.

Prince Charles said it had taken years for the enormity of the problem to emerge, but promised to make it a key priority of his campaigning, alongside rainforests.

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Categories: Environment

We want to make our roads safer for everyone – especially cyclists

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 6:24am

Response: an opinion piece by Laura Laker accused me of hypocrisy, but our review examining the law and cycling aims to make the roads safer for everyone

Laura Laker accuses me of “headline-grabbing hypocrisy” in relation to the safety of cyclists. That’s quite an extreme reaction to my announcement of a review whose specific purpose is to improve the safety of all road users, especially in relation to cyclists.

As I made clear, the review will address two key issues. The first is legal: whether the law is defective in the case of bodily harm or death from a cyclist, and specifically whether, as the rule of law demands, there is an adequate remedy here. Our aim is to complete this work early in the new year.

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Categories: Environment

Japan sends in experts to rescue world's bedraggled bonsais

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 5:06am

Tokyo has targeted some 40 traditional gardens in need of immediate repair, with a team set to travel to Romania and the US

Tokyo plans to send green-fingered experts to every corner of the world on a mission to spruce up Japanese-style gardens that have fallen into disrepair.

There are about 500 traditional gardens across the globe – from France to the US, Thailand and Argentina – with dozens in dire need of help after years of neglect, Japan’s land ministry said.

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Categories: Environment

Vast animal-feed crops to satisfy our meat needs are destroying planet

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2017/10/05 - 2:02am

WWF report finds 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets which put huge strain on Earth’s resources

The ongoing global appetite for meat is having a devastating impact on the environment driven by the production of crop-based feed for animals, a new report has warned.

The vast scale of growing crops such as soy to rear chickens, pigs and other animals puts an enormous strain on natural resources leading to the wide-scale loss of land and species, according to the study from the conservation charity WWF.

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'Alarming' rise in Queensland tree clearing as 400,000 hectares stripped

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2017/10/04 - 11:12pm

Deputy premier brands Australia ‘deforestation hotspot’ after a 45% jump in her state’s reef catchment clearing

Queensland underwent a dramatic surge in tree clearing – with the heaviest losses in Great Barrier Reef catchments – in the year leading up to the Palaszczuk government’s thwarted bid to restore protections.

Figures released on Thursday showed a 33% rise in clearing to almost 400,000 hectares in 2015-16, meaning Queensland now has two-thirds the annual rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

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