The UK government is being urged by MPs to stop overseas fossil fuel support after a new report revealed a staggering 99.4 per cent of our overseas energy funding goes into dirty energy sources. Meanwhile, Theresa May will “legally commit” to ending Britain’s global warming contribution by 2050 before she leaves number 10, green finance hits £24 trillion globally, and a smartphone app could replace use-by-dates to cut down on waste and food poisoning. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
MPs make unprecedented call for UK government to end overseas fossil fuel support
MPs have demanded that the UK government stops taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects by 2021.
In an unprecedented move, the Government is being called on to act urgently on a new Environmental Audit Committee report on UK Export Finance (UKEF).
The parliamentary report reveals that, while the UK claims to be a world leader on climate action, UKEF is giving a staggering 99.4 per cent of all its overseas energy support to fossil fuel sources.
This has included £109 million of underwriting for mining equipment for Russian coal mines between 2011 and 2016, support for an oil refinery in Oman in February 2018, and another in Bahrain in October 2018.
The Bahrain funding came in the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report saying that the world had 12 years left to stop climate change before it becomes irreversible.
Theresa May will “legally commit” to ending Britain’s global warming contribution by 2050
Theresa May is to legally commit to ending the UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050 before she leaves No 10.
The prime minister will announce legislation to set a path to “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, as recommended by her climate change advisers.
However, there are fears of a “get-out clause” that could allow her successor to roll back on the measures.
There are concerns the move – an attempt to create a “legacy” achievement for the PM who was forced out of office for her Brexit failure – will fail to bind her successor to taking firm action to help curb climate change.
Mobile app could replace use-by-dates to cut down on waste and food poisoning
A smartphone app could replace use-by-dates in an attempt to cut down on food waste, according to researchers.
Bioengineers at Imperial College London have created “paper-based” sensors that can be printed onto food packaging to detect spoilage gases like ammonia and trimethylamine in meat and fish products.
Consumers can then scan their smartphones over the sensors to see if their food is safe to eat.
Researchers hope the technology will be available in the UK within the next three years to help reduce the £12.5 billion-worth of food thrown away nationwide every year that is in fact safe to eat.
The biodegradable sensors, known as PEGS, were made by printing carbon electrodes onto readily available cellulose paper.
Green finance is now £24 trillion and growing fast
Almost $31 trillion (£24 trillion) of global funds is now held in sustainable or green investments, according to a new report.
The research by Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, which tracks investment trends in five regions globally, found green investment is up a massive 34 per cent from 2016.
The shift is spurring companies from oil major Royal Dutch Shell Plc to mining giant Glencore Plc into setting environmental targets for the first time. Anjuli Pandit, head of corporate sustainability in the UK for BNP Paribas SA said: “People are surprised at how much the private sector has taken this really seriously. For the first time, all these players are asking each other the questions they should have been asking for a long time.”
RSPB delivers solar powered nature reserves with Triodos green loan
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has unveiled a new finance deal with Triodos Bank to help install renewable energy projects across its nature reserves.
A £710,000 loan from ethical bank Triodos has supported the installation of over 700 solar panels at seven nature reserves. These include Minsmere in Suffolk, The Lodge in Bedfordshire and Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire.
The panels will provide up to 80 per cent of the sites’ annual energy requirements (around 10 per cent of the energy RSPB uses in total each year). This will save the RSPB a significant sum on energy bills, as well as providing income from selling energy back to the grid. Any additional electricity is purchased on a green tariff.
Brazilian couple replant rainforest as Indians pay school fees in plastic
Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia have replanted an entire forest onto previously barren land over the last 20 years. Nearly 300 species of trees, more than 170 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles now call the area home.
The rejuvenation has also had an impact on the ecosystem and climate, bringing back several once dried-up springs in the drought-prone area, and positively affecting local temperatures.
The Salgados no longer own the property, which is now a federally recognized nature preserve that raises millions of tree seedlings in its nursery, trains young ecologists and welcomes visitors to see a forest reborn.
Meanwhile, a school in India is allowing children to pay for their education by recycling plastic. Akshar Forum, a small school for underprivileged children in the village of Pamohi, Guwahati, was founded in 2016 to train students to “earn a livelihood by being responsible to the government.” Six months ago, it launched a recycling program that encourages students to collect and segregate dry plastic waste in the area.
Now, as a way to both tackle environmental concerns and encourage local families to send their children to school, Akshar is letting students pay tuition with whatever plastic waste they collect.