The Brazilian government has rejected the G7’s offer of £18 million in aid after a surge of fires in the Amazon rainforest, ‘Good Egg’ firm EQ Investors signs up to UN-backed investment pact and supermarket giant Sainsbury’s removes plastic applicators from tampons. Meanwhile, Catholic churches and schools sign a major British Gas renewables deal and the UK gets the world’s first solar-powered rail line. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Brazil to reject G7 offer of £18m aid
The Brazilian government is to reject an offer of aid from G7 countries to help tackle fires in the Amazon rainforest.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted a G7 summit last week, agreed to release $22 million (£18 million) in funding for the disaster.
But Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo has said a new initiative is not needed, because international mechanisms are in place to fight deforestation. The country’s defence minister also insisted the fires in the Amazon were not out of control.
President Jair Bolsonaro went on to accuse France of treating Brazil like a colony.
Commenting on the G7 offer of aid, Mr Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, said: “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe. Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” Mr Lorenzoni added, referring to the fire that hit Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April.
Meanwhile, actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental organisation Earth Alliance is donating $5 million (£4.1 milion) to local groups and indigenous communities as they work to protect the Amazon.
EQ Investors signs up to UN development goals
Ethical investment platform EQ Investors has become a signatory of a UN-supported global network of investors working together to put responsible investment into practice.
The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) offers a framework of integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investee decision-making based on six principles.
These include the incorporation of ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.
EQ’s head of impact investing Damien Lardoux said: “The PRI initiative reached 2,232 signatories in 2018, a 21 per cent increase on the previous calendar year.
“This reflects the growing desire among many investors to embed sustainability into their investment decision-making process, and we are proud to be a part of this movement.”
The Good With Money ‘Good Egg’ company launched its impact portfolios in 2012. These invest in funds which can demonstrate they are support companies ‘taking steps to achieve a social or environmental impact as well as a financial return.’
Sainsbury’s removes plastic applicators from tampons
Sainsbury’s has removed single-use plastic applicators from its own-brand tampon lines in a bit to cut its packaging use and remove non-recyclable plastics from shelves.
The phase-out is due to be completed across all UK stores and online by the end of August.
Sainsbury’s did not disclose how many plastic tampon applicators it sells but said the move would help its efforts to “remove unnecessary plastic” from its offering.
The supermarket giant has also committed to the WRAP UK Plastics Pact ambition of ensuring that all own-brand plastic packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
A spokesman said: “We are no longer producing an own-brand range of compact plastic tampon applicators. This is one of a range of steps we are taking to minimise our impact on the environment and remove unnecessary plastic.”
Catholic churches and schools sign major British Gas renewables deal
The Catholic Church has signed one of the UK’s largest ever green energy contracts.
The deal will see more than 4,500 churches and schools switching to renewable gas and electricity supplied by British Gas. This covers 2,800 churches from 20 of the 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales, and 2,200 schools, community centres and care homes.
British Gas Business’s managing director Gab Barbaro said: “We’re seeing more and more organisations looking to switch to both renewable gas and electricity, particularly given the recent ‘net zero’ commitment made by government. This contract demonstrates that it is becoming easier than ever to cut carbon emissions from our public and private sector buildings.”
The move makes Catholic Church one of the largest consumers of green gas certificates, with landmarks such as Westminster, Nottingham and Plymouth Cathedrals covered by the deal.
The volume of green gas and electricity supplied by British Gas Business is equivalent to supplying the annual needs of more than 20,000 UK households, removing 32ktCO2e of emissions annually – equivalent to taking more than 21,000 cars off the road.
UK gets world’s first solar-powered rail line
The world’s first solar farm built to power a railway line is due to plug into track in Hampshire.
Around 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route.
The 30kW pilot scheme could pave the way for a larger project capable of directly powering the trains that use this route from next year.
The solar breakthrough comes as Network Rail plans to spend billions of pounds electrifying rail lines to avoid running trains on diesel. This could help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs.