Cleaner air caused by coronavirus lockdowns leads to 11,000 fewer deaths in Europe, say scientists, as Greene King becomes the first pub chain to achieve sending zero waste to landfill. Meanwhile, 3,000 zero-emission hydrogen buses are to be built for the UK by bus manufacturer Wrightbus over four years, EasyJet is blasted for lobbying against environmental tax before receiving a £600 million government loan and Oxford University cuts its ties to fossil fuels. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.
Clean air in Europe during lockdown leads to 11,000 fewer deaths
Cleaner air in the UK and Europe caused by lockdown has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution, a study has revealed.
Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3 million fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll – with more than 220,000 deaths from the virus worldwide – the report offers a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries.
Nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped 40 per cent from last year, while tiny particulate matter – known as PM2.5 – is down 10 per cent. These two forms of pollution, which weaken the heart and respiratory system, are together normally responsible for about 470,000 deaths in Europe each year.
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Greene King first pub chain to achieve zero waste to landfill
Greene King has become the first UK pub chain to achieve zero waste to landfill status.
The chain has been awarded the Carbon Trust’s Zero Waste to Landfill Standard, after diverting all waste streams away from landfill across its 1,700 managed pubs.
Greene King stocks compostable straws across all of its pubs and has reduced general waste bins by 42 per cent in five years.
Other initiatives include expanding a waste recycling scheme, investing in balers (which press together waste materials such as cardboard for recycling) and revamping its delivery fleet to boost the transport of recycled materials.
Greene King’s chief executive Nick Mackenzie said: “Waste is a real issue for the hospitality industry so, as a Leader, we are extremely proud to be the first pub company in the UK to achieve the Carbon Trust Zero Waste to Landfill Standard.”
3,000 hydrogen buses to boost UK’s efforts to go carbon-free
Up to 3,000 zero-emission hydrogen buses are to be built by bus manufacturer Wrightbus to boost the UK’s bid to be carbon-free.
Wrightbus, which was bought last year by JCB heir Jo Bamford, has submitted documents to the government detailing how it could convert up to 10 per cent of the UK fleet to zero emission models.
Bamford, who also owns hydrogen technology specialist Ryse, said that while other bus operators are building nmore electric buses, current battery ranges meant they are not suitable for up to 30 per cent of routes, making hydrogen fuel cells a more suitable alternative.
Advocates of hydrogen argue that it is well suited for heavy vehicles and is a particularly effective option for buses as refuelling infrastructure can be installed at central depots.
Hydrogen buses have already been introduced or are planned, in a host of UK cities, including Aberdeen, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast.
EasyJet lobbied against environmental tax before £600m bailout loan
Budget airline easyJet lobbied against environmental taxes on flights before receiving a £600 million government ‘coronavirus’ loan, according to Greenpeace.
Documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act reveal UK transport secretary Grant Schapps assured the airline that an environmental tax on flights is “not the way forward”.
The £600 million bailout loan from the UK government was reportedly provided without any climate conditions attached. The government’s emergency coronavirus financing facility allows UK businesses to apply for loans at pre-crisis commercial lending rates.
However, the European Union is currently examining means to make compliance with the Paris agreement a requirement for bailouts for airlines, and the French government has said national airline Air France must halve its emissions per passenger-kilometre by 2030 to get a €7 billion (£6.15 billion) bailout.
Oxford University cuts ties to fossil fuels
Oxford University is to cut its ties to the fossil fuel industry and demand that fund managers show evidence of net zero carbon business plans.
Vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said it would make the university a “world leader in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change before it is too late”.
The Oxford Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC) said the resolution was of “historic importance”. The university said its approach would follow the climate-conscious business practices in its own Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investment.
It includes a framework for companies to assess whether investments are compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.