Category Archives for "Environment"
As nearly 150 global leaders lined up – virtually – to address Wednesday’s UN biodiversity summit, the stakes could not have been higher.
“The house is on fire and we are all locked in, because of a disease that came from our mismanagement of nature.”
This was how Inger Anderson, head of the UN Environment Programme, put it in a briefing the day before the event.
“I think there is a realisation that if we don’t take care of nature, we could end up in dire straits,” she added.
With the world grappling with the public health, social and economic devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders are under increasing pressure to act on their promises to reverse the decline in the natural world.
This summit is primarily a high-profile forum for world leaders. Its aim is to “highlight the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity, and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development”.
But the point at which genuine commitments will be made – to take action to protect nature – will be at the biodiversity conference in 2021. That conference, postponed because of the pandemic, is where all member countries are expected to adopt a new “biodiversity framework” – essentially a global contract to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030.
But a UN report published just two weeks ago, revealed that none of the 20 biodiversity targets that countries signed up to back in 2011 would be fully met.
Those targets were ambitious, encapsulating every aspect of how our human lives intersect with the natural world.
They ranged from reducing the rate of loss of natural habitats like forests and protecting the most precious landscapes for wildlife, to more fundamentally economic shifts, such as eliminating subsidies for “activities that are harmful”, including intensive, polluting farming and fishing practices.
Xi Jinping, President of China, the host country of the 2021 conference, used his pre-recorded address to stress his country’s commitment to turn the tide on biodiversity.
“We need to find a way for man to live in harmony with nature,” he said.
Mr Xi also stressed the need for economic recovery, saying that green development would “increase the potential for high-quality economic recovery from Covid-19.
“We need to recognise that our solutions are in nature – to achieve a win-win.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a pre-recorded address to highlight the plight of the scaly, critically endangered pangolin:
“I don’t believe any of us would choose to bequeath a planet on which such a wonderfully bizarre little creature is as unfamiliar to future generations as dinosaurs and dodos are to us today.
“Yet that is what awaits us if we continue down this road. And that’s not just bad news for the pangolins – it is bad news for all of us.”
But in the wake of the UK government’s recent announcement that it would protect more land for nature, the country’s record on biodiversity loss is under scrutiny.
Prof Kate Jones of University College London (UCL), who studies the interplay between nature and human health, described the “massive historical declines” in biodiversity in the UK as “terrible”.
Inger Anderson insisted that the the “trillions of dollars being invested in stimulus packages” because of the pandemic, provided an ideal opportunity to invest in sustainable growth. “We surely do not want to go back to our damaging ways,” she said.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, a multilateral treaty that aims to conserve species, added: “Businesses, banks, the youth – all are ready to take action. This is our last chance and everybody has a role to play.”
By destroying the natural world, Prof Jones explained, “we are currently degrading our asset. So our financial systems need to change”.
She added: “With climate change, our house is on a cliff and it is going to fall off soon. Biodiversity loss and land use change means that it is also on fire – our current trajectory is not sustainable so we have to do something.
“There is more talk and action now than there ever was before, and I am more hopeful now that I have ever been, but it’s a low bar.”
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A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has come into force in England.
The measure, originally due to start in April, makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items.
People in England use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the ban but called for a crackdown on further single-use items.
An exemption will allow hospitals, bars and restaurants to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was “firmly committed” to tackling environmental “devastation” caused by single-use plastics.
Campaigners welcomed the move but said the items formed only a “fraction” of the plastic waste littering the environment.
Sion Elis Williams, of Friends of the Earth, said ministers “must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives”.
Tatiana Lujan, of environmental law charity ClientEarth said straws, cotton buds and stirrers were “some of the most pointless plastics out there” and the ban on them was “a no-brainer”.
But they remained “a tiny fraction” of single-use plastics, she said, adding that countries such as Ireland and France had “shown far more ambition” with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes.
Mr Eustice said the government was “building plans” for a 5p deposit scheme to encourage recycling of single-use drinks containers.
The Welsh government has said it is also considering a similar ban on plastics.
A number of national restaurant chains ditched plastic straws before the ban was announced.
A council is to hold an inquiry after a “very significant error” was found in the wording of planning guidelines on fracking sent out for public consultation.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has halted the consultation and set up an audit to find out what happened.
Councillors had agreed the wording of a local development plan to guide planning decisions.
But when it was sent out for consultation it had been changed.
The original wording precluded unconventional hydrocarbon extraction – or fracking – until there were guarantees that it would not affect the environment or public health.
The council’s chief executive Alison McCullagh acknowledged the rewording of the public consultation had “impacted adversely” on public confidence in the process.
“It’s apparent that the arrangements in place for document oversight and control were not as robust as expected,” she said.
The original wording had stated the council “will not permit exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health”.
But the reworded version said: “Council will not permit exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until there is sufficient and robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health.”
Confidential council minutes showed officials in the Department for the Economy criticised the original wording.
They had suggested it be amended to more closely reflect the position on fracking in Northern Ireland’s regional planning document – on which local development plans are based.
The wording that appeared in the final version sent out for consultation by the council is similar to that in the regional document.
A spokesman for the Department for the Economy said “local development plans are required take account of the regional context set by the Northern Ireland Executive and central government departments”.
“The Department for the Economy provided a response to the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council draft plan strategy as a statutory stakeholder.
“There is no requirement for the department to commence a formal investigation of staff connected to this matter.”
Fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.
Tamboran, an energy firm, has applied for an exploratory licence to assess the potential for shale gas in 608 sq km of County Fermanagh.
The licence is currently being considered by the Department for the Economy.
Were sufficient gas to be discovered, and a full planning application granted for commercial drilling, the gas would be recovered by a process of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction.
Fracking is banned in the Republic of Ireland and in England there’s a moratorium after concerns resultant seismic activity was affecting communities.
Stormont ministers have clashed over the environment minister’s proposal that work should be halted on facilities at ports that could be used for checks related to Brexit.
The controls are currently used for checks on agri-food products and animals.
In July, the UK confirmed it intended to put border control posts at Northern Ireland’s ports.
Work to expand the posts was then requested by the government.
However, it is understood Environment Minister Edwin Poots has taken the view that to press ahead with the expansion of current point of entry controls would be a waste of public resources after the latest UK Internal Market Bill.
The new bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market – trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – after the end of the Brexit transition period in January.
There has been controversy over the bill explicitly stating that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.
However, ministers say it is needed to prevent “damaging” tariffs on goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland if trade deal negotiations with the EU fail.
In a letter to Mr Poots, the Westminster Environment Secretary George Eustice set out what work is required to expand controls at Northern Ireland’s ports.
Details have not been published and in a statement, Stormont’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs stated “this matter is currently being considered by the executive and it is inappropriate to comment further”.
Stormont officials are concerned any ministerial order to pause work on the points of entry could be in breach of the Northern Ireland Act.
The act – which underpins the Stormont executive – gives the Northern Ireland secretary the power to order a minister or department to take an action if he believes it is required to fulfil the UK’s international obligations.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party argue that proceeding with work on the controls is required to fulfil the executive’s international obligations.
The matter was put to a cross-community vote during a late session of the executive on Thursday night.
No authorisation was given for the environment minister to pause the work.
The executive adjourned its discussions on Thursday night in order to obtain legal advice.
Ministers resumed their proceedings on Friday evening and further discussions are expected in the coming week.
Plans for a £15-£20bn nuclear power plant in Wales have been scrapped.
Work on the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was suspended in January last year because of rising costs after Hitachi failed to reach a funding agreement with the UK government.
Hitachi has now confirmed it is withdrawing from the project, after Isle of Anglesey council said it had received the news on Tuesday.
It would have created up to 9,000 jobs during construction.
Hitachi said it made the decision given 20 months had passed since the project had paused “and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”.
Minister for Economy and North Wales Ken Skates said: “The news from Hitachi today is deeply disappointing.
“There has been a tremendous effort by Horizon Nuclear Power, Ynys Mon Council, the North Wales region and all our partners to bring this important project forward. Now is the time to continue with this strong partnership and build upon those efforts.
“We must not lose sight that Wylfa remains one the best sites in the UK for new nuclear development.”
Hitachi said it would coordinate with the UK government and other bodies over handling the planned construction sites and other matters.
Developer Horizon’s chief executive Duncan Hawthorne said: “I understand this announcement will be disappointing for our many supporters who had hoped to see our project through to completion and I would personally like to thank you for your support throughout our time on this project.
“Nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping tackle our energy needs, meeting our climate change targets and levelling up the economy through green growth and job creation.”
Hitachi is also scrapping its project at Oldbury on Severn in Gloucestershire despite describing both sites as “highly desirable” for new nuclear plants.
Mr Hawthorne said: “We will do our utmost to facilitate the prospects for development which will bring the major local, national and environmental benefits that nuclear can uniquely deliver as we push to transition to a net zero carbon economy by 2050.”
The UK government said it remained committed to nuclear power and recognised the announcement was “very disappointing news” for the people of north Wales.
“Nuclear power will play a key role in the UK’s future energy mix as we transition to a low-carbon economy, including through our investments in small and advanced modular reactors,” a spokesperson said.
“That’s why we previously offered a significant package of potential support to this project that went well beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past.
“This included taking a one third equity stake, providing all of the required debt financing to complete construction, and providing generous financial support through our Contract for Difference scheme.”
The UK government said it remains willing to discuss a replacement for the original Wylfa plant, which shut in 2015 after 44 years of service, with viable companies.
Anglesey council was told on Tuesday that Hitachi was withdrawing, and council leader Llinos Medi said: “This is very disappointing, particularly at such a difficult time economically.”
However campaigners against the project have welcomed Hitachi’s move claiming a new nuclear power station would have “endangered lives on Anglesey and beyond”.
The People Against Wylfa B action group said: “It would have ruined the environment over an area which is 10 times greater than the current site.”
It called on Hitachi to “ensure that no nuclear scheme will happen on the site in the future” and return the site to its “former state, for community benefit”.
Manchester United’s new signing Christen Press says she is “a little crazy and competitive right now” after missing six months of football because of the coronavirus pandemic.
World Cup winner Press, 31, signed for United on a one-year deal from National Women’s Soccer League side Utah Royals.
Five United States internationals have joined English clubs, seeking regular football after the NWSL was postponed.
“I never thought I would be away from the game for this long,” said Press.
“I have been away from football – at least in a team environment with a coach and team-mates – for six months. That’s the longest stretch of my life.
“So what an opportunity to play and compete [at Manchester United]. I have missed competition so much over the past six months – so I’m a little crazy and a little bit competitive right now.
“Hopefully after my first few games I get that out.”
Press, who has signed for United alongside USA team-mate Tobin Heath, will come up against compatriots Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis – who have joined rivals Manchester City – in the Women’s Super League this season.
“Our national team is so crazy and competitive that it feels really normal to have them on our rival team. We have been competing together and against each other for years. Yes, it’s just in practice, but every single game is like the World Cup final.
“It’s really fun that they are going to be in the same city. Hopefully when it’s safe, we’ll be able to see them and spend time with them.
“But we are also in a rat race to compete and help our teams as best we can.”
Press could make her debut in Manchester United’s home fixture against Brighton on 4 October.
Saudi Arabia is to host its first professional tournaments for women in November, with two Ladies European Tour events scheduled to take place.
The Saudi Ladies International will be held from 12-15 November, with the Saudi Ladies Team International from 17-19 November.
Both tournaments will take place at the Royal Greens Golf Club.
The first event had been set for March of this year but was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are extremely excited to be part of history in bringing the first professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia,” said Alexandra Armas, chief executive of the Ladies European Tour.
“We are thankful to their commitment to deliver not one but two tournaments, in what has been a difficult year for golf.”
There will be a $1m (£780,000) prize fund for the singles tournament, with a further £500,000 pot for the team event, which will see professional players partner with amateurs in a new format.
Both tournaments will be held within a bio-secure environment.
Wales’ Amy Boulden, who clinched the first LET title of her career at the Swiss Ladies Open earlier this month, said: “This type of commitment to women’s golf is really amazing to see at this time.
“It’s given players another massive week to look forward to competing in and allows us to take the game we love to a new country where we can play on what is a truly incredible golf course with one of the most picturesque views you’ll see on Tour.”
England’s Meghan MacLaren, who finished last season as the top British player on the LET, decided to boycott the event when it was scheduled for March for “sportswashing” reasons.
There have been accusations that Saudi Arabia is using tournaments such as these, or other events like last year’s heavyweight world title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr, to divert attention away from human rights issues in the country.
However, the people behind bringing boxing, Formula E motor racing and golf, among other events to Saudi Arabia, have told BBC Sport “it’s all part of a programme designed to get people more active”.
A row has erupted over the removal of a “fish of a lifetime” after being caught by an angler at a Norfolk mere.
The non-native 122lb (55kg) catfish was “dropped in illegally” at Diss Mere about 10 years ago and was caught on Tuesday.
news of the catch was posted on Facebook, some social media users criticised the decision to remove it.
But the Environment Agency said the fish did not belong in the mere and has been taken to an undisclosed site.
Ben Wilby, from Diss and District Angling Club, said angler Phil Spinks “unintentionally” caught it while carp fishing, five years after the last known catch.
“The Environment Agency made it clear that if it was caught again we had to let them know and they would remove it so that’s what we’ve done,” said Mr Wilby.
A post on the club’s Facebook page congratulating Mr Spinks on the catch, which was estimated to be more than 6ft (1.8m) in length, said it was “unfortunately, not one which should be in the mere”.
The post has been viewed 120,000 times and attracted hundreds of comments on both sides of the argument, forcing the club to defend its action.
One said it was “absolutely ridiculous to move it”, while another said it should have been left in the mere, “where it’s been living and doing well for years”.
Those in support said it was right to remove it, with one saying “at that size it will eat pretty much anything that ventures into the mere”.
Mr Wilby said: “People have said it should be left in there and it’s not doing any harm, but we’ve done what we needed to do.
“A lot of the negativity is probably driven by people who don’t know the full story.”
The Environment Agency said it removed the catfish with specialist equipment and took it to an undisclosed location.
“Catfish are a non-native species that can harm delicate river eco-systems. They can only be used for angling purposes when in a fully enclosed still water where the owner has a permit granted by the Environment Agency,” a spokesman said.
According to the British Record Fish Committee, the largest recorded capture of the species was set in May when a 147lb (66.6kg) wels catfish was caught at the Oak Lakes Fishery in Essex.
Flooding has caused damage to shops and pavements as a city was deluged by heavy rain.
Winchester High Street was “like a river” on Thursday evening, leaving mud and debris on the road and in business premises, witnesses said.
The Environment Agency said more than half of the Hampshire city’s average August rainfall fell in 15 minutes.
Trains between Winchester and Micheldever have been diverted after a landslip blocked all rail lines.
Andy Roberts from the Environment Agency said the rain caused 15 minutes of “complete havoc”.
He said: “People were stopping in the road. They could only see two metres in front of the car. It was absolute carnage.”
Mr Roberts said 35mm (1.4 inches) of rain fell in 15 minutes, representing “over half a month’s worth”.
Debenhams worker Jimmy Milner said: “It was beyond a mess. It was like a river from 17:15. I was clearing my shop until about 20:00 last night. It’s not been like that for a long, long time.”
BBC reporter Dominic Blake said the street was strewn with piles of carpets and soggy rubbish on Friday morning, while many shops had mud inside them.
Hampshire County Council tweeted that highway teams were out overnight checking manhole and drain covers were secure, with more heavy rain forecast.
A landslip blocked all rail lines between Winchester and Micheldever on Thursday evening.
South Western Railway said cancellations and delays were expected until the end of Friday.
Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce is pleased to see owner Mike Ashley “flex his muscles” in the transfer market.
“With the signings we’ve brought in, we are better equipped than this time last year,” said the St James’ Park boss.
Bruce also says the club’s collapsed takeover by a Saudi Arabian-based group “looked dead in the water”.
Newcastle issued a statement on Wednesday saying it believed the Premier League had rejected the £300m takeover by the consortium.
But on Thursday, the Premier League said that interpretation was “incorrect”, saying they had asked for more information about who would hold control at the club.
“My job is to get on with it,” Bruce added.
“One thing the takeover does for everybody whether it’s the head coach or manager to the tea lady, there is an uncertainty and that is never healthy in any environment.”
Bruce said the signings of former Bournemouth forward Wilson for £20m, ex-Norwich full-back Lewis for £15m and Scotland winger Fraser had “lifted the mood” at the club and praised owner Ashley, who has been criticised by supporters for a lack of ambition.
Newcastle also announced on Friday that midfielder Isaac Hayden and goalkeeper Karl Darlow had signed new long-term contracts.
However defender Florian Lejeune, who joined from Eibar in 2017 for a reported £8.7m, has joined La Liga side Alaves on a season-long loan after a spell hampered by injury.
“The owner wanted to come and meet his new players,” Bruce said of the team dinner.
“Sometimes the manager needs a bit of help, certainly over the last week in particular, and then with certain transfers he’s had to flex his muscles which was good to see. I’m grateful for that support.
“Newcastle always seen to be in a storm, and there is nothing like a few signings to lift the mood amongst everybody and not just among the supporters, but the players, manager and staff.
“So very quietly in amongst the storm, we have been trying to work our way through it and when they get over the line and come thick and fast like they did, everybody is delighted.”