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Sun, May

A new poll has revealed strong attitudes among the British public to banning diesel cars.

79 per cent of those surveyed backed an exclusion zone on the vehicles around schools and hospitals. While 29 per cent supported an outright ban on all roads, 23 per cent were in favour of outlawing the cars in cities and urban areas.

The poll of 2,000 people was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of law firm Slater and Gordon. The firm is representing 45,000 UK motorists in a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen over the emissions scandal. The German car giant was found to have deliberately altered their technology to only meet pollution standards during testing. An estimated 1.2 million vehicles in Britain alone are thought to be affected by the scandal.

Gareth Pope, head of group litigation for Slater and Gordon, said: “For many motorists, getting an environmentally friendly and fuel efficient model was the number one factor for buying diesel.

“They wanted cars which were clean, green and efficient and are now starting to realise they were sold a lie and their cars don’t live up to the promise.”

While the UK Government has said it will ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, many leaders have lobbied to have this date brought forward. This is also backed up by the survey which shows 54 per cent of people want the ban to come in earlier.

Morten Thaysen, a campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “Diesel cars have been fuelling a major air pollution crisis that has made our cities' air toxic and harmful to breathe. 

“Car makers like VW, which is the biggest diesel producer in Europe, need to pay close attention. Drivers simply don’t want the noxious fumes and health impacts that come with diesel vehicles. 

“VW must scrap diesel for good instead of investing more in trying - and failing - to clean up dated diesel technology. We need a rapid switch to electric by the car industry to help clean up our air and protect our climate.”

Read more: 80% of the British public backs restrictions on...

19 of the world’s largest cities have made ground-breaking new pledges to cut carbon emissions from new buildings.

The Mayors of London, New York, and Tokyo were among the leaders signing the declaration in a bid to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperatures to well below 2 degrees.

“Action is needed today, because most buildings will be standing for generations to come. Missing this opportunity locks in the problem for our children and grandchildren,” the declaration reads.

To achieve this bold aim, the politicians have committed to establishing a roadmap out to 2030, including a programme of incentives, which are tracked by an annual report showing progress to the target.

At the same time, they have agreed to make all buildings, old or new, zero-carbon by 2050.

“As mayors of the world’s great cities we recognise our responsibility to ensure every building, whether historic or brand new, helps deliver a sustainable future for our citizens,” said Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

Ms Hidalgo is also chair of the C40 Cities network, which helped develop the campaign.

“We want to make London a zero carbon city by 2050 and we’re working hard to ensure its buildings are energy efficient and supplied with clean energy sources. I look forward to collaborating with other cities on our shared vision of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan
 
“Climate change poses an existential threat to New York City, and making our buildings more sustainable and efficient is a key part of the solution,” said Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City. “With this commitment, we’re delivering on our promise to make New York City cleaner and safer for generations to come by meeting the Paris Agreement. We’re proud to stand alongside other cities worldwide that are taking bold and meaningful steps to cut the pollution driving climate change.”

The full list of signature cities, covering 130 million citizens, are: Copenhagen, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Stockholm, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Tshwane, Vancouver & Washington D.C. 

Read more: Global cities commit to net-zero building...

A new recycling factory has opened near Edinburgh which is set to become the largest in the UK.

Waste specialists Brewster Bros developed the project, which required £3.8 million of investment into new state-of-the-art equipment. The new technology allows the plant to process difficult material and maximise recovery. At full capacity, it will be able to turn around 400,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste.

Scott Brewster, Director at Brewster Bros, said: “Our number one aim is to treat and recycle construction and demolition waste as a resource, ensuring zero waste to landfill.

“…we are looking forward to shaping the future of the recycling industry across Scotland and beyond. This new plant should act as a game-changer for the construction industry, by saving money for our customers and ensuring they can dispose of their construction and demolition waste in a cost-effective and sustainable way,” he added.

The major new facility will help the Scottish Government achieve its target of 70 per cent of all construction waste by 2020.

Stephen Boyle at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “In Scotland the construction sector is responsible for producing nearly half of the country’s waste, and recycling construction and demolition material has a key role to play in minimising that.

“By recycling, we can keep materials out of landfill and in high-value use for longer, reducing the need to quarry finite virgin material and helping the environment. But what the launch of the Brewster Bros recycling plant shows is that by recycling effectively we can also generate investment and create new jobs, which is great news for Scotland.”

Building domestic capabilities to recycle more waste is vital to increasing sustainability rates. A recent report from the National Audit Office found that half of reported recycling is, in fact, exported and it is difficult to guarantee where this waste ends up.

Read more: The UK’s largest recycling plant opens in Scotland

A new report from Greenpeace has found US retailers making a marked improvement on the sustainability of their sea produce.

The report, called Carting Away the Oceans, is an update on a previous study by the non-profit conducted 10 years ago.

At the time, no retailers passed their assessment for sustainability; today, 90 per cent received “passing scores”, according to Greenpeace.

22 retailers were assessed according to their policies on the responsible sourcing of fish, transparency, human rights, and improvements to fisheries management.

While there were wide differences between the leading US supermarkets, only two, Save Mart, and Wakefern, were below par. Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue, was ranked 13th, down one spot from last year’s edition.

The top four retailers were Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, ALDI, and Target, which all scored between 70 and 80 out of 100.

Improvements were found across on the board on policies to ensure tuna is caught using the pole-and-line method; the phasing-out of selling at-risk species; and stronger initiatives to push for reform within supply chains.

However, the report makes clear that all retailers were failing on the issue of plastic pollution, noting that “none of the profiled retailers have major, comprehensive commitments to reduce and ultimately phase out their reliance on single-use plastics.” The long-standing problem has gained in prominence over the past couple of years with many global manufacturers taking steps to cut waste.

“Supermarkets across the country have made significant progress on seafood sustainability in recent years,” said Greenpeace campaigner David Pinsky. “It is time for major retailers to put the same energy into tackling the other issues facing our oceans and seafood workers, such as plastic pollution and labor and human rights abuses in seafood supply chains. It’s not truly sustainable seafood if it is produced by forced labor and then wrapped in throwaway plastic packaging.”

Read more: US retailers taking strides on sustainable seafood

Plastic waste from the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Cardiff has been collected, recycled and transformed into benches.

The Volvo Ocean Race is a 45,000 mile stretch across the world. At this event using plastic is almost unavoidable. This year, they decided to work with RPC bpi Recycling, the largest recycler of polythene in Europe, to highlight the creative and business potential of recycling plastic.

At the Cardiff stopover they collected 1000kg of plastic and enlisted the help of a local factory to recycle it. The heavy-duty ‘plaswood’ benches they produced make perfect outdoor seating.

Sian Miles, General Manager of the factory, said: “We are turning a product that could end up in landfill into something that’s useful to a range of industries contributing to the development of a circular economy.”

The Volvo Ocean Race has pledged to be sustainable in a number of ways including calculating the carbon footprint of the whole race and reducing the use of single-use plastics and straws.

Annie Middleton, Environment Officer for Cardiff Harbour Authority, said that the “plastic film is so light and we get strong winds in the harbour area and it can get blown into the sea and create issues in the marine environment.” Currently, around 12 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year.

Wales has been named as the best region in the UK for recycling. To ensure this continues, Hannah Blythyn, Minister for Environment in the Welsh Government, has approved £7.5 million to help local authorities continue to improve recycling services.

Meegan Jones, Sustainability Programme Manager at Volvo Ocean Race, highlighted the importance of replicating the idea for other events. She said: “While we have taken this special focus on soft focus plastic collection and recycling, the problem is that very few events give this material the same attention and tonnes of soft plastic will be heading to landfill from event sites every day.”

Photo Credit: BBC

Read more: Plastic waste in Cardiff has been transformed...

After a 60 year run Halogen lightbulbs will be replaced by more energy efficient LEDs.

The ban will be put into place across Europe on the 1st of September. However, despite no longer being produced or imported for resale within the EU, they will not immediately disappear as remaining commercial stock may still be sold.

According to the industry, campaigners and experts, the change to LED lights will reduce emissions and energy bills. Buildings account for 40 per cent of energy consumption in the UK and 15 per cent of this is from lighting.

LEDs consume five times less energy than halogen light bulbs and the ban will prevent more than 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

There has been some opposition to the ban. Jonathon Bullock, Ukip’s energy spokesman in the European parliament, told The Guardian: “The EU’s attempt to ban halogen bulbs is wrong because consumers will suffer financially and it’s always the poorest who suffer most from these kinds of policies.”

Philips, the lighting manufacturer, has reported that LEDs are 80 per cent more efficient than halogen bulbs. Despite being more expensive to purchase initially, they have a longer lifetime, saving the consumer up to £112 a year. Philips LEDs, on the basis you use them up to three and a half hours per day, will last up to 15 years.

Eliot Whittington, the director of the Prince of Wales’s corporate leaders group, said: “The science is clear. We can’t allow the human costs of climate change to reach the levels they will, if we fail to act. You can ban things that threaten public safety and the wasteful use of energy is dangerous for us all in the end.”

Philips has previously made efforts towards sustainability by adopting a proposal to make its business adhere to circular economy principles. Frans van Houten, Philip’s CEO and Chairman, said: “For a sustainable world, the transition from a linear to a circular economy is essential.”

Read more: Halogen light bulbs to be banned in the European...

Making the switch to a renewable energy tariff is now one of the most affordable options for consumers.

This is the main finding from recent data research by price comparison company uSwitch.

Switching to a green tariff saves homes in the UK an average of £273, up from £233 at the same time last year. The average energy plan from one of the Big Six suppliers costs over £1,110, compared to £859 for the cheapest green equivalents.

The change has been bolstered by the more competition in the market and greater availability of renewable capacity. The number of green tariffs has jumped from 21 last summer to 57 as of today.

The urgent need to transition away from climate-polluting fossil fuels has also led to the growth in renewable energy capacity. Latest Government figures show that new wind farms and solar panels helped generate nearly 30 per cent of all electricity in 2017.

However, some myths about the affordability of green energy remain among the British public. Research from Opinium, released at the same time, shows that while 38 per cent of households would consider switching to a green tariffs, a greater number, 42 per cent, still believe it is the most expensive option.

Shona Eyre, an energy expert at uSwitch.com, said: “As more suppliers differentiate themselves by focusing on the environment, green tariffs are becoming much more widespread and much cheaper.”

“Sustainable living is increasingly important to consumers. With green energy tariffs now featuring heavily in the best-buy tables, planet-friendly deals are no longer an expensive luxury for those who can afford to pay for their principles. Whether it’s using less energy around the home or choosing a green energy deal, these are small changes that make a big difference – both environmentally and financially.”

Photo Credit: Andrew Curtis/CC

Read more: Green energy tariffs now ‘cheapest on the market’

An innovation in the offshore wind industry could help further drive down costs, and protect wildlife during construction.

Wind turbines which sit on the sea floor first need deep foundations to ensure they stay upright. The most prevalent technique, called ‘piling’, uses a drill to bore into the seabed to a depth of up to 30 metres.

This method can be problematic as it creates noise which is potentially disturbing to nearby wildlife and coastal communities.

However, a new device has been created which can reduce noise by up to 20 decibels. The ‘Blue Hammer’ was successfully tested earlier this month off the coast of the Netherlands.

The prototype works by using a large water tank to deliver a more energetic, but quieter blow to the seafloor. Along with less noise, the new technique reduces wear and tear to the foundation and cuts the amount of time at sea, which, in turn, reduces costs.

The project is being developed by The Carbon Trust and engineering company Fistuca as part of a long-term innovation programme in the offshore wind sector. Major developers in the industry, such as E.ON, SSE and Ørsted, are backing the scheme.

Michael Stephenson, project manager for the Carbon Trust, said: “The test is another step forward in the Blue pilot project and we are excited to see the results of the offshore measurements and help further bring this essential innovation to the offshore wind market.”

Jasper Winkes, found of Fistuca BV, commented on the test: “It was great to see the hard work of many years finally delivering these good results on a full scale. We are very grateful for the endorsement of our investor Huisman Equipment, the Dutch Government and all the BLUE PILOT Project partners that made this possible.”

Photo Credit: Carbon Trust

Read more: Offshore wind ‘hammer’ will reduce costs…and noise

German energy company Innogy has opened a new onshore wind farm in South Wales.

The 57 megawatt project consists of 28 turbines with the capacity to power 38,000 Welsh homes.

Hans Bünting, chief operating officer at Innogy said the inauguration was a “proud day” for the company and “our first onshore wind farm to be built in Wales for 12 years”.

“(It) has been built by local people using local materials wherever possible. Over 70 per cent of the materials for the civils works were procured from within 30km of site,” he added.

Located inside the Brechfa Forest near Carmarthen, Innogy has worked closely with government body Natural Resources Wales on the project.

Claire Pillman, the body’s chief executive said the sustainable initiative is “a milestone for the development of renewable energy in Wales.” Its partnership with Innogy is designed to secure both the environmental and economic benefits of onshore wind farms.

The project has contributed £100 million of direct investment into the country, with a separate £11 million fund set up to support local community initiatives during the wind farm’s 25-year lifetime.

The Welsh Government sees the development of wind energy as key to reaching its target of meeting 70 per cent of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030.

Hannah Blythyn, minister for environment, was present at the ceremony, said onshore wind farms had “played a major part” in the Wales’ transition to low-carbon electricity, which has trebled since 2010.

“I look forward to seeing the long term difference the Brechfa development and its associated fund will make to this part of Wales,” she added.

Innogy already operates three major offshore wind farms in Welsh waters and is currently constructing two separate onshore wind projects; Mynydd y Gwair (Hay Mountain) in Swansea and Clocaenog Forest, near Snowdonia.

Photo Credit: Oast House/CC

Read more: Innogy crosses the finishing line on Welsh wind...

Samoa, a nation in the heart of Polynesia, is transforming to 100 per cent renewable energy.

The region will run on solar and wind power optimised by Tesla’s electricity grid controller to decrease diesel consumption and increase renewable generation. The grid controller gives the utility real-time control over grid stability, reliability and security.

Recently, the demand for fossil fuel alternatives has increased in Samoa following fluctuating energy prices, natural disasters and increased knowledge of the importance of renewable resources.

The American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee has adopted a goal of getting the country running on 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025. In the period between July 2017 and June 2018, 48 per cent of electricity generated came from renewable energy.

Tesla, the Californian electric car company, is a big contributor to this push towards clean energy. The proposed powerpack is a fully integrated storage system with everything needed to connect to a building or utility network. It is a scalable design that can work for small commercial businesses to regional utilities.

Tesla’s chief technical officer, JB Straubel, said: “If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don’t have to start a generator immediately, and we don’t have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed.”

“The project will help lessen the carbon footprint of the world. Living on an island, you experience global warming first-hand,” said local resident Keith Ahsoon in a recent blog.

The new source of energy will allow the country to save millions of dollars each year due to the reduction of oil imports meaning they can invest in education and transport for development.

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Read more: Tesla powerpack promises 100% renewable energy...
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