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Catholic church calls on UN climate change conference to set goals

Officials from five continents follow Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment with demand for complete decarbonisation

The Catholic church has called on UN negotiators convening in Paris at the end of November to agree a goal for “complete decarbonisation” by 2050, and set a legally binding agreement to limit global temperature increase.

The statement, which was announced by the Vatican on Monday and signed by Catholic officials from five continents, represents a sweeping attempt to link climate change to social justice and the exclusion of poor people who stand to lose the most from global warming.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Tory U-turn on fracking regulations will leave safeguards totally inadequate | Lisa Nandy and Kerry McCarthy

Government seeks to lift a ban on shale gas drilling in drinking water protection zones, key wildlife sites and under national parks. Without these strong rules, fracking should not be allowed in this country

On Tuesday, in a committee room in the House of Commons, the government will try to sneak through fracking regulations that are totally inadequate, completing their U-turn.

In January, under pressure from the public and MPs, ministers caved in and agreed to a crucial Labour amendment to the Infrastructure Bill. This ensured several safeguards had to be met before fracking could go ahead. It meant that fracking could not take place in areas where drinking water is collected or in protected sensitive areas. These areas include Britain’s glorious national parks and our vitally important wildlife sites.

Amber Rudd, now secretary of state for energy and climate change couldn’t have been clearer during the debate. She said: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and areas of outstanding natural beauty.”

But just weeks after making this commitment, the government performed a U-turn in the Lords. Ministers sneaked in a weakened version of Labour’s protections. We responded by tabling an amendment in the Commons to reinstate the more stringent safeguards, but the Tories used parliamentary procedures to ensure that the debate overran so MPs were denied a chance to reverse those changes.

Now, the new Conservative government is once again using a parliamentary backdoor to put something through at the committee in the Commons this week. This isn’t good enough. This is a serious issue and it deserves a full debate on the floor of the House.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Water resilient cities: how is business building them? Live chat #askGSB

Experts will take your questions on sponge cities live in the comments section of this page on Monday 26 October between 1-2pm GMT

1.53pm GMT

How can companies integrate sponge city designs into their work and what can be done to encourage this?

Municipalities should take the lead. Water, space, both are primarily public goods. Governments should think about how to create the best enabling environment for innovation in the right direction, creating opportunities for business but for local community initiatives and art, design and creative initiatives as well. The future city is not a matter of building structures, it’s about building communities. Leading themes could be: creating a circular economy, energy self-sufficiency, climate neutrality, zero-fuel-100% electrified transport, closed municipal water cycle.

Several solutions should be brought into play in a Sponge city.. All should focus on saving ressources as energy and water..

Grundfos adds these values into all solutions.. here is an example:

First business needs access to good decision-making information. Not all sites are created equal in terms of their ‘sponge’ potentials and pitfalls. There is no one-size fits all approach within a particular city or watershed.

Business will be more effective, and incentivized to act, when they have access to the information they need. Decision-making tools need to integrate hyper-local, place-specific data and provide business clients with specific, scenario-based answers for the costs and benefits of acting and not acting (including valuing ecosystem services).

For businesses, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. 99% of US business building use their water bill to determine waste that occurred over a month ago. Tracking consumption in real-time can catch mechanical and operational waste when it starts – we finding 20% savings on average with businesses that closely track their water consumption.

1.42pm GMT

Reader Anna Lo Jacomo asks: what is the biggest obstacle to building water-resilient cities?

I guess the greatest obstacle is the political will to act. It’s not a technical problem…

Although LA and dry western cities like it are developing plans to harvest stormwater through re-tooled large-scale infrastructures on publicly owned lands, one large unanswered question is: how do you empower the private sector—from corporate citizens to individual families and neighborhoods—to participate actively in optimizing the surface of the city?

Businesses and property owners need to know, what’s the right move for harvesting, conserving and reusing water on my particular site? Some building sites are good for harvesting stormwater for aquifer recharge; others are better for on-site treatment and retention. Public investement is important, but won’t be enough. Cities need to make it easy for the private sector to do the right thing in the collective interest.

I think the really big challange is that infrastructure is already built to deal with the "old Rainfall".. and only the damages in the future will pay the solution…

So planning the future must not only solve problems, but there should be developed an additional value in raised living quality in the city with the SPonge solution…

I’m hearing discussions on water reuse(post treatment) strategy and infrastructure: For more efficient distribution of treated water for reuse, does it make more sense to treat wastewater locally/regionally versus treatment at a centralized plant?

I like the way Rotterdam (Netherlands) is profiling itself as climate-proof city, see http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/rotterdam-flood-proof-climate-change. On the other hand, it all remains rather a collection of a couple of nice initiatives, with green rooftops, floating houses. At large, nothing is so much more "climate-proof" as in the past.

If we really want to change cities to more resilient communities, a lot needs to happen structurally. We’ll not come there by here and there a good initiative – a few green rooftops – some permeable roads – some reedbeds for wastewater treatment – a multifunctional park with artwork and water storage capacity etc. What we need is the incorporation of climate-neutral design throughout the city – also in existing parts of the city, not just in new buildings. And we need water storage capacity at large scale. Green rooftops should compete with solar panel systems. We should get rid of the urban heat island effect by green city design.

Just want to add what I see as another barrier:

—insufficient understanding of costs/benefits of adopting good "sponge" strategies.

I don’t think there is one main barrier the world over. In some cities (particularly high density developing cities with poor land law enforcement) the issue is space, in others it is political will or justifying the business case (which is why more cities are moving to mandating stormwater retention on private properties), but can also be resistance to part with the beloved car-oriented paved surfaces, or even just knowledge about groundsoils and groundwater table necessary to make effective sponge-like interventions.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Anti-coal protesters target climate change sceptic peer

UK’s largest open-cast coalmine sits on land owned by Matt Ridley, who argues fossil fuels have ‘economic, environmental and moral benefits’

Protesters have stormed a coalmine on land belonging to Matt Ridley, a prominent climate change sceptic and Conservative member of the House of Lords, chaining themselves to a coal excavator and blockading the entrance.

The group, which call themselves Matt Ridley’s Conscience, raided Lord Ridley’s vast Blagdon family estate in Northumberland, home to England’s largest open-cast coal mine, at dawn on Monday.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Is it time for reform at the IPCC?

Potsdam-based economist Ottmar Edenhofer on the piecemeal nature of climate policy, in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

How well can the new head of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, manage the huge reforms that you and others have publicly asked for?

We’ve put forward suggestions for a feasible programme of reform, but we will see how Hoesung Lee will make this his own. There’s little room for manoeuvre. In a meeting in February in Nairobi, governments decided that they’d prefer to see the status quo upheld. Lee has to be very fast and vigorous if he wants reforms. However he is very dependent upon the IPCC panel agreeing, since only the governments are entitled to a vote and thus get to have a say.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Indonesia's forest fires threaten a third of world's wild orangutans

Fires have spread beyond plantations deep into primary forests and national parks, the last strongholds of the endangered apes

Raging Indonesian forest fires have advanced into dense forest on Borneo and now threaten one third of the world’s remaining wild orangutans, say conservationists.

Satellite photography shows that around 100,000 fires have burned in Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands since July. But instead of being mostly confined to farmland and plantations, as they are in most years, several thousand fires have now penetrated deep into primary forests and national parks, the strongholds of the remaining wild apes and other endangered animals.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Prominent Australians ask world leaders to consider ban on new coalmines

Wallaby David Pocock and author Richard Flanagan among 61 signatories to open letter calling for the future of coal to be on the agenda at Paris climate talks

Sixty-one prominent Australians, from Wallaby David Pocock to the Anglican bishop of Canberra George Browning, have signed an open letter calling on world leaders to discuss a ban on new coalmines and coalmine expansions at the United Nations climate change meeting in Paris in December.

The signatories are backing a call by the president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, and other leaders of Pacific Island nations in the recent Suva Declaration on climate change from the Pacific Island Development Forum.

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Source: Guardian Environment

El Niño viewed from Peru – where it originated

Peruvians should be better prepared for a phenomenon which they know well, since it all started on their coasts, says local historian Lizardo Seiner in an interview with El Comercio

Ever since the Spanish landed in Peru in the fifteenth century the magnitude of each El Niño event has increased, according to Lizardo Seiner Lizarraga. The northern coasts are especially in danger, said the history lecturer at the university of Lima, and specialist in the social and environmental history of risk.

Lizarraga’s scientific research begins in 1925, one of the three worst years hit by the weather pattern. 1983 is classed as the worst, but the phenomenon goes back way back. As he said in the following historical extract from one of his articles, “The El Niño phenomenon in Peru: reflections in history”:

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Source: Guardian Environment

Trucost Identifies $10 billion Opportunity For Electronics Industry

Recent research conducted by Trucost and revealed by the Green Electronics Council has suggested that there is a significant economic opportunity at stake for the creation of circular economy processes in the electronics sector. In the recovery and recycling of precious metals alone, the research estimated that there’s the potential to gain $10 billion in value through cost savings and natural capital benefits.

Licensed under CC: credit Flickr user - fdecomite
Licensed under CC: credit Flickr user – fdecomite

Trucost’s data looked at specific opportunities, for example, their analysis on the reuse of gold suggests that there currently exists a bottom line benefit of almost $100 million, compared against the $14.6 million benefit gained from current recovery levels.

There are a number of previous research initiatives that have highlighted a significant economic opportunity in implementing circular economy principles in the electronics sector. A lot of electronics equipment is produced using high-value materials, the lifespan of which is not maximised because they become inseparable from the product that they are contained within.

In general, the electronics sector performs relatively well compared against other industries. The cost to natural resources for electronics products is estimated at $39 million per every billion dollars in revenue, while the average in other sectors can be as much as $200 million.

Trucost’s research reaffirms general research, which shows that even sectors with an established recycling industry still have the opportunity to capture greater economic value by improving material and energy flows.

Source: Trucost and Green Electronics Council Debut Research On Natural Capital Costs and Circular Economy Benefits for Electronics  

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Source: Circulate News RSS

Ford Turns To Geckos For Inspiration

Ford Motor Company is aiming to develop new adhesive innovations modelled on the natural adhesion of geckos. Better adhesive solutions could represent a crucial step in making the disassembly and consequent reuse and recycling of Ford’s products and materials possible at a larger scale, opening up significant economic opportunities for the company in the process.

Licensed under CC - credit Flickr user: Matt Reinbold
Licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: Matt Reinbold

The toe pads of the gecko allow them to stick to surfaces without using liquids or creating surface tension, and can be easily released leaving nothing behind. Now, engineers are imagining how this insight could be put to use if replicated in Ford’s products, as a replacement for the glues usually used to adhere foams to plastics and metals.

Biomimicry, a design approach where design solutions are developed by mimicking nature, has been adopted by the company to help provide a range of business innovations. This certainly isn’t the first time biomimicry has been used in this way. For example, the Japanese Bullet Train was designed with inspiration from the kingfisher and medical needles have been improved through the study of mosquitoes.

The investigation into the gecko and potential adhesives is part of a wider adoption of the biomimetic approach among Ford’s design teams. The company recently held a workshop, where close to 200 designers and researchers took part in a session on how to apply biomimicry to their field of work.

Source: Looking to the Gecko for Answers: Ford to Seek Solutions by Mimicking Nature

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Source: Circulate News RSS