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Tories and Labour would kill for unity shown at SNP love-in

Any dissent was kept well off stage in Aberdeen, with anti-fracking and land reform hardliners quickly voted down

There was genuine excitement on the conference platform. At last a vote that was close enough to require a count rather than a unanimous show of hands. A vote to challenge the SNP’s anti-fracking commitment on the grounds that it wasn’t hardline enough. It was also something of a surprise, as there didn’t appear to have been any arrangements put in place for such an eventuality.

“Can we have some stewards please?” asked an astonished Susan Aitken, the session chair. Five minutes later some stewards appeared, and it was eventually agreed that the official anti-fracking position had been adopted. The extreme anti-frackers had been defeated.

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Source: Guardian Environment

What you can do to help stop the cuts threatening the UK solar industry

With less than one week to go before the government consultation on major cuts to solar subsidies closes, now is the time to have your say

The public has less than one week to influence planned government policy changes that are expected to dramatically scale back the solar industry.

The government is proposing to cut the solar feed-in tariff by 87%. The subsidy supports householders, small businesses and community groups to invest in solar energy. The changes are currently scheduled to come into force next year, but the public can still contribute to the consultation and potentially influence the outcome.

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Source: Guardian Environment

The rush for solar power: buy now, before it's too late

This has been a bumper year for solar energy in the UK, and polls show it has become our favourite kind of power. But with drastic cuts threatened, is the industry racing off the edge of a cliff?

“The biggest challenge was the grid connection,” says Donna Clarke with satisfaction. Clarke has worked in renewables for 15 years, and developed the UK’s only biodiesel plant before moving into solar energy. When the company she now works for, Scottow Moor Solar, arrived at RAF Coltishall in May last year, there was no means to plug the 50MW (megawatts) of power they thought could be generated on the former airfield – enough to run 15,000 homes – into the electricity supply.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Richard Mabey – how plants think

Beans locate their poles by echolocation, the mimosa shrub has a memory-span greater than that of a bee … New discoveries in botany support an older idea of plants as individuals – active agents in their own life stories

When the much-missed neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote that “there is nothing alive which is not individual”, he meant nothing which is alive. Sacks was promiscuously biophilic, and the rapt personal engagement he felt with his patients embraced most of the rest of creation too – cephalopods, spiders, Oaxacan ferns, and the hunched and scaly survivors of the Jurassic forests he had seen at Kew Gardens as a child. The cycads, especially, enthralled him as relics of the first experiments plants had made in using insects for fertilisation.

In the 1990s, Sacks was investigating a rare form of colour blindness in the Pacific islands, caused possibly by eating flour made from cycad seeds. In one passage in his book The Island of the Colourblind, the Romantic botanist displaces the physician with a job to do. He sits on a beach under the cycads, watching fiddler crabs scissoring the kernels from the giant seeds, and notices a single seed, whipped up by the surf and starting to float out to sea. He ponders how its family – a group of highly variable, fire-resistant, suckering species that developed ways of fixing atmospheric nitrogen 100m years before beans did – had outlived the dinosaurs, and whether this individual seed, endowed with who-knows-what genetic quirks, might make landfall on a distant island, find a partner and begin the evolution of a new species. Life goes on and forward, but often dips into its back catalogue.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Oil companies deny that joint climate pledge is lip service

Commitment to setting a carbon price dropped and green groups remain critical that the statement amounts to little more than hot air

The heads of 10 major oil and gas companies have denied they are paying lip service to climate change initiatives while conducting business as usual.

Eight of the 10 companies’ CEOs met in Paris on Friday and issued a joint statement saying they would “play their part” in battling climate change, ahead of the United Nations climate summit which opens in November.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Nuclear deals with China could endanger UK national security, says Labour

Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy says PM has questions to answer after concerns emerge from intelligence agencies

David Cameron has serious questions to answer about whether Chinese investment in nuclear power would endanger national security, Labour’s shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy has said.

Nandy called on the government to reassure the public after reports that the intelligence agencies have concerns that possible Chinese investments in Hinkley Point and Sizewell could pose a threat to the UK.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Stephen Harper’s politics put Canada to shame: don’t be distracted by them | Naomi Klein and Maude Barlow

Voters on Monday shouldn’t be pulled in by ‘wedge issues’. Canada simply can’t afford to continue with the Conservatives’ commitment to carbon pollution

Ask Canadians about the most pressing issues facing their country and, alongside concerns about the economy and healthcare, they will inevitably raise the need for action on climate change. And no wonder: British Columbia and the Prairies were in the grips of a serious drought this summer and, only weeks after our election, world leaders will head to Paris to try to come up with a serious plan to stop global warming.

Yet, encouraged by Conservative leader Stephen Harper, much of the election debate has been narrowed to focus on “wedge issues” such as cultural differences. But Canadians cannot afford to be pulled in by the politics of diversion and division.

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Source: Guardian Environment

The rainforests hold the key to taming El Niño's destruction

Healthy forests protect our climate and moderate our weather. As the ‘Godzilla’ El Niño builds in the weeks ahead of Paris talks, it is a timely warning that deforestation is partly to blame for its impacts

Indonesia is smouldering and Godzilla is to blame. But even though this is reality, not a monster movie, there is still a hero: the tropical rainforest.

This year’s El Niño, the ocean-traveling climate cycle notorious for throwing the weather off kilter, is nicknamed “Godzilla”. While it is projected to deliver plenty of rain to some parts of the world, including drought-parched California, it is already causing dangerously dry conditions in the tropics. Papua New Guinea, for example, is experiencing its worst drought in decades, which spells doom for coffee and food crops.

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Source: Guardian Environment

German elephant hunter will be named and shamed, vows Zimbabwe taskforce

Conservation group will track down and vilify hunter who allegedly paid £40,000 to kill one of Zimabwe’s largest elephants

A Zimbabwean conservation group has vowed to identify a German hunter who shot one of the largest elephants seen in the country, so the man can be publicly vilified like the killer of Cecil the lion.

Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe conservation taskforce, confirmed that the man, as yet unnamed, had a permit when he shot the male elephant last week. The animal was unknown to Zimbabwean experts and is believed to have wandered across the border from South Africa, he said.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Alaska to allow hunting of doomed musk oxen that float away on sea ice

  • Stocky, long-haired animals are poor swimmers and face certain death on ice
  • Initiative comes at request of tiny native hunting community

Alaska big game officials have legalised an unusual hunt that will take a boat and a bold hand. Starting on Thursday, Alaska residents can harvest musk oxen that wander on to Bering Sea ice and become stranded when floes break and drift off.

Musk oxen stranded on ice are doomed to drown or starve, said Patrick Jones, assistant state area biologist.

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Source: Guardian Environment