A two-year study to develop a new ‘asset’ framework for Protected Areas (PAs) has been completed by the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and is published today. The new framework is designed to help protected areas attract new investment, generate more value from new and existing investments, and better manage risks that could ‘strand’ PA assets, such as biodiversity, habitats, visitor facilities, park staff and volunteers, and local livelihoods.
In an era of increasing resource competition, there is a risk that PAs could be seen as being ‘in the way’ of human development. Some countries have already backtracked on international PA commitments, and protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) has recently emerged as a topic of concern. Budgets for PA management are also being cut. As a result, PAs are increasingly vulnerable. The future of PAs depends on their contribution to society being properly seen.
Ben Caldecott, a Programme Director at the University of Oxford’s Smith School said, “For protected areas to succeed they need to attract new public, philanthropic, and private investment. Existing budgets are insufficient, especially in the context of the new and emerging risks that face – from climate change through to infrastructure development. We have created a new framework to help protected area managers better allocate existing funding, as well as attract new funding.”
Protected areas form an important part of global conservation efforts and generate a host of important ‘values’ beyond species and habitat conservation, including economic (e.g. tourism, fisheries, ecosystem services), social (e.g. communities), cultural (e.g. identity), recreational (e.g. hiking, safari), political (e.g. institutions, international reputation), and option (e.g. land development, bio-prospecting) values.
Susanne Schmitt, WWF UK’s extractives manager said “WWF-UK welcome the publication of this timely new framework. It highlights the suite of different values – from biological, cultural, human to institutional values – which Protected Areas, such as natural World Heritage Sites, represent. Understanding the full suite of values is the first step towards mitigating risks faced by protected areas and can help in the identification of urgently needed investment for these special places. “
Caldecott added, “Societies have invested in protecting natural assets for centuries. Our new ‘asset’ framework will enable the assessment and mapping of different types of protected area assets, the forms of value they create, who captures value, and the risks that may ‘strand’ these assets. The framework also represents a heuristic tool that can help underpin the case for new investment in PAs.”
The project recommends that in order to assure the future of PAs in the future, three things need to happen simultaneously: i) we need to demonstrate the value generated by PAs in ways that are meaningful for citizens, politicians, and markets in a rapidly changing world; ii) we need to understand better the forms of value generated by PAs to enable enhanced risk management; and iii) we need to attract new investment into PAs from old and new funding sources. The study published today is the first completed as part of a new University of Oxford Project for Protected Area Resilience (PPAR). Each of these three areas is a focus of Oxford’s PPAR.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.