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Shoppers Stand Behind Fairtrade Through Tough Grocery Market

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As thousands of people get ready to get behind Fairtrade Fortnight 2016 (Feb 29th– Mar 13th) positive volume  growth in four out of the five main Fairtrade food categories – coffee, tea, bananas and cocoa – all sent a strong signal that shoppers and businesses are still standing up for Fairtrade, despite the tough grocery market. There was also double digit growth in volumes of wine and flowers sold in 2015.  Sales of Fairtrade gold sourced from artisanal small-scale gold miners, although still quite small overall, still increased five-fold in 2015.

CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation Michael Gidney, said “These figures show that British shoppers remain committed to Fairtrade, despite the turbulence in the grocery market.  That’s good news for those businesses offering Fairtrade products.  We’re delighted to see increases in most of the categories for which Fairtrade is best known – this means more producers are getting a better deal for the food they grow for us”.

Commodities seeing strong volume growth were as follows:

Coffee                         12%

Tea                              3%

Bananas                     5%

Cocoa products        6%

Flowers                      14%

Wine                           17%

In real terms, the growth in volumes means that in 2015, the UK’s appetite for Fairtrade meant:

–       More than 88 million more Fairtrade bananas were eaten, compared to 2014. In total, we now munch our way through an average of 5 million Fairtrade bananas per day

–       The nation’s love affair for Fairtrade coffee showed no signs of abating, with an estimated 255 million more cups drunk in 2015 compared to 2014

–        Around 126 million Fairtrade flowers were given to our loved ones (or ourselves!) – that’s around 21 million half dozen bouquets!

–       We brewed an additional 184 million cups of Fairtrade tea in 2015, compared to 2014.

However, not all Fairtrade products fared as well in 2015. In particular, changes in EU market regulations on sugar were leading a collapse in sales of cane sugar said the Foundation, as it had warned  in its 2015  report Sugar Crash. Volumes of Fairtrade sugar declined by 36% in 2015, compared to 2014, spelling real challenges for the many thousands of small-scale cane growers dependent on cane exports to the EU for their livelihood.

The decline in the price of sugar in Europe has led to a shift away from cane towards domestic, subsidised beet sugar, delivering an effective triple whammy of reducing cane farmer’s livelihoods, reduced impacts for Fairtrade farming communities and much more cheaply available sugar at a time of national concern over obesity. Meanwhile sales of Fairtrade fresh and dried fruit and nuts also saw decline in 2015, as did Fairtrade cotton once again.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s initial estimates of the overall retail value of the UK Fairtrade market show a slight decline to around £1.6 billion in 2015, compared to £1.7m in 2014. However, if the collapse in the price and market for cane sugar is removed from the equation, overall Fairtrade sales grew by an average 4% in volume, whilst the retail value remained steady with around 1% growth, said Mike Gidney.   “Sales in many commodities remain strong for Fairtrade, yet the irony of the EU flooding the market in cheap sugar at a time of increased concern over obesity is surely lost on no-one, with the added risk of pushing 200,000 farmers in developing countries back into poverty”

For 2016, the Fairtrade Foundation remains cautiously optimistic, with recent announcements by a range of businesses to extending their commitments to buying on Fairtrade terms, including:

–       The Cooperative has committed to stocking Tate & Lyle’s Fairtrade sugars in addition to its own-label Fairtrade sugar – becoming the first to make its entire sugar range Fairtrade.

–       2016 will see the first full year of sales of Mars Bars sourced with Fairtrade cocoa, which first hit shop shelves only in the autumn of 2015.

Further business commitments are expected to be made during the Fortnight and later in the year.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s annual national campaign Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off on 29 February – 13 March, with the theme “Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand up for Farmers”, which highlights the continued levels of food insecurity experienced by millions of smallholder farmers and workers producing the foods that make their way to our tables every day.

Kassu Eriba, member of Hafurissa cooperative, Yirgacheffe Farmers Cooperative Union, called on the public to continue to purchase Fairtrade citing the real changes the support had delivered;

“Things have improved over the last four years. Before the union formed, the price we got for our coffee was very low and we struggled to survive. We couldn’t support ourselves properly before Fairtrade and life was very hard. We didn’t have electricity, we couldn’t send our children to school. Also the road was bad. Now that Fairtrade is supporting us, we see a very big change. Our life is getting better and better.
But you must buy more so that we can continue to improve our lives. We are producing coffee and selling it to the world but we don’t get much of the value of a cup of coffee, so please keep buying my Fairtrade beans.”

The Fortnight will see thousands of activities in local communities, shops, cafés, workplaces, schools and faith networks, whilst farmer representatives from Colombia, India and Kenya will be touring the UK meeting local businesses and members of the public, highlighting the impact of Fairtrade in their communities as well as the challenges they continue to face.

Rising to the challenges of the future, the Fairtrade Foundation’s new 2016-20 Strategy ‘Changing Trade, Changing Lives – Fairtrade Can, I Can’ will also be launched during the Fortnight. The strategy includes an ambition to drive transformative change in five focus commodity sectors (coffee, tea, cocoa, flowers and bananas) on issues such as improving income and delivery of living wages, as well as innovate together with businesses to deliver deeper impact through new partnership and programme approaches. The first of the partnerships, with the supermarket Waitrose, has already resulted in the establishment of a programme responding to a call from small scale coffee farmers in Brazil to support them in adapting to climate change, improving their crops, and fair prices for their coffee beans.

 

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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