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UK’s Top Environmental Groups Lay Down Challenge to Next Mayor to Make London a Greener, Healthier City

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A coalition of the UK’s leading environmental groups,[1] including the National Trust, WWF, RSPB and Greenpeace, are today calling for the next mayor to commit to a greener London during their term.

As part of Greener London week,[2] they are challenging the next mayor to improve conditions for those who live and work in the capital, by tackling the huge problems of air pollution and declining green spaces, and by creating clean energy and transport systems.

The group has worked together to develop big ideas and the practical means to make the capital a greener, fairer and better place to live and work. Their report, Greener London, (click to download the full document)[3] sets out how the next mayor of London can transform the city by the end of their first term to change how people live and travel in the capital, provide high quality and affordable homes in healthy and green neighbourhoods, and make London a world leading low carbon city.

Among the ideas, the groups call on the mayor to:

  • phase out all diesel black cabs and Public Hire Vehicles by 2020 and follow Paris’ example by making the entire London bus fleet run on clean fuel by 2025;
  • create a Clean Lungs Fund to protect children by tackling air pollution around London schools;
  • set a ‘green rooftop’ requirement for new commercial developments;
  • give 100 social housing estates high quality green spaces by 2020;
  • demand new regulatory powers from government to ensure London’s renters benefit from warmer homes;
  • set up an energy efficiency loan scheme for London’s small businesses;
  • make the capital a world leading solar city with a tenfold increase in solar capacity – equivalent to around 200,000 solar rooftops;
  • harmonise the 20 different recycling systems across the city to increase the amount and quality of recycling;
  • ban unsafe lorries during rush hour to protect cyclists.

Londoners will have the chance to debate these ideas and others with Zac Goldsmith, Sadiq Khan, Sian Berry and Caroline Pidgeon at the only environmental hustings for the mayoral election, the Greener London hustings on Friday 4 March.

Quotes from participating organisations:

Stephen Joseph, CEO, Campaign for Better Transport:
“Under current plans, children born today will have started school before they have air fit to breathe. By expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone and bringing forward the end date for dirty diesel in London’s bus and taxi fleets, paid for by abandoning unnecessary new road schemes, the next mayor can make a real difference to the health and life chances of Londoners.”

Nicola Briggs, London director, National Trust:

“In 1895 Octavia Hill created the National Trust because she saw the importance of protecting London’s green spaces so that everyone can benefit from them. Now in 2016 London’s parks and open spaces face new challenges to make the most out of squeezed public funding and making new developments work for our environment. The solutions set out in Greener London offer many opportunities that the mayor can take advantage of to make the quality of life better for all Londoners. This is why we are happy to support Greener London and look forward to working with the next mayor.”

John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace UK:

“London holds two unenviable records. It has some of the highest air pollution levels and the lowest amount of solar power installed per household in the country. Any serious vision for a cleaner London must include a plan to swap these two records around. From transport to energy, our dependence on dirty fossil fuels is holding London back. The capital has all the resources it needs to break free from it. It’s time for the next mayor to give this cutting edge city the cutting edge power and transport systems it deserves.”

Gordon Scorer, chief executive of London Wildlife Trust:

“A wilder, greener city would be good for Londoners, as well as the wildlife that shares our city. Regular contact with nature is known to be beneficial for our health and mental wellbeing, and yet a third of families in London visit natural spaces less than six times a year, and London’s children are spending less and less time outdoors. By making it easier for all Londoners to experience the beauty and wonder of nature in their neighbourhoods, by improving natural green spaces in social housing estates for example, the next mayor could make London a happier, healthier city for all.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE):

“The new mayor will need to act decisively to address London’s housing crisis. With care and imagination we can build the homes London needs; make it a better, greener place to live; and protect the countryside within and around it.”

Glyn Davies, acting chief executive, WWF UK:

“London is a great city, and what we do is seen and heard around the planet. London can lead the way in fighting climate change, which is one of the greatest threats we face. All the mayoral candidates should show clear plans for getting emissions down, and capitalise on the wealth creating potential of greener growth for London.”

Matthew Spencer, director, Green Alliance:
“London is a dynamic city, but if it’s to remain a healthy place to live and work it also has to become a greener city. If the next mayor doesn’t tackle air pollution, restore our green spaces and continue the transport revolution, London will become a victim of its own success. London is unusual in the UK in having most of the powers it needs to make itself greener without waiting for central government. We’ve suggested 20 practical ways the next mayor can use their power on behalf of London citizens seeking a more liveable city.”

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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