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2016 Was A Major Year For Conservation!

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2016 Was A Major Year For Conservation!

2016 has been condemned by some as the worst year in history due to the passing of icons, unexpected political results and tragic events. However for conservationists across the globe 2016 has marked a number of significant successes.

Many major developments have been announced this year, from species to seas to climate change and renewable energy, symbolising the potential of a progressive new chapter in the history of conservation.

Top conservation success stories:

  • Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history
  • Nepal achieves two consecutive years of zero poaching for rhinos
  • Scotland powers the entire country for a day on renewable energy
  • Pandas are no longer classified as ‘endangered’
  • All trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal
  • Belize suspends the offshore oil exploration of its World Heritage site
  • The world’s largest marine protected area in Antarctica is given the ‘go ahead’
  • The UK ratifies the Paris climate deal
  • The UK government pledges an additional £13 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade
  • Spanish World Heritage site Doñana is saved from destructive dredging

Without greater efforts we will face a global mass extinction of wildlife for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago

Glyn Davies Acting CEO of WWF-UK, comments:

“The world faces a challenge in keeping its beautiful places and special species.

Global wildlife populations are likely to decline by 67% from 1970 levels by the end of this decade. Without greater efforts we will face a global mass extinction of wildlife for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

“The good news is that we know we can make a difference. 2016 has celebrated many landmark successes which will bolster global efforts to protect the natural world. Some great victories have been won but there is still an uphill battle ahead.

“WWF looks to 2017 as a year where actions will need to speak louder than words. We need to see real progress in tackling illegal wildlife trade, climate change and habitat destruction and degradation.”

April: The number of wild tigers was revised to 3,890 and is the first time in tiger conservation history that global numbers have increased. This updated minimum figure, compiled from IUCN data and the latest national tiger surveys, indicates a greater number of individuals than the 2010 estimate of ‘as few as 3,200’.

May: While Africa struggles to stem record-breaking rhino poaching, Nepal marked two years since its last rhino was poached in 2014.This is the first time that Nepal has achieved two consecutive years of zero poaching, which has helped to increase its population of greater one-horned rhinos to 645, the highest recorded number in the country so far.

August: Scotland achieved a new milestone by producing enough renewable energy to power the country for one day. Turbines in Scotland provided 39,545 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity to the National Grid on Sunday while the country’s total power consumption for homes, business and industry was 37,202 MWh – meaning wind power generated 106% of Scotland’s electricity needs.

September: The IUCN announced that the giant panda would be downgraded from endangered to vulnerable as a result of a recent 17 per cent increase in population numbers. This positive step highlighted how a holistic approach integrating government and local communities can help save our planet’s vanishing biodiversity. The progression of panda populations from endangered to vulnerable not only strengthens the long term survival of China’s giant pandas but also signifies greater protection of their unique habitat.

September: During the world’s largest illegal wildlife trade meeting (CITES CoP17) ccountries untied to strengthen protection for the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. All legal trade of pangolins has now ended thanks to an international agreement to further protect the critically endangered species from extinction.

October: The longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere received a reprieve from seismic surveying after officials in Belize agreed to suspend the seismic portion of offshore oil exploration. This great success for the World Heritage site was the result of a huge uproar from concerned citizens, national civil society groups and international conservation organisations and their supporters.

October: The world’s largest marine protected area in the Southern Ocean was agreed in a landmark deal which will come into force immediately. 24 countries including the UK – and the EU signed a highly anticipated agreement to protect 1.55 million km² of the Ross Sea in Southern Ocean. The protected area will curb damaging activities such as fishing to protect wildlife including Adelie and Emperor penguins in the remote Antarctic sea.

November: The UK ratified the world’s first comprehensive treaty on tackling climate change – the Paris Agreement. This commits countries to limiting global temperature rises to “well below” 2C over pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep increases to 1.5C.More than 100 countries had already ratified the deal making it the greatest global attempt to start tackling climate change to date.

November: During the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, the UK government pledged an additional £13 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. Global wildlife populations have on average declined by 58 per cent since 1970, and the illegal wildlife trade is one of the biggest drivers behind this. The UK government took an international lead on the issue in stepping up action to stem the multi-billion dollar trade.

December: The Spanish government announced that it will ban the dredging of the Guadalquivir River following WWF’s global campaign to protect Doñana World Heritage Site in Spain. Doñana is at risk of becoming the first EU natural World Heritage Site to be placed on the in danger list. In a report to UNESCO, the country stated that a plan to deepen the Guadalquivir River in order to allow larger commercial ships will not be authorised. Doñana is one of Europe’s few outstanding wetlands, and the continent’s most important location for migratory birds. The thousands of birds that are flying from the UK to spend the winter in Doñana National Park will find the marshes almost empty of water this year. The site harbours over 4,000 types of plants and animals, including threatened birds and the world’s rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx.

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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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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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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