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#GE2015 Election Debates: Environment and Climate Change

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Andrew Neil and the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin were joined yesterday by leading politicians to debate climate change, energy prices and the countryside. You can view the debate for the next 29 days here.

On the panel were Caroline Flint (Labour), Matthew Hancock (Conservative), Andrew Cooper (Green), Ed Davey (LibDem) and Roger Helmer (UKIP).  Ms Flint has held the shadow Energy and Climate Change portfolio since 2011, and previously held ministerial posts from 2005 to 2009. Mr Hancock has been the Minister for Energy since 2014. Mr Cooper is a Kirklees Councillor, PPC and their party’s energy spokesperson. Ed Davey is the Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change. Mr Helmer is an MEP.

Mr Hancock argued strongly that the government had done well in reducing carbon emissions but his claim was undermined by Mr Davey’s claim that he had to “fight every day” with the Conservatives. Ms Flint pointed out that much of the carbon emission reductions had been the implementation of schemes started under Labour and primarily due to provisions in the 2008 Climate Change Act. Mr Cooper described the action on emissions as “feeble.”

UKIP’s Helmer argued that he did “not believe that the changes in climate are substantially caused by human activity”, but did make the valid point that we have reduced the UK’s emissions, in part, by exporting our manufacturing to other countries with carbon-intensive power generation and weaker environmental standards.

Roger Harrabin challenged Mr Helmer on the science of climate change pointing out that while surface temperatures have paused, our oceans our acidifying. Mr Helmer replied that our seas have been more acidic in the past and life on earth existed. Life on earth yes, but not as we know it. Mr Helmer sees climate changes as one of those things that left wingers leap on to scam people into accepting government interference.

Mr Hancock sung the virtues of the growth of solar power but again was undermined by his ministerial boss, Davey, who pointed out that the Conservatives planned to end subsidies for the most widely adopted renewable energy source, onshore wind. This was rebutted by Mr Hancock arguing that we needed to protect the “beauty of our green and pleasant land.” It was pointed out that despite his opposition to solar energy, Mr Helmer had had solar panels fitted and was benefiting from government subsidy. He replied that he wasn’t going to turn down free money, but could still blame the government for handing it out.

There was a significant debate about the impact of environmental policies on domestic utility bills (they represent 7% of dual fuel energy bills [Ofgem 2014]). Roger Helmer blamed the increase in bills on these policies alone, whereas Caroline Flint pointed out that wholesale prices (43% of the bill) had increased, and recent falls had not been passed on. Energy companies pocket 9%. Flint and Hancock clashed on whether Labour’s 2013 price freeze commitment (which would allow prices to fall, but not rise) would have led to lower prices or higher prices for consumers.

Flint and Hancock clashed again on the difficult point of the cost of not changing our energy mix versus the status quo. Flint argued that a medium term increase in investment (and cost on energy bills) in renewables would offset future rises, whereas Hancock argued against this preferring a slower rate of investment.

In terms of fracking, all the parties except the greens backed the use of this resource, ignoring Mr Cooper’s point that we need to leave 80% of fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

All parties except the Green now back new nuclear power – although the LibDems have reversed their opposition since 2010. Labour, the LibDems and the Greens would allow fuel duty to rise, whereas the Conservatives and UKIP would freeze duty.

Photo: bernadg via Flickr

Further reading:

General election: Green Party turns to the crowd to raise funds

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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