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MPs question environment budget cuts amid UK floods



MPs have demanded to know how budget cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are going to affect its ability to do its duties, including responding to emergencies such as flooding.

In a new report, the environment committee says that although Defra is one of the smallest of government departments, it has faced among the most severe cuts to funding, and is set to lose even more between now and 2016. 

The MPs especially question the wisdom of cutting 1,700 Environment Agency jobs over the next 12 months, amid the worst spate of flooding to hit the UK for decades. 

In November, a leaked internal Environment Agency memo, seen by the ENDS Report, revealed that 557 of the employees who will be let go work specifically on flooding. 

“Recent flooding events over the Christmas and new year period reinforce the committee’s concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised”, said Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, who is chair of the committee.

Prime minister David Cameron has insisted that Defra still has the ability to fund flood defences, claiming that his government will have spent more on defences between 2011 and 2015 than Labour did between 2006 and 2010. 

Critics have disputed these claims however, with environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth pointing out that the coalition’s budget for flood defences is not inflation-proofed, amounting to a real-terms cut.

“The prime minister’s calculations are far from watertight. Government figures show the coalition is spending less on flood defences in the current four-year period than it did in the previous four”, said Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole.

“Worse still, the coalition’s chronic under-investment in flood defences is completely failing to keep pace with climate change, which is increasing flood risk – as the government’s climate envoy Sir David King recently pointed out.” 

Defra’s other responsibilities include responding to crises such as the recent horsemeat scandal, and the ash dieback disease, which threatens Britain’s woodlands. 

The MPs demand that Defra’s ability to handle such occurrences is protected, while McIntosh calls on Owen Paterson, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, to be clearer on where exactly the axe will fall. 

Among the department’s other challenges in the next 12 months is the implementation of the new Common Agricultural Policy, debating whether GM technology should be used in food production, and pushing forward its proposals for “biodiversity offsetting.

Biodiversity offsetting is a strategy which would allow developers to destroy green land in development projects, if they agree to compensate for the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats by creating new habitats elsewhere.

The proposals have been widely criticised by environmentalists, and in the new report the MPs deal another blow, arguing that the controversial strategy should not be put into practice until the results of the pilots have been independently assessed.

“The jury is still out on biodiversity offsetting so ideology must not trump the robust scientific appraisal of sufficient evidence gathered during a pilot designed to test the efficacy of this policy,” McIntosh adds.

This comes as a survey of employees reveals a growing lack of confidence in the leadership of the department. Only 22% of workers said they believe that the Defra Management Committee has a clear vision for the future – 18% less than the Civil Service average.

Further reading:

UK weather will ‘change rapidly’ because of climate change, experts say

Environment Agency job cuts ‘shortsighted’ in the face of future flooding

Further storms predicted into new year as UK clean-up operation continues

Storms return to bring flooding and power cuts to the UK

Government’s flood insurance plan ignores risks of climate change, wan Friends of the Earth


Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace --

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By --

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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