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Co-op Group reveals ‘disastrous’ £2.5bn loss for 2013

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The Co-operative Group has announced losses of £2.5 billion for 2013, marking its worst performing year in its 150-year history. The group said the “heavy losses” reflected the impact of recapitalising the Co-op Bank and noted that it continues to face serious challenges.

The results for the group are posted just a week after the Co-operative Bank was revealed to have made a £1.3 billion loss for 2013. At the end of last year, the bank was taken over by lenders, leaving the Co-op Group with a 30% stake, following the discovery of a £1.5 billion black hole. The bank is now seeking an additional £400m.

Richard Pennycook, who is interim chief executive of the group following Euan Sutherland’s resignation last month, commented, “2013 was a disastrous year for the Co-operative Group, the worst in our 150-year history. Today’s results demonstrate that but they also highlight fundamental failings in management and governance at the group over many years.

“These results should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who doubts just how serious the challenges we face are.”

The poor performance of the group has led to questions arising around its governance structure.  Lord Myners announced his resignation from the group’s board earlier this month following opposition to plans to reform the business.

Myners’ review into governance claimed the current structure had “produced governors without the necessary qualifications and experience to provide effective board leadership”.

Ursula Lidbetter, chair of the Co-operative Group, said, “During 2013, it became apparent that our governance had fallen short of the standards to which we aspire as a co-operative society.

“Now is the time to put that right through fundamental reform – we have to act with urgency if we are to lay the foundations for a stronger, healthier co-operative business in the future.”

Changing the governance structure has sparked a debate on whether the group, and particularly the bank now lenders have taken over, can hold on to its ethical values. Myners responded saying the Co-op Group needs to strengthen its governance” and his proposals were designed to “protect its values.

The group has also faced criticism after former chairman Paul Flowers was arrested in November. He has now been charged with two counts of possession of a class A drug and one count of possession of a class C drug. The allegations led to chancellor George Osborne ordering an inquiry into Flowers’ appointment.

The group has set out how it plans to stabilise and transform the business between now and 2016. It notes there has been “major failings” in governance, leadership and accountability and “deep sustainable change” is needed to address this.

The business plans to reduce levels of debt by cutting costs, and has already identified a budgeted £100 million of savings by the end of 2014, although it notes that transforming the organisation will take at least four years and the path “will not always be smooth”.

Photo: Co-operative Group

Further reading:

Lord Myners: Co-op Group needs to ‘strengthen its governance’

Lord Myners quits troubled Co-operative Group

Co-op Bank reveals £1.3bn loss for 2013

‘Cornerstone’ of Co-op bank’s recapitalisation plan completed

Co-op Bank seeks additional £400m after £1.5bn rescue plan

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Environment

New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations

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In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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