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Updated: 38 min 53 sec ago

London takes bold step to clean up toxic pollution

Mon, 2017-10-23 08:29

Today, the toxicity charge (or T-charge) goes live in London – meaning that cars bought before 2006 will be charged an extra £10 to enter central London between 7am and 6pm.  This is a first step in a series of measures introduced by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, aiming to bring down the appalling levels of air pollution in the capital.

What’s the problem?

Amongst a long list of evidence, two reports released in the last week bring home the seriousness and extent of the air pollution crisis. The first showed that  95% of Londoners live in areas that exceed World Health Organisation emission guidelines by a whopping 50%.

The second linked air pollution in the UK to 50,000 deaths a year, the worst rate of any western country. This shocking statistic is due to the huge numbers of toxic diesel vehicles on UK streets – which is why the Mayor’s office is using the t-charge to crack down on these in London.

Is the T-charge fair?  

There are some who say it’s unfair to charge drivers and that economic costs are too high.  But central London has one of the best transport systems in the world so most people don’t need to drive a car into central London. Disabled people who hold blue badges will rightly be exempt from the T-charge, as well as people who live in the regulated areas.

Some businesses and self employed workers driving very old vehicles will have to upgrade or pay the charge. For some that will be difficult (and in those cases there should be a government scrappage scheme to help out) but in most cases it should be possible, with the cost of  a new vehicle outweighed by savings in improved fuel consumption. While many businesses can make a choice over what vehicles they buy, those suffering from conditions linked to air pollution have no choice but to breathe air pollution that breaches legal limits. The right to drive whatever, wherever and whenever you want is not the equivalent to the right to clean air.

It’s clear that Londoners agree – the T-charge has the broad support of Londoners with a Yougov poll on Friday showing three quarters of the city’s residents are in favour.

The economic consequences

It’s important not to dismiss the impacts of the charge on some businesses and there will be an economic impact both due to this charge and future charging schemes. But what critics consistently fail to point out is the economic benefits of these charges. Firstly, people will mostly shift from driving to other modes of transport increasing revenues in these important areas. Secondly, any reduction in congestion has significant economic benefits reducing costs for many London businesses. And finally, while the economic benefits of improved air quality are spread over many years, they are huge and, in addition to the impact on individuals’ quality of life, are worth billions of pounds to the economy.

So, problem solved?   

Sadly no. The T-charge won’t solve London’s air pollution crisis – no single policy could – but it’s an important first step.  It’s critical this charge is followed by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 covering a wider number of cars in central London and by an expanded ULEZ covering all of inner London in 2021 at the latest. Equally important is investment in improving, expanding and cleaning up the public transport and the  reallocation of  road space to buses and cycling.  

London is a great city with toxic air and congested streets. With the right policies and the guts to implement them it could become a great city with clean air and revitalised public spaces built around a culture of walking cycling and public transport.

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Categories: Activist News

We have one year to create the largest ever protected area on Earth

Tue, 2017-10-17 17:50

In the words of David Attenborough, “Our planet is a blue planet”. With over 70% of our world covered by water, our oceans can be seen from across the solar system.

It wasn’t long ago that the oceans were still believed to be too vast for human activity to be able to cause them significant, lasting damage. But study after study is demonstrating how the effects of overfishing, oil drilling, deep sea mining, pollution & climate change prove that humans are more than up to the task of causing major harm to the oceans and the animals that live there.

It’s not just wildlife that’s under threat: it’s us too. The health of our oceans supports the livelihoods of billions of people, and sustains our planet by tackling climate change. Our fate and the fate of our oceans are intimately connected.

What kind of action can be taken to prevent this damage from becoming irreversible?

The majority of this water falls outside of national borders. These vast areas of ocean technically belong to no one – which actually means that they belong to us all. We are their shared guardians, and what happens to them is our collective responsibility.

The science is clear: we need to create Ocean Sanctuaries.

Ocean Sanctuaries are large-scale protected areas of the ocean that are off-limits to exploitative human activities. They provide relief for wildlife and ecosystems to recover. The benefits are global. Recovering fish populations spread around the world, ensuring food security for the billions of people that rely on our oceans. And scientists are becoming increasingly clear: healthy oceans play a critical role in soaking up carbon dioxide and helping us to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Here’s the good news. The tide of history is turning, and our blue planet is finally looking at protecting the blue bits. Just a few months ago, in a stuffy room far from the ocean, governments from around the world agreed to start a process to protect them: an Ocean Treaty.

This Ocean Treaty won’t be agreed until at least 2020, but in the meantime momentum is already building towards proper ocean protection. Just last year a huge 1.5 million sq km area was protected in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic. In a turbulent political climate, it was a momentous demonstration of how international cooperation to protect our shared home can – and does – work.

Sitting at the bottom of the world, the Antarctic is home to a great diversity of life: huge colonies of Emperor and Adélie penguins, the incredible Colossal squid with eyes the size of basketballs that allow it to see in the depths, and the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale, which has veins large enough for a person to swim down.

But in the Antarctic, the creeping expansion of industrial fishing is targeting the one species on which practically every animal there relies: krill. These are tiny shrimp-like creatures which penguins, whales, seals and other wildlife depend on for survival. The awful news that all but two penguin chicks have starved to death out of a colony of almost 40,000 is a grim illustration of the enormous pressures already facing Antarctic wildlife populations. An expanding krill industry is just more bad news for the health of the Antarctic Ocean. Even worse, the krill industry is blocking attempts at environmental protection in the Antarctic.

Right now, the governments responsible for the Antarctic are meeting to discuss the future of the continent and its waters. While limited proposals are on the table this year, when they meet again in 12 months’ time they have an historic opportunity to create the largest ever protected area on Earth: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Covering the Weddell Sea next to the Antarctic Peninsula, it would be five times the size of Germany, the country proposing it.

Creating the world’s largest ever protected area in the Antarctic Ocean would show that corporate lobbying and national interests are no match for a united global call for our political leaders to protect what belongs to us all.

The movement to protect over half our planet begins now, and it begins in the Antarctic.

The post We have one year to create the largest ever protected area on Earth appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Coal and climate change: what a difference a decade makes

Fri, 2017-10-13 08:48

10 years ago this week, a group of Greenpeace volunteers snuck into Kingsnorth coal power station just before daybreak.

Emily, Huw, Kevin, Tim, Will and Ben climbed the plant’s 200m chimney, forcing the plant to go offline. Standing at the top, those activists looked out over a different world.

  • Polluting coal plants like Kingsnorth supplied a third of the UK’s electricity, and the government was considering plans to build new ones across the country.
  • Renewables were basically non-existent, supplying less than 6% of our electricity.
  • Most people had never seen an electric vehicle. They were seen as a niche technology for eccentrics and enthusiasts.
  • Much of the rest of the world was on a coal-building boom. The ‘China builds a coal power station a week’ talking point was common currency in the climate debate.

The Kingsnorth activists knew that we shouldn’t be building new coal power stations in an age of climate change. And for this, many dismissed them as radical and unrealistic. But their action – and the groundbreaking court case that followed – helped to transform the debate.

Kingsnorth’s legacy

Fast forward 10 years, and we can finally see how things played out. Kingsnorth was shut down in 2013, and plans for its replacement were shelved years ago. The giant chimney – which once put out as much pollution as 30 entire countries combined – will be demolished later this year.

If those activists climbed up for one last look, they’d see a country where coal and renewables had basically swapped places.

And they’d see a Conservative government that’s just released a plan for cutting emissions even further. It needs more detail and ambition in quite a few places, no doubt. But it’s full of enthusiasm for a clean economy that wouldn’t be out of place in a Greenpeace press release.

Climate Change Minister Claire Perry explains how the UK is leading the way to a low carbon future. #CleanGrowth https://t.co/mBKf5itLTj pic.twitter.com/tcn8JxcHiR

— Dept for BEIS (@beisgovuk) October 12, 2017

Protests and direct action are sometimes denounced as childish, but as one commentator put it today – the grown-ups have won.

10 years after Kingsnorth, the climate movement is bigger and more crucial than ever. Of course, we’re still a long way from where we need to be. But sometimes it’s worth finding a good vantage point and seeing how much the landscape has changed.

The post Coal and climate change: what a difference a decade makes appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Is Coke Finally Getting The Message?

Thu, 2017-10-12 13:17

Its week two of our global push to get Coca Cola to stop choking our oceans. In this new push, we are joined by Greenpeace offices from across five continents and are calling on Coke’s global CEO to reduce their plastic footprint. This campaign comes on the heels of us revealing that despite Coke claiming to take ocean plastic pollution seriously, they have in fact produced even more single use plastic bottles – now up to 110 billion a year or 3,400 a second.

 

Many of you have heeded our call and have signed our petition. We managed to get over 130,000 signatures in our first week! Great work everyone!!! And thanks to you, it looks like Coke is starting to get the message.

 

This week they announced a trial scheme at the University of Reading. Students there will be given refillable bottles. They can then use these bottles at smart fountain dispensers around campus to get a variety of Coke related products. This is the type of innovation that we are hoping to see Coca Cola roll out globally. It’s smart, inventive and reduces the amount of plastic bottles that they produce. Coke, can we have more of this and less throwaway plastic please?

 

But the fight is far from over. Last week they announced that they have now taken the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Our Ocean’s pledge and aim to have all of their primary packaging 100% recyclable by 2025.  

 

It’s good the Coca Cola are now working to ensure all of their products are 100% recyclable. But 8 years is an incredibly long time to achieve this goal. Especially when you consider that up to 12 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. That means by the time Coca-Cola have achieved this goal, almost 80 million tonnes of additional plastic will have polluted the sea.

 

The bigger issue with this announcement is that they are still not taking responsibility for the harm that their bottles are doing.  Yes, people should recycle their plastic bottles. But companies also have to be responsible for the end life of their products. Nothing that we use for 5 minutes should pollute our environment for hundreds of years.

 

This is why we need Coke to commit to dramatically reducing their plastic footprint. They can not continue to produce billions of single use plastic bottles year after year. Instead, they need to invest in reusable packaging and develop new  innovative delivery systems.

 

So let’s keep up the pressure! If you haven’t already, please sign our new petition. And if you have signed our petition, share it with your friends and family. We all need to do our part to end ocean plastics and that includes holding drink’s companies like Coca-Cola to account over their single use plastic bottle production.

The post Is Coke Finally Getting The Message? appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Why Velvet’s claim of protecting forests should be flushed away

Tue, 2017-10-10 16:21

Comments have been flooding onto Velvet’s Facebook page, admonishing the company for using pulp from vital parts of the Great Northern Forest in their toilet paper. Customers are appalled that spectacular and important forests are being wiped away for luxury loo roll.

Velvet has been forced to post a statement, claiming there’s nothing wrong with the way their toilet paper is made. But as the evidence shows this isn’t the case, so it’s worth going through the statement to see what’s really going on.

 

Greenpeace recently released a report that suggests Velvet is sourcing fibre from unsustainable sources. This is simply not true.

It is true. Essity, the company that makes Velvet, sources wood pulp from a number of suppliers which are driving the destruction of the Great Northern Forest in Sweden, Russia and Finland. For instance, our research suggests Essity buys pulp from mills in Finland supplied by Metsähallius, a state-owned logging company clearing some of the last old-growth forest outside protected areas, including habitats of endangered species. It also sources pulp from a company in Russia involved in the destruction of intact forests in an area earmarked for formal protection. There’s a lot more detail in the report we published recently.

 

We make Velvet toilet paper using a mix of both virgin fibre and recycled paper. It’s important that we use some virgin fibre to ensure the toilet paper is strong yet soft.

We’re not suggesting virgin fibre shouldn’t be used, but that it comes from responsible sources rather than from companies logging critical forests important for wildlife and Indigenous People’s livelihoods. Although of course, using 100% recycled paper would be even better.

 

100% of the virgin fibre that we use comes from either FSC or PEFC certified or controlled areas in Sweden and the rest of the world. That means all of the fibre used in Velvet toilet paper comes from areas where there is strict guidance in place on upholding and safeguarding principles on biodiversity and forest conservation. These are the highest industry standards in the world.

When properly implemented, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) forest management standards are the best guarantee that wood and timber have been harvested responsibly. However, like anything, the FSC isn’t perfect and this is one example.Velvet’s products are certified ‘FSC Mix’: this means that for products made only of virgin fibre, at least 30% has to come from FSC-certified forests sources, the rest can come from what are known as ‘controlled’ sources.These controlled sources are deemed to be at low risk of environmental damage, but in this case it doesn’t stop logging companies from destroying forests that have been identified as important for people and wildlife.

 

Greenpeace are members of a forum that includes the FSC, Velvet and several other paper manufacturers where we come together to explore opportunities to strengthen the sustainability of the industry. These talks continue.

We’re always open to discussing solutions, but if those talks don’t lead to action then we need to hold companies to account. Essity is the second-largest tissue company in the world and needs to show leadership in tackling these problems – unfortunately, it’s moving far too slowly to save these critical forests.

 

Far from resting on our laurels, Velvet also works on initiatives such as our Three Trees Promise through which we recently planted our 10 millionth extra new tree.

Planting trees in Brazil is not going to protect forests from being logged in Sweden, Russia and elsewhere.

 

In short, if you use Velvet toilet paper you can be absolutely sure that the paper used to make it comes from suppliers that meet these strict requirements at every step.

The requirements aren’t strict enough, so Essity – and Velvet – need to promise not to use pulp sourced from critical parts of the Great Northern Forest. Sign the petition and tell Velvet what they need to do.

The post Why Velvet’s claim of protecting forests should be flushed away appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Tell Velvet to Stop Wiping Away the Great Northern Forest

Tue, 2017-10-10 11:09

We’re papering Velvet’s Facebook page to tell them to stop wiping away forests, here’s how you can get involved. 

Velvet are using trees from some of the most precious parts of the Great Northern Forests to make their toilet paper. Over 100,000 of us are calling on them to clean up their act but it seems they might be using some of their luxury loo roll to block their ears and not listen to us.

We want to make sure they get the message loud and clear by plastering Velvet’s Facebook page with comments. We’re telling them why they should protect critical parts of the  Great Northern Forest and stop using it to make their paper.

Post your comment to Velvet

Update: Velvet have posted a statement in response to all the comments, claiming that they are protecting forests, but here’s what the evidence says.

Not sure what to say? You might want to take inspiration from some of these talking points: 

First of all, if you are a customer and you’ve bought Velvet before, make sure you tell them.

…or perhaps you want to share that the Great Northern Forest is home to locally endangered wildlife and numbers may dwindle further without these amazing landscapes.

You can remind Velvet that the Great Northern Forest as a whole is the largest terrestrial store of carbon on earth so it’s vital to leave the forest in tact to help tackle climate change.

You might want to let Velvet know that parts of the Great Northern Forest is crucial to the livelihoods of the Sami people – only these wondrous forests can provide the winter-grazing their reindeer need.

Reindeer in Sweden.

And of course, we could also encourage Velvet to use more recycled paper and make sure they source their pulp from sustainable sources.

To join others and post your own message to Velvet, just visit their Facebook page.

P.S. We know this is an extremely emotional subject, but please refrain from offensive language!

The post Tell Velvet to Stop Wiping Away the Great Northern Forest appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News