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Penzance wins first plastic-free status award to help clean up beaches

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A Cornish town has become the first community in the UK to be awarded “plastic-free” status after dozens of residents and business people backed a grassroots scheme aimed at helping clean up oceans and beaches. As part of a campaign being run by the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Penzance has been given “plastic-free coastlines approved” status.

Shops, cafes and visitor attractions have reduced single-use plastics and children and adults have taken part in beach cleans. The town’s status was confirmed after the town council voted to support the initiative.

Another 100 communities across the UK are taking part in SAS’s plastic-free coastlines scheme and working towards the status, which has been inspired by the fair trade and transition town schemes.

Rachel Yates, an SAS regional representative in Penzance, said she had been impressed by how keen people were to take part.

Everybody you speak to wants to do something,” she said. “People are contacting us asking what they can do. We haven’t had to chase people”.

Among those who have signed up to Plastic Free Penzance is the Cornish Hen Deli. Owner Sarah Shaw said she was using biodegradable pots, wooden cutlery, paper straws and cornstarch plates for outside catering jobs.

She said: “It’s hugely important because one of the reasons a lot of people live down here is the connection to the sea and the elements. You’re so much more aware of what’s going on that the thought of not doing something about it is awful”.

Flo Gibson, manager of the Jubilee open-air pool cafe, said reducing plastics was becoming easier. She said: “People are becoming more aware of plastic and the negative effects. Suppliers are also a lot more aware”.

Plastic Free Penzance’s next moves include setting up a plastic-free clinic to spread the word further and speaking to holiday home owners. They will also lobby local supermarket managers, although the emphasis is on changing behaviour on a local level and leaving national campaigning to SAS leaders.

To win the plastic free coastlines approved status, Penzance had to complete five objectives set out by SAS such as setting up a steering group and organising beach cleans. Its status was confirmed after Penzance town council passed a motion on Monday pledging to support all plastic-free initiatives in the area and to lead by example through removing single-use plastics from their own premises.

Sourcewww.theguardian.com

World Soil Day

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World Soil Day (WSD) is held annually on 5 December as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event. In 2016 this day was officially recognized in memory and with respect for this beloved monarch who passed away in October 2016 after seven decades as head of state.

  • World Soil Day 2016

FAO/GSP dedicated World Soil Day 2016 to the theme Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life, in celebration of the synergy between the International Year of Soils (IYS) 2015 and the International Year of Pulses (IYP) 2016. There are various ways in which the “strategic alliance” between soils and pulses contributes to forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems. The book “Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life”, presents decision-makers and practitioners with scientific facts and technical recommendations for managing the symbiosis between soils and pulses.

  • World Soil Day 2015

FAO was nominated to implement the International Year of Soil (IYS) 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with FAO member countries. The theme for World Soil Day 2015 was “Healthy soils for a healthy life“.

Special focus was placed on increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. Soils are a critical component of the natural system and a vital contributor to human wellbeing through its contribution to food, water and energy security and mitigation of biodiversity loss. It was celebrated by the global community of 60.000 soil scientists charged with the responsibility of generating and communicating soil knowledge for the common good of all.

  • World Soil Day 2014

The soils community could really contribute to the efforts of food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction and sustainable development

This is how FAO and the GSP secretariat started their words of welcome during the first official celebration of World Soil Day… Soil specialists, politicians, leading experts, and top officials from all across the globe convened at FAO headquarters to emphasize the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.

  • World Soil Day 2013 and 2012

Recognizing the importance of soils, under the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and with the unanimous support of FAO members, the 37th FAO Conference endorsed 5th December as WSD and requested the UN General Assembly to provide its final endorsement. Since then the soils community has an important opportunity as soils are placed high in global discussions.

Sourcewww.fao.org

 

Afghanistan Is Investing In Solar Power To Give More Citizens Electricity

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Afghanistan has big demand for power. Just 15 years ago, only five percent of the country’s citizens had access to electricity, and while today just 32 percent of people have access to grid-connected power, the demand is growing by 25 percent annually, putting pressure on the nation to up their power supply.

This, however, is a pricey problem: Afghanistan imports 73 percent of its power from surrounding countries. So in 2008, the government allocated $2 billion to expand its onsite energy capabilities, including through conventional means like coal. But a large portion of the money will be spent on more eco-friendly solutions: wind and solar.

For the latter, the Asian Development Bank has announced that it will spend $45 million on a 20-megawatt solar power plant in Kabul’s Surobi district. The country’s total demand for power is about 3 gigawatts, with domestic generation at 300 megawatts, so while the solar power plant will solve just a portion of the problem, it’s a telling turn of events for renewables.

The demand for power is rapidly growing across Afghanistan,” Samuel Tumiwa, a country director at The Asian Development bank said in the statement. “The new on-grid solar power generation project, which is the largest of its kind in Afghanistan, will not only provide access to a clean and reliable power supply, but also demonstrate the viability of future renewable energy investments”.

The plant will generate at least 43,000 megawatts-hours of power and will offset the equivalent of 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the first year after it is complete, which should be about 18 months after final contracts are signed, a spokesman of government-owned utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat told Bloomberg. Once completed, it will satisfy part of the electricity needs for Kabul as well as the eastern province of Nangarhar and Laghman.

This turn towards solar makes sense on several levels for Afghanistan. For one, the cost of solar equipment is rapidly declining (prices for solar panels have dropped 62 percent over the past five years, according to Bloomberg) as popularity grows and systems become more efficient. Now, what was once seen as an expensive way to create power is a viable option for developing countries looking to build out their infrastructure.

Plus, Afghanistan has an abundance of sunlight.

“Considering 300 sunny days per year with free solar irradiation to generate solar power, it makes Afghanistan an attractive country for implementing solar power projects,” Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi said in the statement.

Though the plant in Kabul will be the largest in the country, it’s not the first. In September, Dynasty Oil & Gas PVT Ltd. of India began construction on a 10-megawatt solar power plant in southern Kandahar city, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Additionally, the country is looking to capture an estimated 158 gigawatts of wind energy as part of its master energy plan.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

Costa Rica Runs On Green Energy For Record Breaking 300 Days

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In addition to being a gorgeous tropical paradise and beloved tourist destination, Costa Rica is putting itself on the map with huge steps towards becoming as environmentally conscious as possible. The country has been working to grow its forest cover, it has banned single use plastic, and as of now, they’ve run almost entirely on renewable energy for 300 days.

EcoWatch reports that the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) is celebrating their accomplishment, citing numbers provided by the National Center for Energy Control which say that things have been operating on almost 100 percent renewable power.

This isn’t the first time Costa Rica has sustained a renewable energy streak. In 2015, they went 299 days, and in 2016 they did slightly less at 271. They’ve beaten both accomplishments and could easily go further before the end of 2017.

This year, Costa Rica’s renewable energy was split between different sources. Hydropower provided 78.26 percent of electricity, wind gave an estimated 10.29 percent, and 10.23 percent came from geothermal energy. Just 0.84 percent came combined from biomass and solar power. 

ICE noted that 2017 may see growth in one of those sectors—wind. The country’s 16 wind farms produced 1,014.82 gigawatt hours, which is a big growth in that sector. Costa Rica’s commitment to renewable energy is paying off in practice, and showing the potential in clean energy sources everywhere.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

New NASA tool can tell you which glacier may flood your city as the planet warms

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Sea level rise is one of the most recognizable consequences of climate change and is likely to be one of the most destructive as well. Projecting when destructive coastal inundation could occur in your city just became easier, thanks to a new tool developed by NASA scientists.

By pinpointing which specific glaciers and ice sheets are contributing to local sea level rise for individual coastal cities, scientists can paint a more complete and accurate picture of what global warming will mean for rising ocean levels.

“This study allows one person to understand which icy areas of the world will contribute most significantly to sea level change (rise or decrease) in their specific city,” Eric Larour, one of the study’s authors, told CNN.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a tool that takes into account the rotation of the Earth and gravitational effects, which help to determine how specific melting points will impact certain cities. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances and is available online. The online tool can be a bit technical to use and understand.

In the study, the researchers “looked at 293 major port cities to allow coastal planners to readily calculate local seal level change“, as well as know which locations of the Earth’s polar ice cap melts present the biggest danger to them in particular.

For example, comparing the impact that Greenland melting will have for New York City to that of London reveals some interesting insight. While all quadrants of the Greenland ice sheet are melting and contribute to sea level rise all over the world, this study shows that both NYC and London are vulnerable to melt almost exclusively from the northern most parts of the ice sheet, with New York showing contributions from both the northwest and northeast quadrants of Greenland.

While melting land ice anywhere should concern coastal residents as the planet warms, this tool can help focus those concerns and make specific city projections more accurate.

“This tool is very useful to understand risk from specific glaciers, and to form a complete picture of how much risk the city is under,” Larour said. He said that city officials can follow observations for the glaciers and polar regions likely to have the most impact on their city and use that data to map projected sea level rise. Knowing more precisely how much the ocean will rise by certain dates will help city planners prepare mitigation techniques to deal with coastal inundation.

Sourceedition.cnn.com

 

 

 

Trees Are Good For Your Health, And This Tool Shows Exactly Where Cities Should Plant Them

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When cities plant trees, they help reduce pollution levels and improve people’s health. Studies show that America’s trees save thousands of lives a year, mainly by preventing breathing-related problems (they also make you feel like you have more money, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Ideally we’d have trees on every street in the country because trees are good for people, but the reality, of course, is nothing like that. Cities tend to have spotty canopies, with richer residential areas generally enjoying more cover and poorer industrial areas seeing less.

You can see how trees cover the landscape of 13 cities using a nice tool developed by researchers at Portland State University. From Sacramento to Pittsburgh, it shows how urban environments are served with trees down to a micro level, and how they cover vulnerable groups like the young and the old.

“We created an online platform that says where are the dirtiest, hottest, and most vulnerable people in each of these cities. Cities can then evaluate where they might plant trees spatially at a neighborhood level,” says Vivek Shandas, one of the academics behind the maps.

The tool grew out of work by P.S.U. in Portland (which we covered last year). Based on data from 144 sensors placed around the city, it showed the effect of tree planting and the impact on people’s health, for example in reducing the rate of asthma. The tool uses public data for 12 other cities, plotting the “heat island” effect, nitrogen dioxide levels, and demographic hotspots.

Because of the way they developed, cities like Atlanta and Houston have the most opportunity for planting trees to improve health. “Houston and Atlanta sprawled quite a bit with low-density housing and connected those places with freeways. They tend to have more places for plantings than places like Albuquerque, for instance,” Shandas says.

By switching to the “plan” tab in the tool, planners can begin to understand how many trees would be needed to reach certain canopy goals, though the tool isn’t meant to be the last word. Shandas describes it as an quick reference guide so cities can get a sense of where trees are most needed.

The tool, called the Trees and Health APP, was funded the U.S. Forest Service as part of a the larger research project. The Forest Service has its own tree mapping tools, as we wrote here, and there are many tree-mapping initiatives happening at a city level (see here). Cities really are beginning to take trees seriously.

Sourcefastcompany.com

Cities Should Think About Trees As Public Health Infrastructure

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Think of a tree-lined street in the midst of a busy city. It feels like something of a treasure: hushed, cool, and sheltered from noise and sidewalk glare. These leafy streets cannot afford to be seen as a luxury, argues a new report from The Nature Conservancy. Trees are sustainability power tools: They clean and cool the air, regulate temperatures, counteract the urban “heat island” effect, and support water quality and manage flow. Yes, they look pretty, but they also deliver measurable mental and physical health benefits to concrete-fatigued city dwellers.

So with evidence to back up all the benefits of urban greenery, TNC set out to answer, in this report, the question of how cities can develop innovative financial structures and policies to plant more trees.

It’s a particularly pressing question now, because despite overwhelming evidence testifying to the environmental and health benefits of urban trees, their presence is declining in cities across the U.S. Around 4 million urban trees die or disappear each year, and replanting efforts have failed to keep pace, even though a 2016 study on California from the U.S. Forest Service found that every $1 spent on planting trees delivers about $5.82 in public benefits.

Because urban trees are often slotted into the “luxury” or “nice to have” category in city budgeting decisions–certainly less prioritized than public safety and infrastructure maintenance–funding is often inadequate, and fails to treat trees as a long-term investment, and certainly not one that can deliver health benefits. The standard rate of investment in trees is around one-third of a percent of a city’s budget, says Rob McDonald, TNC cities scientist and lead author on the report. “It’s not enough to just talk about why trees are important for health,” McDonald says. “We have to start talking about the systemic reasons why it’s so difficult for these sectors to interact–how the urban forestry sector can start talking to the health sector, and how we can create financial linkages between the two”.

TNC estimates that coming up with the capital necessary to maintain our current urban canopy, and expand it to the point where it creates consistent health benefits, would require an annual investment, on average, of $8 per person–a sum that would just about double current municipal tree-planting budgets. That figure is hypothetical and meant to suggest not that funding for trees should actually come from U.S. residents, but that the project is well within the scope of affordability.

Sourcefastcompany.com

Invest in forests and indigenous people to fight climate change – experts

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Efforts to protect carbon-absorbing forests, which could have a massive impact on reducing global warming, only attract a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars spent on cutting emissions, experts said, as they called for greater investment.

Almost 40 times more money has been spent on promoting agriculture and land development – which have led to large-scale deforestation – than on forest protection, they said in a study.

Forests hold so much potential in the effort to limit climate change, and yet there’s a seemingly endless supply of money to help tear them down,” said Charlotte Streck, director of environmental group Climate Focus.

Under the Paris deal, countries pledged to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to strive for a lower 1.5 degree limit, to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Experts say forests could absorb enough carbon to meet about a third of the efforts needed to stick to those goals. But just 2 per cent of the $167 billion spent on reducing planet-warming carbon emissions since 2010 was invested in forests, according to the study by Climate Focus and other environmental groups.

Research has shown at least a quarter of the world’s carbon stored above the ground in tropical forests is found in territories managed by indigenous people and local communities. But even though deforestation rates are lower in areas where indigenous people manage forests, much of their knowledge is not taken into account when international decisions about climate change are made, experts say.

“Us indigenous peoples are sad and worried that billions of dollars are being invested in corporations that drive agro-business and cause deforestation,” Candido Mezua, an indigenous leader from Panama, told an event on forests at the Royal Society in London. “But very little is invested in what works: indigenous peoples and our forests, which are the best guarantee for a stable climate.”

At least 200 people were killed in 2016 while defending their homes, lands and forests from mining, dams and agricultural projects, according to advocacy group Global Witness.

Follow the link to learn more: http://www.eco-business.com/news/invest-in-forests-and-indigenous-people-to-fight-climate-change-experts/

First-ever ‘negative emissions’ power plant goes online

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Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that’s already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy have started running the first power plant confirmed to produce “negative emissions” — that is, it’s removing more CO2 than it puts out. The geothermal station in Hellsheidi, Iceland is using a Climeworks module and the plant’s own heat to snatch CO2 directly from the air via filters, bind it to water and send it underground where it will mineralize into harmless carbonates.

Just like naturally forming carbon deposits, the captured CO2 should remain locked away for many millions of years, if not billions. And because the basalt layers you need to house the CO2 are relatively common, it might be relatively easy to set up negative emissions plants in many places around the world.

As always, there are catches. The Hellsheidi plant capture system is still an experiment, and the 50 metric tonnes of CO2 it’ll capture per year (49.2 imperial tons) isn’t about to offset many decades of fossil fuel abuse. There’s also the matter of reducing the cost of capturing CO2. Even if Climeworks improves the efficiency of its system to spend $100 for every metric ton of CO2 it removes, you’re still looking at hundreds of billions of dollars (if not over a trillion) spent every year to achieve the scale needed to make a difference. That will require countries to not only respect climate science, but care about it enough to spend significant chunks of their budgets on capture technology.

It could be a long while before you see systems like this implemented on a global scale as a result.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/14/negative-emissions-power-plant-online/

Funding Trees for Health

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Imagine if there were one simple action that city leaders could take to reduce obesity and depression, improve productivity, boost educational outcomes and reduce incidence of asthma and heart disease among their residents.

Urban trees offer all these benefits and more.

Yet American cities spend less than a third of a percent of municipal budgets on tree planting and maintenance, and as a result, U.S. cities are losing 4 million trees per year.

A new white paper, written by The Nature Conservancy with input from The Trust for Public Land and Analysis Group, identifies street trees as one of the most overlooked strategies for improving public health in our cities.

“For too long, we’ve seen trees and parks as luxury items, but bringing nature into our cities is a critical strategy for improving public health,” said Rob McDonald, lead scientist for global cities at The Nature Conservancy and first author of the white paper.

The white paper estimated that spending just $8 per person per year, on average, in an American city could meet the funding gap and stop the loss of urban trees and all their potential benefits.

The full paper offers several specific examples of innovative public-sector partnership and private sector investments that highlight the full societal value of urban trees. However, municipal leaders in communities of all sizes can begin to address significant health challenges by thinking creatively about the role of nature in cities and towns:

  • Establish codes to set minimum open space or maximum building lot coverage ratios for new development.
  • Implement policies to incentivize private tree planting.
  • Break down municipal silos to facilitate various departments – such as public health and environmental agencies – to collaborate.
  • Link funding for trees and parks to health goals and objectives.
  • Invest time and effort in educating the public about the tangible public health benefits and economic impact of trees.