‘Green palm oil’ claims land Cadbury’s in sticky mess

22/08/2009

They are breaking open the chocolate bars at Auckland zoo in New Zealand this week. The keepers have been running a campaign to get Cadbury to remove palm oil from its chocolate. It’s been headline news down there, since Cadbury’s recently added the palm oil to make local Dairy Milk “softer”.

Zoo staff simply refused to consume or sell bars made with oil grown on former rainforest once occupied by endangered orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. On Monday, Cadbury gave in. They grovelled. “We got it wrong… we hope Kiwis will forgive us. I’m really sorry,” said local managing director Matthew Oldham. They were going back to cocoa butter, he said.

Of course, this about-face doesn’t affect the brand in countries such as Britain, where palm oil is a long-standing ingredient. So Cadbury still looks like a soft target for campaigners.

But there was something else buried in this PR own goal. A continuing greenwash that should have Cadbury hauled over the coals at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a corporate initiative to promote the sustainable production of the world’s most ubiquitous food ingredient, of which Cadbury is a founder member.

On Monday, Oldham told New Zealanders that despite the debacle “Cadbury is a responsible business and we purchase certified sustainable palm oil.” The company has “independent GreenPalm certification for the palm oil purchased for its Dairy Milk range”.

The implication was that the zookeepers were wrong to fuss about Cadbury’s palm oil because they bought the right stuff. So who is right?

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Rivals bid to snatch green domain

11/08/2009

Rival environmental groups are lining up supporters to try to take control of a new net domain aimed at green groups. At least two consortiums are known to be preparing bids to control .eco.

In March this year, former US vice president Al Gore backed a bid by the California group Dot Eco to operate the proposed “top level domain” (TLD). But now a Canadian environmental group known as Big Room has launched a competing bid to manage the TLD, which is similar to .com or .uk.

Both firms plan to apply to Icann – the regulatory body that oversees domain names – for the creation of .eco early in 2010. “We’re two different applicants with two different business ideas,” Minor Childers, co-founder of Dot Eco, told BBC News. “Ours is to sell domain names to raise funds for organisations who can effect change.”

He said the group had already entered into contracts with its supporters – such as the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection – to give away 57% of its profits from sales. “We could be one of the biggest contributors to environmental causes anywhere in the world,” said Mr Childers.

Big Room also plans to generate money from the sale of .eco domain names to fund “sustainability projects around the world”. However, the consortium, which includes WWF International and Green Cross, also believe that .eco could be used as a labelling system to endorse companies with green credentials.

Read the full story on the BBC News website.


Baby emissions fuel global warming

05/08/2009

There are already 6.8 billion people living on this crowded planet and the figure is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. How can we expect to reduce global carbon emissions by 50 per cent or more if populations continue to grow exponentially? Family planning is often regarded as taboo by environmentalists, but many are now coming round to the view that curbing population growth will be crucial to combat climate change.

The Optimum Population Trust (patron, David Attenborough) runs a campaign urging parents to “Stop At Two”. Gordon Brown’s green adviser Jonathon Porritt and Science Museum director Chris Rapley have also spoken of the environmental importance of tackling population growth.

Ed Miliband, the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change, addressed the issue recently at a town hall meeting in Oxford. “There’s no question that population growth is part of the reason why we have growth in carbon emissions… but I’m not sure that there’s an easy or necessarily desirable solution once you’ve stated that fact.”

There are plenty of reasons why reducing birth rates might not be desirable. No country wants to end up with a situation in which the workforce is too small to support the elderly – as Japan and China are experiencing.

Most of the projected global population increase will happen in the developing world, but the impact of each extra person on the climate is less in poor countries because emissions per capita are lower. Can we quantify the extra emissions that result from each child born?

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Rain puts dampers on British summer

30/07/2009

It always seemed a little too good to be true, especially for anyone who has endured a beach holiday huddled under an umbrella. This year was to be different, we were told. A “barbecue summer” – from no less an authority than the Met Office itself.

Yesterday, though, the Met Office conceded what Britons have seen with their own eyes over the last few weeks: apart from a fortnight in June, the summer has been more soggy than sizzling.

And it’s not likely to get much better in August, a prediction that will disappoint, if not entirely surprise, millions of “staycationers” who booked a holiday in the UK to enjoy the sunshine and beat the recession.

A Met Office forecaster, Helen Chivers, said today the summer was still on track to be slightly warmer than usual, with average or slightly above average rainfall, and showed no sign of the washouts witnessed in 2007 and 2008. But there were no more promises of a hot summer.

Instead, more familiar language was used to describe what the UK can expect in the coming weeks. “The weather will remain unsettled… with similar patterns of sunshine and showers, and occasional longer spells of rain” she said.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Domestic wind turbines could power 800,000 UK homes

13/07/2009

Small domestic wind turbines could provide enough clean electricity to power more than 800,000 UK homes, according to the Energy Saving Trust (EST). Previous studies have suggested that small turbines in residential areas fail to generate enough power to justify their installation.

While the new work still suggests houses in dense urban areas are poor sites, it identifies 450,000 suitable domestic locations across the nation. There are currently just 2,000 such turbines.

The research, which provides the most accurate picture of wind speeds in the UK yet, is available to the public via (est.org.uk) where householders can enter their postcode.

In total, small-scale wind in domestic properties could supply around 3.1% of the UK’s energy demand from homes.

The UK is committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. In the shorter term, the country has to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Energy use in homes is responsible for around a quarter of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions and the government is keen to reduce this figure by encouraging homeowners to improve their energy efficiency with, for example, loft and wall insulation.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Organised crime targets waste recycling

12/07/2009

Organised crime has moved into the recycling industry – a development that has become clear over the past few months after a series of raids to enforce the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.

In a raid at the start of June, police and officials from the Environment Agency targeted two east London locations – a farm at Upminster and an industrial site at Rainham – and forced open around 500 containers full of old computers, monitors, fridges and assorted electrical waste destined for illegal export to Africa, where it would be stripped down for raw materials.

“Our investigations have found that the majority of this equipment is beyond repair and is being stripped down under appalling conditions in Africa. But the law is clear – electrical waste must be recycled in the UK, not sent to developing countries in Africa where unsafe dismantling puts human health and the environment at risk,” said the Environment Agency’s national enforcement service project manager, Chris Smith.

“The Environment Agency has created a national team to stamp out this illegal trade and strong intelligence work has resulted in today’s operation – the most significant action to date in investigating suspected electrical waste being shipped to Africa.”

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Green Party calls for end to mobile network energy wastage

14/05/2009

Unnecessary duplication in mobile phone networks is wasting an “enormous” amount of energy, the Green Party has claimed.

In a report released last week, the party said there are at least 50,000 base stations across the UK, many of which belong to rival companies and serve the same areas. The party is calling for government regulation to force operators to create one “super-network”, which it estimates could save 300 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year, the equivalent of the annual electricity use of nearly 70,000 homes.

The UK is covered by five virtually independent networks due to the government’s early attempts to ensure competition in the industry. James Page, industry policy adviser to the Green Party, said: “The government wanted competition, but you can achieve competition without necessarily having a separate network each. The best hope is in government requiring Ofcom to begin considering environmental and energy issues, because at the moment it doesn’t.”

The time is ideal for the government to step in, said the party, because of the impending digital television switchover. Ofcom will auction off the frequency currently used by analogue television broadcasts in 2010, handing it over for use by mobile operators. When new masts are built to take advantage of the extra spectrum, they could be built in a partnership, suggests the report.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.