Connect with us

Environment

Fracking tsar quits after six months and blames eco activists

Published

on

Fracking tsar quits after six months and blames eco activists 5408

The government’s fracking tsar has quit the post after just six months, claiming policy relating to the controversial process means there is “no purpose” to her job.

Natascha Engel told the business secretary, Greg Clark, that developing the industry would be “an impossible task” despite its “enormous potential”. In her resignation letter, she said environmental activists had been “highly successful” in encouraging the government to curb fracking.

Engel, a former Labour MP, wrote the letter following two weeks of protests by the Extinction Rebellion group, which brought parts of London to a standstill with demands to cut emissions to zero by 2025.

She wrote: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.”

Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of 0.5 is recorded “amounts to a de facto ban”.

“The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas,” she wrote.

Protesters stand outside Cuadrilla’s Preston Road fracking site near Blackpool.  Fracking tsar quits after six months and blames eco activists 3500

Protesters stand outside Cuadrilla’s Preston Road fracking site near Blackpool. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

, she said, had the potential to create jobs, economic security and provide a cleaner alternative to coal and biomass.

Advertisement

Critics say the amount of water needed for fracking is damaging to the environment and claim it releases dangerous chemicals. They also say governments should focus on renewable energy.

Engel’s resignation letter said: “The UK is currently spending £7bn a year on importing gas – money that is not being used to build schools, hospitals or fix the potholes in our roads. Developing our own shale gas industry would mean money going into the Treasury rather than out.”

She added: “We know shale gas can be extracted safely. We have the best regulations and regulators in the world. We know the positive impact it has on local communities, but we are choosing to listen to a powerful environmental lobby campaigning against fracking rather than allowing science and evidence to guide our policy making.”

She said “apart from its uniquely awful name” the process is “materially no different” from other methods of hydrocarbon extraction.

“We are listening to a small but loud environmental movement that opposes in principle all extraction of fossil fuels,” Engel wrote. “The campaign against fracking has been highly successful in raising the profile and filling the coffers of some NGOs, but they do not represent local residents nor the wider population.”

In a statement following her resignation, Engel said: “I hope there will be a rethink sooner rather than later which will see policy guided by science, rather than fear-mongering.

“There is much to be optimistic about how developing technologies – including fracking – can help us accelerate the reduction in CO2 and grow our economy. Sadly today only those who shout get heard.”

At this critical time…
… we can’t turn away from climate change. The Guardian’s environmental coverage reports the scientific facts, social consequences and political choices that are shaping the fate of our planet. As the world’s leaders turn their backs on the environment, we are at a crisis point. Individual consumer choices are important, but we need collective action to achieve the systemic change that will really make a difference. Our pioneering and our fearless reporting on the environment can play a vital role in that. But we need our readers’ support.

More people are reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do – but we must maintain and build on it for every year to come.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Environment

Meghan Calligraphy Is Still Perfect

Published

on

Meghan  Calligraphy Is Still Perfect 00 lead meghan calligraphy

Most people, if they were to become princesses unexpectedly, would really have to brush up on their skills. You know, curtsying, wearing stilettos even when you’re tired, behaving at a fancy dinner, all that stuff. But when Meghan Marklejoined the royal family in 2018, she really had most of the important stuff down pat. We know this because she documented her facility with so many essential princess skills on her lifestyle blog, the Tig (RIP). One skill in particular was a recurring theme: her talent for calligraphy and her love of letters.

Since Meghan became the Duchess of Sussex, there haven’t been too many opportunities for the public to see her great handwriting, except for the occasional craft session and, of course, some bananas. On Thursday, we got one opportunity to glimpse her princess handwriting when Luminary Bakery, a London-based social enterprise that Meghan featured in the issue of Vogueshe guest edited, posted a picture of a thank you note to their Instagram.

One important development evident from the photo is the extremely royal stationery Meghan is using nowadays. There’s a monogram featuring an “M” with what looks to be a little tiara adorning it. She sent it along with a notebook engraved with “Forces for Change,” the theme of her Vogue issue. The note is perfectly polite and enthusiastic. “The work you do, what you represent to the community, the spirit of the women there—you all embody what it means to be ‘forces for change,’” she wrote.

Luminary, which opened in 2016, exists to provide employment opportunities to women who have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, incarceration, or sex trafficking. Meghan featured the company, which runs a cafe and does wholesale baked goods, in her issue of British Vogue, and mentioned them in her editor’s letter.

While Meghan’s thank-you note is gorgeous and proper, it’s not completely perfect. The second line on the envelope is a little wonky. It’s almost as though Meghan felt the need to remind us that she’s human, too.

More Great Stories from Vanity Fair

— Our September cover story: how Kristen Stewart keeps cool
— Marianne Williamson explains her brand of magical thinking
— The surprisingly normal way Prince George celebrated his sixth birthday
— Lil Nas X breaks a major record—and drops some golden tweets too
— Why Samantha Morton doesn’t regret working with Woody Allen

Continue Reading

Environment

North American drilling boom threatens major blow to climate efforts – report

Published

on

North American drilling boom threatens major blow to climate efforts – report 3500

More than half of the world’s new oil and gas pipelines are located in North America, with a boom in US oil and gas drilling set to deliver a major blow to efforts to slow climate change, a new report has found.

Of a total 302 pipelines in some stage of development around the world, 51% are in North America, according to Global Energy Monitor, which tracks fossil fuel activity. A total of $232.5bn in capital spending has been funneled into these North American pipeline projects, with more than $1tn committed towards all oil and gas infrastructure.

If built, these projects would increase the global number of pipelines by nearly a third and mark out a path of several decades of substantial oil and gas use.

In the US alone, the natural-gas output enabled by the pipelines would result in an additional 559 million tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide each year by 2040, above 2017 levels, according to Global Energy Monitor, citing International Energy Agency figures.

This surge in emissions is set to take place at a time when scientists have warned of punishing heatwaves, floods and economic damage if greenhouse gases are not drastically cut. A landmark UN report released last year warned that global emissions must be halved by 2030 and essentially nullified by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“This is a whole energy system not compatible with global climate survival,” said Ted Nance, co-author of the Global Energy Monitor report. “These pipelines are locking in huge emissions for 40 to 50 years at a time, with the scientists saying we have to move in 10 years. These pipelines are a bet that the world won’t get serious about climate change, allowing the incumbency of oil and gas to strengthen.”

New gas pipelines outnumber oil pipelines by around four to one, bolstered by a glut of abundant natural gas that is swiftly replacing coal as the leading electricity source for US homes and businesses.

The most active area for pipelines is the Permian basin in west Texas, a sprawling formation that contains huge deposits of oil and gas. Other active zones include the shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and the Canadian tar sands of Alberta.

Several of these pipeline projects have spurred bitter protests from climate and indigenous activists, such as the Dakota Access project, which resulted in violent clashes at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. The extension to the Keystone pipeline, which would link the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, has also aroused opposition that Donald Trump has vowed to sweep aside by pushing the project forward.

While domestic energy use increased last year – Americans consumed 4% more energy than in 2017, according to US government figures – the boom in oil and gas pipelines is largely set to cater for the US’ increasing role as an energy exporter. Nance said there are “unrealistic expectations” over exports of liquified natural gas to Asia, in particular, due to an increase in gas production there and concerns over climate change.

Advertisement

International goals to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times will be “difficult or impossible to achieve” with the completion of the new pipelines, according to Heidi Peltier, an energy expert at the University of Massachusetts, who was not involved in the new research.

“From a climate perspective, this is very bad news,” she said. “What we need is increased investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, not increased investments in fossil fuel infrastructure.”

At this critical time…
… we can’t turn away from climate change. The Guardian’s environmental coverage reports the scientific facts, social consequences and political choices that are shaping the fate of our planet. As the world’s leaders turn their backs on the environment, we are at a crisis point. Individual consumer choices are important, but we need collective action to achieve the systemic change that will really make a difference. Our pioneering and our fearless reporting on the environment can play a vital role in that. But we need our readers’ support.

More people are reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do – but we must maintain and build on it for every year to come.


Continue Reading

Environment

This Activist Uses A Little Shaming And Lots Of Data To Clean Up Chinese Factories

Published

on

This Activist Uses A Little Shaming And Lots Of Data To Clean Up Chinese Factories 5cbf4643230000b603ea250b

This story was produced and originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

One humid July day, the Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun stood in front of an alley sandwiched by two warehouses at the factory of an Apple supplier called Catcher, a two-hour bullet-train ride south of Beijing. He wore safety goggles and scribbled in a notebook. Two Apple executives flanked him.

Guides from Catcher toured Ma around towering black tanks and large sheds containing vats and pipes that disposed of the toxic chromium waste produced in manufacturing parts for iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. Apple and Catcher said the state-of-the-art system processed the waste without any discharge. Ma’s group, the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), was considering writing a report on the technology, if it could verify the claim. After a tour of the nearly 500-acre facility, Ma and the executives adjourned to an office conference room on the campus. The atmosphere was cordial, one of partners rather than adversaries.

Apple’s meetings with Ma weren’t always like this. The first one, at its California headquarters in 2011, when he confronted the company about environmental problems at multiple factories, was tense. IPE had issued a damning report on the behavior of tech companies in China, and Apple took a year and a half to set up a meeting with IPE. The discussion lasted about five hours, with Apple ceding little beyond a vague statement about transparency. More than seven years later, IPE has helped audit many of Apple’s factories and suppliers in China, and the group now ranks the company first on its list of the most transparent companies.

Image result for This Activist Uses A Little Shaming And Lots Of Data To Clean Up Chinese Factories  This Activist Uses A Little Shaming And Lots Of Data To Clean Up Chinese Factories 5cbf45f524000080094f70d9

Apple isn’t the only company that Ma has helped push toward reform. Since IPE was founded in 2006, his team has gotten more than 1,300 factories to address environmental messes such as discharging waste into rivers. The secret to Ma’s success is a clever tool: IPE has compiled a database of more than 1.3 million environmental violations committed by Chinese factories. It publicly displays this information in online maps and apps, pushing factories and the brands they supply to clean up. Many of them do, agreeing to third-party audits approved by IPE and its partner organizations to clear their records from IPE’s database. With this, Ma has convinced two of the world’s most opaque institutions—international corporations and the Chinese government—that publicly monitoring pollution is in their interest. For his accomplishments, he has won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize and many other awards, making him a major face of China’s environmental movement.

Despite the accolades, Ma’s demeanor is humble and self-deprecating. He sees his work as an effort to help companies, not undermine them. His modesty is likely one of the reasons the Chinese government doesn’t feel threatened by him. “There were all these fire-breathing Greenpeace types,” one observer of the Goldman award ceremony told me. “And then there was Ma Jun.”

On smogless days in Beijing, the city’s west side is visible from IPE’s office tower. Ma Jun, 50, grew up there in the early years of the Cultural Revolution, born in 1968 to an engineer and government administrator. Mao Zedong had disbanded traditional schools, and Ma spent much of his childhood playing with crickets and beetles and exploring farmland. His childlike curiosity has stayed with him, though the fields have been overrun by Beijing’s sprawl. After graduating from college, he found a job as an assistant for the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English newspaper. He cut out every environmental story he found, studying what few articles he came across, and spent vacations reporting on water pollution in China. The country’s rivers, he discovered, were catastrophically polluted and overdrawn. He wrote a book about the issue that reached a wider audience than he’d expected, and soon, among global environmental circles, it began drawing comparisons to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

After the book’s publication, Ma worked for an energy consulting firm in Beijing and then left to study at Yale’s World Fellows program, which helps train up-and-coming leaders from around the world. He studied American environmental law, contemplating which regulatory tools could be best applied in China. By the end of his time in New Haven, he’d written a new book that argued for progressive legal reforms to Chinese environmental law, including ones that emphasized greater environmental transparency from both government and corporations along with remedies for the victims of pollution. Editors in China were afraid to publish it. “They told me I’d forgotten where I was,” he recalls. 

Instead of publishing the book, he decided to implement its ideas through a non-governmental organization. For its first project, in 2006, Ma’s three-person staff mined every available government record of water pollution in China, transcribing them by hand, then publishing a rudimentary interactive map online. “In the beginning, all that work felt useless,” says Wang Jingjing, one of IPE’s early staffers, and now married to Ma.) IPE’s first breakthrough came after Panasonic executives contacted it about one of their factories on the map. Together with IPE, they orchestrated a full cleanup. Soon, other companies began contacting IPE for help, often after journalists or activists used IPE’s map to expose factories’ environmental violations.

IPE’s reputation continued to grow within environmental circles, and in 2014, it released a pollution-tracking app now called the Blue Map. The app’s greatest success came amid somewhat awkward circumstances: in China’s most famous environmental documentary film, Under the Dome—which the government first promoted and then censored—Chai Jing, the film’s reporter-director, gave the app a shout-out, encouraging people to download it. The film received around 300 million views within a week of its release, and the app crashed. To get it back online, IPE turned to software engineers who manage train ticketing systems during China’s lunar new year, the greatest annual migration in the world, when 400 million people return home for the holidays.

For thousands of years, Chinese rulers have struggled to enforce laws passed in Beijing at the local level. “Heaven is high and the emperor is far away,” goes one proverb. Local officials are largely promoted based on economic growth, which makes them wary of enforcing costly environmental laws. It’s common, for example, for officials to tip off factories before environmental inspections occur, reminding them, say, to turn on the scrubbers that clean the emissions passing through a smokestack. Regulators and judges have limited power to prevent such moves, since they’re subordinate to these officials or can be easily ignored. In the short term, it’s often more effective for IPE to sidestep local governments and directly contact brands and factories about the information it’s collected. After seeing their records made public, factory owners often agree to address them. “What we’ve done is kind of like Chinese acupuncture,” Ma told me. “You press one spot in one place, and that causes a reaction in another.”

If IPE can persuade companies to behave better, Ma argues to skeptical officials, this makes the Communist Party look more effective and enhances social stability—the only performance metric the government considers as important as economic growth. It’s working: Over the years, as Ma has won the trust of China’s leaders, his access to them has increased. A few weeks after the Catcher visit, he spent two days in a neighboring province training local officials on the benefits of transparency. “It’s funny, local regulators love him,” says Alex Wang, a former lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who is on IPE’s board.

In China, environmental activism tends to be tolerated more than other types of advocacy, even under President Xi Jinping’s more repressive politics. Yet Ma is careful not to push the government too far. Scholars who study Chinese politics sometimes refer to its authoritarianism as strategically “consultative” of civil society; officials have actively asked for comment and feedback from grassroots groups and independent experts on major policies like the 2014 Environmental Protection Law. Influential public figures like Ma have developed a kind of expert status in official circles, and they’ve worked hard to keep the Chinese government open to allowing—and even inviting—such public feedback. Sometimes, maintaining that cooperation requires backpedaling and finesse. Once, a team from one of IPE’s partner NGOs was driving around the countryside with a camera, photographing factories with violations listed in IPE’s database. It posted the photos on social media, revealing the precise locations of the pollution. Ma received a firm order to halt the project, which was unnerving the government. He assented, knowing that alienating officials could result in IPE losing favor, or even being shut down.

Ma knows that this delicate dance means progress is slow. Moving hundreds of China’s millions of factories toward compliance, “is only a drop in the bucket,” he admitted to me. IPE, with 37 staffers, cannot monitor all of Chinese manufacturing on its own, and it will need more reform and resources from the government to scale up its approach. State-owned enterprises, too, will need to become more transparent.

At the Catcher tour, the wrap-up meeting in the conference room ended well. Ma smiled and said he was impressed with the factory’s efforts. There was just one matter left to be sorted out: At the end of the disposal system sat a white container about the size of a doghouse, holding the final waste product, which was shipped to a recycler. For Apple and Catcher to receive the zero-discharge rating they sought, IPE would have to confirm that the waste was being properly disposed of offsite. The executives promised to follow up on that, and the mood in the room remained jovial.

In the car ride back to the train station, Ma was reflective. A week earlier, in Beijing, Dell officials had arrived to discuss speeding up their environmental auditing process, challenging Apple for the top spot in IPE’s rankings. “To see what the best companies can do now,” he said optimistically, “it’s just incredible.”


Continue Reading

Trending