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G8 Summit – Good News or Hot Air? July 10, 2009

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So the G8 summit is here again, and we are back to the same old chestnut of global warming. Has any progress been made this time round? What good news have we had?

Well, the G8 agreed for the first time that it should collectively cut emissions by 80% by 2050, and that the world should be able to cut its emissions by 50% by the same date – The developed economies need to cut their emissions more, to allow developing economies to pollute more as they grow faster. These targets are the minimum necessary to ensure that the rise in global temperatures should not exceed 2 degrees Celsius, the danger level agreed by scientists. But they chickened out of the full deal – they set a fuzzy baseline for the 80% cut ‘of 1990 or more later years’ and acknowledged that baselines must vary but ‘efforts must be comparable’.

What is more, there had been hopes in the run up to the summit that the developing countries would join this agreement but they held out. These countries, led by China, India and Brazil, said they wanted to see more specific targets from the developed nations before they would make any commitments. Delhi will not move on a complete package until there is more money on the table, with developed countries paying the less developed countries to mitigate the effects of global warming, and adapt to them.

And you can see their point. We had hundreds of years, and the industrial revolution to get to this point. But in the end unfortunately is not just about the past, but it is about the future too and a global effort – The poor will suffer most if we can’t agree a global plan.

 British officials argue there is still time to pin out a complete deal before Copenhagen. Brown insisted: “Today we have laid the foundations for a Copenhagen deal that is ambitious, fair and effective. The world has now agreed that the scientific evidence is compelling and the G8 countries have agreed that developed countries will reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.”

 Come on then Copenhagen!

Sustainability Live 09 May 21, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in Uncategorized.
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Well, has been a hectic few days at the Sustainability Live Show in Birmingham. The show was busy, but interestingly there were still a lot of empty spaces where additional stands could be. In fact, some of the people I spoke to said that the show seemed more empty this year (although this is a common observation at shows given the pessimistic British attitude!) Still, if it is the case that is quite unexpected – given the big sustainability push in Government this year, with the focus on carbon budgets.

Nevertheless, there were a lot of really cool organisations there  – from wind energy and solar companies to cool new biotechnologies for waste and water treatment, so all in all a good show. And some really interesting seminars too.

One thing I would say though – it was a little disappointing that for a sustainability show the number of cars that drove there. I am not judging because we were one of those offenders. I suppose it just shows how much further there is to go….

Gordon’s Green Plans April 9, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in environment, Uncategorized.
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I was interested to hear this week about Gordon Brown’s green plans for the budget.

He has said that  green innovations would be a major part of the government’s plans for recovery being unveiled in the budget later this month. An interesting if not unexpected development, echoed from Obama’s pledges in America.

It is true that green technology offers huge opportunities for job creation – Nicholas Stern mentioned this in a New Scientist article a while ago – as well as improving quality of life and providing environmental benefit. I agree with this, but think that this green revolution should be have happening no matter what, not as a rescue solution in the economic downturn.

In particular, Brown wants Britain to become a market leader across the world for electric and hybrid cars, with the option to recharge vehicles at the roadside. I would be interested here to see what their plans are in more detail, but I think it is a good idea in principle.

The future is green January 22, 2009

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Sworn into office just two days ago, all eyes are firmly focussed on Obama and what he will do to deliver the change that he has promised throughout his electoral campaign. In the midst of one of the world’s largest economic crisis, President Obama built his campaign on the promise of not only economic stimulus but also support for green technology.

Obama’s plans for a green tech economy are unlike any policies of the Bush administration. Rather than allowing the economy to overshadow and marginalise environmental concerns, the President wants to use environmental principles to help drive economic growth.

“A new energy economy is going to be part of what creates the millions of new jobs that we need,” Obama said during a news conference last month.

Recently he selected alternative energy supporter and Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy and has also announced that he will invest $150bn dollars in green technology.

Although, many speculated that the financial crisis would but an end to green initiatives, but initial indications from the White House tell us otherwise.

However, it is not going to be easy to change attitudes and create the economic stimulus that he envisions in his own country. A green tech future, or a new energy economy as some prefer to call it, would certainly need global consensus and is unlikely to be achieved through national measures alone.

At home in the UK, the government assures us of its commitment of investing in a green future and creating a low carbon economy. It does this with measures such as targets to reduce carbon emissions by 80% before 2050, the creation of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change last October and the passing of the Climate Change Act last December. However, on the other hand gives the go ahead to build a new runaway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow Airport.

This decision makes me doubt how serious the government really are about creating a low carbon economy…We’ll have to wait and see if the future is really that green.

By Danielle Thomas

Obama for Change January 20, 2009

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Obama for change!

I’ve just witnessed history as Barak Obama – the US’s first African American leader sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. Two hundred years after the abolition of slavery and around forty years after the Civil Rights moment, this was a day that was that people – including myself a 22 year Black Britain – never thought they’d ever see.

Barack to me is role model, a strong, family man, well educated a lawyer and a diplomat who throughout his campaign has promised change to a country with severe economic and social problems. Many are debating that is change will come about and Barack acknowledges that the challenges are real and that change will not be easily met, however I believe like many others do that change has already come in this the inauguration of the first black president of the United States!

By Danielle Thomas

Rubbish Resolutions January 6, 2009

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It seems that although 2009 is the year of money worries and high street hell, 2009 is also going to be the year of green.

Everywhere you look we are being encouraged snap out of the Christmas blues and recycle our festive rubbish that has been left over from 2008 or ‘swop’ presents to maximize their usefulness. We should do something about the un-eaten food that we eventually throw out, and make sure we recycle our Christmas trees. British households chucked out more than three million tonnes of waste this Christmas, including cards, trees and food waste, according to Recycle Now.

Now I reckon that I am pretty good with recycling cans, bottles, paper etc through the kerbside collection but I thought I would have a quick search online to see what else we can do this year.
Well, for food waste there is the option to start your own compost (See here for tips). Otherwise, when food is sent to landfill doesn’t break down into compost but releases harmful greenhouse gases instead – this is because it’s buried and doesn’t get any air. Composting is definitely something that I am looking to do this year.

Most councils prefer not to take Christmas cards because of the glittery and shiny bits, but a scheme run jointly by the Woodland Trust and Recycle Now means that you can take your cards to WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Tesco or TK Maxx stores – all you have to do is look out for the special recycling bins. I tend to reuse my cards by cutting them up into funky designs and turning them into Christmas tags for the next year.

A number of people I spoke to got a new mobile phone for Christmas. The best thing to do with the old one is to either give it to someone who wants it or give it to an organisation who will send it to a less economically developed country for reuse http://www.envirofone.com. Getting rid of your old phone safely helps helps reduce the amount of toxic chemicals (like mercury) and reusable elements (like gold, silver and nickel) being sent to landfill.

And what about other new presents like cameras or gadgets – it is really important to recycle the old ones rather than throw them in the bin. At http://www.recyclenow.com, you can find out which electricals you can recycle in your postcode, or which retailers near you will take back your old electrical appliances in store. Alternatively, there is Freecycle, an online forum where people give items away for free, in a bid to re-use and recycle unwanted goods.

None of this seems too taxing, maybe going greener would be a good additional New Year resolution for 2009.

By Letitia Hughes

My Factory Visits December 5, 2008

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I spent a day last week in the cold and rainy North visiting a numbers of factories involved in the processing of the drinks can. It was a long day, but a great way to see the loop of how a can is made, filled and then recycled, to possibly become a can again.

The first stop was the Novelis recycling plant in Warrington. We saw the huge bales of cans, which were then melted down into a huge vat of molten liquid, that looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings. It was very important that we didn’t touch anything. We then saw how the aluminium was set into huge ingots, which were then transported to Germany by river for rolling.

Next was the Rexam factory, which makes the cans that supply the Coca-Cola Enterprise factory just next door in Wakefield – we actually saw the ‘hole in the wall’ that allows this to happen. The scale of production in both of these factories was immense and it incredible to see the number of cans in production.

All in all, a whistle stop tour, but actually being there made the whole process so much more vivid and easier to comprehend (and the hats and goggles that we had to wear were so attractive!).

By Letitia Hughes

Bold and fair December 5, 2008

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There is no escaping or denying the fact that Britain has now entered a recession.

The newspapers report daily about job cuts and repossessions. And strapped for cash we are spending less, forcing high street stores such as Marks and Spencer and Debenhams to hold regular pre-Christmas sales in order to avoid the fate of stores such as Woolworths and MFI.

I attended the Labour Progress Annual Conference on Saturday where I listened to Ed Miliband MP defend the government’s recent economic decisions announced in the Chancellor’s recent pre-budget report. Bold and fair were the key words of his address:

“New Labour was always about a commitment to boldness and fairness”

“Labour showed once again its ability to be bold, to be fair”

“We have shown a sense of boldness and fairness and told a distinctive New Labour Story about how we can solve the economic problems”

At the state opening of Parliament this week, Gordon Brown made ‘fairness’ the theme of the Queen’s Speech.

We are all aware that the government has made bold decisions with its emergency mini-budget to help the effects of the year-long international financial crisis. They include slashing VAT by 2.5%. However, the jury is still out on how fair these measures are.

“My Government is committed to helping families and businesses through difficult times.” announced the Queen.

But can these bold economic reforms ever be fair for all, families and business alike?

By Danielle Thomas

Is PR good for you? November 19, 2008

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This week I attended an event at the University of Westminster entitled ‘Is PR good for you?’ targeted towards PR professionals and students I was intrigued to attend and see if the outcome of this debate could possibly be negative i.e. conclude that PR is bad for society.

The conclusion of the debate was far from a surprise; the verdict was that PR was indeed good for a society. The persuasive industry is a fundamental instrument of democracy and the right to persuade and influence a democratic right. This is the reason therefore in large democracies such as the US and the UK the PR industry is well established, in emerging markets/transitional countries there is a fascination with PR and in totalitarian states PR is absent.

I concluded on leaving the event that the findings were all very obvious for someone like myself and the other attendees who work in the persuasive industry … so what was the need for this event. Then I reflected I had just been PR –ed. This seminar had been an opportunity to PR, plug, promote, call it what you may the speaker’s new book on the discipline.

So is PR Good for you – yes it is. This event demonstrated the true power of PR…the art of influence and persuasion through increasingly more strategic means which brings your cause, concern or product to the public’s attention … no matter how intelligent they consider themselves to be…

By Danielle Thomas

Blog Action Day – E-marginalised October 15, 2008

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Today October 15th is Blog Action Day. Bloggers everywhere will unite (from sports blogs and tech blogs, to entertainment and cooking blogs) and publish posts that discuss poverty in some way. So I’ve chosen to raise awareness about an emerging type of poverty – digital exclusion.

Can you imagine life without your computer, blackberry, or iphone? And I’m not talking about just a day or a week, but what if you had never owned a computer, had internet access on your phone or even in your home? However, could you possibly live without this technology now in 2008?

For many of us it’s hard to imagine and life without Facebook, Myspace or even ASOS…however the internet has many more important uses that we take for granted. The internet has become an indispensible tool in looking for jobs online; searching for housing and assisting children in their studies, however 39% are still not online. That’s more than 1,000,000 households with children without the use of the internet.

Some of these people do not use the net out of choice, but the majority are e-marginalised due to poverty.

Digital exclusion is a socio-economic problem and there is a clear link between digital and social exclusion – 75% of people that are socially excluded are also digitally excluded and 64% people living in social housing don’t use the internet. Research has proven that the internet significantly changes the quality of lives. In a project conducted by UK Online Centres shows 97%of families in poverty who were given computers said that their lives had improved after six months.

Connecting people to the internet can connect them to new or better jobs, new forms of social interaction, government services, education, information, consumer power….and much more.

Thankfully, the government has woken up to this as in April we saw Paul Murphy MP, Wales Minister appointed the first ever minister for Digital Inclusion and at Labour Party Conference, Gordon Brown revealed that Ed Balls would announce plans to fund over a million extra families to get online. The Government will publish their first Digital Inclusion Action Plan later this month – hopefully this will be part of the answer to an emerging 21st century problem.

By Danielle Thomas