Can new laws, bans protect the planet?

World leaders have been sent a pressing message — act now before it’s too late.

The following post is by John Hannen, Outreach Executive at Mediaworks UK. 

The news is always showing us just how devastating weather can be thanks to climate change. However, it’s not just global warming that is a severe threat to the planet. There are many other major issues, including how we use plastic and how we are overusing natural resources.

When you take all this into consideration, it’s not a surprise that the world leaders were sent a pressing message via the UN climate talks in Poland – act now and drive down greenhouse emissions before it’s too late. Speaking at the summit, Sir David Attenborough reinforced this message, warning that climate change is now the greatest threat to humanity and could lead to the collapse of civilizations, and the extinction of much of the natural world.

Thankfully, the public are becoming more aware of this and not only because of legislation. The likes of environmental charities, popular broadcast programmes (e.g. Blue Planet), influential celebrities and a whole host of media are all making a major impact too – educating the masses and inspiring action on a global scale. While it’s clear there’s still a long way to go to combat climate change, we are making progress. Leaders from across the globe are stepping up efforts to ensure marked changes are being made to dramatically reduce emissions and change behaviours – and fast.

Here, Flogas, who operate within the gas installation industry, focus on some of the most influential environmental laws and regulations that are in place and how they’re helping to  save the planet.

The Paris Agreement

This first-of-its-kind landmark deal unites the world’s nations in a sole agreement to tackle climate change from 2020. Nearly 200 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a consensus in 2015 to cut greenhouse emissions and have committed to limit temperature rises worldwide by no more than 2C above pre-industrial times. In fact, the aim is to limit this further, to 1.5C if possible. Progress will be reviewed every five years and financial funding from donor nations will go to less developed countries.

Scientists, however, have pointed out that the Paris Agreement must be stepped up if the targets will be successfully matched and climate change will be effectively halted. A recent UN report suggests that the world actually needs to triple its current efforts to meet the 2C target.

The war on plastic

While plastic has many positive uses, it is also a major pollutant. An estimated 12.7 million tons of it ends up in our oceans each year (the equivalent of a truck load every minute). This has led many countries to introduce bans or taxes to try and limit the exponential rise in plastic usage. Denmark started levying a charge on plastics bags as early as 1993, and the 2002 ‘bag tax’ in Ireland resulted in a huge 90% drop in demand for single-use plastic bags. More recently, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds, and stirrers could be in place in the UK by late 2019.  Looking ahead, the European Union has voiced its intention to ban a range of plastic items (including straws, plates, and single-use cutlery) completely by 2021, justifying that these can be replaced with more sustainable materials.  The city of Seattle banned plastic straws and utensils last summer.

The media has greatly covered plastic pollution in recent years and this has helped it rise to the forefront of public consciousness. This has led a number of major companies to make significant changes to their operations by ditching plastic (or pledging to do so rapidly). This includes food outlets such as McDonalds and Pizza Express, all Four Seasons and Hilton hotels, as well as Starbucks Coffee Company’s efforts to go to ban plastic straws globally – to name but a few.

Clean Air Strategy

May 2018 saw the UK government publish its Clean Air Strategy in a bid to cut air pollution and human exposure to particulate matter pollution – the fourth biggest health risk behind cancer, obesity and heart disease. The new strategy is part of a 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state and is an addition to the £3.5 billion scheme already in place to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year.

The goal is to halve the number of people living in areas where concentrations of particulate matter are above guideline limits by 2025. What’s more, it pledges to ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels are available, to tackle ammonia from farming, to address non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles, to empower local government with new primary legislation, to invest in scientific research and innovation in clean technology, and much more.

Ban on coal

Currently, the UK has eight active coal-fired power stations. However, a ban on coal introduced in 2018 (which will come into force in October 2025) has presented energy companies with an ultimatum: adapt your existing assets to generate greener energy or close your power station. This rule has already set in motion the change, with some stations adapting or building infrastructure for cleaner energy generation, whilst others have decided to remain active right up until the ban.

The decision was made during climate talks in Bonn (COP23) to phase out coal power plants and replace them with cleaner technologies. It was Canada, the UK and the Marshall Islands who led the way, forming a global alliance called ‘Powering Past Coal.’ One year on since its launch, the alliance now has 75 members who are committed to replacing unabated coal-fired electricity with cleaner alternatives.

Road to Zero Strategy

The largest share of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation. Therefore, changes are vital if the UK is to hit its carbon reduction targets. The Department for Transport’s 2018 ‘Road to Zero Strategy,’ sets out that at least 50% (and as many as 70%) of new car sales will be ultra-low emission by 2030, and up to 40% for new vans.  This policy also addresses reducing emissions from vehicles already on the roads and plans to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

Moving towards zero emission cars will mean that there’ll be a major expansion of green infrastructure across the country. This will mean that there will be a major focus on increasing the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The Road to Zero strategy sets the stage for what the government has hailed ‘the biggest technology advancement to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine.’

Sources: Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Greenpeace, Reusethisbag, DEFRA, Climate Action, Poweringpastcoalalliance,  Gov.uk

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UK pushes for cleaner, greener energy

The UK’s Clean Growth Strategy looks to renewable technologies — like biomass boilers and solar panels — for a lower-carbon future.

The following post is by John Hannen, Outreach Executive at Mediaworks UK. 

Around the world, countries are typically encouraged to adopt green practices. In the UK, the government has taken strides in this department by compiling the Clean Growth Strategy. Designed to detail a comprehensive approach to ensuring a lower-carbon future, the initiative has been welcomed by many environmentalists around the UK.

This comprehensive document was put together by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) — read it here — and is set to change the eco-friendly landscape of the UK. From domestic to business gas operations, we’ve summarised the key points here:  

How is the UK dealing with climate change?

The Clean Growth Strategy is big news in the UK. In 2008, the UK introduced the Climate Change Act, and as a result, it became the first nation in the world to self-impose a legally binding carbon reduction target. The crux of it? To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).

Will the UK make a success of its environmental target?

BEIS data revealed in 2017 suggests that the nation is right on track to accomplish its goal. Overall carbon emissions have dropped by 42% since 1990! While this progress is encouraging, the government acknowledges that there is still plenty more work to be done — and that’s where proposals like the Clean Growth Strategy come in.

Is the Clean Growth Strategy going to be a significant help?

Essentially, there are two major objectives of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy bringing down harmful emissions and increasing economic development. The two aims behind the strategy include:

  • Maximising the social and economic benefits for the UK from this transition.
  • Meeting domestic commitments at the lowest possible net cost to UK taxpayers, consumers and businesses.

Of course, it’s essential that the country collectively gets on board with this initiative if it is going to be a success. To help, the government will implement lower-carbon processes, systems and technologies all over the country — doing so in only cost-effective ways for businesses and homes.

What are the main proposals of the Clean Growth Strategy?

The following are all accountable for the significantly reducing the UK’s carbon emissions, according to the Clean Growth Strategy:

  • Boosting business and industry efficiency (25% of UK emissions)
  • Speeding up the shift to low-carbon transport (24% of UK emissions)
  • Offering clean, smart, flexible power (21% of UK emissions)
  • Enhancing the benefits and value of our natural resources (15% of UK emissions)
  • Improving our homes (13% of UK emissions)
  • Leading the public sector (2% of UK emissions).

Find the full list of 50 pledges in this executive summary.

How much will UK homes and business operations by affected?

From UK homeowners to UK companies, this is an initiative that includes everyone living and working in the UK. A major focus will be reassessing the fuels we use for jobs like heating, cooking, and powering industrial and manufacturing processes — and embracing cleaner, greener alternatives.

There’ll be a rise in renewable technologies — like biomass boilers and solar panels — as well as a drive towards cleaner energy sources. For example, for off-grid homes and businesses, the strategy sets out specific plans to phase out high-carbon forms of fossil fuels like oil. As the lowest-carbon conventional off-grid fuel, oil to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) conversions will play a key part in replacing oil in rural parts of the country.

For buildings that are connected to the UK’s main power network, natural gas — a clean and efficient source — will stay a common option. Flogas, a leading UK energy provider, also expects to see the use of natural gas and the ‘green gas’ phenomenon (natural gas injected with a proportion of environmentally friendly biogas) grow in the next few years.

What do the experts say? 

This initiative has been very well received since its announcement in the UK. Lee Gannon, Managing Director of Flogas, said: “Through the publication of its Clean Growth Strategy, the government has made clear its intention to reduce carbon emissions from off-grid UK homes and businesses. Natural gas is affordable, versatile, widely available, and – most importantly – emits significantly less carbon than the likes of coal and oil. As such, it will continue to play a central role as the UK works towards cleaning up its energy landscape. We look forward to working alongside policymakers and wider industry stakeholders to make the Clean Growth Strategy the success that it deserves to be.”

Trade body Oil & Gas UK also predicts great things from the new initiative. Mike Tholen, its Upstream Policy Director, commented: “Oil & Gas UK welcomes the government’s commitment to technology in the strategy, especially with regards to carbon abatement measures such as carbon capture, usage, and storage. Oil & Gas UK looks forward to working with the government to see how these technologies can further reduce emissions across the economy.”

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Step inside the world’s top interiors for 2018

INSIDE World Festival of Interiors, the leading global interior design and architecture awards program, has announced the shortlist of 77 projects that will compete to be crowned World Interior of the Year 2018.

Projects from across the globe were entered across nine diverse categories, ranging from health and educational buildings to hotels, bars and restaurants, and residential homes. Hosted alongside the World Architecture Festival (WAF), the event attracts more than 2,000 attendees each year for its three days of talks, awards, exhibitions, and fringe events.

Highlights from this year’s shortlist include:
Civic, Culture and Transport category – Danish practice BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group for its ‘Lego House’ project in the heart of Billund.
A life-size re-creation of the traditional Lego brick house, the 23-meter-tall ‘Lego House’ is an immersive experience center. Twenty-one overlapping blocks are placed like individual buildings, which frames a 2,000 m2 LEGO urban square that is illuminated through the cracks and gaps between the volumes. The central square welcomes locals and visitors to further amenities such as a café, restaurant, LEGO store and conference facilities.

 

Creative Re-use category – Nocenco Café by Vietnamese practice VTN architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects).
This renovation project includes a café on the rooftop of a 7-floor middle-rise concrete building which has been transformed into a local landmark in the city center of Vinh City, north of Vietnam. Unlike other post-war buildings in the local area, bamboo has been used extensively throughout the café and to the exterior of the existing building due to its accessibility, weight, and durability as a building material.

 

Display category – Studio Chris Fox for their ‘Interloop’ design.
This innovative design sits above the main entrance of Wynard station in Sydney, Australia. Made from re-used 1930s OTIS escalator treads, the Interloop measures more than 50 meters in length, weighs more than five tons, and weaves in 244 wooden treads and four combs from the original escalators.

 

Civic, Culture and Transport category – WATG and Wimberly Interiors (Turkey) for Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. 
Art Deco interiors are featured in this renovated train. Wimberly Interiors renovated three ultra-luxurious private suites aboard the train. Drawing inspiration from the heritage and style of each of the destinations the train weaves through – Paris, Venice, and Istanbul – Wimberly Interiors has used ornate detailing, hand-beaded embroidery and lavish fabrics to reflect each city’s unique character.

 

Retail category – Waterfrom Design’s ‘Molecure Pharmacy’ in Taiwan.
The design is inspired by the original pharmaceutical process of extracting molecules from nature to create healing drugs. The metal, lightweight glass, and transparent acrylics are crisscrossed, and straight lines are used to build the display racks; similar to the expansion of a molecule – with medicines placed on them, the display racks seem to disappear from the space, while the varied pharmaceutical packaging adds color to the walls.

Additional projects from this year’s shortlist include:

Display category – Fleur Pavilia Sales Gallery by New World Development Company. The fleur floating island in the city, Hong Kong, China. 

 

Hotel category – Hisvahan Hotel by GEO_ID, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Retail category – Genius loci – House of Fritz Hansen, Jakarta, Indonesia.

 

 

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Speak out for the trees

Where is your favorite tree? Tell your story on the Forest for the Trees Storymap!

Artist Katherine Wimble Fox and SoCoCulture (the South King County Cultural Coalition) 
announce an open call to the public to contribute to the crowd-sourced, online, interactive Forest for the Trees Storymap. Participants locate their favorite tree or trees on a map and upload an image and story of their tree. Forest for the Trees is meant to inspire stewardship and awareness of our tree neighbors, attunement to nature, community sharing, and attachment to place. It will also become a record of the social value of trees in South King County communities. 

This mapping project is funded by a Tech Specific artist grant from 4Culture. It is a component of SoCoCulture’s Engaging Trees Initiative, and for autumn 2018, SoCoCulture is planning a tree-centric speaker series, supported by the Port of Seattle’s Airport Community Ecology Fund, to encourage further participation in the project. Nonprofit partner support is provided by Pacific Bonsai Museum and the Highline Historical Society.

Why Trees?
As developers eye South King County’s plentiful undeveloped parcels, with chainsaws at the ready, residents stand to lose cherished trees. The loss would be immense, as people depend on the ecosystem services trees provide as producers of oxygen, shade, food, habitat, carbon storage, clean air, and clean water. In recognition of the ecological and economic value of trees, King County has pledged to plant 1 Million Trees by 2020, and communities across south King County are initiating tree canopy surveys to map current canopy coverage from the air.

Down on the ground, trees provide a social value as well. People benefit from the presence of trees, finding beauty, silence, respite, solace, shelter, fortitude, and camaraderie. They are inspired by trees, responding with physical play, storymaking, placemaking, and dreaming. Most people can recall at least one memorable experience involving a special tree or group of trees, and can tell a story about that experience.

Who Can Participate?
The Forest for the Trees storymap project is fully inclusive: anyone can contribute a story in any language about any tree that matters to them (past or present) anywhere in the world. Outreach activities and programming aimed at increasing participation will be carried out in South King County, WA.

As South King County communities are steadily becoming more culturally diverse, Forest for the Trees is a way for newer communities, too, to make their mark on the map, by introducing them to plants to facilitate familiarity and personal connections to existing trees.

How Will Stories be Collected and What Will be Done with them?
The public can navigate to sococulture.org/engaging-trees to:   

  1. Locate their tree on the map;
  2. Upload an image of their tree, and 
  3. Upload a story about their tree.   

Because the storymap can be publicly accessed anywhere via smartphone, people can explore stories and contribute to the map at the site of their tree. Contributions to the map are public and will be stored on ESRI‘s (the maker of the Storymap app) server. Stories will accumulate on the Storymap for all to read and explore.

Programs
To further strengthen the connections between people, place, and trees, and to encourage more contributions to the map, selected partner organizations will organize public programs in autumn 2018. The programs will be posted online at sococulture.org/calendar.

About Katherine Wimble Fox
Katherine Wimble Fox is driven by the belief that experiential awareness can bond people with place, connect communities, and support environmental sustainability. Her artwork converges on the intersection of art, environmentalism, and history through feminist practices defined as those that underscore participation, pluralism, embodiment, and contextualization. Katherine has collaborated on site-specific outdoor art installations as a founding member of the Unearth Collective, plus landscape architecture projects with Hapa Collaborative, site-specific art installations with Haddad|Drugan LLC, and currently works as the Communications Manager at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, WA. She holds a Master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Washington, a post-baccalaureate graduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.S. in Forestry & Wildlife resources from Virginia Tech.

About SoCoCulture
The South King County Cultural Coalition (SoCoCulture) consists of local arts, heritage and botanical organizations that have joined forces to promote a vibrant cultural life in South King County. SoCoCulture provides advocacy, collaborative marketing, and professional development opportunities for its members. To learn more about SoCoCulture’s Engaging Trees Initiative, visit: sococulture.org/fomenting-a-pro-tree-movement-in-south-king-county

About 4Culture 
4Culture provides funding and support for the cultural work that makes King County
vibrant. Arts 4Culture funds individual artists, artist groups, and arts organizations that
provide access to art experiences for all King County residents and visitors.

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Opinion: Does Seattle City Council Actually Want Affordability?

Image provided by Plymouth Housing Group

Listening to City Council members’ rhetoric you might think they want cheaper housing. But do most of them, really?

The Council has done nothing about accessory units, which would be helpful to both homeowners and accessory-unit residents. They actually outlawed most of the smaller micro housing options, which used to allow unsubsidized construction affordable at the low-middle range. Land that can be redeveloped into multifamily housing or mixed-use is getting scarcer, with skyrocketing prices, because a small fraction of the city allows anything but houses. The Council hasn’t done much about that either.

Other than limit parking requirements (kudos for that), we seem to be going backward.

There’s a theme here. The Council is doing what’s popular and fits a narrative, not what’s effective.

Now they’re looking at a head tax on jobs. Isn’t it convenient that voters won’t pay anything, at least not directly? Only big bad employers.

Techs are other big companies are the lifeblood of our local economy, bringing new money in from elsewhere. The rest of us — contractors, hospitals, bakeries — mostly shuffle money that was already local. The head tax avoids small businesses but look where their money comes from. The Council seems intent on shrinking the tax base that already supports the same good things.

More money is needed for housing and human services, but we should all share the burden, in a way that doesn’t create its own headwinds for the intended causes. If the cost can’t be spread nationally or statewide, at least Seattle’s tax can make sense. For example a property tax.

A fair tax would probably pass an election. But that would be scary for the Council, and they wouldn’t be seen sticking it to big business. Maybe an affordable future isn’t as important as job security (for them, not us) and an image.

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