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  • Opinion: Plastic distraction - where now for Government's 25 year Environment Plan? Politics
    Opinion: Plastic distraction - where now for Government's 25 year Environment Plan?

    Former Environment Agency boss Professor Paul Leinster and Professor Leon Terry wonder where all the attention on plastic pollution has left the 25 year Environment Plan.....

    The 25 year Environment Plan was long-awaited, and much needed in terms of setting out a vision and direction, a spur to firm planning and action ('A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment': https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan). There's a bold statement of intent, for us to become: "the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than that in which we found it".

    Paul LeinstermainBut it's now come and gone, mostly submerged beneath the attention paid to the 'war on plastics'. The launch successfully tapped into the popular consciousness via the Blue Planet factor, but where does this approach leave all the major aims and objectives of the Plan?

    Most significantly, there's the central concept of 'natural capital' - the nation's stock of land, minerals, forests, rivers and oceans - which needs wide understanding and support. The Plan itself fully embraces the idea, recognising the importance of ensuring the natural environmental assets that we all depend on are properly accounted for, and the assessment is used to inform the country's economic activities, including industry, infrastructure, land management and spatial planning. In the context of setting out post-Brexit priorities, for example, this is the opportunity for the UK to develop a farming and land management payment system, with the protection and improvement of natural assets at its heart.

    This is going to take a shift in attitudes from across the range of stakeholders, including the general public. We need to stop thinking of the environment as the provider of free services. These services are dependent on underpinning natural assets that, at an aggregate level, are declining in value. They will not be able to sustain a given level of services without environmental, health and economic impacts. We also need to move past the typical attitude of the environment as the obstacle to development, as the problem requiring conciliation and concessions, but as one of the assets we're working with and benefiting from.

    Leon Terry cropped2 copyNatural capital requires systems and integrated thinking for opportunities to be identified. So, for example, why shouldn't farmers be paid for allowing their land to act as flood plains, diverting water away from homes and businesses? In this way they are providing 'public goods' of a particular value, that have the potential to make huge savings for public services and individuals. If landowners are incentivised to restore peatlands and uplands then there can be less soil erosion, reduced amounts of nutrients in water systems, and less need for water treatment.

    Of course, organisations and landowners can't be paid to comply with the law - this is something different, a recognition that protecting and improving natural assets can lead to tangible benefits with a clear and measurable economic return.

    Natural assets need to be included on balance sheets in the same way as any other assets an organisation has. There should also be an associated risk register and action plan to ensure that these assets are properly maintained. Natural assets often provide multiple benefits and these can be location dependent. For example trees provide timber, areas for recreation, contributing to health and wellbeing, carbon sequestration and flood risk reduction.

    An important aspect in taking forward the 25 year Environment Plan will be to identify what success looks like in 25 years' time and how this will be measured. It will also be important to identify associated intermediate milestones that will provide check points on the progress being made, and there's robust governance to oversee the implementation.

    A number of Pioneer projects testing the principles of a natural capital approach have been running since 2016: a river catchment (Cumbria), an urban area (Manchester), a landscape-based area (north Devon) and marine areas (Devon and Suffolk), all of which have delivered insights into how the theory works in practice and a template for moving forward. A workbook has been created for planners, landowners, councils and communities: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/608852/ncc-natural-capital-workbook.pdf

    No-one would deny the seriousness of the amount of plastic wastes ending up in the world's oceans, but this is only one of the challenges that needs to be addressed if the Government's central pledge is to be realised.

    • Article by Professor Paul Leinster, Professor of Environmental Assessment, Cranfield University (member of the Natural Capital Committee and former Chief Executive of the Environment Agency) and Professor Leon Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood, Cranfield University, www.cranfield.ac.uk

  • MPs yearn for climate change talks but constituents unconcerned Politics
    MPs yearn for climate change talks but constituents unconcerned

    A university and think tank study of MPs has found that the issue of climate change rarely features amongst their constituents, who nevertheless respond to issues such as plastic pollution in the oceans following the BBC's Blue Planet II series or Sky Ocean Rescue initiatives. The study outlines approaches that may change this situation.

  • NE English £9.8m demo project set to incentivise rapid impact of electric vehicles on grid Transport
    NE English £9.8m demo project set to incentivise rapid impact of electric vehicles on grid

    Successfully managing the electric grid impact of the rapid growth of electric vehicles, anticipated in the UK, has come a step closer with the announcement of a £9.8 million Government funded Vehicle-to-Grid demonstrator project, led by Nissan and including energy firms and academia - which offers incentives to fleet and private owners.

  • Food waste superstore opens fifth outlet in Merseyside Food
    Food waste superstore opens fifth outlet in Merseyside

    A need for North West England's food manufacturers to tackle their edible waste has led to Company Shop, the UK's largest redistributor of surplus food and household products, opening its 5th new superstore in St Helens, Merseyside.

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Aquabio

Water treatment company raises funds for Sustrans cycling/walking charity

A water re-use company has turned kilometres into pounds and donated funds to a charity which encourages people to walk and cycle.

During the first half of 2017, employees from Worcester-based Aquabio notched up an impressive 17,707 kilometres, raising £442 for cycling charity Sustrans.

This is the first payment from Aquabio since the company instigated a cycle to work scheme as part of a wider social responsibility campaign.

aquabio - fundraiseThe company set up the scheme called Sustainability and Health in Future Transport – or SHIFT – to encourage its employees to log their kilometres with Strava while cycling to work and for leisure; for every kilometre cycled, Aquabio donates 2.5 pence to Sustrans.

Sustrans helps more people to walk and cycle. From building cycling routes – The National Cycle Network – to working with communities, encouraging children to cycle and scooter, helping more people to commute daily by bike or foot, as well as working to influence government policy, Sustrans works across the UK in a multitude of ways. Sustrans is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Strava Insights for the UK reveal that in 2016 an average of 223,376 commutes were uploaded to Strava every week, with cyclists logging an average distance of 13.5km and an average of 35 minutes in the saddle. Last year, the first ever Strava Challenge to ride to work saw a total of 79,879 cycling commute activities logged on Strava across 180 countries; as a result, 514.51 tonnes of carbon emissions were offset on the day.

Dan Brothwell, Development and Operations Manager at Aquabio said : "We are absolutely delighted to be able to make such an impressive first donation to a charity that so many of our employees support. Their contribution in reducing emissions is impressive too; using average figures – issued by the RAC - for a new car of 121.4 g CO2/km, this equates to a saving of 2150 kg of CO2.

"Our cycling colleagues are both healthy and happy, a benefit to us all in the workplace, with a knock on positive impact on the projects we undertake and the service to our clients."

The benefits of choosing to use a bike to travel as opposed to a car are clear, from physical and mental health benefits to the individual, to reducing carbon footprint and improving air quality by taking cars off the road. The SHIFT scheme provides that extra incentive to individuals, in that by making a journey on a bicycle the company will be contributing to improve cycling infrastructure.

www.aquabio.co.uk

www.sustrans.org.uk