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G7 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuel use by end of century
The G7 leading industrial nations have agreed on tough measures to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced, in a move hailed as historic by some environmental campaigners. On the final day of talks in a Bavarian castle, Merkel said the leaders had committed themselves to the need to “decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century”. They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2C compared to pre-industrial levels.

More news on this story:
G7 buoys climate talks with support for zero carbon goal
G7 fossil fuel pledge is a diplomatic coup for Germany’s ‘climate chancellor’
Climate change dominates G7 agreement as leaders back full decarbonisation vision

Energy and Climate Change

China greenhouse gases: Progress is made, report says
China’s greenhouse gas emissions could start to decline within 10 years, according to a report from the London School of Economics. This would be five years earlier than expected and would offer a boost towards efforts to protect the climate. The shift has been partly caused by a massive commitment to renewables. China is the world’s top investor in wind and solar power. It has also been replacing old coal plants with cleaner new stations.

Morocco bids to axe fossil fuel subsidies in climate pledge
Morocco, a desert kingdom that imports 90% of its energy, vowed to slash fossil fuel subsidies as its delivered its carbon-cutting pledge on Friday.The first Arab country to submit an “intended nationally determined contribution” in the UN lexicon, it will target up to a 32% cut in 2030 greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual levels.Slashing subsidies for oil and gas will be one of four main levers in overhauling its dirty energy sector, together with boosting renewables and ramping up imports of lesser-polluting natural gas.

Air traffic controllers land record £155m fuel savings for airlines
Airlines have saved £155m in fuel costs over the last financial year thanks to improved use of airspace, air traffic controllers directing smoother flights, and new technology. NATS, the air traffic services company that controls UK airspace, reveals in its latest Corporate Responsibility report that the efficiency measures it has brought in have helped reduce CO2 emissions by more than 600,000 tonnes.

Typhoons a growing threat because of climate change
A warming planet is already stoking the intensity of tropical cyclones in the north-west Pacific and their ferocity will continue to increase even with moderate climate change over this century, an international research team has found. A study covering 850 typhoons in the region found the intensity of the damaging storms has increased by about 10 per cent since the 1970s, said Wei Mei, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-author of the study published in the journal Science Advances. Using 20 models and a mid-range projection of carbon dioxide emissions, the researchers found the peak intensity of storms such as super Typhoon Haiyan, which tore through the Philippines in November 2013, will become even stronger and more common.

India PM Modi endorses controversial Sundarbans coal plant
A proposed power plant at the fringes of Sundarbans forest is getting more attention than its supporters would like. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Bangladesh at the weekend, endorsed the controversial Rampal coal-fired power station. In a joint press statement with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, Modi said Rampal will have India’s support and cooperation. But green groups say the project threatens the future of the world’s largest mangrove forest, a sensitive and diverse ecosystem. The Sundarbans are home to the critically endangered Bengal tiger and a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Sundarbans are the world’s biggest mangrove forest, spanning the coastline of India and China (FicusMedia/Arati Kumar-Rao)

The Sundarbans are the world’s biggest mangrove forest, spanning the coastline of India and China (FicusMedia/Arati Kumar-Rao)

Environment and Biodiversity

QEII Trust celebrates its 4000th covenant
NEW ZEALAND – The QEII National Trust has registered its 4000th covenant nearly 40 years after the organisation’s founder, Gordon Stephenson, became the first to place his land within this form of protection…Covenanting land is a legally binding protection agreement which is registered on the title of the land. It is voluntary but once in place, binds current and all subsequent landowners. The Ormsby’s covenants  protect around 15ha of forest remnants and critically underprotected wetland areas. They have planted around 27,000 natives and plan to plant thousands more to restore and enhance their covenants and other natural areas on the farm.

Fieldays 2015: Sorting out a wee problem
NEW ZEALAND – They could be described as the excrement dream team. On the one hand, you have the brains of soil scientist and urine aficionado Dr Bert Quin, who set up the fertiliser co-operative Summit Quinphos. He says his interests throughout his career are the two Ps: pee and the P in phosphorous. Then, there’s engineer Geoff Bates, whose many inventions include the Dung Buster, which is used to clean up milking yards. The Auckland men met about two years ago, but in that short time they have discovered they have the same passion – cleaning up waterways.

Surfers wanted for ‘superbug’ study
Scientists are launching an investigation into antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as “superbugs”, by gathering data from surfers’ rectums.  “Beach Bums” is the first UK project of its kind, teaming researchers with the action group Surfers Against Sewage. Surfers are being asked to volunteer to provide rectal swabs to help scientists to find out the effects of marine pollution on human health. Tests have shown water may contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Litter piling up in Auckland waters
Car batteries, coffee cups and condoms – welcome to the underwater junkyard that lies just off our city beaches. People would be shocked, disgusted and embarrassed if they knew how much litter was going into their blue backyard each year, say divers who yesterday hosted a small clean-up dive off the Auckland waterfront to mark World Oceans Day. In just half an hour, they hauled more than 100kg of rubbish up from the bottom of Okahu Bay. They found a computer monitor, a smashed mirror, 41 glass bottles and jars, a dive mask, a pair of sunglasses and someone’s underwear.

Dutch Wonder Designs System to Clean Up Plastic Ocean Trash
Boyan Slat, a 20-year-old Dutch national, believes he has invented a system that can help confront the growing crisis of plastic trash in the oceans. Slat’s idea suggests that, instead of deploying resources into the oceans to remove the trash, we simply use the ocean’s currents to clean them instead.

Politics and Society

YouTube film-maker Finn Harries: my generation must save the planet #groundup
As architecture design students we are taught to constantly question and reimagine the way things are. We’re taught that the world we live in is not a given. It’s the result of the best efforts our ancestors could muster at that time. If it has flaws, it is up to our generation to pick up where they left off and create the world we want to see for ourselves and our children. I’ve grown to understand that the society and culture I was born into is damaging the planet we live on at a greater scale than ever before. We put profit above people, economy above environment, progress above purpose. As a result, climate change has become the most important issue of our generation.

MEPs threaten to block trade deal over rights to regulate carbon emissions
The European parliament will block a secretive trade pact unless it guarantees states’ rights to regulate over climate, health and social laws, a key parliamentary leader has warned just days before a related crunch vote on trade liberalisation with the US. The shot across the boughs by a former commission vice-president follows publication of a Wikileaks trawl of 17 negotiating texts for the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa), which environmentalists fear could outlaw attempts to set bloc emissions limits for airlines or ships. The European parliament has the power to block trade deals like Tisa and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US, which MEPs will be giving a separate preliminary opinion on Wednesday.

South Australia surf lifesaving club awarded for teaching immigrants beach safety
A surf lifesaving club dedicated to teaching newly-arrived immigrants to stay safe on the beach has been recognised during a Volunteers Day ceremony in Adelaide. More than 1,500 volunteers filled the Adelaide Festival Centre as part of Volunteers Day 2015, before being treated to a free performance by Adelaide Cabaret Festival artists. Peter Taylor accepted the award on behalf of the West Beach Surf Lifesaving Club in Adelaide’s western suburbs. “We teach them surf safety, obviously to swim between the red and yellow flags, which is an important one, and then we go that extra step further and teach people that are interested to become surf lifesavers,” he said.

Built Environment

This Wearable Device Helps You Ditch Air Pollution
A study conducted by the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 7 million people die prematurely from harmful air pollution each year. Nearly 200,000 of these deaths occur in the U.S. alone. As an increasingly volatile environmental health issue, poor air quality is a problem affecting nearly 25 percent of the world’s population. One band of entrepreneurs and scientists plan to help individuals fight back with data-tracking technology that fits comfortably on your backpack.

From oil to algae: the route to greener roads
The process of surfacing a road isn’t complicated. Layers of asphalt, which is composed mostly of bitumen (a byproduct of crude oil distillation), are poured over an aggregate of crushed stone and sand; the asphalt acts as a glue, binding the mixture together to form asphalt concrete. Maintaining the roads, however, is a costly job. According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance it would cost more than £12bn to restore all road networks in England alone to a reasonable condition… But there’s not just a maintenance cost. Asphalt, dependent as it is on the oil industry, is resource- and energy-intensive, which is why the race is on to develop a greener alternative.


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