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October 30, 2015

World's climate pledges not yet enough to avoid dangerous warming – UN

Fiona Harvey
Friday 30 October 2015 09.22 GMT

Pledges by most of the world’s countries on climate change are likely to lead to less than 3C of global warming over the century, analysis of the data by the United Nations suggests.

The UN praised governments for coming forward with plans to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, to kick in from 2020 when current commitments expire.

The plans from 146 countries that cover nearly 90% of global emissions, known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the UN jargon, will form the centrepiece of the make-or-break Paris conference on climate change this December.

However, while the plans represent a significant advance on current trends, which would result in as much as 5C of warming if left unchecked, they are not enough in themselves to limit global warming to the 2C threshold that countries are preparing to agree on. This is widely regarded scientifically as the limit of safety, beyond which many of the effects of climate change - floods, droughts, heatwaves, sea level rises and more intense storms - are likely to become much more dangerous.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 30, 2015

Annual Antarctic Ozone Hole Larger and Formed Later in 2015

The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, said scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

On Oct. 2, 2015, the ozone hole expanded to its peak of 28.2 million square kilometers (10.9 million square miles), an area larger than the continent of North America. Throughout October, the hole remained large and set many area daily records. Unusually cold temperature and weak dynamics in the Antarctic stratosphere this year resulted in this larger ozone hole. In comparison, last year the ozone hole peaked at 24.1 million square kilometers (9.3 million square miles) on Sept. 11, 2014. Compared to the 1991-2014 period, the 2015 ozone hole average area was the fourth largest.

“While the current ozone hole is larger than in recent years, the area occupied by this year’s hole is consistent with our understanding of ozone depletion chemistry and consistent with colder than average weather conditions in Earth’s stratosphere, which help drive ozone depletion,” said Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The ozone hole is a severe depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica that was first detected in the 1980s. The Antarctic ozone hole forms and expands during the Southern Hemisphere spring (August and September) because of the high levels of chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere. These chlorine- and bromine-containing molecules are largely derived from man-made chemicals that steadily increased in Earth’s atmosphere up through the early 1990s.

Read more at NASA.

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category : Topics

October 29, 2015

Curate your waste: improving the efficiency of waste recovery

Sustainable urban waste management has progressed over recent decades, with recycling of waste becoming a routine activity across the EU. However, the increasing volume and complexity of waste poses ongoing challenges for policymakers and municipal administrators. New research suggests that a rethink around how household waste is sorted could lead to more resources being recovered from solid waste.

In light of increasing waste recovery targets across the EU, it is in the interests of local authorities to expedite waste management systems and thereby improve the recovery of recyclable resources. Against this context, a recent study investigated the performance of waste sorting infrastructure in two buildings, housing 92 apartments, in Gothenburg, Sweden. The study’s aims were twofold: to identify problems associated with apartmentbased waste sorting; and to propose ways in which housing companies might improve existing systems to enable tenants to sort waste more effectively. The buildings were selected due to their location in a district known to have problems engaging residents in waste separation.

Tenants in such buildings typically recycle their waste in containers within designated garbage disposal rooms, and are provided with guidelines relating to the containers in which specific types of waste should be placed. Over the course of the study, the tenants’ waste handling methods were evaluated in four ways: the weight of discarded material (both mixed and biodegradable waste), the composition of the waste, observations of the tenants’ behaviours, and a user survey.

Read more at "Science for Environment Policy": European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service.

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category : Topics

October 28, 2015

Study: Volkswagen’s emissions cheat to cause 60 premature deaths in U.S.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
October 28, 2015

Volkswagen’s use of software to evade emissions standards in more than 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. will directly contribute to 60 premature deaths across the country, a new MIT-led study finds.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the German automaker had developed and installed “defeat devices” (actually software) in light-duty diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015. This software was designed to sense when a car was undergoing an emissions test, and only then engage the vehicle’s full emissions-control system, which would otherwise be disabled under normal driving conditions — a cheat that allows the vehicles to emit 40 times more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.

That amount of excess pollution, multiplied by the number of affected vehicles sold in the U.S. and extrapolated over population distributions and health risk factors across the country, will have significant effects on public health, the study finds.

Read more at MIT News.

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category : Topics

October 27, 2015

Can Google Open Data Initiative Build Environmentally Sustainable Buildings?

Google, in partnership with thinkstep, building architecture and engineering efficiency firm Flux and the Healthy Building Network have launched a free database that aims to promote environmentally sustainable buildings.

The Quartz database is the result of a year-long collaboration known as the Quartz Project, whose overall mission is to promote the transparency of building product information. Now freely available to building owners, architects and sustainability specialists, as well as to the general public, the database brings together data on the impacts building materials have on both human health and environmental sustainability.

The partners say the Quartz database will serve as a catalyst for more sustainable materials by providing baseline information for the AEC industry. The database aggregates and standardizes the industry’s current data into an open database of valuable and actionable information that is well organized and easy to understand. It’s an open, vendor-agnostic mechanism that allows the AEC industry to compare, contrast and evaluate materials based on their impact on the environment and human health.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

October 26, 2015

If the palm oil industry waited for consumers to care, sustainability would get nowhere

Tim Smedley
Monday 26 October 2015 16.17 GMT

Palm oil is the most-used vegetable oil in the world, accounting for some 65% of all vegetable oil traded, and is found in everything from washing powder to breakfast cereals. Global production has doubled over the past decade and is set to double again by 2020.

But oil palm trees only grow in tropical areas, and vast monocrops are rapidly destroying virgin rainforests and peatland. Ecosystem collapse, air pollution and species extinction have followed.

Global action to reverse these trends has been led by the certification scheme, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Yet, despite being established in 2004, only around 20% of palm oil is certified by the RSPO globally. For the remaining 80%, it’s business as usual.

While CSPO has so far been industry-led, could a tipping point come from heightened consumer understanding and action? That was the question posed at a recent Guardian roundtable, sponsored by the RSPO, that brought together key stakeholders, from buyers and retailers to academics and NGOs.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 22, 2015

Many nations lack standstill period for public sector suppliers

BY PAUL SNELL
22.10.2015

More than half of countries do not provide a ‘standstill’ period that enables unsuccessful suppliers to file a complaint following the award of a public sector contract.

According to analysis by the World Bank, which examined public procurement processes in 77 nations, a period of grace that allows a vendor to challenge an award is either not provided or is fewer than the internationally-recognised minimum of 10 days.

Of the 25 nations sampled on this point, seven provided no standstill period, nine allowed between one and nine days, and the remaining nine provided 10 days or more.

The seven countries to provide no standstill period were Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Lebanon, Moldova and Sierra Leone.

The Benchmarking Public Procurement 2016 report also found most of the nations analysed have at least one failing when it comes to transparency in their public procurement regulations.

Read more at Supply Management.

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category : Topics

October 20, 2015

Urban mining: Push to cash in on trash

By Madeleine Hinchy
Tuesday 20 October 2015

Three billion new middle-class consumers are expected to enter global markets in the next 15 years, taking on the lifestyles and technologies of established economies. That means demand for more infrastructure and more technology, which means demand for more metals.

How to supply that demand is of increasing concern. “The era of cheap and easily available resources is passing,” says Dr Damien Giurco, research director of the Institute of Sustainable Futures and leader of the Wealth from Waste cluster.

Based at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) but involving collaborations with CSIRO, Monash University, University of Queensland, Swinburne University of Technology and Yale University in the United States, the Wealth to Waste program is focused on how Australia can look beyond the mineral resources found below ground.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

October 20, 2015

Meeting climate goals will require stronger policies to cut emissions

20/10/2015 - Advanced and emerging economies have made progress in addressing climate change, yet most are on a trajectory that would see them fall short of their mitigation goals. Governments need to significantly accelerate their efforts and strengthen their climate change policies, according to a new OECD analysis of climate change mitigation in 44 countries and the EU.

Climate Change Mitigation: Policies and Progress examines the 34 OECD members plus Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and South Africa, and the EU bloc, which together account for more than 80% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report finds that a growing number of these countries have established carbon-pricing instruments, cut fossil fuel subsidies, invested in R&D for green technologies, protected forests and reduced emissions from factories, farms and landfill sites. Nearly all have decreased GHG emissions per unit of GDP.

Yet policies to combat climate change are still not working fast enough, underscoring the need to move from pledges to action.

Read more at OECD.

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category : Topics

October 20, 2015

FTC Bans ‘Biodegradable’ on Products

The term “biodegradable” can no longer appear on any product unless that product is shown to completely break down into elements in nature within five years after customary disposal, according to a Federal Trade Commission decision released yesterday.

The FTC’s decision reverses its administrative law judge and sets new national environmental policy. It follows the FTC’s recent crackdown on companies’ claims that their products are biodegradable.

In the FTC administrative law judge’s January decision, Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled that ECM Biofilms, maker of an additive that accelerates the biodegradation of conventional plastics, had proven the effectiveness of its product based on generally accepted, competent and reliable scientific evidence, including more than 20 gas evolution tests that prove intrinsic biodegradability.

The FTC on Oct. 19 rejected the ALJ’s decision without a scientific explanation and without identifying any other form of testing generally accepted in the scientific community that could support a biodegradable claim, according to ECM Biofilms’ attorney.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

October 20, 2015

Call for application - UN Winter School on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asia and the Pacific

Under the SWITCH-Asia Regional Policy Support Component programme and the Asia-Pacific Roadmap of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, the Second "UN Winter School on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asia and the Pacific" will be held on 17-30 January 2016 at the AIT Campus, Bangkok, Thailand.
Application dead line is 8 November 2015.
Scholarships are available for participants from developing countries in Asia and the Pacific.
Full information and details about the application process is available at: http://www.switch-asia.eu/events/un-winter-school-on-sustainable-consumption-and-production-in-asia-and-the-pacific-1/

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category : Announcement

October 19, 2015

Four ways Asia can cut the amount of plastic waste it dumps in the ocean

Martin Stuchtey and Steven Swartz
Monday 19 October 2015 16.36 BST

Photos of birds with their stomachs full of plastics. A recent study of fish markets around the world finding 28% of individual fish in Indonesia contained plastics (the figure was 25% in the US). The tragic and damaging consequences of our failure to deal with plastic waste are becoming ever more visible.

An estimated 95% of plastic in oceans is under the surface, and if current trends continue, there could be one ton of plastic in the sea for every three tons of fish.

A recent study we did for Ocean Conservancy found that one of the regions that suffers most is south-east Asia. On average, only around 40% of all waste is collected in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The good news, according to our report, is that because we know the biggest sources of plastic pollution, it is a relatively straightforward problem to get to grips with it. Were those five countries to take the four policy responses listed below, they could reduce their leakage of plastic by two-thirds, and cut global inputs by almost half.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 16, 2015

Washington sees the positive impact of embracing green procurement

A survey of state governments in the USA has shown that states across the country are embracing green public procurement (GPP), with Washington emerging as a leader in the field. The north-western state has passed ambitious procurement legislation that has led to more sustainable purchasing practices in all government agencies. The improved procurement practices are set to reduce climate change related costs, cut health-care fees, create jobs and preserve scarce resources.

As a result of Washington laws, the percentage of recycled products purchased has increased drastically, while energy consumption has fallen. The state has also mandated that green building practices be incorporated into state owned buildings, vehicle fleets be made more fuel efficient, and that the amount of paper used in state offices be reduced, while the amount of recycled paper purchased goes up.

Read more at Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre.

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category : Topics

October 16, 2015

EPA Rules Target Refrigerants’ Emissions

The EPA yesterday announced several new actions that aim to curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

The agency proposed a rule that would improve the way refrigerant is sold, handled, recovered and recycled. The proposal would strengthen the existing requirements for handling refrigerants and apply those rules to ozone-depleting and HFC refrigerants.

The EPA estimates that this rule would further reduce enough HFC emissions in 2025 to equal 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The agency plans to finalize this rule in 2016.

The EPA also announced that it will initiate a proposed rulemaking in 2016 under the Significant New Alternatives Policy program that would change the status for certain high global warming potential HFCs to unacceptable where safer alternatives are available and also approve several new climate-friendly alternatives for a variety of industry applications.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

October 15, 2015

How do palm oil and paper giants fare on transparency?

By Vaidehi Shah
Thursday 15 October 2015

While Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia wait for skies to clear from the haze pollution that has enveloped the region for the second consecutive month, there are growing calls from the public demanding clarity of a different kind - transparency on concession maps of palm oil and paper firms in Indonesia.

Experts have long maintained that in order to resolve the problem of uncontrolled forest and peat burning in Indonesia - a cheap way clear land for palm oil and timber plantations - there has to be definitive information on land ownership.

Jonathon Porritt, founder director of non-profit Forum for the Future, who is leading an industry study on stored carbon in forests, told Eco-Business: “You cannot carry out proper forest protection, agricultural development, and setting land aside for community rights without proper mapping; it’s just not possible.”

So just how transparent are the major players in Indonesia’s forestry sector? Eco-Business shows how they stack up on transparency when it comes to concession maps.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

October 13, 2015

New report looks at Flemish government's support for innovative and sustainable procurement

The Flemish government has enacted a number of policies to increase the uptake of procurement of innovation according to a new report produced by Foundation Innovation & Work, taking advantage of the new EU procurement directive’s more supportive language towards engaging in innovative and sustainable procurement. Within the Belgian region, public procurement of innovation (PPI) is promoted across all policy areas, with IWT – the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in charge of controlling and supporting the shift.

Currently Flanders is carrying out 15 PPI projects as part of its innovative procurement programme, including a partner role in the Procurement of Innovation Platform. The region also closely monitors other country’s national innovation procurement frameworks to gain examples of best practice. While no one country provides a role model across all areas, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are considered exemplary in their application of PPI.

Read more at Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre.

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category : Topics

October 12, 2015

Hotel 'greenwashing' dirties eco-friendly reputation

Science Daily
Monday 12 October 2015

Greenwashing practices, such as a sign that reads “save the planet: re-use towels,” coupled with claims of corporate social responsibility, have soiled the trust of American consumers who are increasingly recognising hotels’ green claims may be self-serving.

This could cause hotels to lose valuable repeat customers.

Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Washington State University hospitality researchers Imran Rahman, Jeongdoo Park and Christina Geng-qing Chi investigate the consequences of greenwashing in the lodging industry and suggest ways hotels can establish credibility in consumers’ minds.

Their paper, “Consequences of ‘Greenwashing:’ Consumers’ Reactions to Hotels’ Green Initiatives,” comes at a time when as many as 79 per cent of travelers worldwide agree that implementing eco-friendly practices is important to their choice of lodging. Research shows a majority are willing to boycott a company if misled.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

October 10, 2015

Failure of Puma's biodegradable range doesn't mean eco-fashion is dead

Esha Chhabra
Saturday 10 October 2015 08.00 BST

After launching with a blaze of celebration, sports brand Puma’s new eco-friendly range of gear was meant to be the moment ethical fashion went mainstream. A shoe, jacket and backpack made of biodegradable and recyclable materials, put on sale in 2013, were part of the company’s effort to minimise the environmental impact of its manufacturing process.

But two years on and the InCycle line as it was called has failed. In a statement released by Puma in November 2014, the company had warned that its retailers had not ordered the product and so it was only on sale in Puma stores, “where we had poor demand as well”.

As of 2015, further research and development of new designs has also now come to a halt. The company says: “We will now explore what to do with the collection after 2015.”

Not everyone is downbeat about the failure. “It doesn’t necessarily follow that because a one-off biodegradable shoe collection failed all biodegradable fashion products will meet that same fate,” said Carolina Cantor, co-founder of Shop Ethica, a New York-based online marketplace for sustainable fashion brands.

She argues the success of biodegradable products may not be about size or scale alone, and that smaller and newer brands often have the advantage.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 8, 2015

Haze prompts Singapore banks to set ESG guidelines

By Jean Chua
Thursday 8 October 2015

In a historic move, banks in Singapore will for the first time adopt standards that govern responsible financing and integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues such as deforestation, human rights and corporate ethics into their lending and business practices.

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), which represents 158 foreign banks as well as the three largest local banks - DBS, UOB and OCBC - on Thursday released a set of guidelines that it says will align the financial sector’s activities to support sustainable development.

ABS said in a statement: “Irresponsible development, unsustainable business and commercial practices have adverse impacts on people and the environment. Financiers have an important role to play in shaping and expecting the responsible actions from their employees and clients.”

ABS will continue to work with regulators, civil societies, NGOs and other stakeholders to raise awareness of ESG issues and trends as well as help build banks’ capacity and skills development.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

October 8, 2015

Comments invited on EU cleaning services criteria

The EU is inviting public feedback on the development of the criterion for a new EU Ecolabel for cleaning services, as well as the revision of the existing EU Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria for cleaning services. Proposed mandatory criteria includes stipulations on using cleaning products with a lower environmental impact, ensuring that they are not toxic to aquatic life or hazardous to the ozone layer for example, whilst also ensuring that they do not harm human health, including causing damage to the unborn child or impacting breast feeding.

The criteria also states that cleaning staff shall have access to instructions on the correct dosage required for each cleaning product, and outlines the level of training each staff member must receive in terms of health and safety and mitigating environmental harm. The criteria also states that minimum sectorial wage standards must be met. The importance of an Environmental Management System being implemented is further outlined.

Read more at Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre.

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category : Topics

October 2, 2015

Governments, Intergovernmental Organizations, Industry and Civil Society Join Forces for a Chemical-Safe World by 2020

Geneva, 2 October 2015 - Over 800 delegates, including ministers, CEOs, heads of intergovernmental organizations and leaders of civil society, meeting at the 4th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), committed today to step up action to safeguard people and the environment from the risk posed by inadequately managed chemicals.

Of the estimated 100,000+ chemicals on the market today, only a fraction has been thoroughly evaluated to determine their effects on human health and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that exposure to chemicals contributes to over 1 million deaths annually.

The infant death rate from environmental causes overall is 12 times higher in developing than in developed countries while childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.

ICCM4 concluded with a commitment to invest in efforts to prevent these deaths and illnesses by assuring sound chemicals management throughout their life cycle by 2020.

Achieving that goal would be a milestone toward realizing the historic 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by 193 countries last week, and containing goals on human health and well-being, food security, sustainable consumption and production, and water and sanitation - all issues directly affected by chemicals.

Read more at UNEP NEWS CENTRE.

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category : Topics

October 2, 2015

LED Lighting Myths Dispelled

This article is sponsored by Digital Lumens.

In the last five years, LED lighting and controls have been widely used in a broad range of general lighting applications, from residential to commercial, but there are a number of persistent misconceptions about LED lighting – many based on knowledge of legacy fixtures – that do not apply. In fact, for commercial and industrial applications, high-quality LED fixtures offer extremely low energy use, a long lifespan, high-quality light and durability. Additionally, there is none of the maintenance (re-lamping, re-ballasting) associated with traditional incandescent and fluorescent sources and there are inherent controllability aspects (instant on/off, full-range dimming) that create additional energy savings opportunities.

LED lighting is relatively new compared to legacy lighting types, and continue to be misunderstood in a number of ways, writes Digital Lumens in a new white paper devoted to correcting these misunderstandings. One common misconception is that LEDs are so efficient that controls are unnecessary. In fact, while switching to LEDs creates a one-time savings event – typically reducing lighting energy use by up to 50% – integrated sensing and controls can nearly double those energy savings, making controls essential for maximum savings and project economics.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics


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