Issues

Clean Air Zones: what are they and where will they be?

In October 2017, Oxford announced its plans to become the world’s first zero emissions city zone – they aim to ban all petrol and diesel cars from the city centre area by 2020. This suggests the UK are serious about rolling out their plans to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in an attempt to clean up the UK’s air quality. Oxford isn’t the only city looking to introduce clear air zones either. The government has revealed five UK cities that plan to have a clean air zone by 2020, including Birmingham, Southampton and Leeds.

Motorparks Grange, retailers of prestige vehicles such used Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, discuss the future of Clean Air Zones across the UK, and what they mean for drivers:

Defining a Clean Air Zone

The government defines a Clean Air Zone as “an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.

The programme implements access restrictions in ‘clean zones’ to encourage cleaner vehicles on the roads. High polluting vehicles such as busses, HGV’s and taxis will be faced with a charge for entering these zones – however, private cars will not be affected by these charges yet. Fully electric vehicles and vehicles which meet the definition of an ultra-low emission vehicles will be exempt from paying entering charges. However, other vehicles are separated into different classes, and charges will depend on which class they fall into.

Where will they be?

Clean city

 

The government have chosen areas across the UK that have the poorest air quality. Clean Air Zones expect to be introduced in Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby by 2020, in an attempt to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back down to the legal limit. The zones will most likely be introduced in the city centres, and restrictions can involve entry charges, time-of-day restrictions and/or blanket vehicle bans.

Other cities across the UK, such as Manchester, are currently investigating the feasibility of introducing a Clean Air Zone onto their roads. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas could be included in this plan, whereby both private and public vehicles could be banned on the roads during peak traffic hours in city centres.

So called ‘toxin taxes’ could be as high as £20 a day in the most polluted cities. However, the government is keen to point out that they don’t want to punish drivers who bought their diesel cars because of successive governments – they don’t want drivers to feel they are being hit hard for incentives that previous governments had encouraged.

Who will be charged?

Originally, not all zones will have fixed charges — these will be decided by local councils and authorities. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement charges have the right to charge additional penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges.

Initially, the zones will not penalise private car owners. Instead, the zones will charge drivers of buses, taxis and HGV’s which contribute the most air pollution. Charges have not been finalised yet, but they will be issued depending on which class, or category, your vehicles falls under. There are four classes, A, B, C and D and are identified on vehicle type depending on your emissions and euro standard.

To find out where your vehicle will lie, the government has released a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - June 15, 2018 at 6:35 am

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Food industry claims about sustainable Palm Oil are nonsense

Countless acres of pristine rainforest around the world have been cleared to grow palm oil, a substance used in many of today's processed foods. Processed food itself has a very bad rap, increasingly found to be bad for human health, but that's another story. The trouble is, big food brands are trying to tell us their palm oil is sustainable… and that's a big, fat marketing fib. According to scientists, claims that palm oil farming does not damage rainforests is ‘problematic', because the supply chains involved are so very complicated.

‘No deforestation' labels are meaningless

If you see a ‘no-deforestation' statement printed on food packaging, walk away. While some food manufacturers might have good intentions, a report by researchers at Imperial College London say there's no way to tell whether a batch of the oil is to blame for damaging and destroying forests where precious creatures like orangutans, Borneo elephants and Sumatran tigers – all near-extinct – live. Producing the oil invariably reduces biodiversity and forces local people from their land.

Palm oil – Nasty stuff that deserves banning from the food chain

Palm oil is used to make half of all supermarket products, including biscuits, snacks, cereals and margarine, even soap and shampoo. Public pressure had led manufacturers to claim the palm oil they use is sustainable, with no deforestation, but the complexity of the supply chain, lack of consensus on the definition of ‘deforestation', no real government support and an ongoing demand for unsustainable, unbranded palm oil across India and China are making a nonsense of the often half-hearted conservation efforts that are being made.

At the same time campaigns by environmental groups and others are proving ineffective in the face of palm oil-led destruction. Government regulations are inconsistent. There's even widespread confusion about who owns the land being deforested.

Concerted action is the only way to prevent more deforestation

Sadly, simply banning palm oil production and applying more pressure to countries who produce it isn't the answer. NGO shaming campaigns are not enough. Unilateral adoption of commitments by individual companies isn't enough. We need strong, concerted action to prevent even more deforestation in the name of a product that many feel is so destructive that it has no place in the food chain.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - June 14, 2018 at 1:18 pm

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Top 10 polluted areas in the UK

It’s easy to forget sometimes that the air we breathe isn’t pure oxygen. It contains thousands of different chemicals including nitrogen oxide (NOx).

Depending on where you live in the UK you could be breathing in much higher levels of NOx than other areas.

Transport is one of the biggest contributors of nitrogen oxide, which is created when fuel is burned at high temperatures.

The health effects of nitrogen oxide can be deadly, and it contributes to thousands of premature deaths across the UK each year. In order to tackle the problem, the government is introducing measures to cut air pollution levels.

In London for example, a toxicity charge of £10 has been brought in for older vehicles that emit higher emissions. This is on top of the existing congestion charge of £11.50 per day.

Electric vehicles could be the answer to cutting the UKs NOx emissions and making the air we breathe cleaner and safer. Many people aren’t sure how electric cars work and are hesitant to make the switch, but many manufacturers are investing in the future of electric transport options and so should we.

To see just how bad the UK’s air pollution problem is Confused.com created an infographic to highlight the top 10 polluted areas in the UK.

UK Air Pollution

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Posted by Eco Warrior - May 22, 2018 at 5:43 am

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Tower of Trash

Did you know that the waste in our seas is now twice the size of France?

France is 598 miles long from North to South and it would take 9 hours and 12 minutes to drive the distance. Now, double that… and that’s how much waste is currently in our oceans.

Our planet has a population of over 7.5 billion people and as a result, we dump a massive 2.12 billion tonnes of waste per year. This is partly because 99% of the stuff we buy gets binned within 6 months of purchasing – this doesn't include food, human, electronic or medical waste.

Still struggling to comprehend just how obscene this amount of waste really is? If it continues at its current rate, in 10 years time there could be over 80 million tonnes of plastic floating in our seas – and that figure will continue to increase if no real action is taken soon. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 17 times bigger than the Empire State Building in New York City, which is 443 metres tall – big, right?

It is also estimated that up to 267 marine species are affected by plastic pollution within the ocean – and that’s just in the South Pacific Garbage Patch.

Here are a few ways you can help our oceans and reduce your own plastic waste footprint:

  • Stop using plastic straws – They can easily get stuck in the mouths and noses of sea creatures and get mistaken for food
  • Reuse your shopping bags – A simple way to cut plastic usage is to reuse your shopping bags
  • Give up gum – Gum is made of a synthetic rubber aka plastic
  • Purchase products in boxes, not plastic bottles – Cardboard decomposes so it is far better for our environment
  • Eat fresh produce that doesn’t come in plastic cartons and boxes – This will work out better for you as you’ll be eating fresh produce and also saving the planet. A win, win situation!

Take a look at this graphic from Eco2Greetings that shows how much waste will end up in our oceans if no action is taken.

Tower of Trash Eco2

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Posted by Eco Warrior - May 14, 2018 at 7:26 am

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Top 5 UK Urban Areas Fighting Climate Change

Our climate is transforming due to natural processes and industrial impacts created by man. Heatwaves, droughts, cold snaps, and floods are four of the major environmental risks the United Kingdom is facing due to an increase in extreme weather patterns. The risks of these environmental changes can have grave effects on our habitat and make life difficult for humans, animals, and plants.

Pollution in urban areas create “heat-islands”, and the air within and around these islands  is of poor quality. CO2 emissions from the transport sector and personal transportation spark local climate degeneration. Among many changes, global climate degeneration leads to sea level rise, reduced river flow, water shortages, and groundwater pollution.

Therefore, the UK is taking measures to curb risks and to be prepared for the increase of natural hazards. The entire United Kingdom is bound to the Paris Climate Agreement and is dedicated to become energy independent by 2050. Energy independence means restraining the usage of carbon fuel and becoming dependent on renewable energy sources.

The five major urban areas London, Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Midlands, and Glasgow, are determined to carry out several measures that enable them to adapt to the changing environment. These include expanding flood defenses, improving spatial planning, and installing green space covers.

What’s more, each of the five major urban areas will decrease the emission of greenhouse gases by promoting 0% CO2 emissions transportation. Cities will reduce their overall energy consumption through smarter energy use, implement street lighting, and curb internal waste. Moreover, they express the need for waste prevention and the implementation of the method of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

This is why GreenMatch has made an infographic in which the natural threats for the five urban areas are discussed, together with what preventative measures can be taken.

5 UK Urban Areas Fighting Climate Change

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 14, 2018 at 7:25 am

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CO2 Polluters

Until recently, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels had levelled off, but estimates from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) suggest that this is all going to change, with global emissions set to grow by around 2%. In a new report, researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project (GCP) say CO2 emissions are projected to rise by 2% to reach 41 billion tonnes by the end of 2017. The increase is largely down to growth in coal-fired electricity generation, and oil and gas consumption in China.

However looking at a country’s total carbon emissions alone, doesn’t always tell the full story of the country’s contribution to global warming.

This interactive graphic by Eco2 Greetings shows us the the top 10 countries who emit the most carbon emissions per capita and which countries overall emit the most CO2. Take a look here…

World's Biggest Co2 Polluters

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 14, 2018 at 7:12 am

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Food Waste Around the World: What’s Being Done

Food waste is a big issue around the world. In fact, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year — equating to a value of $750 billion dollars.

The Food Sustainability Index recently discovered the extent of this global food waste, finding that many countries around the world are wasting food each year due to spoilage, stockpiling, and a lack of being resourceful.

Magnet, the UK’s leading kitchen specialists, have discovered the innovators and organisations around the world that are tackling the food waste issue head on by helping to make our consumption of food smarter and more sustainable.

Some of these efforts include the French government’s decision to prohibit supermarkets from throwing away unused food, a rescued food supermarket in Sydney with a ‘take what you need, give what you can’ policy, and the development of a ‘smart’ food card in Greece that helps consumers track their shopping habits and keep an eye on what they have in their fridge.

Check out the infographic below and see what’s being done around the world to tackle food waste.

Global Food Waste

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 7, 2018 at 8:24 am

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Preparing For Climate Change

Did you know four out of five of the top global risks in the next 10 years are related to climate change? For decades, the world has been told that the climate is changing—that the build-up of fossil fuel-driven greenhouse gas emissions would irrevocably change the Earth's systems – and now it's happening. The atmosphere and oceans are warming, the amount of snow and ice are diminishing, sea levels are rising, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases are increasing. This means it more important than ever that communities and ecosystems become more resilient to the extreme impacts that could occur.

The University of Notre Dame’s ND-GAIN Index measures countries according to two variables – vulnerability to the effects of climate change and readiness to adapt by analysing factors like healthcare, food supply, and government stability in order to help countries counter the risk of a changing climate. But which country is most prepared? The infographic below reveals which countries are most prepared to withstand the effects of climate change and how some of the biggest movers have ranked in climate change adaptation since the year 2000.

Here is a link to the full interactive graphic

Preparing for Climate Change

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 3, 2018 at 8:53 am

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The Ocean Cleanup: Remediating The Great Pacific Ocean

This May, Boyan Slat and his team of The Ocean Cleanup will launch their first fully operational Ocean Cleanup system in the Great Pacific Ocean. The system intends to collect vast amounts of plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There is a general consensus that a colossal 6 to 8 billion metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. Scientist estimate that 100,000 sea mammals and millions of sea birds and fish deaths each year are caused by plastic ingestion or entanglement.

Tragically, plastic disintegrates fast in the ocean. The influence of salt water and the Sun’s UV-rays contribute to the decomposition of plastic in ever smaller pieces that end up in the marine food chain. The Ocean Cleanup system is here to put a stop to this development by remediating 50% of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch before 2026. At Greenmatch we write about renewable energy solutions and report on the progress of initiatives like The Ocean Cleanup.

The Ocean Cleanup managed to develop a system that is able to collect floating pieces of plastic debris. Although this is a victory for environmentalist, no lasting comfort can be taken from that. Humans have to come up with plastic remediation solutions that can operate in areas where the Ocean Cleanup system will not work. This project is merely the beginning and not an end solution to the problem of marine plastic waste.

Ocean Cleanup

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Posted by Eco Warrior - February 17, 2018 at 8:01 am

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Revealed: The Real Price of Litter

Many of us know the environmental issues of air travel, over-consumption and fast fashion. But what about the very real damage that litter can do? Money Guru, a financial advice website, has looked at the tangible cost litter has on individuals and the environment.

With 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square metre of ocean, and 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every year, this is an ever-growing problem. Furthermore, the RSPCA receives over 7,000 calls a year about animals who have been injured by litter. Not only that, but littering attracts rodents who pass on disease, meaning that it’s not only animals who are being increasingly hurt by discarded rubbish.

As well as the physical cost, the UK spends £1bn each year cleaning up litter, this money comes from taxes which could otherwise fund 33,000 nurses and over 4,000 libraries. In recent years there has been a huge strain on the NHS and public spending, if litter was reduced then there would be more money available for the government to spend in these areas.

Luckily, there are deterrents in place to prevent littering, such as fines for littering and fly tipping. And we know that this is a relatively recent problem, littering has increased by 500% since the 1960s, meaning it is in direct correlation with our increasingly consumerist society.

As society has grown used to throwing away, rather than making do and mending, our tendency to throw rubbish onto the street and out of car windows. Therefore, despite the deterrents in place, there is still a very real need to reduce littering to improve the environment.

Read on for Money Guru’s full piece, filled with information on the cost of littering and the things that can be done to reduce that cost.

The Price of Litter

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Posted by Eco Warrior - January 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

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