The Independent on Sunday’s Simmy Richmond reviews the situation regarding the British badger and the ‘licence to cull’.
Small, furry, cuddly, no direct threat to humans … hell, they even creep around at night, when we’re generally not around, so it’s difficult to make the argument that the badger is a major pest (literally, the villain of this piece), and even harder to make the case that they must be mercilessly killed.
- Badger Update : Full-scale\cull set to get government go-ahead (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Statement on bovine TB and badger culling (ntpressoffice.wordpress.com)
- Badger latest : RSPCA calls for milk boycott as farmers prepare for cull (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Brian May and Team Badger step up war on ‘crazy’ cull (theweek.co.uk)
- First badger cull licence issued (bbc.co.uk)
- Crown Estate permits badger cull on its land (independent.co.uk)
- Badger cull: Brian May calls milk boycott as saboteurs prepare (theweek.co.uk)
- Full-scale badger cull set to get government go-ahead (guardian.co.uk)
- Badger cull is a shot in the dark (guardian.co.uk)
David Cameron today faces a revolt of business leaders, councils, environment campaigners and unions furious at his decision to cut funding for household solar energy, severely undermining his claim that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”.
Click HERE to read the letter in full
In a letter to the Prime Minister seen by The Independent on Sunday, a coalition of 55 individuals and groups warns he will “strangle at birth” Britain’s booming solar panel industry – threatening 25,000 jobs – by halving the state subsidy for the popular “feed-in tariff” scheme.
The funding for households who feed excess electricity generated by their solar panels into the national grid is to be cut from 43p to 21p per kilowatt hour (kwh) from next month, doubling the length of time people would have to wait before their solar panels became economically viable.
The feed-in tariff scheme is one of the most popular environmental measures introduced by any government. It has already been adopted by 100,000 private and housing association homes, and was championed by David Cameron within weeks of him becoming Conservative leader.
Yet last month ministers announced that, from 12 December, the subsidies would be cut in half, despite claims they were consulting on the plan.
A letter by a broad alliance – from the Federation of Small Businesses and house-building organisations to council leaders from all three political parties, as well as the Town and Country Planning Association – has been organised by Friends of the Earth and the Cut Don’t Kill campaign, which is pressing for the Government to temper the reforms. Mr Cameron and Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, are also under pressure from the Confederation of British Industry, whose chief, John Cridland, said the measure was an “own goal”. Mr Huhne has also been warned that 20 Liberal Democrat MPs – more than a third of the parliamentary party – are fighting the proposals.
In scathing language, the letter tells Mr Cameron: “This could only knock confidence in the UK’s determination to build a low-carbon economy and hugely undermine your determination to lead the ‘greenest Government ever’.”
In his first week as Prime Minister, Mr Cameron told civil servants at the Department for Energy and Climate Change: “I want us to be the greenest government ever – a very simple ambition and one that I’m absolutely committed to achieving.” Yet the solar electricity cut is just the latest in a series of U-turns and retreats on environmental policies by the coalition government.
The boom in solar energy has not been confined to middle-class families: 100,000 properties belonging to housing associations have applied for panels on their roofs.
The feed-in tariff scheme’s popularity has led to its downfall, as ministers claim they must scale back the subsidies to keep funds within the £867m budget.
Howard Johns, of the Cut Don’t Kill campaign, said: “This is poorly thought out, counterproductive and absurdly rushed. David Cameron can set this right and prove his commitment to green growth by stepping in to prevent such a deep cut. We can accept a cut, but the current proposal is devastating.”
Caroline Flint, Labour’s climate change spokesperson, said: “Until consumers are offered a simple, fair tariff, and all energy producers are forced to sell their energy to any supplier, the public will not be given a fair choice; people power alone will be unable to force down prices.”
But Greg Barker, Climate Change minister, said: “My priority is to put the solar industry on a firm footing so that it can remain a successful and prosperous part of the green economy, and so that it doesn’t fall victim to boom and bust.”
A typical solar panel installation costs around £12,000, meaning homeowners have to wait eight years under the feed-in-tariff rate of 43p per kwh to earn the money back. This would double to 16 years’ payback time under the new 21p rate.
Environmental u-turns: How PM has failed to make his government ‘greenest ever’
Planning New rules will strip away protection of the countryside from development – the Government has so far resisted a continuing, widespread campaign against the plans.
Motorway speeds To the horror of environmental campaigners, the Government is raising the limit to 80mph, adding more than two million tons a year to carbon emissions.
Forests Ministers announced last year a mass sell-off, despite no reference in the Conservative manifesto or coalition agreement, but a public campaign forced a U-turn.
Green investment bank A flagship environmental policy has been severely undermined by a Treasury block on it providing loans. It will not be allowed to borrow until 2015.
Eco-homes Another legacy of Labour, but any new homes built with “zero carbon” credentials will not have carbon emissions from electrical appliances counted, undermining the definition.
Quangos The Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Environment Agency have all been prevented from policy-making, while the Sustainable Development Commission and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution have been axed.
Illegal tropical timber Ministers have scrapped a Conservative manifesto pledge to criminalise the possession of illegal tropical timber.
Aggregates The Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, which diverted £20m in taxes raised from the sand and gravel industry to 200 green projects, has been scrapped.
- Cuts to solar panel scheme could be ‘phased in’ after public backlash (telegraph.co.uk)
- Row Over UK Feed-In Tariffs Gets Political. And Decidedly Nasty. (treehugger.com)
- MP calls for transparency over green taxes on energy bills (guardian.co.uk)
- David Cameron Will Name And Shame Britain’s ‘Drift Along’ Schools (huffingtonpost.co.uk)
- UK Climate Minister: Solar Subsidies “Morally Wrong” (junkscience.com)
- Chris Huhne attacks ‘curmudgeons and faultfinders’ who don’t like wind farms (telegraph.co.uk)
- The green speech David Cameron should give | Damian Carrington (guardian.co.uk)
- Letters: Government U-turn needed on solar energy tariffs (guardian.co.uk)
One of the most persistent and insidious pollution problems visited by the West on the developing world has taken a huge step towards a permanent solution this weekend.
A UN environmental conference in Cartagena, Colombia, attended by more than 170 countries, has agreed to accelerate a global ban on the export of hazardous waste, including old electronics and discarded computers and mobile phones, from developed to developing countries.
Environmental campaigners, who have been battling to broker a deal on the dumping of toxic waste for more than 20 years, said they were “ecstatic” about this “major breakthrough”.
Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace’s EU chemicals policy director, toldThe Independent on Sunday: “This is a great breakthrough for the environment and human health. Finally, the way forward into forcing developed countries to assume responsibility for their own hazardous waste and stop shipping it to developing countries has been agreed.
“All forms of hazardous waste including that sent for recycling, to obsolete electronic waste, will be banned from leaving wealthy countries destined for developing countries.”
The ban will be introduced when 17 more countries ratify an amendment to the 1989 Basel Convention, a treaty aimed at making nations manage their waste at home. It is expected that this could be achieved in two to five years. More than 50 countries have already ratified it.
The ban was adopted as an amendment to the Convention in 1995, but a disagreement, about how it would be translated in law, left it inactive for years.
Now, after a deal was brokered by Indonesia and Switzerland at the conference, a legal obstacle has been lifted by the 178 parties in attendance.
Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), said he was “ecstatic” with the decision: “I’ve been working on this since 1989 and it really does look like the shackles are lifted and we’ll see this thing happen in my lifetime.”
Mr Puckett added that there are no reliable estimates on how many tons of toxic waste are exported as nations do not accurately record or report what they ship abroad.
He said a private US company will, for example, list waste as “exports” when sending them to a developing nation so they can avoid paying taxes and other fees. The UN has estimated that, worldwide, up to 50 million tons of electrical and electronic goods which had come to the end of their lives were being thrown away every year – of which only 10 per cent is recycled – and often end up in landfills in developing countries.
Up to 1.2 million second-hand televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners were estimated to have entered the Philippines between 2001 and 2005, and, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine Board of Investment, 60-70 per cent of it came from Japan.
An investigation by CBS News at a landfill in Manila found an increasing prevalence of tuberculosis among workers and their children, which a doctor treating them attributed to chronic exposure to burning copper from the electrical goods. One community youth leader had brought more than 200 people suffering from TB to a health centre.
The chemical, which coats much of the e-waste burned by the women and children at the dump, polyvinyl chloride plastic, is even more dangerous due to its emission of carcinogenic gases, according to scientists.
A 2008 Greenpeace report found containers of e-waste from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands being opened at Tema harbour, the biggest port in Ghana. The team documented children, most between the age of 11 and 18, but some as young as five, taking the electronic scraps apart with their bare hands, releasing toxic fumes.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal allows members to ban imports and requires exporters to gain consent before sending toxic materials abroad. But critics say insufficient funds, widespread corruption and the absence of the US as a participant have undermined the convention, leaving millions of poor people exposed to heavy metals, PCBs and other toxins.
The issue took centre stage in 2006 when hundreds of tons of waste were dumped around the Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan, reportedly killing at least 10 people and making tens of thousands ill. The waste came from a tanker chartered by the Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, which had contracted a local company to dispose of it.
China has received global attention over electronic waste export issues since 2002, when environmental groups exposed “egregious” electronics recycling and disposal practices in the city of Guiyu, a place reported by scientists to have the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the world. Scientists found pregnancies in the city to be six times more likely to end in miscarriage, with seven out of 10 children reported to have too much lead in their blood – a metal which can have irreversible effects on a child’s nervous system.
The US, the world’s top exporter of electronic waste, is among nations that have yet to ratify the original convention. “Unless the US joins the treaty they are just going to be a renegade,” Mr Puckett said, adding that the US has no rules for exporting electronic waste, which it sends mostly to China but also to Africa and Latin America.
Mr Puckett said shipping companies had opposed their inclusion in the ban, wanting to keep sending old ships to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to scrap them. “Earlier this week another six people died on the beaches of Bangladesh,” he said.
The global ban has been strongly backed by African countries, China, Colombia and the EU, which already prohibits toxic exports. Opponents have been led by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and recently joined by India, said Mr Puckett.
While it is illegal in Britain to export hazardous waste to other countries, the Environment Agency, who has its own crime team looking into the matter, said there are 11 ongoing investigations into illegal shipments abroad. One case is due to be tried tomorrow at Basildon Crown Court.
- Dumped computers exploited in overseas fraud (theage.com.au)
- Global Ban Advances To Stop Dumping Toxic Waste On Developing Countries (huffingtonpost.com)
- Global ban on exports of toxic waste advances (sfgate.com)
- Global ban on exports of toxic waste advances (seattlepi.com)
- India should ratify the Ban Amendment to ban hazardous waste trade (icrindia.wordpress.com)
- Global ban on exports of toxic waste advances (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- A Technical nutrient is a material, or rather e-waste? (materialinnovations.wordpress.com)
- China’s environmental watchdog to ban new industrial projects till removal of toxic waste (news.bioscholar.com)
Forests play a larger role in Earth’s climate system than previously suspected for both the risks from deforestation and the potential gains from regrowth, a benchmark study released Thursday has shown.
The study, published in Science, provides the most accurate measure so far of the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed from the atmosphere by tropical, temperate and boreal forests, researchers said.
“This is the first complete and global evidence of the overwhelming role of forests in removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide,” said co-author Josep Canadell, a scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national climate research centre in Canberra.
“If you were to stop deforestation tomorrow, the world’s established and regrowing forests would remove half of fossil fuel emissions,” he told AFP, describing the findings as both “incredible” and “unexpected”.
Wooded areas across the planet soak up fully a third of the fossil fuels released into the atmosphere each year, some 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon, the study found.
At the same time, the ongoing and barely constrained destruction of forests – mainly in the tropics – for food, fuel and development was shown to emit 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon annually, more than a quarter of all emissions stemming from human activity.
Up to now, scientists have estimated that deforestation accounted for 12 to 20 percent of total greenhouse gas output.
The big surprise, said Canadell, was the huge capacity of tropical forests that have regenerated after logging or slash-and-burn land clearance to purge carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“We estimate that tropical forest regrowth is removing an average of 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon each year,” he said in an e-mail exchange.
Adding up the new figures reveals that all the world’s forests combined are a net “sink”, or sponge, for 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of 13 percent of all the coal, oil land gas burned across the planet annually.
“That’s huge. These are ‘savings’ worth billions of euros a year if that quantity had to be paid out by current mitigation (CO2 reduction) strategies or the price of carbon in the European market,” Canadell said.
The international team of climate scientists combined data – covering the period 1990 through 2007 – from forests inventories, climate models and satellites to construct a profile of the role global forests have played as regulators of the atmosphere.
In terms of climate change policy, the study has two critically important implications, said Canadell.
The fact that previous science underestimated both the capacity of woodlands to remove CO2, and the emissions caused by deforestation, means that “forests are even more at the forefront as a strategy to protect our climate”, he said.
It also follows that forests should play a larger role in emerging carbon markets, he added.
“The amount of saving which are up for grabs is very large, certainly larger than what we thought,” Canadell said.
The UN-backed scheme known as REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – allots credit to tropical countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa that slow rates of forest destruction.
It also provides a mechanism for rich countries to offset their own carbon-reduction commitments by investing in that process.
Two decades was not enough to discern possible long-term trends due to year-on-year variability due to fluctuations in weather, insect attacks and other factors.
But the tropics did show a clear decline in the capacity to soak up CO2 due to a so-called “once-in-a-century” drought in Amazonia in 2005.
The region suffered an even worse drought in 2010, beyond the time frame of the study.
The breakdown over the last decade for CO2 removal was 1.8 billion tonnes each year for boreal forests at high latitudes, 2.9 billion for temperate forests, and 3.7 billion for tropical forests.
Once deforestation and regrowth are taken into account, however, tropical forests have been essentially carbon neutral.
- Forests are the key to reducing carbon emissions’ (jboydedu.wordpress.com)
- As Carbon Sinks, Forests Are Even Mightier Than Assumed (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Forests absorb 1/3 of world’s CO2 emissions (cbc.ca)
- Tiny Investment in Stopping Deforestation Has Huge Returns For Climate, Jobs, Biodiversity: UNEP (treehugger.com)
- Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests: Pathetic and Suspect Improvements (socyberty.com)
- NASA Map Reveals Massive Carbon Storage of Tropical Forests (treehugger.com)
- Norway, Germany give $90 mln to slow deforestation (chimalaya.org)
- How do humans upset the carbon cycle (wiki.answers.com)
- The true cost of saving rainforest and improving food security (foodsecuritysm.wordpress.com)
From The Independent on Sunday….
Farmers want to stop the spread of TB in cattle. But Brock will fight back, says Harry Mount
I blame The Wind in the Willows. Until Kenneth Grahame published his tales from the riverbank in 1908, badgers were firmly in the non-cuddly-animal category. But once Badger had installed himself in the subconscious of generations of schoolchildren – the solitary but wise, kind and principled creature who bathes Mole’s wounded shin and gives him and Rat a slap-up dinner – the battle was over.
E H Shepard, the original illustrator of The Wind in the Willows, also helped to anthropomorphise the badger, and move him into cuddly territory – alongside seals, rabbits, and ickle polar bears. The arrival, in 1920, of Bill Badger in the Rupert Bear comic strip in The Daily Express sealed the deal.
Badgers are now so popular that Badger Groups, whose members track the animals’ activities, make up the biggest fan club for a single species in the country. So, when, in the next few days, the Government gives the expected green light to a badger cull in south-west England, prepare for howls. In west Wales too, an experimental cull has been in the offing for several years. A cull is to designed to halt TB in cows, which is thought to be spread by badgers. Last week, however, this was stalled, while the Welsh government re-examines the evidence on the connection between badgers and the disease.
The jury has been out on the connection ever since the first dead, TB-infected badger was discovered in the Cotswolds 40 years ago. Ferrets, foxes, deer, cats, rats, mink and even Grahame’s dear old mole can carry the disease. But none, apart from deer, carries it quite as effectively as badgers, who can survive despite being infected. Circumstantial evidence suggests that badgers are the most likely suspects, but some argue it the other way round: it’s the cows that are spreading TB to the badgers. Farmers, though, are firmly in the first camp, and you can see why they’re worried – 25,000 cows are infected every year in the UK, and are sent to the abattoir, at a cost of £63m to the taxpayer.
The Government tends to agree with the farmers, although official language is carefully hedged: “Badger culling has the potential to reduce bovine TB in cattle …. No other country in the world with a similar reservoir of bovine TB in wildlife has eradicated TB from cattle without stringent wildlife control measures.” So you can see what a mess the whole thing is, with two of the most outspoken, implacable groups in Britain – farmers and animal rights protesters – lined up against each other.
And what about the poor, benighted black-and-white-striped, omnivores – officially, Meles meles of the weasel family – at the heart of this bristly debate? Well, truthfully, they’re not that benighted – except in that they’re nocturnal. Precisely because they usually come out only at night, you don’t tend to see them – and that adds to their allure.
There are, in fact, plenty of badgers, particularly in Pembrokeshire – where the Welsh cull was due to take place. And there are many others throughout Britain, which has more badgers per square mile than anywhere else in Europe: more than 21 per cent of all European badgers live on our shores. Numbers are stable, if not increasing. Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, the population grew by 60 per cent, from 250,000 to 400,000, as badger groups expanded and spread to new areas.
I spend much of the year in west Wales, and they’re everywhere: burrowing in their sett by the gate at the top of the lane; lying dead by the side of the road, taken out, not by a government-licensed assassin but by a passing Land Rover. Examine one of these dead creatures and you’ll see that they are far from cuddly. They are purpose-built for excavating their setts, with short, powerful front legs and long, sharp claws. Extensive musculature around the neck, front legs and shoulders, makes them not only extremely strong but also stocky – like hairy bouncers who’ve done too much gym work on their upper body.
They’re designed for killing, too. In The Wind in the Willows, Badger’s home is piled high with apples, turnips, potatoes, nuts and jars of honey. Grahame, understandably, didn’t refer to Badger’s vice-like jaws and his capacity to ingest game, eggs, small mammals (including rabbits, hares, mice, moles, voles and shrews), earthworms and roots. Once a badger gets its teeth into you, you’ll have a job unlocking those gnashers.
No one expects children’s writers to be naturalists but, all the same, Grahame got badgers wrong in practically every detail. Yes, they are occasionally solitary, but they are more likely to live in so-called clans, of anything up to 15 animals. In Badger, Timothy Roper goes so far as to call the animal “one of the most social of UK mammals”. Nor are they the sluggish creatures of legend. “Badgerly” isn’t used much any more; but the word was once in vogue, meaning elderly and grey-haired. In reality, the creatures can reach 20mph. I once accidentally surprised one in Pembrokeshire: I was on my bicycle but it sprinted well ahead of me before scuttling under a hedge. They’re big, too – the largest naturally occurring carnivore in Britain, in fact, weighing in at around 8kg and growing to as much as 12kg.
Not that they’ve always been here. The ancestor of the badger originated in South-east Asia before migrating to Western Europe – and Britain – around three million years ago. Earlier, they were used by humans, like most other animals by humans , for food and clothing. From the Bronze Age until the 17th century, badger meat – said to taste like mutton, with notes of fungus and leaf mould – was eaten in Britain. The leftovers were used for leather and pelts; their fat was turned into soap and cooking oil. Their bristles are still used for badger-hair shaving brushes. Half a millennium ago, the Tudor Vermin Acts offered bounties for their corpses.
The enclosure of the British countryside in the 18th and 19th centuries intensified the vilification of the badger, by then considered a threat to game birds and their chicks. Badger-baiting with dogs was also popular (illegal, it continues today), not least because badgers competed with foxes for earths and so found another natural enemy in hunters. So badgers had a rough time of it, until about a century ago, as numbers declined and gamekeepers increased. It seems to be coincidence, but Grahame wrote his masterpiece when badgers’ fortunes were at their lowest.
Whether or not it is thanks to him, the badger was increasingly protected in the 20th century. Badger-baiting had been banned in Britain since the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, but the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act made it illegal to injure, kill or take a badger, or to interfere with its sett. An exemption allowing fox-hunters to block setts to prevent them becoming refuges for their prey lapsed with the 2004 Hunting Act.
All in all, the population is stable enough to put up with localised reduction in the West Country and Wales, hotspots for bovine TB. If a cull in the West Country does bring down the incidence of bovine TB, then the badger population will have to be controlled there and in other hotspots. If not, and the experiment is ended, the badger population will soon bounce back. Either way, the whole debate would have been a lot calmer if Kenneth Grahame had made Badger of Badger Hall the bad boy of the book. Who now cares for the poor, unloved toad?
- Humans v Nature : Farmers criticise badger cull delay (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Badger culling: are ministers about to shoot themselves in the foot? (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Badger cull ‘may not happen’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Shooting badgers to be legal under plans for ‘big society cull’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Poll suggests badger cull opposed (bbc.co.uk)
- National Trust to vaccinate badgers as cull looks increasingly unlikely (telegraph.co.uk)
- Trust planning badger vaccination (bbc.co.uk)
- UK public opposed to proposed badger cull (retrieverman.wordpress.com)
- Adam Henson receives death threats over badger cull (telegraph.co.uk)
- UK charity to begin badger vaccination (blogs.nature.com)