Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Answer's a Lemon

Published on iTunes, Stitcher and on 28th April

Welcome to you all, wherever you are in the world.

I'm never short of ideas for topics to include in these weekly reports. It's deciding what to leave out that's the problem. 

This Week…
We've all heard of the Big Apple but Brighton has a Big Lemon. You can ride in it. You’ll soon be able to ride in driverless cars. They’re expected to arrive in 2019.
After last week’s edition on rubbish I can tell you about Reverse Vending and about grubs that eat plastic. Meanwhile the government is in court yet again over its failure to improve air quality. It’s also using the election to delay the UK’s emissions reduction strategy, as predicted by The Environmentalist. In South Wales there are fears that the General Election could push the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon start date back a year to 2019. We’re still waiting for the government’s 25-year environmental strategy and we’ve been waiting for that since last summer. Fat chance of seeing that before the election! Remind me why we needed this election?

By the way, once the manifestos are out I’ll let you know what they say about sustainability. I’ll look in particular for any signs of an energy policy.

What goes around comes around, but the Environmental Services Association warns that the circular economy can’t come around until the planning system has greater flexibility. We look at their latest report. EDF is under pressure at Flamanville in Normandy. Greenpeace claim that the new nuclear reactor there is just too dangerous to be put under pressure.

The Green Investment Bank has been sold to the Australians…there’s a new vertical farm…and a climate clock…
All this and more in this week’s Sustainable Futures Report.

Did I mention patreon? It's not too late for the April special offer which means that if you sign up to support the Sustainable Futures Report for as little as $1 per month you can still get the unique Sustainable Futures Report  enamel badge, normally only available to Silver Supporters and above. It’s all at

Let’s start with… 
…a quotation from Jeremy Leggett’s latest report:
“President Trump moved to dismantle President Obama’s climate legacy with an executive order that seeks to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Within a week, 17 US states filed a legal challenge. China immediately pledged to uphold its Paris climate commitments, including considerable efforts not to use coal, accusing the US of “selfish” behaviour. The EU joined the pushback. Miguel Árias Cañete, the EU’s climate action commissioner, said: “The continued leadership of the EU, China and many other major economies is now more important than ever. When it comes to climate and the global clean energy transition, there cannot be vacuums, there can only be drivers, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward.””

You can read Jeremy's full report and indeed sign up for his newsletter and get a free copy of The Winning of the Carbon War if you go to 

Despite President Trump and his climate-change denying energy secretary, Eco Watch reports that the city of Chicago announced this week that renewable energy will power 100 percent of all of its government buildings by 2025.

More Rubbish
Reverse Vending
Following last week's report on rubbish, I've been told about the reverse vending machine. It’s a machine which is typically installed next to normal vending machines and you put in your empty containers and it gives you back your deposit or a voucher to spend, or makes a donation to a charity of your choice. More than 100,000 vending machines are already installed across the world, mainly in Scandinavia. Machines will accept plastic bottles, glass bottles, or cans. Plastic bottles which cannot be refilled are crushed and separated out for recycling. The same happens to cans. Glass bottles are diverted into a separate container and refillable plastic bottles are separated out as well. Some machines can even recycle lightbulbs. There are already some of these machines in the UK, in hospitals and schools, but clearly not nearly enough. has more information, although the website is not very clear. It’s best to take the Media link and go to their YouTube videos to see exactly how these machines work.

Wax Moth
I've mentioned before that I keep bees and yes, they are doing very well at the moment, thank you very much. They are not without their pests and diseases, of course. One of them is the wax moth. It lays its eggs in the hive and the larvae burrow into the wood of the frames. Then they come out and eat the wax in the combs. This is a particular problem when the empty combs are stored over winter. The wax moth larvae can destroy combs completely.

Researchers in Cambridge and Spain have discovered, apparently by accident, that wax moth larvae can destroy plastic. In fact they can destroy it very much faster than bacteria does. Could this be the start of a solution to the plastic pollution problem which has dominated the press in recent weeks? Bad news though, for those of my beekeeping colleagues who have transferred from wooden to plastic hives!

Circular Economy Futures
Recycling is all part of the circular economy. OK, repairing and remanufacturing is preferable, but it's all about getting the maximum utility out of the materials, energy and labour that's put into the production of any product. Waste is not waste until there is absolutely no way in which it can be used as raw material for another process. A new report from the Environmental Services Association highlights a problem.

Opening the report, Jacob Hayler, Executive Director, says,
“Defra estimates that UK businesses could benefit by up to £23 billion per year from the introduction of quick-win resource efficiency measures.” He goes on,

“Of course, the UK’s planning system has a key role to play in making this transition.There have recently been positive moves to embed climate change objectives and sustainable economic growth at all levels of the planning system (national policy down to local plans). However, some of the preconceived notions of our industry [the waste industry], often harking back to the days of reliance on landfill disposal, continues to prevail in many planning authorities and needs to be overcome if the planning system is to facilitate the delivery of the infrastructure capable of transitioning to the Circular Economy of the future.

“In the short term, we need the planning system to provide the new treatment facilities the UK critically needs as landfill sites close around the country. In the longer term, flexibility to adapt to new business models, new ways of thinking and meeting the demands of an increasingly environmentally conscious customer base will all take on greater significance. The planning system needs to adapt to these changes too and enable the industry to position itself to optimally manage material flows and source sustainable end markets for materials produced by the wider economy.

Find the full report at 

Air quality - govt misses target and claims election purdah.

I’ve reported in the past how Client Earth has successfully sued the government on two occasions for failing to meet regulations for air quality in the UK. The government had until 4 PM on Monday 24th April to announce the measures that it would take, but only hours before this government lawyers requested a deferral on the grounds that such plans could not be published during the purdah period prior to an election. Others believe that the government is keen to avoid announcing these measures because they will almost certainly penalise drivers of diesel vehicles, and in any case the purdah period does not officially start before the dissolution of Parliament on 3rd May. The hearing will take place on Thursday, 27 April after this Sustainable Futures Report recording is complete.

Client Earth said:

“We are preparing our response to the government’s application. This is a public health issue and not a political issue. Urgent action is required to protect people’s health from the illegal and poisonous air that we are forced to breathe in the UK.
“This is a matter for the court to decide once the government has made its arguments because it is the government which has not met, and instead seeks to extend the court’s deadline for the clean air plan, to clean up our air.”

The government is currently failing to comply with pollution laws. A total of 37 out of 43 regions of the UK are in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide.

Carbon Reduction
A plan for how the UK will meet future carbon reduction targets is also likely to be held up by the election.

Giving evidence to the parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, Minister Nick Hurd said the plan, now to be known as the Clean Growth Plan, was in a ‘holding pattern’ along with other policies that had been due to be published soon, but that may now be held over until after the general election on 8 June.  

The Clean Growth Plan would set out the policies for the country to meet its fifth carbon budget, which commits the government to cutting CO2 by 57% from 1990 levels between 2028 and 2032. The budget was adopted by the government in July 2016, and the plan was originally due to be published in December. But the government pushed this back, first to February 2017 and then the first quarter of the year.

Wales online reports that the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is another project that could be delayed by this election. A decision has been awaited for over a year, and a further delay could add another 12 months. Even if a decision is made immediately after the election it will be too late in the year to start construction before the winter weather closes in.

One thing that hasn’t been held up is the sale of the Green Investment Bank. BBC News reports that the Green Investment Bank (GIB), set up by the UK government five years ago, has been sold to the Australian Macquarie Bank, with a value of £2.3bn. The bank was set up to fund renewable and low-carbon projects and has invested about £800m per year so far. The deal requires the new owner to retain its name and headquarters team in Edinburgh. Although all the shares are transferring, the government is appointing independent trustees with the power to ensure it continues to have an environmental mission.

Not everyone was happy with this. According to The Guardian, Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said the sale will set the UK back on reaching its climate targets and mean more new jobs in the sector will go elsewhere.
“If the government picks up its pace, the UK could be a world leader in renewable and green technology,” he said. “But selling a great British success story, which levered private money into eco-projects, to a controversial Australian bank known for asset-stripping, is a disaster.”

Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat secretary for energy and climate change, said: “Selling the Green Investment Bank is environmentally irresponsible, and on the eve of an election is politically dubious. The government clearly hopes to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.”

More on energy - there’s always something on energy!

A group of activists has filed a legal challenge with the French prime minister's office against the extension of EDF's licence for construction of the Flamanville nuclear reactor in northern France.
The move by Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups is in response to safety concerns over the Flamanville reactor and is a precursor to elevation of their challenge to the State Council, the country's highest administrative court.
The lobby groups said in a statement that the licence, issued in 2007 and renewed this year, should not have been granted because EDF and reactor supplier Areva were aware of technical shortcomings at Areva's Creusot Forge nuclear foundry since 2005.
In 2014 Areva discovered that the lid of the Flamanville reactor vessel manufactured by Creusot Forge showed abnormally high carbon concentrations, which weaken its steel.
Nuclear regulator ASN is investigating whether the irregularities threaten the safety of the reactor and whether EDF can proceed with Flamanville's start-up in 2018 as planned.

All this is important because EDF is responsible for building the new Hinkley C power station in Somerset, using the same Areva-designed EPR reactors. No reactors of this design have yet been brought into production. Apart from the seriously delayed unit at Flamanville there is a power station in Finland which is equally late and over budget and two units nearing completion in China. Although EDF is pouring concrete at the Hinckley C site, nobody knows whether the project will ever be finished or whether it will ever work. Whether it works or not, the multibillion investment will be paid for by the British people, either as electricity consumers or as taxpayers–or both.

Enjoy the Drive
Getting away from it all on Bank Holiday Monday? Soon, well in a year or two, you may be able to take a driverless car. They probably won't shorten the hours of queues on our motorways, but at least you won't have to steer.

Paul Newman is a professor of information engineering at Oxford University and co-founder of Oxbotica, a specialist provider of autonomous control system technologies. He believes driverless cars will make our roads safer and help an ageing population remain independent. To start with driverless or autonomous vehicles will run errands like collecting groceries from the supermarket, but over time they will develop into fully functional cars. Along the way, because driverless cars will be expensive, we'll see them develop through car clubs and shared ownership. They will be cleaner because they will almost certainly be electric and they will be safer because 90% of accidents are caused by driver distraction. Because they will eventually be able to interact with other cars and with traffic signals they will not only be able to flow more easily, thus reducing congestion; but by avoiding harsh acceleration or braking they will reduce wear on the car and the road surface and use less energy.

It’s a Lemon
The Big Lemon - it’s a bus company in Brighton. Norman Baker became its managing director last month. Norman used to be a LibDem MP and was transport minister in the coalition government. He later moved to the Home Office, but quit in 2014 after finding working with Theresa May a “constant battle”. He lost his seat in 2015 and has no plans to stand this time.

According to The Guardian, he will shortly be taking delivery of Britain’s first electric-powered bus. What they actually meant was that this would be Britain’s first solar-powered electric bus. The company is installing solar panels on its garage roof and will use the energy to charge up the buses - there will be two of them - overnight. Is it charging up a battery which will then charge the bus battery, or is it feeding the electricity into the grid during the day when the buses are presumably on the road and taking an equivalent amount from the grid overnight? Either way, it’s contributing to cleaner air in Brighton. We know of no plans for self-driving buses. Yet.

Growing Up
Construction of Europe’s first commercial vertical farm begins shortly in Dronten, the Netherlands. It will serve one of Europe’s biggest supermarket chains with lettuce grown using LED horticultural lighting.
 To date, the only vertical farms in Europe using LED-based lighting have so far been research centres or specialist producers serving restaurants.
The new facility in Dronten – built by fresh fruit and vegetables company Staay Food Group – will be the first vertical farm in Europe to operate commercially.
The facility will serve one the continent’s largest supermarket chains in addition to being used for testing and optimising processes for future, larger vertical farms, and is scheduled to begin operating in the latter half of this year.
The 900 square metre indoor vertical farm will have over 3,000 square metres of growing space, and will use Philips GreenPower LED horticultural lighting.
As the farming happens indoors, any harmful insects or other pests will be prevented from reaching the crops – as a result no pesticides will be required in the process.

Udo van Slooten, Managing Director of Philips Lighting Horticulture LED Solutions, said: “Our plant specialists at our GrowWise research centre in Eindhoven are testing with seeds of a selection of the most suitable lettuce varieties to define the best growth recipes and to optimise the crop growth even before the farm is running”.

Vertical farming also allows for the locating of food production close to – or even within – urban areas, where food consumption is concentrated.

Grootscholten went on to say: “It will help us with our continuous challenge to offer solutions for the growing world population. We believe that vertical farms will become increasingly important, because in the future we see more economic and environmental pressure to produce fruit and vegetables, such as lettuce, closer to where end customers are located.”

Farms located nearer consumers will help to reduce emissions and transport-related costs.

This may be the first commercial vertical farm, but vertical farming has been in operation for several years at Paignton Zoo in Devon, producing salads for the animals. There’s no reason why the technique shouldn’t be used for human food, and the yield per hectare is vastly greater that what conventional agriculture can achieve. There’s a link to a video below.

Where are we up to?

I still haven’t told you about

    • An apparently new crack forming in the Petermann Glacier, 
    • Peak toiletries
    • Airline food waste
    • Wave power
    • Palm oil
    • The Climate Clock - oh, but I must tell you about the climate clock…

Amanda Crossfield told me about this. You can find it at It's a clock constantly counting down the seconds until we reach the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere which will raise global temperatures by 1.5 ℃. On present performance we've got just 16 years left. You can see the climate clock on your screen, counting down the seconds in real time. It's being displayed at events across the world, where the image is projected onto the sides of buildings, showing the time counting down second by second and global emissions rising by tens of thousands of tonnes every minute. Go to  and behind it you'll find details of how the figures are calculated. Thanks, Amanda. It really brings the message home!

And that’s it…
Thank you for listening or indeed reading the Sustainable Futures Report. As I said, there is more than I can cover in 30 minutes and probably more than you would want to listen to. Let me know the areas that you would like me to concentrate on. After all, if I'm not providing what you want there's not much point in all this. Contact me at or post on the Patreon site which by now you well know is

I’m Anthony Day 
That was the Sustainable Futures Report  
Next week there’ll be another one.
In the meantime have a really good week, a great Bank Holiday Monday if you’re in the UK, and bye for now.

@climate_action_ @ecowatch @thebiglemon @esa_tweets @tidallagoon @oxbotica