Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

green party

This is a rather late and a shorter version. But the Green Party made it easy to pick out their environmental pledges. They are the only party with a separate environment manifesto – perhaps not surprisingly. It can be seen here.

Green Party’s key environmental policies are on this webpage, easy to see:

  • An Environmental Protection Act to safeguard and restore our environment, protect and enhance biodiversity, promote sustainable food and farming, and ensure animal protection.
  • A public works programme of insulation to make every home warm and investing in flood defences and natural flood management to make every community safer.
  • Equality of access to nature and green spaces, to enhance leisure, health and wellbeing.
  • Active ongoing cooperation with businesses and other countries to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees.
  • Replacing fracking, coal power stations, subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear with the clean green efficient renewable energy of the future, and investing in community owned energy.
  • Introduce a one-off fine on car manufacturers who cheated the emissions testing regime and create a new Clean Air Act, expanding and funding a mandatory clean air zone network.
  • Strong protection for the Green Belt, National Parks, SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • A wider, more effective network of marine protected areas around our coasts, including fully protected no take zones.
  • Tough action to reduce plastic and other waste, including the introduction of Deposit Return Schemes, with a zero waste target.

Read Full Post »

libdem logo

LibDem Manifesto – Environmental Coverage

LibDems have the longest section on the environment. You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see the Manifesto. There are no costings that accompany this manifesto. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Brexit and Environment

“Maintaining environmental standards: The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy.” P.11

 Investment

We will ensure that the National Infrastructure Commission takes fully into account the environmental implications of all national infrastructure decisions.” P.37

Traditional indicators of economic activity such as GDP are poor guides to genuine prosperity and wellbeing. We will therefore introduce a National Wellbeing Strategy covering all aspects of government policy, including health, housing and the environment.” P.39

Devolved Administrations

  • “Provide assistance to areas heavily dependent on fossil fuel industries, such as the north-east of Scotland, to diversify away from these industries.
  • Give the immediate go-ahead to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.” P.44

Keeping Our Country Green

This is the main environment chapter of the manifesto. The priorities are:

  • “Ensuring that four million properties receive insulation retrofits by 2022, prioritising fuel-poor households.
  • Preventing 40,000 deaths a year with our Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution.
  • Ensuring British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out – refocusing support towards producing healthy food and public benefits.” 47

This Section is too long to reproduce here (pages 47 – 54). But as a summary:

Five new green laws are proposed: a Green Transport Act, a Zero-Carbon Britain Act, a Nature Act, a Green Buildings Act, and a Zero-Waste Act to “incorporate existing EU environmental protections, maintain product standards such as for energy efficiency, and establish a framework for continual improvement”. P.47

The Liberal Democrats pledge to pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050.

Energy

The manifesto includes the aim to generate 60% of electricity from renewables by 2030, restore government support for solar PV and onshore wind in appropriate locations and build more interconnectors to underpin this higher reliance on renewables.

Saving energy will be a top infrastructure priority and a new Green Buildings Act will be passed to set new energy efficiency targets, including a long-term ambition for every home in England to reach at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035. The comment I made about overheating when reviewing the Labour manifesto about insulating houses applies here too.

Close to our work the chapter also mentions the Natural Capital Committee (the only manifesto to do so, so far, though of course outcomes are more important than processes). The Liberal Democrats will pass a Nature Act to “put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing, set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets”. P.50

International Development

“Provide greater resources for international environmental co-operation, particularly on climate change and on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory and fish.” P.85

Read Full Post »

labour

Labour Manifesto – environmental coverage

‘Environment’ appears as a sub-title in the ‘Leading Richer Lives’ section. While I like the acknowledgement of the contribution of the environment to ‘richer’ lives, I was initially concerned that they allocated only one page to the topic out of 123. But reading through the whole text reveals environmental issues have been woven into almost all the Chapters.

You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see both the Manifesto. The costings that accompany this manifesto can also be found in the same link. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Industrial Strategy

National and local government spends £200 billion a year in the private-sector procurement. Labour will put that spending power to good use to upgrade our economy, create good local jobs and reduce inequality. We will require firms supplying national or local government to meet the high standards we should expect of all businesses: paying their taxes, recognising trade unions, respecting workers’ rights and equal opportunities, protecting the environment, providing training, and paying suppliers on time.” P. 14

Environmental Policy and Brexit

“We will drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.

Throughout the Brexit process, we will make sure that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit 􀈂 including workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections – are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses.” p.25

A Labour approach to Brexit will ensure there can be no rolling back of key rights and protections and that the UK does not lag behind Europe in workplace protections and environmental standards in future.” p.26

Energy

We will transform our energy systems, investing in new, state-of-the-art low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production” p.12

“…ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030” p.14

“…to ensure we meet our climate change targets and transition to a low-carbon economy” p.20

For renters, Labour will improve on existing Landlord Energy Efficiency regulations and re-establish the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance to encourage the uptake of efficiency measures.” p.21

Labour will ban fracking because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee of Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline.” p.21

Climate Change – mitigation and adaptation

“Labour will insulate four million homes as an infrastructure priority to help those who suffer cold homes each winter.” p.20. This insulation design and materials should also take account of homes overheating due to increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather (like heat waves) due to climate change (see Climate Change Risk Assessment).

We will insulate more homes to help people manage the cost of energy bills, to reduce preventable winter deaths, and to meet our climate change targets.” P.60

We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce emissions while mitigating the impacts of climate change on developing countries.” P.118

Transport

We will retrofit thousands of diesel busses in areas with the most severe air quality problems to Euro 6 standards.” P.91

We welcome the work done by the Airports Commission, and we will guarantee that any airport expansion adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed, air quality to be protected, the UK’s climate change obligations met and growth across the country supported.” P. 92

 Water

Replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies.” p.19. Commenting on the merits of this, or supporting this proposal (or not) is not my intention, neither am I able to do this. Serious work needs to be undertaken on defining dysfunctional, assessing the feasibility of this proposal and drawing regional boundaries. If the regions were defined according to catchment (or several catchments) boundaries, then they would be in line with the ‘catchment management / partnership’ approach that has been gaining traction.

Land Use

We will prioritise brownfield sites and protect the green belt.” p.60

Environment Sub-Section – key actions (p 93-94)

Investing in our environment is investing in our future. We will defend and extend existing environmental protections. We will champion sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.

  • prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries, fund robust flood resilience, invest in rural and coastal communities, and guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental quality standards.
  • Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality.
  • We will safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island.
  • We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.
  • We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.
  • We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management.
  • Labour will keep them in public hands.
  • Our stewardship of the environment needs to be founded on sound principles and based on scientific assessments. We will establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries that will include support for our small scale fishing fleet.

Read Full Post »

Conservative_logo_2006.svg

 

Conservative Manifesto – environmental coverage 

The environment is not mentioned in the table of contents neither in the five giant challenges. If you counted the number of times the word ‘environment’ is repeated in the text, your hopes may be raised. But the word is more often used in a different context like ‘business environment’, ‘regulatory environment’ and so on.

The previous manifesto’s pledge is repeated albeit in slightly different words: I believe the previous one referred to ‘the greenest government’.  Also previously the logo was a green tree.

Finally, we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again.” p.26

The 25 Year Environment Plan has been in preparation for about two years (with the initially high expectations of content recently reduced to an outline).

You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see the Manifesto. There are no costings that accompany this manifesto. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Industrial Strategy

We will ensure industry and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power.” p.19. It would have been good to see a reference to ensuring best practice environmental management, even if not minimising environmental impacts, mentioned in the Industrial Strategy where this quote is taken from.

We will therefore commission an independent review into the Cost of Energy, which will be asked to make recommendations as to how we can ensure UK energy costs are as low as possible, while ensuring a reliable supply and allowing us to meet our 2050 carbon reduction objective.

And because for British companies, an energy-efficient business is a more competitive business, we will establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills.

For instance, while we do not believe that more large-scale onshore wind power is right for England, we will maintain our position as a global leader in offshore wind and support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities. ” p.22

We will therefore develop the shale industry in Britain. We will only be able to do so if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected.” This and more detail on how this ambition will be met can be found on page 23.

Transport

We want almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050 – and will invest £600 million by 2020 to help achieve it. We will invest in more low-emission buses, as well as supporting audio-visual displays for bus passengers and community minibuses for rural areas poorly served by public transport.” p.24

Towns and Cities

Our towns and cities should be healthy, well-designed and well-tended places. We will take action against poor air quality in urban areas. In addition to the 11 million trees we are planting across our nation, we will ensure that 1 million more are planted in our towns and cities, and place new duties on councils to consult when they wish to cut down street trees. We will encourage the very best practice in the design of buildings and public spaces, including a review of the design of government buildings, to ensure that when the state builds, it makes a positive contribution to a local area. We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders. We will do more to improve the quality of road surfaces, filling potholes – especially in residential areas – and reducing road noise.” p.25

The Environment and Brexit

We have huge ambitions for our farming industry: we are determined to grow more, sell more and export more great British food. We want to provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and set up new frameworks for supporting food production and stewardship of the countryside. So we will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament.

 

We will help Natural England to expand their provision of technical expertise to farmers to deliver environmental improvements on a landscape scale, from enriching soil fertility to planting hedgerows and building dry stone walls. We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities. We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland.” p.26

When we leave the European Union and its Common Fisheries Policy, we will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control. A new Conservative government will work with the fishing industry and with our world-class marine scientists, as well as the devolved administrations, to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks and help to ensure prosperity for a new generation of fishermen. To provide complete legal certainty to our neighbours and clarity during our negotiations with the European Union, we will withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention. We will continue our work to conserve the marine environment off the coast of the United Kingdom.” p. 27

Protecting the global environment

We will continue to lead international action against climate change, and the degradation of habitat and loss of species.” p.38

The United Kingdom will lead the world in environmental protection. As Conservatives, we are committed to leaving the environment in better condition than we inherited it. That is why we will continue to take a lead in global action against climate change, as the government demonstrated by ratifying the Paris Agreement. We were the first country to introduce a Climate Change Act, which Conservatives helped to frame, and we are halfway towards meeting our 2050 goal of reducing emissions by eighty per cent from 1990 levels.

We will champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters. We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world.” p.40

Read Full Post »

 

GE 2017

Call me a silly cow but I’m excited about this election because I don’t think it’s only about Brexit!

I think it’s about making a decision on what role we want for the public sector and policy in all areas of government. It’s about the vision for the kind of country we want to live in. A good Brexit deal will then be one which helps us the most in making that vision reality.

It is also for this reason that I’ve read the main parties’ manifestos and will be writing a series on their coverage of environmental issues and policies.

I did this back in 2005. It was the first election I could vote in, in these pastures.

In 2010, I only searched for some key words through the texts.

This year….did I say I am excited about this election?!

So, every day this week you will get a review of the environmental pledges of a political party.  I’ll add the links here as they come online.

Conservative Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Labour Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Liberal Democrat manifesto 2017 – environment overview

UKIP manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Green Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

For a final word from me on the manifestos click here

Read Full Post »

Electioneering is in full swing and this year’s campaign has a very different feel to it. Unfortunately it’s not good news for the environment.

Thinking back to 2010, the environmental message was a key part of the election campaign. The manifestos had whole chapters dedicated to the environment, climate change and green economy. The Conservatives made a bold pledge to be the greenest government ever and even had a green tree as their logo!

Politicians work to represent the interests and concerns of the people and back in 2010 things were very different. Firstly, the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis hadn’t really hit home. Secondly, there was heightened public awareness of environmental damage stemming from the explosion of media coverage following the Stern review on climate change. The politicians responded and the environment was catapulted to the forefront of the campaigns.

The election results saw the Green party’s first MP and the Coalition government publish the first White Paper on the natural environment in over 20 years.

Back to 2015 and there is practically no mention of environmental issues in the campaigns. Aside from a cringe worthy reference to sustainable development by Natalie Bennett (Green party) in the 7 party TV debate, the environment has just a page or two in the manifestos and the Tory tree has been obscured by a Union Jack (but yes, the tree is still there!). More on the manifestos to follow on Cow Burps.

Given the current economic climate it’s not surprising that today’s main political messages are around security of jobs, incomes, houses and healthcare. The treatment of the environment across the two campaigns highlights the reactive nature of the political game. But are the politicians really reacting to the needs of the voters? The environment is lost in the current campaigning maybe because it’s seen to directly compete against jobs, incomes, houses and healthcare. But what about the view that these are compliments – that investing in the environment delivers these things? That message still seems a harder sell.

Read Full Post »

A blog by Limu:

A juxtaposition of announcements on how short-sighted political leadership is missing the evidence on the value of the environment were published last week.

Europe’s new structures battered the environment into a market defined role. A letter to the new European Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner emphasises a reporting line to a new vice-president for growth, jobs, competitiveness and investment.

On the same day a medical doctor at Aston University came up with an excellent quote on walking as ‘a magic pill’ to slow ageing (it’ll prevent obesity and diabetes, lower the risk of some cancers, and relieve depression… really magic). The evidence on accessible natural green space being a key way to motivate exercise existed 10 years ago and has strengthened since.

I think that regarding the environment as just another tool for expanding GDP, weakening its protection, is wrong. It makes me sick. It’ll make you sick too.

Read Full Post »

You might have noticed my absence from the blog recently; I have been adventuring around far-flung pastures learning about environmental policies in foreign lands.  As part of this I’ve been attending a few events, including the Malaysian launch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), led by Jeffrey Sachs himself.  I had a few words to say to them at the end about a certain discipline they failed to utilise.  But never mind about that right now, I wanted to talk about something else…

On Sunday morning I tagged along with the good folks of MESYM (a Malaysian environmental networking platform) to attend a Bloggers workshop hosted by the Malaysian Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) about Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs (RE FiT) in Malaysia.  I’ll write in more detail about the contents of the workshop in my next post, but for this post I wanted to talk about the actual workshop, which I thought was a really interesting idea.

We were all paid RM100 (about £20) in supermarket/department store vouchers each to go to the workshop.  Now considering the workshop was on Feed-in Tariffs in Malaysia (and provided a 5 star hotel buffet lunch) I would have happily gone along without being paid anyway, despite the 9am start time on a Sunday morning.

Our goodybag! Lots and lots of literature, notebooks, badges, a lunchbox (?!) and vouchers!

But we also got this goodybag! Lots and lots of literature, notebooks, badges, a lunchbox (?!) and vouchers!

However it quickly became clear that my fellow blogger attendees might not have felt the same way.  Casual questioning of various individuals on the day about what they mainly blogged about yielded answers such as “Usually myself.  Also Koreans (pop stars), I love my Koreans!” and “Mostly about myself.  And also about the kids I work with” and “The KL Stock Exchange”.  So, an interesting group of bloggers to invite to a workshop on Feed-in Tariffs.  I suspected that my friend and I, with existing environmental interests, were flukes.  This was quickly confirmed when we had a quick introduction to climate change followed by some questions, where we learnt that only about half the room had ever heard of renewable energy, and only 3 people, including me and my friend, had heard of Fukushima.

But this made the whole workshop a far more interesting strategy from SEDA.  We originally thought they were reaching out to the political, environmental, and social bloggers (and their readers) who were probably already thinking about these issues, to try and convince them of the validity of the FiT.  However by reaching out to these other bloggers, who had wide readerships but ones who generally didn’t read the newspaper and probably had not thought much on the issue, they were reaching an entirely new audience and, hopefully, getting them to think about renewable energy and the FiT and to view these issues from angles they probably would not have been exposed to if not for the workshop.

By SEDA’s own admission during the morning presentation it quickly became clear what the main issue was, for the general public which SEDA were obviously trying to reach.  Malaysia has an artificially low fixed electricity price (thanks to subsidies to the tune of RM20 billion, or £4 billion) from the government.  The Feed-in Tariff scheme is funded by a 1% renewable energy charge on every householder’s bill above 300 Kwh (RM77 at the current rate), and this was set to rise to 2% earlier this year, but elections happened later than usual and this has been postponed.  Added to this, the national electricity provider is hiking up the price by another 1%, so all in all householders are seeing an electricity price increase of 3%, of which 2/3rds are thanks to SEDA.

Given the UK’s own electricity price woes this might seem a laughable thing to get upset about, however Malaysians have taken their cheap fixed price electricity as a given and are very much unhappy about this price increase.  Added to this are the recent petrol subsidy cut, and a healthy suspicion of the government (Malaysia ranks as 54/176 on the government corruption perceptions index), leading the public to wonder whether the SEDA 2% is really just going to line the pockets of government official.  The workshop organisers showed us some newspaper articles and screen captures from Facebook to demonstrate some of the public displeasure.

A slide of complaints. Copyright SEDA Malaysia

A slide of complaints. Copyright SEDA Malaysia

So it’s no wonder SEDA are trying to get the ordinary public on their side through ordinary bloggers.  But for this, a large education effort had to happen, in order to get these untrained bloggers to understand what the FiT was and why it was needed.  For a 4 hour workshop the scope was huge: a quick introduction to climate change, an explanation of renewable energy and how they fit into Malaysia’s commitment to cutting GHGs (40% by 2020 from 2005 levels), an explanation of the Feed-in Tariff with some background context and how the 1% (soon to become 2%) electricity price levy fits in, a quick foray into solar-PV and how together with FiT it ‘democratizes energy’ (more in a later post!), energy efficiency, break-off sessions to go into more detail about various renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency and finally a question and answer session with the SEDA Chief Executive Officer and Chief Corporate Officer.

The workshop setup. Copyri

The workshop setup. Copyright: SEDA Malaysia

Energy efficiency break-out session: the cost of non energy efficient lightbulbs vs energy efficient ligthbulbs

From the energy efficiency break-out session: the cost of non energy efficient lightbulbs vs energy efficient ligthbulbs

We were also told, to make sure their massive effort was not wasted, that we would be paid for each blog post we wrote on the topic, up to 5 a month.  I thought about revealing the price here but I sympathise with SEDA and don’t want it to get picked up that this is what their 1% is getting spent on.  But I would say that the payment per blog post is not an insignificant amount, and with 5 blog posts a month this should be enough for a Malaysian to get by without any extra work, including renting a modest room.  Or it would be, if it was paid in cash, which I’m not too clear about as yet.  5 blog posts on one topic a month sounds like a lot though, and eventually one might run out of things to say.  However, the workshop organisers promised that further workshops would be run including a chance to go out and see a biogas plant, giving more fodder for more blog posts.

At first glance it might seem like a lot to spend on an untested strategy, however SEDA remarked that they had originally used television advertising, but their advertisements were run in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, so this might be a more cost-effective strategy.  Bloggers are also uniquely able to tailor their posts to their readership and, crucially, answer comments from them.  We were also encouraged to “write whatever you want”, which makes me less wary of the thought that we might be part of a SEDA astroturfing operation.  I mean to indicate whenever I write a ‘sponsored’ blog, and there didn’t seem to be any efforts to ask bloggers to hide this.

After the event, during our delicious lunch, I spoke to a few of my blogger attendees to gauge their reaction to the workshop and the payments.  Everyone I asked said they would definitely write about it, but a few were still uncertain about convincing their readership about the 1%.  They told me that they had been to similar events for the entertainment industry, but never one for government policy.  I took a few blog URLs down and will be checking them to see what they write and how this strategy pans out.  I thought the event was well run given the scope and time, and I understood all that was spoken about, however I am well aware that I was one of the very few with previous interest, let alone education and experience in this field.  So it would be very interesting to see how much other bloggers took in and what kind of angle they will approach this from.

We’ve heard of astroturfing before, but, given what I saw and experienced, I think it would be unfair to put that label on this strategy.  I feel like SEDA were genuinely trying to educate blogger attendees and equip them with the background knowledge in order to write about FiT in their own words, rather than to sway them to their side of the issue.  I wonder if a similar kind of strategy could be used by the UK government, or indeed whether it has been done before.  Perhaps there might be outrage at the thought of paying bloggers for social media exposure but I can’t help but feel that it can’t hurt to get people who have shown their ability to hold a large readership to write commentary on policies and bring these to the masses who would otherwise have no knowledge or opinion.

In my next post I’ll actually talk about the Malaysian Feed-in Tariff, but in the meantime I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on this blogging workshop.

Read Full Post »

Sir,

As the streets of Turkish cities host horrific scenes of police brutality against unarmed civilians, in the wake of peaceful protests against destruction of one of the last green areas in central Istanbul, the Turkish Parliament is preparing to rush through a vote on a policy that will allow much more widespread destruction of nature.

The Habitats and Biodiversity Bill is based on the European Union Habitats and Wild Birds Directives, but with two vital differences.

In EU member states the criterion of ‘over-riding public interest’ for allowing developments in conservation areas is applied through long-established systems of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), stakeholder engagement and public consultation.  But the definition of ‘overriding public interest’ is vague in the Turkish bill, there is no system of consultation in the country, and EIAs, if they are carried out at all, are often conducted long after a development project starts.

Secondly, for protected land, the EU also requires that there be ‘No Alternatives’ for siting the development.  The draft bill in the Turkish Parliament, by contrast, will simply abolish the National Parks law. The draft bill has been opposed to by 113 NGOs, and the European Commission itself described the draft bill as “worrying” (Turkey Progress Report, 9 November 2010), but the criticisms have been ignored.

This highly controversial legislation is being rushed through the Turkish Parliament, under cover of civil unrest, and represents a catastrophe for nature conservation in Turkey.  As natural and social scientists leading European research in biodiversity conservation and the human benefits derived from natural systems, we support our Turkish academic and NGO colleagues in deploring this myopic legislation and calling on the Turkish government to redraft this legislation taking account of their legitimate concerns.

Signed: coordinators and researchers at the following European Commission funded biodiversity related research projects.

Ms Ece Ozdemiroglu, Managing Director, economics for the environment consultancy,http://www.eftec.co.uk, United Kingdom

Dr Robert Tinch, Brussels Representative, eftec and OPERAs project, Belgium

Prof Dr Wouter de Groot, BIOMOT project, the Netherlands

Dr Rob Bugter, BESAFE Project, the Netherlands

Prof Dr Josef Settele, SCALES, Germany

Dr Sybille van den Hove, SPRIAL project, Spain

Dr Rupert Read, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom

Read Full Post »

This week the UK Natural Capital Committee (more info here) released its first State of Natural Capital report with little fanfare.  It achieved a small amount of press attention, with only four environmental news outlets covering the report (according to Google News). A damp squib in terms of press coverage, which was depressing to those immersed in these concepts and convinced this is the right way forward.

It may be healthy to take a step back and a realistic view on the popularity of Natural Capital as a concept. I used Google Trends to gauge public awareness and interest in the concept.  In order for a fair comparison I compared “Natural Capital” against “Ecosystem Services”  – another environmental economics buzz word.

The Google Trend graph is presented below, with Natural Capital represented in blue and Ecosystem Services  in red:Image

Ecosystem services appears to be getting more ‘heat’ than Natural Capital, despite being around as an idea for less time. Interest in ecosystem services are increasing, while interest in Natural Capital has been flat (or even declining) over the past seven years or so.

Possible reasons for this trend are that ecosystem services as a concept is mutli-disciplinary friendly and less contentious. Consequently it has been adopted across the environmental sector.  Natural Capital, although intertwined with the ideas of ecosystem services, is more difficult to define, and although popular with business may not be popular across the environmental sector.

Perhaps the difference in adoption and interest has its source in concepts themselves. Ecosystem services as a term seeks to capture the benefits flowing from nature without trying to define nature itself. Natural Capital as a concept, shoehorns the matter that makes up nature into a bleak financial framework. For the lay person and those nervous about the ‘commodification’ of nature, Natural Capital is perhaps a step too far.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »