Preparing for climate change, cleaning up the seas and Arctic sea routes opening

UK climate cities

Leicester and London are the UK’s urban areas most prepared for climate change, according to research from Newcastle University. They have separate climate adaptation and mitigation plans, have calculated their carbon footprints, and are measuring progress in reducing emissions, giving them high “urban climate change preparedness scores”. Other urban areas are faring less well, with vague emission reduction targets or inconsistent action plans. A UK preparedness map drawn up by the university shows that the least prepared are Belfast, Derry and Wrexham, which have “only recently embarked upon tackling climate change”.

Net value

A scheme to clean up discarded fishing nets from the oceans is preparing to move into its next phase: recycling the nets into textile products including socks and carpets. The Healthy Seas initiative was set up by the Netherlands-based European Expertise Centre for Biodiversity and Sustainability, Italy’s Aquafil Group and Dutch wholesaler Star Sock to tackle the problem of “ghost fishing”, or the trapping of marine life in free-floating waste nets.

Healthy Seas’ divers retrieve the nylon nets, which are cleaned and regenerated by Aquafil into Econyl yarn, a product made from waste polymers. Fishermen can also donate their old fishing nets for recycling. The initiative is on the verge of moving to full production, and is open to partnership proposals.

Shower power

Consumer goods giant Unilever has turned to crowdsourcing to help it achieve a difficult sustainability target: to reduce the water consumption from the showering of 200 million consumers. Unilever wants to meet the target by 2015 but admits that “progress is slow”. It is therefore asking for new ideas for a shower that will consume no more than 10 litres of water per use, compared with about 60 litres for a standard eight-minute shower. For winning submissions, there are prizes of up to $5,000 and involvement in the further development of the idea.

Michiel Leijnse, Unilever water and innovation brand director, says: “The showering process hasn’t changed in decades. We’d like to reinvent the shower in a way that reduces its environmental impact.”

Caring consumers

Consumers globally are 5% more willing in 2012 than they were in 2011 to pay higher prices for goods and services from socially responsible companies, a survey has found. The Nielsen “consumers who care” study covered 29,000 people in 58 countries, finding that on average 50% of consumers say they would spend more to be ethical.

More than two-thirds of consumers in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand favoured ethical purchasing, but in Europe, Nielsen has found a “broader cynicism toward business”, with consumers sceptical about corporate responsibility, and about the social impact of business in general. Only a third of European consumers say they would pay extra to buy ethical. Although half of consumers worldwide claim they would buy responsibly, only 43% say they had actually done so.

Frugal Google

Google enjoyed its sixth year of carbon neutrality in 2012, though this meant buying offsets to cover 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emitted by its operations, the firm’s latest carbon footprint data has shown. Emissions in 2012 were down 9.4% from the 2011 total of 1.68m tonnes. Most of the CO2 generated by the company was attributed to the generation of electricity to power its offices and data centres, though business travel, employee commuting, data centre construction and other indirect emissions also contributed a significant chunk. Google schemes to cut emissions further include shuttles to get employees to work, installation of solar panels at its sites, and highly energy-efficient data centres, which the company says “have saved us over $1bn to date”.

Target watered down

The government of New Zealand has outraged greens by setting an unambitious 5% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020, compared with 1990. The target represents a watering down by the centre-right National Party-led government of a pledge made in 2010 under the Copenhagen accord that New Zealand would take on a target of up to 20%. Climate change minister Tim Groser says the reduced goal was “affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change”. The leader of the country’s Green Party, Russel Norman, said the target amounted to “freeloading” on the efforts of other countries to reduce emissions. By comparison, the European Union has a 20% target.

Arctic adventure

A container ship that will dock in the Dutch port of Rotterdam during September could be the first sign of a significant change in world trade – thanks to climate change. The vessel, owned by Cosco Group, is the first Chinese merchant ship to travel to Europe via the Arctic north-east passage. The use of the Arctic route by container ships has become feasible because of melting ice brought about by the heating up of the planet. The ship’s journey, from the Chinese port of Dalian, will take a month, two weeks fewer than going via the Suez Canal. Cosco says that the north-east passage route will save considerable fuel and money, as well as time. The value of China’s exports to the European Union, for which Rotterdam is the largest port, was $385bn in 2012.

Pole position

The prize for publishing the first sustainability report prepared according to the new Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines has been claimed not by a company, but by the Polish capital, Warsaw. The city’s integrated report covers its financial performance (Warsaw has a €3.2bn (£2.7bn) budget), its societal performance, such as work to improve public safety and the maintenance of Unesco World Heritage sites for public benefit, and its environmental goals, such as a 20% emissions cut by 2020 compared with 2007 and a pledge to keep 25% of the city area as green space. Warsaw is also preparing to host the 2013 United Nations climate change conference in November. Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz says: “Opportunities related to achieving our goals are immense.”

climate change  CSR news  google  GRI  Stephen Gardner  Sustainability news  Unilever 

The Sustainable Supply Chain Summit 2013

October 2013, London, UK

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