Monday, 5 April 2010

SunPower To Build 7 Solar Power Plants In Italy

On the heels of finalizing its deal earlier this week to acquire European solar project developer SunRay, SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB:NASDAQ) announced today that it will be building 7 solar power plants in the Sicily region of Italy. The solar photovoltaic plants will range in size from 1 to 3.5 megawatts (MW) and will have a combined output of 16.5 MW.Work on the projects should be beginning fairly soon as SunPower expects to complete the jobs by September 2010. And instead of installing their T0 Tracker systems on the usual flat areas, SunPower commented that their fixed tilt systems will implemented on 65 hectares that includes steep slopes and uneven terrain.
Financing for the project will be provided by Societe Generale, Unicredit Medio Credito Centrale and Dexia along with other Italian and international banks.In an article earlier this week discussing SunPower’s acquisition of SunRay, The Alarm:Clock mentioned how solar projects come to fruition much quicker in Europe versus ones in the United States. And with reductions in Italy’s feed-in tariff program expected at the end of this year and major players like First Solar (FSLR:NASDAQ) and Suntech Power (STP:NYSE) focusing their efforts on “the boot”, more announcements of new power plants should be expected over the next few months.
Despite the good news, shares of SunPower were down 1.7 percent in early afternoon trading. Shares of First Solar were down 0.01 percent while Suntech was off 1.5 percent.

Peruvian Amazon trees a niche market for carbon trading

Sunday, 4 April 2010

In a far-flung corner of the Peruvian Amazon, a multinational company aims to offset carbon dioxide emissions from its factories in France by planting thousands of trees which may also provide an income for local communities.
Amid accusations of greenwashing levelled at big firms trying to clean up their image, Nestle Waters France has hired French environmentalist Tristan Lecomte and his carbon management company, The Pure Project, to execute its plan.
Nestle wants to offset the equivalent of all the annual carbon emissions from its Vittel mineral water plants in France and Belgium - about 115,000 tonnes of carbon a year.
In order to do this, it is investing 409,000 euros (550,000 dollars) to fund the planting of a total of 350,000 trees, mostly tropical hardwoods, in an existing project in the Bolivian Amazon and a new one in the jungle of Peru with a view to renewing the same number of trees every year.
For Lecomte it will be working with old friends - cocoa farmers in the remote village of Santa Ana and other communities who live in the dense, high forest alongside the deep brown Huayabamba river, near the town of Juanjui, in Peru's heavily deforested San Martin region, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) from Lima.
It's there where Lecomte already works with small cocoa farmers making fair trade and organic chocolate for Alter Eco, France's number one fair trade brand.
"These farmers are organic, they benefit from fair trade and now they plant these trees so they also fight against global warming," he told AFP standing at dusk in the riverside village of Santa Rosa.
"They are at the forefront of the fight against climate change, they see the change in the weather and they want to fight against it for themselves and their children."
His company, The Pure Project, will pay them one Peruvian Sol (around 30 US cents) for every tree seedling they plant on their farmland which can be any number between 85 to 1,111 per hectare.
Once the trees reach the minimum legal diameter to be cut, they can be harvested by the farmer and sold.
Amid the intense green and the constant thrum of living creatures, the saplings grow at an accelerated rate with dinner-plate sized leaves reaching up to the sunlit cracks in the tree canopy.
Trees grow faster in the Amazon rainforest - the lungs of the planet - than anywhere else in the world, and can reach between six to 12 metres (18 to 36 feet) in just one year.
"Apart from reforesting we're doing business", said Ozwaldo del Castillo, a cocoa farmer with two adult sons and an 11-year old daughter who lives in Santa Ana.
"We may be old when those trees are ready to be cut down but if you think of the next generation, our children and their children will benefit in the future."
But as well as combating climate change and providing a kind of retirement fund for the farmers, the agro-forestry project is a form of sustainable development which can revitalize deforested and unproductive land - the result of slash and burn agriculture.
"Migrants coming from the highlands of Peru on arriving in the Amazon don't know how to cultivate without slashing and burning the plants and trees," Lecomte explained.
"This has a very bad effect on the water resources, on soil erosion, and on biodiversity of course. People's fields are slipping into the river because there are no big trees and their roots to maintain them."
Moreover, the bigger trees such as teak and cedar provide ideal conditions for the smaller cocoa trees which grow best in the shade, while the roots of the bigger trees oxygenate the soil.
The result is that these farmers can double their yield to up to 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) of cocoa beans per hectare per year.
The Peruvian project is awaiting validation by the Voluntary Carbon Standard, or VCS, in July.
The Pure Project is running similar projects in 14 countries with a number of corporate clients including cosmetics firm Clarins, Hugo Boss and French retailer E. Leclerc.
It's ambitious in its vision. It plans to plant up to four million trees in the next five years, which could capture 2.3 million tonnes of carbon over the next four decades. These could be sold on the voluntary carbon market by the company to fund further tree planting.
Despite the despondency which followed December's Copenhagen climate change summit, idealists like Lecomte are undeterred.
He's convinced projects like this are the beginning of a much bigger trend and could also be an important niche market for developing nations like Peru.
"Sustainability is not an obstacle to the growth of big companies, quite the opposite it can be a strategic advantage," he maintains.
Projects like these, he says, work as a form of marketing for companies like Nestle but they also have a real impact on the farmers in the developing world.

Osram drives energy-efficiency efforts by example

(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / April 4, 2010

Rick Leaman assumed the helm of Osram Sylvania in October. As chief executive of the lighting manufacturer, which is the North American operation of Osram GmbH, a subsidiary of Siemens AG, Leaman runs Osram’s consumer, professional, and specialty business units in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Leaman sat down with reporter Erin Ailworth to talk about energy-efficient lighting, the environment, and how he’s adjusting to his new role.

Osram Sylvania is a big player in the lighting world, and the company seems to be using that “street cred’’ to push its customers to become more eco-conscious when choosing among lighting technologies. Why?
Osram Sylvania is the number one lighting company in America. We’re on the forefront of driving energy efficiency. I like to say we’re working on the phase in [of environmentally friendly lights] and we have some exciting new technology available for consumers today. We have the compact fluorescent, which everyone is familiar with. And we’re moving toward LED [light emitting diode] replacements, and we have roughly 20 [types of] LED light bulbs. That’s where the future is going.
The fact of the matter is that lighting provides a great opportunity for energy savings. I see Osram Sylvania clearly leading this transition toward energy-saving products. I see Osram Sylvania’s role as one of educating the consumer and explaining the benefits of these energy-saving alternatives. We can provide better light savings — an impact to their wallet. We can also help save the planet.
The company publishes an annual report about consumer awareness of the lighting industry. How else does the company educate consumers about new, more efficient lighting technologies?
The LED gets a lot of play these days and we’re the number two LED producer worldwide.
With discussions like this we can start getting the word out. It’s important that consumers start to understand what impact lighting has [on the environment]. Some of these large buildings, the electricity bill due to lighting could be upwards of 30 percent of their bill.
We have an opportunity to improve energy efficiency, we have an opportunity to improve the lighting quality, we have an opportunity to do what’s right for the environment.
How is Osram Sylvania implementing those beliefs within the company?
[At Osram Sylvania], we have reduced energy over 22 percent over the last three years. We really push for recycling, trying to get cardboard out of the operation, plastics out of the operation. It starts internally. We are a company that not only provides energy-saving opportunities, we’re also a company that practices, so that in the communities where we work I think we’re a very good role model.
You moved into this position fairly recently. How is it going?
Realistically, I started at the beginning of July [working with predecessor Charlie Jerabek]. It’s a great time to be in the lighting business. There’s a lot of change happening and it’s a good opportunity to drive some energy-efficiency and green activities.
Tell me about your history with the company.
I have been with Sylvania for 25 years, so it goes back quite a while. Right out of college, I was in the steel industry and got caught up in that downturn. And when a lot of things went offshore, I got laid off, and so I was in the job market and I saw this company called Sylvania. And off I went.
What attracted you to the company?
Just the variety of the products and just the different markets that we were able to serve was really quite interesting to me. When I first got out of college, I was an industrial engineer and I did that for three years with US Steel. Then I moved to industrial engineering with Sylvania. Then I got recruited into the sales and marketing group, and that was the beginning of the upward movement.
What did your work at US Steel teach you that you’re now putting to use at Osram Sylvania?
The needs of the hourly worker. Early on in my career, I would say I got a good foundation to understand what motivates people and job satisfaction.

Tereos goes global with starch, sugar and biofuel plans

By staff reporter, 02-Apr-2010

Tereos has combined its European cereal assets with its Brazilian subsidiary and Indian sugarcane business to create Tereos Internacional, and is setting itself up as a leader in starch ingredients, sugar and bioethanol.
The French company has shored up its presence in the European starch market in recent years, as its starch subsidiary Syral acquired in 2007 and subsequently revamped five starch and sweetener plants from Tate & Lyle.
The new company will have its headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Brazilian company, Guarani – in which Tereos Group had a 69 per cent shareholding – will become a wholly-owned subsidiary. Tereos Group, meanwhile, will be a majority shareholder in Tereos Internacional.
The newly-created company has 2009 pro forma sales of US$2.5bn and EBITDA of $366m. There are plans for it to be listed both on the BM&FBOVESPA in Brazil and on the NYSE Euronext in Paris.
The company will serve not only the food and beverage sectors, but also pharmaceutical, animal nutrition and energy industries. It is expected to have a foothold in both developed and developing countries, and to act on opportunities like health and nutrition, and green chemistry – especially in the Americas and Asia.
Philippe Duval, chairman of Tereos’s executive board, said: “Over the past decade, Tereos has become a major player in the sugar and ethanol industry in Brazil and the starch business in Europe. Today, by combining these activities in a new company that will have strong presence in Brazil and in Europe, we are taking a decisive new step to accelerate our growth strategy. This combination will allow us to be a key actor in the rapidly-consolidating food ingredients and bio-energy industries and will position us to be able to conquer new markets.”
Tereos Internacional will be headed up by Andre Trucy, who has previously been CEO of Rhodia in Brazil and of Roquette in France.

What Would Reagan Do About Global Warming?

Roll back the clock to 1987 for an instructive history lesson that will surprise liberals and conservatives alike.
April 4, 2010 at 1:07PM by Jim DiPeso
The problem - Evidence that industrial pollution was tampering with vital workings of the atmosphere.
The scene - Contentious talks taking place in a European capital to negotiate a treaty dealing with the complex problem.
The pushbacks - The problem is not real. Scientists are exaggerating. There is too much scientific uncertainty. Fixing the problem would cost too much and kill jobs.
America's top negotiator had in his hands a confidential cable from the president. The chief executive's instructions were very clear - negotiate the strongest possible treaty. On one point after another, the man in the Oval Office backed up Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department professionals who wanted a good treaty.
Within weeks, the treaty had been concluded, the start of aggressive international efforts to reduce the dangerous pollution. After winning Senate ratification the following year, the president called the treaty a "monumental global environmental achievement."
Obviously, this is not a story about Copenhagen in 2009. We all know how that turned out. The scene, instead, was Brussels in 1987, where an American negotiator taking part in secret talks held a cable from Ronald Reagan instructing him to negotiate a strong treaty to phase out substances depleting the atmosphere's protective ozone layer.
The resulting treaty was the Montreal Protocol. In addition to beginning the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances, the treaty has prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about five years' worth of global carbon dioxide emissions. That's because the ozone depleters also have heat trapping properties that, molecule for molecule, are thousands of times more powerful than CO2.
Greenhouse gas abatement was not the treaty's purpose, but it's worth noting that the Montreal Protocol is keeping the equivalent of 11 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year. That's equivalent to eliminating nearly all U.S. and Chinese CO2 emissions every year.
Pretty impressive. Wait a minute, a skeptic says. Back up. What's that you said? Ronald Reagan pushed for the Montreal Protocol? Surely, he did not.
Did too. The Montreal Protocol was the work of the Gipper. That pains those on the left who don't want to give Reagan credit for anything. It flusters talk radio shock jocks and their Fox News fellow travelers on the right because it confounds their narrative that environmental stewardship is for liberal weenies, not for he-man conservatives.
So, what would Reagan do about climate change?
Of course, no one could say for certain how Reagan might deal with climate change were he president today or what bills he might support.
Still, the Montreal Protocol was an achievement that he took a lot of pride in and it's a useful clue. When faced with mounting scientific concern about ozone depletion, Reagan listened to all sides, weighed the facts, and ultimately sided with the climate scientists who were urging him to take prudent action to safeguard our atmosphere.
Reagan was far more adept at blending principles with pragmatism than Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and their ideologue acolytes would ever acknowledge. His administration worked with Democrats in Congress to finalize 43 wilderness bills that he signed into law, giving the highest level of protection to more than 10 million acres of public lands.
Reagan's EPA - after he brought in the incomparable William Ruckelshaus to clean up the mess left by Anne Gorsuch - ordered a 90 percent reduction in lead in gasoline. Reagan also signed legislation strengthening hazardous waste cleanup programs, safe drinking water standards, and the Clean Water Act.
His record as California governor bears consideration - he established motor vehicle emissions controls, put a scientist in charge of the board setting tailpipe standards, blocked dams on free-flowing rivers, stopped a proposed road across the Sierra wilderness, and negotiated a compact with Nevada to protect and restore Lake Tahoe through tougher land use controls.
Reagan spoke eloquently about the conservative stewardship ethic:
"What is a conservative after all, but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live.... And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live - our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it."

'Green' light bulbs could damage the environment if dumped in landfill

Energy saving light bulbs are threatening to damage the environment as tons of the toxic devices are being dumped in landfill every year.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 8:00AM BST 03 Apr 2010
Councils are failing to heed warnings that chemicals contained in the bulbs are dangerous and must be recycled to prevent them contaminating the ground, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
The EU has already started phasing out incandescent light bulbs and by 2012 all traditional lamps will be illegal.

Instead consumers have to buy more expensive energy-saving bulbs. The new compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs have been criticised for giving off a dim "greenish" light and even causing skin rashes and migraines.
The latest complaint against the 'eco bulbs' is that they are actually damaging the environment because thousands of the bulbs are being dumped in the bin rather than recycled.
A Daily Telegraph investigation found one in four councils are advising consumers to put CFLs in the bin, even though this could risk mercury in the bulbs leaking into landfill.
Campaigners said it was a risk to the environment and called for a collection network at supermarkets to make it easier for consumers to recycle.
CFLs last up to 15 times longer than ordinary bulbs, however there is an environmental price. Each bulb contains around 4mg of mercury, which helps convert the electrical current into light. Although this is barely enough to cover the head of a ballpoint pen, it could be damaging once is escapes into the environment because the heavy metal will build up each time it passes up the food chain. If the lights crack they can also be dangerous to householders or bin men. The boxes already contain warnings to clear a room if a bulb is broken.
But a Daily Telegraph survey of 274 councils found 70 call centres said it was fine to dump light bulbs in the bin. A separate investigation by The Ecologist magazine found three quarters of London Boroughs give incorrect advice.
Although there are no figures for the amount of bulbs going into landfill, there were 15 million CFLs sold in 2003 which will now be coming to the end of their lives. This year 150 million bulbs were sold, so it will be an even bigger problem in the future.
Sam Jarvis, of environmental charity Waste Watch, said many councils are giving out the wrong advice.
"That is not good because bulbs contain mercury – a hazardous waste," he added.
Under EU rules manufacturers face a £5,000 fine if they fail to ensure light bulbs are being recycled. Most fulfill their duty by paying local authorities to collect the bulbs at the local tip and passing on the cost to the customer.
But Mr Jarvis said driving a couple of light bulbs to the local tip will take more energy than it saves.
"What we need is a comprehensive, nationwide system of drop-off points for CFLs similar to the regime now in place for batteries," he said.
Gary Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, said manufacturers not councils should be paying for light bulbs to be recycled.
“By law, it is the people who make and sell energy saving light bulbs who should be paying for their disposal, not hard pressed council taxpayers," he said.
Nigel Harvey, Chief Executive of Recolight, that represents manufacturers, said recycling points are being set up at supermarkets, including Sainsbury's and Ikea, as well as at tips in most council areas.
But he admitted more needed to be done.
"If you get the infrastructure out now, when people's light bulbs do go pop they will know what to do with them. [But] that process takes a long time," he said.

How Amazongate blighted the rainforest harvest for WWF

Billions of dollars in carbon credits are at stake in an Amazonian scheme, says Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker Published: 6:31PM BST 03 Apr 2010
Two weeks ago I reported on what is potentially the greatest global warming wheeze of all – a scheme to claim $60 billion in carbon credits for keeping intact a large chunk of the Amazon rainforest which is not under any threat, The architects of this imaginative project are the environmental campaigners of the WWF and their close ally the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.
Last week a letter to this newspaper from Woods Hole's CEO, William Brown, averred that it was not, as I had said, an "environmental advocacy group" but a "widely respected scientific institution". This is precisely the claim which has been dismissed by, among others, the renowned atmospheric physicist Professor Richard Lindzen, who has more than once emphasised that the Woods Hole Research Center is "an environmental advocacy center, not to be confused with the far better known Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution", a genuinely respected scientific body.

It was a shock claim by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest is threatened by global warming which gave rise to "Amazongate", one of the many scandals lately battering the IPCC, when it emerged that this prediction was based only on a propagandist claim by the WWF, unsupported by any scientific evidence. Mr Brown's letter went on to challenge this, arguing that the WWF's claim was upheld by "several peer-reviewed papers including four published by the Woods Hole Research Center".
It was nothing of the kind. Despite the best efforts of Woods Hole's leading advocate on the Amazon to promote fears that global warming might pose a threat to the rainforest, these were only based on now discredited computer modelling. Various papers from the wider scientific community suggest a very different, much less alarming picture. But if Woods Hole and the WWF fail to promote a concern over a climatic threat to the Amazon, they might miss a chance to share in that $60 billion prize (a figure worked out by Woods Hole itself) for keeping parts of the rainforest just as they are – in what would amount to the most lucrative set-aside scheme that human ingenuity has ever

Our £17bn waste mountain: Annual bill for throwaway Britain

The environmental cost of discarded food and drink is equal to an extra 12.4 million cars on the road
By Susie Mesure and Nina Lakhani
The phenomenal amount of food and drink thrown away in Britain is costing the country £17bn a year, at a time when the economy is still struggling to emerge from the longest recession on record.
An astonishing new report paints the first complete picture of the scale of the UK's waste mountain, which hit 18.4 million tons last year. The figures, which include food, drink and excess packaging discarded by households, distributors, retailers and manufacturers, will increase pressure on the Government to accelerate its long-awaited plans to slash waste.
Wrap, the Government's recycling body that published the report, said the environmental cost is compounding the economic impact. The carbon cost of all that wasted food and drink is equivalent to an extra 12.4 million cars on British roads.
Environmental activists leapt on the figures yesterday, which they said highlighted the Government's failure to focus on waste prevention. Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth's resource use campaigner, said: "Neither the economy nor the planet can afford to foot the bill for the staggering level of waste in the UK food chain. There is not enough talk about prevention, which is where we need to see much greater focus from government and industry. The Government must act on this report across the food supply chain and end its own wasteful and costly obsession with incineration."
The report underlined that households produce the vast bulk of food and drink wasted in Britain, throwing away 11.9 million tons every year, at a cost of £12bn. This is two-thirds of the country's total waste mountain. Manufacturers are the next worst offenders, wasting five million tons annually, with retailers wasting 1.4 million tons and a further 100,000 tons getting lost during the distribution process.
In response to government pressure, retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer are all trying to send less waste to landfill to meet EU targets and avoid hefty fines. Critics believe this focus on landfill is diverting retailers from exerting pressure on suppliers to cut waste throughout the supply chain.
Liz Goodwin, chief executive of Wrap, said the survey would help to focus attention on where the most food and drink are being wasted. But she warned that retailers and manufacturers had to work together to have any hope of reducing the vast vats of unused food and drink, and piles of excess packaging. "We need to improve communication between various parts of the supply chain. For example, if retailers talk to their suppliers, we will be able to get the best outcomes," she said.
While the big numbers concern household waste, Ms Goodwin said there is a lot of potential to reduce manufacturing waste. Some efforts were already working, she added, pointing to a Waitrose initiative to throw away fewer bananas. "Getting them to recognise the need for customers to accept more cosmetically imperfect fruit meant less than 3 per cent of its bananas got wasted in 2008, down from 40 per cent in 2002."
Wrap has also commissioned a number of so-called "food maps", which Ms Goodwin said would spell out exactly where food was being wasted along the supply chain. One example concerns onions: millions were being thrown away because they were not all standard shapes and sizes. "Sainsbury's has now added misshapen ones to its Essentials line, which has had a massive impact," she added.
MPs want the Government to force retailers and manufacturers to reveal how much food their businesses waste annually. They are also calling for retailers with annual sales greater than £50m to publish details of their waste prevention strategies, spelling out their targets to reduce each type of product. Although Wrap also recommended that companies measure waste so they could track their progress in reducing it, the Government last month said it would "not be logical" to isolate retailers.
Wrap's report, written by the consultancy firm Oakdene Hollins using data compiled by the services group DHL, makes the best estimate to date of the amount of food that supermarkets waste. Extrapolating figures from an analysis of one retailer's skip suggests grocers threw away 232,200 tons of food in 2008 – barely down from 291,300 the previous year.
Another shocking example of waste includes a biscuit factory that lost 20 tons of biscuits for every 100-ton batch that it baked. A further six tons were lost throughout the process, including 2.4 tons wasted by filling the packs with more than the stated weight.
The report urged manufacturers to focus on cutting the amount of waste they produce, rather than coming up with imaginative ways to avoid sending rubbish to landfill, which is expensive and environmentally questionable. It admitted this would require companies to overhaul their existing cultures.
But with the cost of inertia so high, Wrap questions whether companies can afford to ignore the findings. "Seventeen billion pounds is a large sum of money to waste and we need to reduce it, especially when times are hard. This is something that businesses will want to do to save money," said Ms Goodwin.
The Food and Drink Federation claimed its members were committed to cutting waste. Andrew Kuyk, the umbrella group's sustainability director, said: "We take problems of waste extremely seriously and have a number of specific commitments on reduction. We are working with our members on initiatives to optimise packaging and reduce food waste, divert materials away from landfill to recovery or recycling and encourage consumers to waste less."
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said its members had cut packaging growth and helped customers to reduce waste by "providing consistent on-pack recycling information, improving recycling facilities and giving out free recipe cards".
More than 40 grocery retailers and manufacturers have signed up to government targets to help householders to reduce the amount of food thrown away by 155,000 tons by the end of this year. In addition, they are trying to reduce packaging waste by 5 per cent. "We can all do our bit to try to reduce the amount of food and drink being wasted," Ms Goodwin added.
Retailers and manufacturers are also working with a London-based charity called FareShare, which redistributes food to those in need. But the report pointed out the tonnages involved were still only a fraction of the total problem with around 3,000 tons redistributed in 2008.
Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, recently wrote to all major UK supermarkets, urging them to provide more support to FareShare, including giving suppliers their "explicit permission" to redistribute supermarket own-brand products.
Ms Goodwin said organisations such as FareShare have a role to play in reducing waste, but she added: "We should be focusing further up the supply chain, to ensure retailers have the right amount of food on their shelves and they are not stocking too much."
The carbon cost breaks down as 10 million tons of CO2 equivalent, from food and packaging waste in the supply chain, and a further 26 million tons of CO2 equivalent, from household waste. A spokesman for the Carbon Trust, which campaigns to cut carbon, said: "Helping people to understand the carbon footprint of the food they buy, cook and throw away is critical to help us all to lead lower-carbon lifestyles. Waste is just one source of carbon emissions from the food we eat."
As well as running its Love Food Hate Waste campaign, which encourages families to use more of the food they buy, Wrap is urging manufacturers to consider using reusable packaging for their products, which consumers can refill. Few have shown willing to try this so far, although Asda is trialling a scheme in five stores to get customers to refill fabric conditioner bottles. But Rob Holdway, who runs the green consultancy Giraffe Innovation, warned that shoppers tended to shun such initiatives, which highlights the need for more action to be taken by manufacturers and retailers. "Consumer appetite for reusable systems seems to be very, very low," said Mr Holdway.
The Government has pledged to bring its proposals to cut waste in line with European Union targets by the end of this year. It has until 2013 to put a waste prevention plan in place, according to an edict from Brussels.
A waste-not-want-not mum: 'Sunday lunch is never just Sunday lunch... the following day, it's Sunday lunch soup'
"How bonkers would it be to come home laden with the supermarket shopping, and to dump one in every three carrier bags straight into the bin? According to one of my smarty-pants kids who's just 'done' food waste at school, that's effectively what we all do every week.
"Of course, we don't just throw the unwanted bags of shopping straight into the bin: no, we neatly decant it into the fridge first. Then we jettison it a week or 10 days later when it's past its sell-by date, terminally wilted or mouldy.
"Having a large family to feed (I've got four kids, and usually they've got at least a friend apiece on the premises, so any meal I cook tends to be for 10 or more) means I've got more incentive than most to make the contents of my fridge go as far as possible. I'm not saying I'm above those terrible moments of realisation when some food that was perfectly good when purchased has to hit the bin, but I do take great pleasure from making my weekly shop work hard, and in not throwing much away.
"Sunday lunch, for example, is never just Sunday lunch... the following day, there's invariably "Sunday lunch soup" (for which read all the leftover vegetables thrown into a big pot with some stock, itself very possibly the result of the chicken carcass), or the surplus mashed potatoes made into fishcakes or bubble and squeak.
"I take huge pleasure, too, in eking out the contents of an almost empty fridge to feed a large gathering. (Huge salads, with endless bits of vegetables thrown in, mixed with a couple of cans of tuna and some hard-boiled eggs, are an excellent standby for an oops-I-forgot-to-shop mother like me.)
Shopping on the day, as every good waste-not-want-not, clued-up, 21st-century citizen knows, is definitely the way forward if we're to cut out the chuck-out. It's tough going, unless you make it part of your keep-fit routine: I work at home, and I don't get enough exercise, so I try to see walking down to the shops to buy the evening meal as a good way to burn off calories.
"Another way forward, though probably less PC, is to simply ignore the sell-by dates (assuming the food isn't actually crawling out of the fridge). My father used to boast he'd never looked at a sell-by date in his life – and even though I once discovered him eating two-week-old double cream, I never recall him having food poisoning. Perhaps sell-by dates are past their sell-by date, and we should all go by my dad's method of checking food by looking at it and sniffing it. If in doubt, don't eat – but most of the time, it's going to be absolutely fine."
Joanna Moorhead

The arrogance of Saint Bob

Geldof may feel he alone put poverty on the global agenda, but I stand by my comments in tomorrow's Starsuckers documentary

John Hilary, Monday 5 April 2010 14.13 BST
Never one to mince his words, Sir Bob Geldof has launched his latest expletive-ridden broadside at the documentary Starsuckers, due to be broadcast tomorrow night on More 4.
In the film, Geldof is accused of undermining the Make Poverty History campaign's attempts to hold G8 leaders to account for the scandal of global poverty. By contrast, Saint Bob now claims that he alone should be credited with putting issues of world poverty on the political agenda, and not the millions of ordinary people who take action on such issues year on year.
I am one of the two senior executives from the Make Poverty History coalition interviewed in Starsuckers, and I understand that I am also named by Geldof in the letter of complaint he has sent to the film's director, Chris Atkins. Let me say from the outset that I stand by what I said in the film. Like many others, I believe that Geldof's involvement in the mobilisations around the G8 undid much of the good work that had been built up over a period of months by people up and down Britain, not to mention the years of campaigning undertaken on these issues by civil society groups across the world.
The Make Poverty History coalition of more than 100 campaign organisations, faith groups and trade unions was formed in recognition of the special opportunity offered by the UK hosting both the EU presidency and the G8 summit of world leaders in 2005. The coalition put together a manifesto that called for a new approach to global poverty based on justice, not charity. We spent months building nationwide support for political action to tackle issues of trade justice, corporate accountability and debt relief, in an attempt to move the debate on from focusing solely on overseas aid. Over the year, many millions of people joined in the campaign.
Although a number of celebrities gave their backing to Make Poverty History, Geldof was not involved with the campaign. News that he was planning a follow-up event to his 1985 Live Aid concerts was kept secret, and we only discovered late in the day that he had chosen to hold the event on the same date as the main Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh had already been planned, just prior to the start of the G8 summit itself.
A quarter of a million people took to the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday 2 July, and tens of thousands stayed for the other events that took place in the lead-up to the G8 summit in Gleneagles the following Wednesday. As predicted, the celebrity-charged Live 8 concerts took away the great majority of the media coverage we had hoped to achieve for the Edinburgh demonstration and its political aims. While others criticised Geldof for failing to feature any African musicians at the main concert in Hyde Park, our main concern was that the challenge to the G8 was completely subsumed in the glitz and glamour of a pop event.
Worse was to come at the final press conference that concluded the G8 summit in Gleneagles. The South African activist Kumi Naidoo acted as spokesperson for Make Poverty History at the press conference, giving the coalition's verdict that: "The world has roared, but the G8 has responded with a whisper."
Geldof turned on Naidoo in front of the assembled media, attacking his statement as "a disgrace" and defending Tony Blair, George Bush and the other G8 leaders for saving millions of African lives. African civil society representatives who had travelled to Gleneagles for the summit went on television afterwards to make public statements dissociating themselves from Geldof's remarks.
The Make Poverty History campaign was not perfect, and many of us have been candid about its shortcomings. Yet Geldof's arrogance is simply in a different league. To suggest that he alone was responsible for creating a mass movement on global poverty is a direct insult to the millions of people around the world who have worked steadfastly for debt cancellation, trade justice, women's rights, workers' rights and environmental sustainability over decades.

South Africa is becoming a high-carbon zone to attract foreign investment

With its proposed Medupi power station, South Africa is an industrialised global climate player and major polluterJohn Vidal on Britain's key vote for the Medupi World Bank loan

Joss Garman, Thursday 1 April 2010 16.29 BST
With its sky-high poverty levels and average life expectancy of just 51 years, South Africa is not a country we generally associate with extravagant binge-flying lifestyles, turbo-consumerism, and shopping trips to New York. How bizarre then that per capita carbon emissions in South Africa are now higher than in many European countries. While most South Africans are unlikely to ever own a plasma screen TV or Hummer, their carbon footprints still appear to be only slightly less than your average Japanese, and their national carbon emissions are now greater than those of France.
The situation becomes more comprehensible when you look at South Africa's industrial base, with 60% of South Africa's electricity being guzzled by heavy industry, and most of that comes from dirty coal. Now this key global climate player wants another coal station that would pollute as much as the two dirtiest plants in Britain put together, and cause a further surge in its national emissions – and they want you to pay for it. Far from benefiting ordinary South Africans, they will also be forced into subsidising this artificially low-cost electricity, for the benefit of multinational mining companies. It's no wonder that African civil society movements are leading the opposition to this development.
South Africa's situation is a case study in one of the major political currents that poisoned last year's UN climate talks. At Copenhagen, major emerging economies hid behind their poor to justify why they shouldn't need to take on legally-binding climate targets. Infuriating western governments, they used a rigid interpretation of the wonky principle known in UN-speak as "common but differentiated responsibility" (CBDR) to argue for more "pollution rights", since they have less historical responsibility for causing the carbon problem and less ability to pay to solve it. Never mind the new carbon-constrained realities on the whole world, these powerful developing countries claimed the right to pollute indefinitely, because (just like their industrialised counterparts), they saw short-term strategic interest in securing the largest possible area of global atmospheric territory. In short, a concept developed to promote equity has turned into an excuse to allow ever increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
Just as Switzerland offers the super-rich the ability to avoid high taxes, and Uzbekistan-presented high-street clothes chains in Europe with cheap child labour in their cotton fields, South Africa and other major emerging economies like China are beginning to exploit the CBDR principle to establish themselves as global havens for the most environmentally destructive industries on Earth. South Africa is effectively setting up shop as a high-carbon economic zone to encourage in foreign companies by freeing them of carbon regulation.
After Copenhagen, the attitude of the most powerful industrialising countries caused much spluttering on the part of western ministers. Ed Miliband was enraged at what he saw as an unfair apportioning of the blame to the industrialised world after the managed collapse of the negotiations, and wrote: "The vast majority of countries, developed and developing, believe that we will only construct a lasting accord that protects the planet if all countries' commitments or actions are legally binding. But some leading developing countries currently refuse to countenance this."
That's why it's so odd that western governments, including our own, now seem determined to egg them on by making a $3.7bn (£2.4bn) World Bank loan to the South African state-owned power company Eskom to help build one of the most polluting power stations in the world. With one hand the government complains about major emerging economies not doing enough to embrace low-carbon development, while at the same time, it directs money that's meant for aid, into dirty coal developments that power the international mining industry.
In fairness, Miliband's comments were clearly directed at China. There was a time last year when climate progressives in the South African government seemed to be his most effective allies in the south. By establishing a reasonable 2020 climate target the South African government positioned themselves in Copenhagen as a bridge between the developed and developing worlds. But in retrospect, with an aspiration to get up to 95% of their electricity from coal by 2025, despite vast untapped clean energy potential, last year's rhetoric looks like a very thin green veneer. Well, either that or the South African government's principled stand has since been quashed by Big Carbon lobbying.
Recognising that a tonne of CO2 from a South African coal plant is just as damaging as a tonne from anywhere else, the White House has signalled they won't offer their support to subsidise the Eksom mega-coal plant in South Africa when it comes up for a vote at the World Bank next week. Yet as the single biggest donor to the Bank, it will be the UK which is likely to get the final say. This offers a key test of whether the climate progressives in our own government can win out.

Edinburgh airport's tree project is trampled by its carbon elephants

Edinburgh airport funding children to plant 500 trees is vastly overshadowed by its expansion and huge carbon emissions

Fred Pearce, Thursday 1 April 2010 12.06 BST
So that's all right then. After almost tripling the number of passengers using its runway over the past 15 years, one of Britain's fastest growing airports has given itself a green makeover. Edinburgh airport is, according to a story on the BBC website last week, to shell out so school children can plant 500 trees in a wood in Perthshire. "Airport in global warming project" is the priceless headline.
"It's a great example of how we can all play a part, however small, in safeguarding the natural environment," said the airport's commercial director Neil Anderson. "However small" is, I think, the operative phrase here.
But Anderson has more. The airport's new £40m departure lounge, set for completion next year, will have "energy efficient lights" (are there any other sort these days?), while "every effort will be made to reduce energy and water use, minimise waste and promote recycling".
Hmm. That is "every effort" consistent with ensuring the departure lounge can up its throughput of passengers from the current 9 million to 14 million by 2013. And that is a down payment on a strategy to have 26 million passengers by 2030, envisioned in the airport master plan.
Edinburgh is following the trick of Manchester International a couple of years ago, using a series of perfectly sensible energy-saving initiatives on the ground to provide a bit of cover for the huge blasts of carbon dioxide and other pollution that its "up, up and away" expansion activities will cause aloft.
Anything, it seems, to avoid discussing the elephants on their runways.
The results can be comic. The energy consultant Entec produced a report for the airport last year on its "carbon footprint". It promised to look at both its direct and indirect emissions. "In choosing which emissions to include," the report says, the airport company EDI "sought to be as comprehensive as possible, including those sources that would be expected to be associated with an airport and activities in EDI's supply chain."
You might imagine that such a comprehensive approach would include the emissions from the flights delivering and removing the airport's "supply chain" of passengers. But it turns out that aircraft emissions only count while they are on the company's tarmac and during the first thousand metres of takeoff and landing. As Forum for the Future said of Manchester airport's green auditing "this jars somewhat". Even so, the planned expansion means that the airport's carbon footprint is set to soar.
A spokesman for the airport said that people are going to fly anyway, so "as responsible corporate citizens, we have a duty to mitigate what we can". Maybe. But even fans of the airline industry argue that we should be taking more short journeys by train. And Edinburgh currently specialises in short flights we could just as easily do by train.
I checked its destination board for flights one day this week. Allowing for a bit of code-sharing, I found 138 flights of which 77, more than half, were to destinations on the British mainland with railway stations.
OK, Edinburgh to Exeter is a long haul on the train. About seven hours. But most of those internal flights are going to London and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
In term of emissions per kilometre travelled, these short flights are especially heavy polluters. Airports that depend on them are environmental pariahs.
I admit I have flown from Edinburgh to London, though I usually catch the train. The most irritating thing is that the railway line out of Edinburgh goes right past the perimeter fence, but there is no station. So air passengers mostly get to the airport by car.
The last airport master plan, revised in 2006, talked grandly about its "commitment to public transport", and boasts that a fifth of its passengers arrive on the bus. A fifth!
But the long-touted Edinburgh airport rail link to get trains from the perimeter fence to the terminal is going nowhere. "Project status: suspended" as its website puts it.
The necessary parliamentary bill received royal assent in April 2007. But the website's last headline was from September 2007: "Following a motion passed in the Scottish parliament the EARL project is to be suspended." Work "will be preserved and archived in a manner which does not close down future options."
"It's cancelled. The Scottish National party decided after the last election here that they had better things to do with the £600m it was going to cost to tunnel under the runway," said the airport spokesman. Certainly the airport's owner BAA, which originally pitched the link as an integral part of the airport's expansion plans, wasn't paying.
There is, it's true, a tram on the way. But it looks like Edinburgh airport is headed for the worst of all carbon footprints: yet more flights to England and yet more cars heading for the airport.
I am in favour of schoolchildren planting trees. I am not in favour of greenwashing airports.

Solar-powered boat Türanor raises hopes of a sun-fuelled future

Makers hopeful that maiden voyage of world's largest solar-powered catamaran will prove that the sun can fuel the world

Kate Connolly in Kiel, Thursday 1 April 2010 11.41 BST

Considering its 85 tonnes and its potential to shape the future of maritime travel, the launch of Türanor was a surprisingly reserved affair. The world's largest solar-powered boat made a gentle plop as it was lowered by a huge crane on to the waters of the Kiel firth in northern Germany today, and triggered the polite applause of onlookers – mainly fishermen and shipyard workers. "We've made it, she's safe, and she floats," whispered its owner, Immo Ströher, with tears welling in his eyes.
But the real challenges for the gleaming white catamaran still lie ahead, as its makers seek to use it to prove that the sun can fuel our world.
Next year, after an intense testing phase, Türanor – the name, inspired by JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, means "power of the sun" – will embark on her maiden voyage, a round-the-world trip during which her two-man crew will attempt to chase the sun in order to capture as much available solar power as possible and navigate her at an average speed of 7.5 knots.
Ströher's granddaughter christened her today by smashing a bottle of champagne against her teak deck, and pronouncing: "May you always have plenty of water under your bows, and sun on your deck."
The 31-metre-long multi-hull vessel, the brainchild of Swiss former ambulance driver Raphael Domjan, is topped by scores of photovoltaic panels, with a total area of more than 600 sq metres, that covers most of the catamaran's surface. Additional panels are attached to outriggers on its starboard, port and stern sections, that can be retracted in stormy weather. The solar energy, which will be stored in the largest lithium ion battery in the world, will power the vessel's silent, pollution-free electric motor.
"The mission of the skippers will be to chase the sun," said Dany Faigaux, a member of PlanetSolar, the Swiss team behind the ambitious project. "Up until now, sailing navigation has involved working with the three parameters of the waves, wind and tide. But we've added two new dimensions – namely, sunlight and the lithium ion battery. It's a completely new form of energy management."
The £16m catamaran – chosen for its energy-saving ability to "slice" rather than "ride" through waves – will store energy in its batteries by day. It can run on its stored energy in the absence of sunlight for around three days at 7.5 knots, the speed of an average oil tanker. At slower speeds it could run for up to 15 days, according to its makers.
Türanor, which will travel along an equatorial route – to take most advantage of the sunshine – will be helped by French meteorologists who will advise the most efficient path along which to steer it according to current conditions and forecasts.
If it is a particularly cloudy day, they might recommend a diversion to sunnier parts, even if the route turns out to be longer. "Its all about maximising its energy efficiency," said Faigaux.
The 34,000-mile journey will take the vessel across the Atlantic, the Panama Canal, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean over a scheduled 160 days. The voyage is intended not so much to revolutionise sea travel – the technology requires the vessel to be as light as possible, so it would not be suitable for heavy container ships – as to prove the under-exploited potential of solar energy.
"We want to be the Phileas Fogg of the 21st century," said 38-year old Domjan, the project's pioneer. "But beyond Jules Verne's dream, our project is meant to serve the environment and to enable solar energy to replace fossil fuels, and to motivate engineers and scientists to develop these technologies," he said. Appropriately, one of the patron's of the project is Jean Verne, the great-grandson of the French author of Around the World in Eighty Days.
"I don't know why no one has tried it before," added Domjan, whose company also boasts what they say is the world's only solar-powered computer server. "But what we want to show is that all the technology that is in this boat is technology you can already find on the market, rather than just in the lab, and all of it can be applied to our normal, everyday lives."
Gerard d'Aboville, his fellow skipper for the forthcoming voyage, is no stranger to maritime challenges, having become the first person to row across the Atlantic Ocean in 1980.
"We'll have to learn a new kind of navigation," he said. "It's very different from any of the other challenges I've faced, which is what makes it so interesting. It's strongly symbolic for the future of solar energy, but I would not dare to say that tomorrow a merchant boat or a passenger plane will be powered by the sun."