The government's green plan, plastic pollution and fracking - our environment and climate change news round-up

Plastic pollution in the ocean

So what has kept you busy this week? Getting used to writing 2018 instead of 2017, starting a new job or planning your summer holiday? Whatever your reason, if you have struggled to keep up with this week's environment and climate change news, here is what you missed...

This week Theresa May set out the Government's 25 year Green Plan. The plan sets out a vision to tackle plastic pollution, improve life for British wildlife, boost biodiversity, protect marine life, improve our soil and set up a watchdog to ensure this all happens. Environmental groups have been quick to publish their reactions to the plan and today's Ecojam UK Daily is full of articles outlining their points. Here at Ecojam UK we have read many of these articles and the overriding opinion is that it is great to see so many challenging environmental issues being raised by the government but it is worryingly unclear how the vision will be brought to reality. The proposals are too vague and the timeframe is too long. Greenpeace UK's executive director, John Sauven, summarises these concerns well by saying the British environment “needs a 25-month emergency plan more than it needs a 25-year vision”. 

So what else did the headlines tell us?

It was a good week for anti-plastic campaigners as a ban on microbeads finally entered force in the UK. Campaigners have long been citing a need for a ban on these tiny beads of plastic which are harmful to marine life. The ban initially covers the manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads. A ban on sales will follow in July. According to TreeHugger other countries, including Canada, have also banned or are planning a ban on microbeads. 

 It was a bad week for anti-fracking campaigners as West Sussex County Council gave fracking firm, Cuadrilla, the green light to test for oil at Balcombe. Balcombe was the site of the UK's biggest anti-fracking demonstrations when the company first applied for a licence. In 2013 Caronline Lucas, Green party co-leader, was arrested during the protests. Balcombe Paris Council voted against the application and believes that locals are against the county council's decision. Lucas believes the decision to be “bad, bad news”. This news comes in the same week that petrochemicals giant Ineos announced plans to launch a legal challenge against Scotland's fracking ban. This same company is being accused of misleading the public over fracking in Sherwood Forest.

In other news

Scientists studying sea turtles have discovered that climate change is turning 99 percent of the studied baby sea turtles female. The sex of these sea turtles is influenced by the temperature outside the egg rather than genetics. So rising ocean temperatures are causing more female baby sea turtles than male. This will have a devastating effect on future sea turtles populations.

Experts are warning that a drop in mayfly numbers observed at many English rivers could be the 'tip of the iceberg' warning of a serious decline in insect numbers which could lead to 'ecological armageddon'. A new study found that modest pollution levels in rivers can kill up to 80% of mayfly eggs.  Only 17% of English rivers currently hold “good ecological status”. 

New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has announced plans for New York City to divest from fossil fuels.The goal is for the £140bn currently held in pension funds to be divested from fossil fuels over the next 5 years. He has also filed a lawsuit against 5 major fossil fuel companies for damages caused by the impacts of climate change. 

Some light relief

The Scottish Government has announced plans to become the first country in the UK to ban plastic cotton buds. Cotton buds, which are regularly flushed down the toilet by consumers, often end up on beaches where they pose a threat to marine and bird life. It is thought that a ban would cut the countries marine plastic pollution by half.

After receiving ridicule on social media for it's use of excessive packaging (and inflated price tag) M&S will no longer be selling cauliflower steaks. These 'steaks' consisted of slices of cauliflower wrapped in plastic packaging with a separate sachet for 'drizzle'. Shoppers called the product 'wasteful' and expensive (double the price of a whole cauliflower!).

India, set to be the world’s third largest car market within five years, has announced plans to sell only electric vehicles by 2030

And our photo of the week this week is this one of a tiny purple beetle meeting an ant.

What actions can you take?

Here are our top tips on actions you can take this week.

Tips for a zero waste lifestyle
With all the headlines about plastic pollution and recycling rates you may be considering a zero waste lifestyle. Whilst scanning the headlines this week we found a couple of articles which might help you to succeed. The first, from Lindsay Miles at Treading My Own Path, sets out 5 mistakes that beginners make when going zero waste + plastic free. Hopefully these tips will inspire you to get going on your journey and help you to avoid some common mistakes. The second, from TreeHugger, offers advice on how to avoid using paper towels – in the bathroom, in the kitchen, while cleaning and on your travels.

Are you living in a pollution hotspot?
If you are worried about air pollution where you live you can now find out how clean the air is with a postcode checker which will rate your area from 1 (good) to 6 (heavily polluted). According to the study Marylebone Road and Hyde Park Corner, both in central London, have the most polluted postcodes in Britain.

Stop fracking - ask the Energy Secretary to prevent fracking
If you are saddened by the fracking news outlined above why not take action and let the government know that you do not support fracking. Friends of the Earth are currently gathering support for their petition which asks the Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, to refuse fracking permission.

Plastic pollution: Household items to look out for
Following the microbeads ban, the Independent asks the question 'what else in your house is ruining the environment?'. Check out the article and see if there are any items you could be avoiding or replacing with plastic free alternatives.

For more tips visit the Ecojam News page for our new series of blogs 'Green living tips to prevent climate change'.

Thanks for reading and remember to come back again next week for  the next round-up of green and ethical news.

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Date published: Friday 12th January 2018