Thursday, 23 April 2009

Budget announcements on the environment receive mixed reactions

Yesterday's UK budget announcements from the Chancellor Alistair Darling include a number of environmental ingredients, but do not amount to a "green budget", according to many environmentalists. However, it is the first time a Chancellor has set a budget for carbon with a "legally binding" target.

The government will spend £1 billion on supporting low carbon businesses. They will aim for greenhouse gas emission cuts of 34 percent by 2020, short of the 42 percent target with respect to 1990 levels recommended by the government's advisory climate committee. NGO's such as Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid and the New Economics Foundation have criticised the target announcement as not bold enough to ensure the UK reaches the 80 percent cut in emissions needed by 2050.

There is a promise of £435 million for energy efficiency improvements including £100 million for local authorities to spend on better insulation. In addition the government has announced £5 billion is to be spent on renewables, particularly wind farms and solar PV, pronouncements welcomed by the BWEA and Solar Century, amongst others. Between 2011 and 2014, £525 million will be spent on offshore wind farm to power 3 million homes.

A few other measures are of note to local sustainable energy schemes such as Ashden Award winners in the UK: £45m to small-scale domestic renewables; £25m to community heating schemes and £65m in loans to public sector organisations for improving energy efficiency.

According to Simon Brammer, UK programme manager for the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy: "This is no green budget but it does represent some progress towards a more low carbon economy. We welcome the announcement of support for energy efficiency, for small scale domestic energy, community heating schemes and for renewable energy as a step in the right direction. We hope the support for green technology will help bring more green jobs and the boost the confidence of private investors enough to really scale up the success of many of our winners."

Read more:
- Richard Black analysis on the BBC
- Louise Gray in the Telegraph
- Terry Macalister in the Guardian

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Visiting Fruits of the Nile in Uganda

This is a guest post from Adam Brett.

I recently returned from an interesting trip to Uganda with organic expert, Dr Julia Wright of Garden Organics to visit some of our projects. One of these is a small solar-drying fruit company called Fruits of the Nile, a 2008 Ashden Award winner. We are currently assisting them in their transition to Organic and Fair Trade certified production for all of their products. We are also exploring whether Fruits of the Nile can diversify to include solar-dried berry products in their repertoire.Depending on weather conditions, Fruits of the Nile are hoping to export between two to four tonnes of chewy bananas this month and they continue to dry and export pineapples. We discussed the possibility of growing and drying berry products also. During the trip we saw and tasted both strawberry and Chinese gooseberry (also know as Physalis or “golden-berry”) which we think could be scaled up by Fruits of the Nile for little cost. Julia also thought the growing conditions in Uganda could be good for growing blueberries. We discovered that the drying ratios for berries are higher than expected: 4.5 kilos of golden berries yield 1 kilo dry weight, with the ratio only slightly lower for strawberries. This means farmers will need to grow less than they do currently for pineapple. It will also be easier to solar dry the berries than it is for other crops because they can be held for ripening after harvesting more easily.We travelled to Western Uganda to meet the farmers we work with and see how they cultivate strawberries. I also wanted to show Julia the range of available growing conditions in Uganda. We found golden-berries growing wild in a number of banana plantations, and several farmers experimenting with strawberry cultivation for the local fresh market.
We agreed to go ahead with trial cultivation of berries in the Central region which has the best conditions for these crops – it is hot enough for drying and there are good cultivation conditions. We selected a possible family farm that we have worked with as a good potential site for initial trials.
We are encouraging Fruits of the Nile to chase up the organic certification, which is taking some time to process although they are at the very final stages. For the time-being the existing stocks of pineapple are “organic in conversion”, waiting on the final approval of organic certification and they can become organic as soon as the certificate arrives.

In the short term we have decided to prepare a berry cultivation manual for Fruits of the Nile and local farmers and review the cultivation requirements for growing berries before we begin. Despite the problems that the global recession is inevitably causing for these local farmers, like so many others, we found the staff to be positive and doing their best to adapt to the prevailing conditions.

Adam Brett is Managing Director of Fulwell Mill in Sunderland, UK. He sits on the judging panel for the Ashden Awards, but stood down from this during 2008, when Fruits of the Nile applied.

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Friday, 17 April 2009

World Bank 2009 Global Development Marketplace

The World Bank's 2009 Global Development Marketplace is now accepting proposals on Climate Adaptation.

Visit their website at, available in English, French and Spanish.

The Development Marketplace is a competitive grant program administered by the World Bank. The 2009 global competition is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and additional DM partners. It aims to identify 20 to 25 innovative, early-stage projects addressing climate adaptation. The DM is a unique opportunity to turn your idea into reality; if selected your project could receive up to US$200,000 in grant funding for implementation over two years.

The competition focuses on three sub-themes:
1) Resilience of Indigenous Peoples' Communities to Climate Risks
2) Climate Risk Management with Multiple Benefits
3) Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management

Who can apply? Non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, foundations, academia and development agencies based in the country of implementation may apply without additional partners. All other groups must partner with at least one organization; the type of partnership varies across types of applicants. Individuals cannot apply. Click here for more details on partnerships and eligibility criteria or check the guidelines, available in English, Spanish and French.

How to apply? All proposals must be submitted online. Proposals must be submitted through the DM online application form available on the DM website. Only proposals received before May 18, 2009 6 p.m. EST (22:00 GMT) will be considered.

How will the proposals be selected? Proposals will be selected through a rigorous selection process. Click here for information on the selection process and assessment criteria.

Questions? Please contact

The application deadline is May 18, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. EST (22:00 GMT).

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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Costing the Earth: A Burning Solution

Dick Bradford, of Barnsley MBC (an Ashden Award winner), and Mike Pepler, Technical Manager at the Awards (and also a woodland manager) were both interviewed for the recent episode of Radio 4's Costing the Earth programme, "A Burning Solution", which talks about the use of biomass fuel.

It’s repeated on Thursday 16th April 2009 at 13:30 and you can listen online here:

This is also in the news, as the Environment Agency’s recent “Biomass: Carbon sink or carbon sinner” report has been mentioned, although in the main BBC news it is reported with the headline “Biomass 'worse than fossil fuels'”, when in fact the report only said this was the case if nitrogen fertilisers were used to grow trees and/or the biomass was moved a long distance - neither of which Dick or Mike do in their work with wood fuel.

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Monday, 6 April 2009

UK wind farm investment cut

Some concerning news out last week, reported in both The Times:

Britain’s ambition to become a global leader in renewable energy suffered a major setback last night when the world’s biggest investor in wind power said that it was slashing its investment programme.

The announcement comes less than two months after ministers backed a string of huge gas-fired power stations, prompting concern that the Government cannot fulfil its promise of a green energy revolution.

Iberdrola Renewables’ decision to cut its investment in Britain by more than 40 per cent, or £300 million — enough to build a wind farm powering 200,000 homes — is the latest obstacle to Gordon Brown’s target of generating 35 per cent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Lifting it to that level from the current 5 per cent would cost an estimated £100 billion. But wind energy investments have collapsed as funding dries up in the credit crunch and the price of oil, gas and coal has fallen. Delays obtaining access to the national grid and planning permission have compounded the industry’s woes.

and The Telegraph:

It came a day after Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Minister, angered rural campaigners by saying opposition to wind farms is as socially unacceptable as failing to stop at a zebra crossing.

His comments were made at the screening of a new climate change documentary, The Age Of Stupid, in London.

He said: "The Government needs to be saying, 'It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area – like not wearing your seat belt or driving past a zebra crossing'.''

His comments came as a report by a coalition of countryside campaigners said the expansion of wind farms threatened some of Britain's most scenic countryside.

However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds this week called for a vast increase in the number of wind farms in the UK after a study found far more could be built without damaging wildlife.

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