Eco News Q2 2021

In This Issue:

  • Editorial:
    • A Quarter of Louder Warnings
    • G7 – Positive Promises
    • Are EVs Good for the Planet?
    • Fighting Water with Water
  • Round Up:
    • Solar Game Changer
    • Carbon-free Steel
    • Out of Plastics Vanilla
    • EV Charging Made Easy

Editorial:

A Quarter of Louder Warnings:  “Our house is on fire!”  “The signs are unmistakable.”  “The science is undeniable.”  “The cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warns that there is now a 40% chance of “the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 C above the pre-industrial level in at least one of the next five years”.  In 2018 the forecast was a 10% chance, in 2020, 20%!   

The USA Centre for Disease Control & Prevention begs the questions does Humanity need to suffer Climate Pain to sting it into action to build back better? The image below shows what sort of impact inaction will inflict on Humanity’s health.  (If you have PowerPoint please use this link for an animated version of the image https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/animatedslideENGLISH.pptx).

Impact of Global Warming on Human Health

Source:  CDC
For better viewing of this image please zoom in 200x.

Is all of that sufficient?  Will Humanity act in time?  COP26 may well be the watershed.

The Climate Change Committee publishes its The Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk report which implies that the UK government is not doing enough. 

The report identifies more than 60 risks and opportunities all fundamental to every aspect of life in the UK, be it our natural environment, our health, our homes, the infrastructure on which we rely, or the economy.  It also states categorically that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a warming planet. It emphasises that people, nature, and infrastructure are already vulnerable to a host of climate impacts, and that that vulnerability will only increase as the Climate Change continues to gain traction.  It is therefore essential that the Government act forcefully now as the longer it takes to address those risks, the higher the costs to the Government and the public.  For more see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbzqRW80w68&t=37s

450 Major Investors, managing more than $41 trillion in assets,(UK GDP = 2.8 trillion) call on world leaders to step up their climate game if they wished to avoid missing out on a wave of clean energy investment.  They asked for detailed road maps to decarbonise pollution-heavy industries and implement mandatory climate risk disclosure requirements. 

Their spokesman said, “Our ability to properly allocate the trillions of dollars needed to support the net-zero transition is limited by the ambition gap between current government commitments and the emission reductions needed to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius.  If we do not meet this challenge and change course immediately, the world could heat in excess of 3-degrees Celsius this century.”  For more see:
https://edition.cnn.com/2021/06/10/investing/climate-change-g7-investors/index.html.

The International Energy Agency publishes Net Zero by 2050, A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.  It warns that global emissions are rebounding sharply as economies recover from Covid-19 and plots the world’s first comprehensive energy roadmap pointing the way for governments to boost clean energy, reduce fossil fuel use, and can create millions of jobs, while raising economic growth and reaching net zero by 2050. 

The “Narrow but Achievable Pathway” to Net Zero

Source:  IEA
Please zoom in to 200x to view this image.

This pathway, the IEA maintains, would bring major benefits for Humanity’s well being and prosperity, and provide an opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.  For more see Net Zero by 2050 – Analysis – IEA 

G7 – Positive Promises:  The G7 meets, lays down a strategic pathway that leaves little doubt that they have understood the warnings, and issues its Climate & Environment communiqué in which it commits to: 

Energy:

  • supporting the development and deployment of renewable energy globally.
  • aligning official international finance with global achievement of net zero GHG emissions no later than 2050 and deep emissions reductions in 2020s.
  • promoting the increased flow of public and private capital away from high-carbon power generation. 
  • supporting a people-centred transition, that will work to create decent employment in the low carbon economy while making energy more accessible, affordable, and cleaner for all communities. 
  • reaffirming the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

Mobility:

  • stressing the urgent need to reduce GHG emissions from the transport sector. 
  • providing investment to research and development in sustainable mobility. 

Innovation:

  • increasing clean energy innovation investments.
  • supporting the launch of a second phase of Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) to strengthen international cooperation to promote increased clean energy technical innovation. 
  • targeting greater levels of innovation funding to lower the costs of industrial decarbonisation technologies, including the use of hydrogen, electrification, sustainable biomass, Carbon Capture, Usage & Storage and synthetic fuels.

Environment:

  • taking urgent action to address the five direct drivers of biodiversity loss, all a result of human activity: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.  
  • championing ambitious and effective global biodiversity targets, including conserving or protecting at least 30% of global land and at least 30% of the global ocean to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
  • leading by example to deliver nature positive outcomes. 

Natural Resources:

  • progressing actions to increase resource efficiency and transition to a circular economy to reduce adverse impacts on environment and reduce resource use.
  • maximising the value of materials through a life-cycle approach, curb biodiversity loss, and support the reduction of pollution from all sources.

Deforestation:

  • Increasing support for sustainable supply chains that decouple agricultural production from deforestation and forest degradation, and other negative impacts on nature.
  • Conserving, sustainably managing, restoring and protecting forests and other ecosystems. 

Ocean Action:

  • Working towards goals which include the global ocean being clean, healthy, resilient, productive, and safe.

Food Loss & Waste:

  • Recognising that one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, and that food grown but never eaten consumes an estimated 250 km3 of fresh water per year and requires an estimated 1.4 billion hectares land area. 
  • Implementing actions to support food supply chains and households to reduce food loss and waste and promote the adoption of sustainable food consumption and production through circular economy.

A comprehensive plan.  They have clearly heard the warnings again.  They now have to prove their commitment with action.  As the G7’s GDP represents over 40% of global GDP and 20% of global emissions; but the G20 accounts for 82% of global GDP and 78% of emissions.  Will the 13 truants adopt the same programme?  COP26 will provide the answer.  They all know that time is running short and “the cost of inaction keeps mounting”.

Are EVs Good for the Planet?  In our last issue we looked at the good and dark side of using the power of the wind to generate electricity.  This time we look at the good and the dark side of the electrification of vehicles.

Our starting point is the basic fact that 24% of global CO2 emissions is created by transport.  The diagram below shows how this is split between its different forms.  The 45.1% given for the Road (passenger) sector converts to show that 11% of total global emissions is the result of the internal combustion engine (ICE) transport which we use.

Global CO2 Emissions from Transport – 2018 base

Electric vehicles (EVs) are seen as the way forward if the Planet is to meet the UN’s target of net zero by 2050. They already feature prominently in the mitigation pathways of some 24 countries who will ban the sale of ICEs within the next few years.  These include Canada, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, UK, and 12 USA states.

The steep decline in the emissions curve shown for passenger cars in the diagram below reflects the result of the global movement towards the electrification of vehicles. 

Global CO2 Emissions from Transport to 2070

Source:  IEA

So, what is this talk about the dark side of EVs?  It can be summed up in a single statement like this one – “making an EV car emits 24 tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalents) compared with 14 tonnes for an ICE vehicle” (Polestar, a Volvo spin-off, September 2020)

If Polestar’s statement is true, then the electrification of transport is certainly not what the Planet needs.  Indeed, experts acknowledge that EVs are not emission free in the early stages of their life, and point to a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which shows that emissions arise at three stages in that life cycle:

  1. The mining of lithium (white gold) for their batteries;
  2. The mining of neodymium for their electric motors; and
  3. The electricity used to charge their batteries.

Stage 1).  Mining lithium is a highly complex processes involving the extraction of the mineral from the ore and converting it into a form which can be used in batteries.  The concentration of lithium in the ore is a mere 0.2%, which means that to produce one tonne entails strip mining and processing 500 tonnes of earth. 

To then remove the lithium from the ore involves crushing it and leaching it with sulfuric acid.  The process can therefore both scar and contaminate large swathes of land and pollute both water and air.

Stage 2).  Those lithium features are compounded by the fact that EV electric motors use (as do wind turbines) neo-magnets, the strongest permanent magnets known to date.  They are made from an alloy including neodymium which is extracted from open cast mined rare earth metal lanthanide by chemical processes which present toxic environmental waste even, the experts say,  if handled responsibly.

In summary, stages 1) and 2) destroy ecosystems and create pollution.

Source: DrPrem

Stage 3).  ICE emissions occur principally during the “use phase” of a vehicle’s life cycle, where its fossil fuel combustion emits on average, some 111g CO2/km.  In this phase the EV’s electric drive emits on average, only 62g CO2/km resulting from the electricity needed to charge its batteries.  (Volkswagen News, April 2019).

The source of the electricity used is fundamental to its emissions performance.  It will be generated using either fossil fuel, some fossil fuel and some sustainable energy, or be from 100% sustainable sources.  That fact means that EV emissions can be mitigated immediately by switching to a supplier of 100% “green” electricity. 

There are many UK suppliers already generating all or a large part of their electricity from sustainable means – see https://www.quantockeco.org.uk/category/news/ for a list.  In addition, the use of one’s own sustainable energy sources (e.g. Solar PV) will also contribute to reducing both emissions and the cost/kWh paid.

As electricity in the UK is being generated more and more by renewables, it is forecast that an EV bought now will be emitting half as much CO2 in 2025 as it does today. 

That is good news, and improves the EV’s environmental credentials; but what about the huge “fixed overhead” of the production processes?  They hang heavily on those credentials and seem to negate the benefits.  How can EVs redeem themselves?  Why have more than 24 countries decided to switch to them?

According to VW’s LCA, an EV generates 57g CO2/km in the extraction of raw materials and battery production stages of its life, while a comparable ICE generates only 29g CO2/km in manufacture.  Both sets of emissions represent the fixed overhead of the vehicle and will be paid for over its lifespan.

A typical passenger car has an average life of 12 years and 200,000 miles before going to scrap.  As their technology is perfected, EVs have the potential to last longer and cover many more miles.  With fewer moving parts there will be less maintenance and a longer lifespan. 

In July 2018, says the Car Care Council, “Tesloop, a Tesla taxi company, announced that one of its Model S cars had passed the 400,000-mile mark, and the company says it expects the car to last another 600,000 miles”.

While Dr. Iain Staffell, lecturer in Sustainable Energy at Imperial College says “A typical driver filling their car up once a month and driving around 7,500 miles per year, will produce one and a half tonnes of CO2per year in a modern petrol or diesel hatchback.  An electric vehicle doing the same mileage would take 4 years to produce that amount.”

Depending on the type of EV the diagram below serves as an indicator of how many miles should be done over its lifetime if it is to benefit the Planet. 

Miles to Recover CO2 Emissions by Model

Source:  drax.com – August 2019

So, the EVs great advantage over ICEs is its lower variable emission cost over its greater longevity.  That is the justification for buying one. 

If mining companies seek to restore the swathes of vegetation and top soil removed, and find non-toxic ways of processing REEs, that would be of definite benefit.  Those who talk about mining the seabed because the destruction will not be observed, should be stopped forthwith.

Much work is being done on the recycling of EV batteries, which may well be replaced by hydrogen fuel cells within this decade, when a different, more Planet friendly set of factors will arise.  Nevertheless Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, is  right when she said last month that “Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realising those ambitions.”

Fighting Water with Water:  This article has been written by Hannah Bailey, Engagement Officer of the Two Valleys – Slow the Flow project.  This is a project which QE fully supports, in which have taken part and in which we wish to continue to participate.  QE has acted as the catalyst for many leads followed through successfully by the Project Manager.  The work being done by WWT fits in very well with our wish to help to reduce emissions while benefiting our communities.

Fighting Water with Water
Helping to prevent flooding in West Somerset using wetlands and other natural solutions

Over the last three years The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the UK’s leading wetland charity, has been working around the Monksilver and Doniford streams on naturally helping to prevent flooding through the Two Valleys Slow the Flow project. 

Here WWT, funded by the environment agency, has been working with the community and local landowners to identify and implement natural flood management (NFM).  Natural flood management is an approach that uses natural ways such as wetland creation and tree planting to hold back and slow down the flow of water before it reaches and potentially floods properties and businesses.

The first three years of the project have been a great success resulting in:

  • NFM solutions delivered on 27 different farms and pieces of land in private ownership with a further 8 projects in development in the area.
  • Land management advice was provided by The Farming and Wildlife Advisory group (FWAG) SW to 20 farmers in the Monksilver and Doniford steam catchment on a total of 90 fields. 
  • To help slow the flow:
    * 80m of elevated hedge bank has been created at three sites.
    * 3,668 native hardwood trees were planted at 15 sites.
    * 1091m of livestock fencing has been erected at five sites.
    * Twenty cross drains have been built at five sites to reduce the runoff and pollution issues.
    * Soil condition and flood hotspot surveys of 90 fields across 20 farms, with soil husbandry advice and mitigation recommendations.

Reflecting its success, the project recently received a further year’s funding through the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.  This enabled WWT to employ two new members of staff; Bryony Wilde, the new Project Manager and Hannah Bailey as Engagement Officer.  The final year of the project running until March 2022 is being called Parish NFM as WWT aims to work with local communities to understand how they can successfully handover the project and reduce future flooding in the area, Engagement Officer Hannah Bailey said:

‘We would love to work with communities in Bicknoller, Stogumber, Elworthy and Sampford Brett to give local people the skills and confidence to be able them to continue implementing natural flood management practices independently once the project is over.  “Using local knowledge we want to develop flood risk maps of the area so communities can identify where to implement natural flood management strategies to help protect people and businesses from flooding downstream.”

Over the next year WWT aims to establish key action flood groups in the areas of Sampford Brett, Elworthy, Stogumber and Bicknoller and offer communities opportunities to attend workshops about natural flood management. They will also be running community events such as wildlife monitoring workshops and tree planting days.  A full schedule of events will be released later on in the year and published by QE, as well as being on WWT’s website (www.wwt.org.uk) and social media channels Facebook @WWTworldwide and Instagram (wwtworldwide).  Please note Parish NFM is currently working in Bicknoller, Elworthy, Sampford Brett and Stogumber.

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a charity working to save wetlands globally and in the UK for wildlife, people and our planet.  Find out more at wwt.org.uk.

Here are a few illustrations of the work done:


A cascade of woody dams at Lower Vellow will slow the flow of water and improve in stream habitat.

Woodland planting on floodplains: These native hardwood trees will develop into a wet woodland, one of the UK’s rarest habitats.

Round Up

Solar Game Changer:  Solar energy is poised for what could be its biggest transformation in over half a century with British technology.  A group of materials called perovskites are being used to create the next generation of solar panels, which could be twice as efficient as current models, and flexible enough to wrap around entire buildings! 

For more see https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/14/energy/solar-energy-perovskites-spc-intl/index.html.

Carbon-free Steel:  The unique pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden, is a first step in decarbonizing the steel industry, which today counts for 7% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

For more see World’s first fossil-free steelmaking starts in northern Sweden | The Independent Barents Observer (thebarentsobserver.com)

Out of Plastics Vanilla:  Scientists convert used plastic bottles into vanilla flavouring.  Joanna Sadler, of the University of Edinburgh, who conducted the new work, said: “This is the first example of using a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical and it has very exciting implications for the circular economy.”

For more see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/15/scientists-convert-used-plastic-bottles-into-vanilla-

Fight Climate Change with Trees:  The threat we all face from climate change hasn’t gone away. And trees remain our strongest warriors.  To take part please go to How Trees Fight Climate Change – Woodland Trust

We welcome discussion, so please let us have your views via email at quantockeco@btinternet.com.

For more on Quantock Eco, please go to our website www.quantockeco.org.uk and join our Facebook group on https://www.facebook.com/groups/331095730922655.

Stay safe.

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