Eco News Q1 2023

In this Issue

  • Events of the Quarter:
    Net Zero 2040
    UN Biodiversity & Ocean Conferences
  • Forthcoming Events:
    28th April – QE AGM & talk “Climate Crisis! – Paradise Lost
    30th June – Putting Wildlife on the Map
  • Editorial:
    ESG is Woke Capitalism
    What is Good About the IRA?
    Slowing the Flow 
  • Recent Events:
    Talk – “Community Green Spaces”
  • In Case You Missed It:
    Arctic to Antarctic in an EV!     

Events of the Quarter

Net Zero 2040:  The IPCC 2023 Report was released on the Spring equinox.  Its 2022 report was heralded by the UN Secretary General as a “red code for humanity”.  On this occasion he described the report as a “survival guide for humanity”.

The urgency in that warning was stark– all countries have to bring their net zero targets forward by a decade.  We are now no longer talking about Net Zero 2050, but Net Zero 2040.

In essence the report says there is a more than 50% chance that global temperatures will reach or surpass the Paris COP 15 target of 1.5º C before 2040. 

It also held out the prospect that depending on how quickly or slowly we leave the current high emissions pathway, the Planet could hit that threshold sooner.

Ironically, the day after this warning was issued there was no mention of it in the newspapers!  There was of Putin fawning over Xi, cruise missiles destroyed by Ukraine, a corrupt Met police force, Boris’s partygate trial, etc.  Are we not too focussed on the short term?

For more information see:  UNSDG | New UN Report offers a ‘survival guide for humanity’ in the face of climate change

The UNs 30×30 Treaty – Signed!:  Just before Christmas, and too late for our Q4/2022 edition, 188 UN member states signed the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) treaty, which aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and protect Indigenous rights.  

This was followed in March by the UN Ocean Conference 2023, where maritime nations also agreed to protect marine biodiversity in international waters.

Both treaties are very good news and another indication that the Planet is waking up to the existential threat on its doorstep.  Their plans include concrete measures to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by putting 30% of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030.

The treaty could not have been more timely, as human activity continues to provoke a dangerous and rapid decline in plant and animal species.  In fact, over one million species are now said to be threatened with extinction.

Source:  WWF Living Planet Index 2022 – 69% decline since 1970
For better viewing of these data please zoom in 200x

The objectives to be achieved by 2030 are:

  • Conserve and manage effectively at least 30 per cent of the world’s land, coastal areas, and oceans.  Currently only 17% of land and 8% of marine areas are under protection.
  • Restore 30 per cent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
  • Reduce loss of areas of high biodiversity importance and high ecological integrity.
  • Halve global food waste.
  • Scale up positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
  • Mobilise at least $200 billion per year from public and private sources for biodiversity related funding.
  • Raise international financial flows from developed to developing countries to at least US$ 30 billion per year.
  • Require transnational companies and financial institutions to monitor, assess, and disclose risks and impact of their operations on biodiversity and supply chains.

However praiseworthy the treaty sounds, the reactions to it have been mixed.  The Vice-President of the British Ecological Society commented “It is essential that governments are held to account on the new targets.  Concerningly this is more difficult due the vague wording of some of the targets.” 

Nevertheless, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the treaties provide a “good foundation” for global action on biodiversity and added that the world “now has a roadmap to protect and restore nature”; while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it meant a “peace pact with nature” had now been forged.  He urged all countries to deliver on their commitments.

Forthcoming Events

QE’s AGM & Talk:  On Friday 28th April at 7 pm in Crowcombe Village Hall, we shall have our first face to face AGM in two years.  It will be a short business-like meeting with a large part settled online beforehand, and will be followed by complimentary drinks and bites to which everyone is invited.

After that pause there will be a talk, “Climate Crisis – Paradise Regained”, to be given by Julian Anderson. 

Now long retired, Julian spent 44 years in business (Finance, Marketing and General Management) and worked in various parts of the world for British and American multinationals, and himself.  He was Quantock Eco’s founding Chairman (2010) and has been a Parish Councillor twice (2007 and 2019). After many years on QE’s Board he will relinquish his leadership roles at this AGM. He is a keen tennis player and gardener and has opened his garden for charity on several occasions.

The talk will analyse the problem of Climate Change using the dialectic.  It will consider what Paradise is, how Mankind is changing it, and what might be done to ensure that the threatened crises are resolved before they take their toll.

Putting Wildlife on the Map – Citizen Science in Action:  This event will be held in Crowcombe Village Hall on 30th June at 7 pm.  The speaker will be Elizabeth Atkinson.

Elizabeth has had a life-long passion for wildlife and the natural environment.  She now combines these interests with her professional skills in education and community engagement to lead Somerset Wildlife Trust’s “West Somerset Wildways” wildlife mapping project.

The event will explore the wonders to behold when we take a close-up look at the nature around us, and show how a new citizen science project, West Somerset Wildways, is helping to put our local wildlife on the map.


“ESG is Woke Capitalism”:  Surely those who take this critical view of Environmental, Social, Governance are mistaken?  It seems eminently sensible, does it not, that investments be judged not only on the basis of risk and return, but also on their impact on the Planet’s biodiversity and resources.

For many, ESG provides a sound, helpful framework for governments, companies, and individuals to consider all three criteria when making investment decisions – risk, return and impact.  To poo-poo it as “woke” is baffling.  It indicates a willingness to continue with degenerative, extractive policies that only increase the existential threat with which Climate Change presents us. 

So how does ESG help push back that existential challenge?

  • The “E” is for ESG’s Environmental framework.  It ensures that corporate investments minimise emissions and pollution; that material use is minimised or recycled, not wasted; and that their impact on water, land, forests, and biodiversity is minimal.  Its standards help investors restore our much-depleted Nature.
  • The “S” is for ESG’s Social framework and refers to the impact of investment decisions on values, policies and practices concerning human rights, diversity and inclusion, and supply chain management.  This benefits both financial stakeholders and society.
  • The “G” is for its Governance framework which helps ensure that investments are managed in an ethical, transparent, and accountable way.  This makes for efficient, sustainable control of resources.

In short, ESG standards focus on how investment decisions affect people, processes, and Planet. They question whether decisions are environmentally friendly; whether they are people just; and whether they are ethical.  Such standards build trust for investors and lay down a clear pathway to a regenerative global society capable of mitigating Climate Change. 

The word “woke” is of course American slang.  It is defined as “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”; but is often “used in contexts that suggest someone’s expressed beliefs are not backed with genuine concern or action”. 

In that latter sense it may also refer to “greenwashing” – an attempt to make people believe that you are doing more to protect the environment than is really the case.  There is also term “green hushing” where known environmental impacts are not disclosed.  Some may use ESG to greenwash or green hush, but that does not mean that ESG’s objectives are woke.

Far from it.   It is now being adopted by capital markets as a means of evaluating organizations and their future financial performance.  Investors, regulators, consumers, and employees are increasingly demanding that companies not only be good stewards of the capital invested in them, but also that they should have a clear framework in place to protect the Planet’s natural and social assets.  

To brand ESG as “woke capitalism” is to fail to recognize that powerful tide of change.  Investors are beginning to understand that year on year GDP growth ignores the fact that we live on a single Planet.  There are simply not enough resources to satisfy such continuous demand.  To avoid tipping points with irreversible consequences, a change in our mindset and lifestyle is necessary.  ESG is a most important part of that change.

Be warned!  Those who think ESG is woke ignore the global paradigm shift that is taking place and requires all businesses to report on and prevent adverse impacts on the environment and human rights.  The EU has launched its Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which lays down obligations for large companies to carry out due diligence to identify and address adverse environmental and human rights impacts.  In the US the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is in the middle of a hot debate to do much the same. 

The die is cast!

What Good in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act?:  It motivates with cash and provides a pathway that all governments wishing to parry Climate Change might follow.  It changes mindsets, scales up production, lowers prices and sets in motion the sought-after set of Planet conscious values.

The IRA takes top prize as a means of doing that.  It has transformed the US from laggard to leader in energy transition policy.  It aims to cut carbon pollution dramatically, lower energy costs substantially and create American jobs by offering $370 billion in tax credits to:

  • Help stimulate, support and scale up the use and supply of clean energy technologies.
  • Boost the mining of critical minerals needed to power the transition off fossil fuels (China controls 80% of global supplies).
  • Refurbish old factories and build new ones if devoted to clean energy.   
  • Spur domestic production of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines.
  • Set the United States up to compete effectively in the global clean energy market.
  • Create millions of clean energy jobs in the USA.
  • Help low-income communities suffering disproportionately from fossil fuel pollution. 

It also introduces escalating “fees” for oil and gas companies according to the level of emissions they create, and raises the royalties they pay for oil and gas produced on Federal land.

It is seen as the biggest driver of emissions reductions ever, and an excellent accelerator for the use and development of renewable energy technologies. 

It is a template which other governments should use in their own countries.  Some initially objected to it as it entices their own investors to set up in the USA rather than at home.  The EU has responded with its own substantial Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Editorial Note:  Since writing this piece, Biden has blotted his copybook by signing off the $8 Bn Willow oil project in Alaska.

The photographs and text in this section are by Emma and Charlie Pascall who took part in the WWT’s Two Valleys Natural Flood Management project, – a scheme promoted by QE.  The aim was to slow the flow, reduce soil loss and flooding downstream by planting trees, establishing retention ponds, and installing woody dams upstream. 

Slowing the Flow: This first set of photographs show woody dams slowing the flow in the streams.  This evens out the flow downstream after heavy rain and so reduces the chances of flooding.  They also trap sediment which reduces soil run off into the sea and provide habitat for more aquatic life.

This second set shows ponds which are fed from streams by diverting a proportion of their flow.  This evens out the flow reducing the chance of downstream flooding.  They also provide a valuable habitat for birds, aquatic plants, and numerous small aquatic animals.

Recent Events

This resumé has been written for QE by member Sam Westmacott, who has also had it published in the Free Press, the County Gazette, and the Western Morning News. 

Community Green Spaces:  On Friday 17th February ex-diplomat Roy Osborne introduced us to the Stowey Green Spaces Group, a small community organization which leads the way in community response to Climate Change. 

The power of communities to positively impact on climate change was the focus of a talk Roy Osborne, gave to Quantock Eco last week.  As the chair of Stowey Green Spaces Group, he described how Stowey Woods, a forgotten mess of woodland behind Nether Stowey has been transformed.

It was a wild tangle of ancient woodland with oaks, ashes, silver birch and chestnuts until 1970 when the Forestry Commission cleared part of it.  The Sitka Spruce and Scots pines they planted blocked out the light, so nothing grew, and the wildlife moved out.  It became a dark unfriendly place.

Photographs by Terry Abbiss

For the Millennium, the group planned to plant a small new wood to celebrate and nurture the environment at Stowey Rocks Farm.  The children grew seeds at school and just under half a hectare was planted with their saplings.  Terry Abbiss and others created a second small wood.  Roy Osborne who had recently retired from the Foreign Office volunteered to help.

The new wood was planted between the new Millennium and Stowey Woods to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee. These new woods encouraged Nether Stowey to consider the state of Stowey Woods and evolve a management plan.

As the land was owned by Somerset County Council, Nether Stowey needed permission before doing anything.  The Council responded positively.  Under Roy’s leadership, the community applied for permission, started looking for funding, and the man and horsepower they needed for the major task of revitalising the wood.

Bridgwater College students began the massive job of cutting down the Sitka and pine which was sold for around £1000.  Kate Mobbs Morgan brought her Ardennes draught horses and a Shire Horse down from Monmouthshire to do the haulage.  Volunteer groups from all over Sedgmoor responded to Nether Stowey’s requests for help.  Since 2015 over a hundred of volunteers have formed working parties to clear away brambles, brash and gradually plant native trees. 

They also dammed a stream running through the woods to slow it down so pools formed, where frogs are now spawning.  Flowers began to carpet the woodland floor again.  Wild life returned.  Foxes, rabbits, badgers and roe deer are seen there regularly.  Last summer the woods were full of birds and butterflies fussing around the massing wild flowers.  The three woods are connected by a circular path which offers dog owners, bird watchers and walkers about an hour long walk.  A well-kept public footpath from the village leads to the edge of the Millennium Woods, where the walk begins.

Stowey Green Spaces is licensed by Somerset County Council to manage the woods.  Roy Osborne stressed regular working parties are needed when he was thanked by Ian Myers Trustee and co chairman of Quantock Eco.

If you would like more information contact,uk 01278 732311. 

In Case You Missed It:  Driving from the Arctic to the Antarctic in an EV!

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