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Updated 2018-06-25 03:17
Len McCluskey at odds with Corbyn over Heathrow expansion
Union boss and Corbyn ally urges all Labour MPs to back expansion ahead of third runway voteLen McCluskey has written to all Labour MPs urging them to back Heathrow expansion on Monday, a move that puts the head of the Unite union directly at odds with Jeremy Corbyn.He said they had “the opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs” by backing the government’s decision to build a third runway. Continue reading...
Ofgem appoints economist Martin Cave as chairman
Decision comes as regulator prepares to impose price cap on energy billsA champion of price caps and a critic of suppliers’ behaviour has been chosen to lead the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem.In an effort to toughen up the watchdog, which has been criticised for being soft on energy firms, regulatory economist Martin Cave has been selected as the regulator’s new chair just months before it is due to impose a price cap on energy bills. Continue reading...
Little green bag: Morrisons turns to paper in war on plastic
Supermarket chains begins UK rollout of paper bags for loose fruit and vegetablesMorrisons is reviving traditional brown paper bags for loose fresh fruit and vegetables, in a move it says will prevent 150m small plastic bags from being used every year.The paper bags are being rolled out from Monday and will be in all of the supermarket chain’s 493 stores by the end of the summer. Made from 100% recyclable paper, they have a see-though paper strip to help shoppers and staff identify the produce inside. Continue reading...
New NT gasfields would put Paris commitment in doubt
‘There’s no room for any new long-term fossil fuel developments,’ climate scientists sayA gas boom in the Northern Territory would contribute as much as 6.6% to Australia’s annual emissions, according to data in a report from an inquiry examining the risks associated with fracking.The final report by the inquiry’s committee assessed the emissions from exploration, producing gas from the planned new gasfields and from burning that proportion of the gas destined for the domestic market. Continue reading...
Frogs and dragon flies in a deadly duel | Letters
The entire population of tadpoles in Peter Malpass’s pond has been eaten by dragon fly larvaeYour report (21 June) urging gardeners to be frog friendly is, of course, to be welcomed. However, cherishing amphibians raises a dilemma because one of the major threats to frog populations is predation by dragon fly larvae, rapacious creatures up to two inches long and said to be capable of eating anything not bigger than themselves. This year not a single froglet will emerge from my pond, despite the protection given to the frog spawn during the late snow and frost. The entire population of tadpoles has been eaten by dragon fly larvae. The fact that the adult dragon fly is a magnificent creature in its own right, and, like adult frogs and toads, eats creatures we might regard as garden pests, leaves me in a quandary: is it OK to kill dragon flies to protect frogs, or should I leave it to nature to sort itself out?
Energy minister faces questions as Swansea tidal lagoon plan left in limbo
Tidal Lagoon Power has to cut headcount after delays over decision on £1.3bn projectBritain’s energy minister will have to explain to MPs why no decision has been made on whether to support a tidal lagoon in Swansea – nearly 18 months after an independent government review backed the plan.Claire Perry will face the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee on Monday afternoon to answer questions on the £1.3bn clean energy project, which has been left in limbo. Continue reading...
Genetically modified animals
Despite its potential to battle disease and hunger, genetically engineered food is still controversialLast week, scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute announced they had deleted the section of DNA that leaves pigs vulnerable to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, which is estimated to cost European farmers £1.5bn a year in loss of livestock and decreased productivity. Genetically modified animals are banned from the EU food chain, but since this is a new and different technique it’s possible they’ll be appearing in bacon sandwiches in a few years. Continue reading...
Up to 100 Labour MPs to back government on Heathrow third runway
Backbenchers defy Jeremy Corbyn by working behind the scenes with Tory whipsLabour MPs who disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to the expansion of Heathrow airport have been working closely with government ministers and Tory whips to ensure the plans win parliamentary approval on Monday, in an extraordinary show of defiance against their party leader.The extent of behind-the-scenes cooperation with the government on such an important policy issue is believed to be unprecedented and all but guarantees that the third runway plan will be passed, despite Corbyn, his shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the Labour front bench opposing the move. Continue reading...
Highland fury as Trump rival drives golf course plan forward
Environmentalists fear loss of dunes wildlife and warn of ‘flimsy promises’ about jobsOn a stretch of Scotland’s north-east coast, two historic acts of Highland pillage, separated by ages, are linked across golden sands. The village of Embo in Sutherland lies in the shadow of the grander cathedral town of Dornoch but its beach is known globally for the unique ecosystem its dunes support.Now, a planning decision by Highland council has left many of the 1,200 animal and insect species to be found in this corner of Scotland facing an uncertain future. High on Ben Bhraggrie overlooking this place stands the 200ft statue of George Granville Leveson-Gower, the first Duke of Sutherland and the most ruthless perpetrator of the Highland clearances which harrowed this place two centuries ago. Some now fear another harrowing is imminent. Continue reading...
Green energy feels the heat as subsidies go to fossil fuels
Community projects can slash household bills but the sector has ground to a halt in Britain – in contrast with schemes in EuropeThe number of people generating their own power has almost flatlined, with only one new group formed in the UK last year, according to the body representing grassroots energy organisations.Cuts to subsidies for homeowners to install solar panels and a “hostile planning approach” that has in effect banned new wind turbines are behind the “wholesale decline”, Community Energy England (CEE) said in its 2018 State of the Sector report. Continue reading...
Living next door to 17 million chickens: 'We want a normal life'
Ukrainian villagers living in the shadow of Europe’s biggest chicken farm are fighting back – not just against the company but the development banks funding itThe locals call this area the Ryaba-land. That’s the name of the chicken brand Nasha Ryaba under which MHP – the largest poultry company in Ukraine and the owners of Vinnytsia farm - sells poultry meat in supermarkets. There are more chicken sheds than houses here. Even the village signs bear the MHP brand.There are, as is so often the case, tensions between the industrial farms and the villagers. But in this case, anger is focussed not just on the company, but on their funders – the big international development banks that hand out public money. Continue reading...
Are some landlords bending energy efficiency rules?
Renting out properties with bad insulation and heating has been prohibited since AprilAre some landlords and agents fiddling new rules that ban them from letting out properties that are poorly insulated and inefficiently heated?Since the start of April, landlords have been prohibited from renting out “sub-standard” houses and flats, which, in this context, means those that don’t meet minimum energy-efficiency requirements. Continue reading...
Country diary: they look like a crowd of skinheads frowning in long grass
Kirkham Abbey, North Yorkshire: If the residents of these anthills object to me perching on their home like some mammal Godzilla, they don’t show itI wonder if they’re aware of the colossal creature approaching. Do they sense its lumbering footfalls? Do the walls tremble, or the avenues and galleries of their metropolis deform perceptibly under its weight? Can they sense its extravagant metabolic heat?The mounds that pimple this sloping pasture are silent. The sheep were taken off a week or two back, but there’s been virtually no rain, so the turf tops remain cropped and dry – they look like a crowd of skinheads frowning into the longer grass around, some with tiaras of speedwell. Each tump is tall enough to escape winter waterlogging and, coincidentally, the perfect height for sitting on. If the residents object to me perching on their home like some mammal Godzilla, they don’t show it. Continue reading...
You don't use so much plastic, do you? How to ditch plastics for July – and beyond
Cutting single-use plastics can be surprisingly challenging but there are easy alternativesMy first Plastic Free July was in 2013. At the time most of my friends were signing up for Dry July, the month where participants go alcohol free and raise funds for cancer support organisations across Australia.Instead, I decided to participate in what was then a relatively unknown challenge to reduce my single-use plastics over a month after watching the eco-documentary The Clean Bin Project. Continue reading...
A swift response to vanishing bird concerns | Letters
Readers respond to Patrick Barkham’s article about declining swift numbersReading Patrick Barkham’s piece (Can our swifts fill summer’s skies again? It’s up to us to help, 19 June) reminded me of an experience that made me marvel at the swift’s aeronautical prowess and makes me anticipate their screeching return each May.A few years ago I saw a small black bird fluttering on a roadside. I stopped and on closer inspection realised that the bird was a swift, which once grounded finds it hard to take to the air again. I cradled the bird in my hands and threw it upwards where it unfurled some six or eight feet above me, caught the air and shot away, out of sight in seconds. Continue reading...
England will beat Panama. The ant pundits have spoken
Insects racing with flags of the two countries offer prediction for outcome of World Cup tieEngland have been backed to beat Panama on Sunday – by a colony of World Cup-predicting ants.Two of the insects raced along 36 metres of rope carrying Panama and England flags, with the red and white of St George making it back to the queen fastest. Continue reading...
'He's a political prisoner': Standing Rock activists face years in jail
The extraordinary Native American resistance effort may have faded from the headlines but the US government continues to prosecute activists, who say it is destroying livesStanding Rock saved Little Feather’s life. Then the US government took it from him.Little Feather was one of thousands of Native Americans who traveled to North Dakota in 2016 to fight the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The 45-year-old member of the Chumash Nation was battling drug addiction at the time, said his wife, Leoyla Cowboy. But the “water protector” movement gave him a sense of purpose, a renewed connection to indigenous elders, and sobriety. Continue reading...
The week in wildlife – in pictures
Burkina Faso’s sacred crocodiles, a family of cheetahs and a humpback whale are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world Continue reading...
'Drunken' kangaroos may be suffering grass poisoning, vets say
Greater than usual presence of Phalaris grasses this year could be behind the neurological damage in the animalsVeterinarians from the University of Melbourne are investigating whether kangaroos that appear to be “drunken” and “staggering” in central Victoria have suffered neurological damage because of a common pasture crop.Wildlife rescuers have reported a spike in the number of eastern grey kangaroos that appear to have Phalaris “staggers”, a condition commonly seen in ruminants such as sheep and cattle that have been grazing on the new shoots of Phalaris grasses, particularly Phalaris aquatica. Continue reading...
'Drunken' kangaroos may be suffering grass poisoning – video
Wildlife rescuers have reported a spike in the number of eastern grey kangaroos that appear to have Phalaris 'staggers', a condition commonly seen in ruminants such as sheep and cattle that have been grazing on the new shoots of Phalaris grasses, particularly Phalaris aquatica Continue reading...
MPs to examine environmental footprint of UK fashion industry
Inquiry will explore the carbon impact, resource use and water footprint of growing throwaway ‘fast fashion’ sectorMPs are to investigate the environmental impact of throwaway “fast fashion” in the UK amid growing concerns that the multi-billion pound industry is wasting valuable resources and contributing to climate change.
Country diary: the old mystery of the 'devil birds'
Hathersage, Derbyshire: Vibrant and restless, swifts are never anywhere for longI’m not sure why Coggers Lane is so named. A “cogger” in these parts is someone who wields a hammer, and by extension someone who hammers people: a fighter. Hathersage has its moments, but I’m guessing the name is more a fossil of the village’s industrial past. I do know it offers one of the prettiest views of the Derwent valley to the south, and to the east high above the gritstone cap of Higger Tor, richly coloured by the early evening sun. I stood drinking it in until the swarming midges drove me inside.When I emerged hours later the sky was deepening to black, on the threshold of night. Blinking in the gloom, I heard them first: an outburst of screaming that broke over my head. Looking up, half a dozen swifts were slicing and jinking through the thickening dark as they skimmed the roof, or else dived towards their young sheltering in the eaves. Then they were back out, blading through warm air still thick with those hateful midges. Their throats bulged with them, a ball of protein glued together with saliva to bring back to their brood. Continue reading...
Kitten-loving Koko the gorilla dies in California – video
Koko, the gorilla that mastered sign language, has died aged 46 in California. It was considered a pioneer in interspecies communication after being taught it by scientist Dr Francine Patterson. At one point Koko was estimated to able to understand about 2,000 words in English. Continue reading...
Pollutionwatch: let's rate exhaust fumes as also a lethal road risk
Vision Zero is a plan that rejects road accident deaths as ‘acceptable’. Is it time we called for zero tolerance of deaths from traffic pollution?The programme Vision Zero refuses to view the continued deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents as an acceptable fact. Like safety in the workplace, risks need to be designed out of road systems, it says. The initiative, which began in Sweden in 1994, founded by the government and industries, is gaining ground with cities in the UK and globally.Related: Millions of British children breathing toxic air, Unicef warns Continue reading...
Scott Pruitt spent $1,500 of taxpayer money on fancy pants
It’s not the only big purchase he and other Trump administration figures have made
Indigenous group hid more than $2m in payments from Adani mining giant
Exclusive: directors were paid cash for invalidated cultural assessments of Abbot PointA north Queensland Indigenous organisation kept secret more than $2m in payments by the Adani mining company, federal court documents show.Guardian Australia has obtained court documents that show the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation did not account for payments by Adani, then paid its own directors up to $1,000 a day cash-in-hand to conduct now-invalidated cultural heritage assessments for the Indian mining company. Continue reading...
Zigzag elm sawfly attacking trees in UK, warn experts
Elm leaf-eating pest has gradually travelled across Europe from Japan, leaving mark reminiscent of that by Zorro’s sword
Iced coffee is ruining the environment – and your body
From plastic straws to almond milk, the season of cold brews is officially ruining the planetIt’s iced coffee season – and this year, the coolest accessory to beat the heat and consume your caffeine conscientiously may well be an eco-friendly stainless steel straw.The single-use plastic straw, you’ve probably noticed, has become increasingly socially unacceptable. A number of cities around the world have banned or are considering banning the straws, and more and more companies are starting to phase them out. McDonald’s, for example, announced that it will stop using using plastic straws in its British restaurants next year and Ikea also recently committed to removing all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by 2020. When multinationals like McDonalds turn away from straws, you know the movement has gone mainstream. Continue reading...
David Attenborough launches wildlife fund for advertisers
Firms signing up to Lion’s Share fund will give 0.5% of money spent on ad campaigns featuring animals to conservation schemesSir David Attenborough has said large corporations should donate to wildlife protection schemes every time they feature animals in their adverts.The veteran wildlife presenter has called on the advertising industry to do more to help the environment as he launched a new voluntary scheme designed to boost the income of animal charities. Continue reading...
Malta's 'barbaric' finch traps ruled illegal by EU court
Campaigners hail court verdict, which bans trapping of several species of the birdMalta has broken EU law by allowing the hunting and trapping of several finch species, the European court has ruled.The Mediterranean island will face potentially substantial fines unless it ends a derogation it introduced in 2014 allowing the songbirds to be captured. Continue reading...
Saving Britain's swifts - in pictures
Swifts are one of the most recognisable birds of summer, returning to the UK to breed in early May each year. But in the last 20 years, the breeding population has halved, with a lack of nest sites and declining insects among the causes. This week marks the first UK Swift Awareness week, which aims to highlight the plight of swifts and the rescue efforts to save them
Some rare good climate news: the fossil fuel industry is weaker than ever | Bill McKibben
From Wall Street to the pope, many increasingly see fossil fuels as anything but a sure bet. That gives us reason to hopeIf you’re looking for good news on the climate front, don’t look to the Antarctic. Last week’s spate of studies documenting that its melt rates had tripled is precisely the kind of data that underscores the almost impossible urgency of the moment.And don’t look to Washington DC, where the unlikely survival of the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, continues to prove the political power of the fossil fuel industry. It’s as if he’s on a reality show where the premise is to see how much petty corruption one man can get away with. Continue reading...
'Time running out' for UK parks, government told
Coalition of environmental groups put forward Charter for Parks as ‘crisis point’ declared following years of budget cutsA coalition of countryside groups and environmentalists are calling on the government to protect the UK’s parks and green spaces which are at “crisis point” following years of swingeing budget cuts.The group has today put forward a “Charter for Parks”which calls on ministers in England, Wales and Scotland to make it a legal requirement for all parks and green spaces to be maintained and managed to a “good standard.” Continue reading...
Philippines 'sitting on a timebomb' as inquiry urged into political killings
Exiled land rights defender calls for international help to investigate rights abuses under President Rodrigo DuterteA human rights activist branded a terrorist by the Philippine government has urged the international community to support an independent investigation into political killings in the country.
UK gardeners urged to build ponds as sightings of frogs and toads dry up
Sightings of toads have fallen by nearly a third and frogs by 17% since 2014, RSPB survey findsPeople with gardens are being urged to create simple ponds or areas of long grass because sightings of frogs and toads in gardens are drying up.Reports of toads in gardens have fallen by nearly a third since 2014, while sightings of frogs have dropped by 17% over the same period, according to the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB’s wildlife survey. Continue reading...
Millions of British children breathing toxic air, Unicef warns
More than 4.5m affected, says UN group, while tests suggest children’s shorter height increases exposure on busy roadsMore than 4.5 million children in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of air pollution, the UN children’s organisation Unicef has warned.
Country diary: the glorious fauna of a north Pennine meadow
Mickleton, Teesdale: Flowering grasses are an ethereal presence, graceful and constantly moving
Tony Abbott and allies could scupper national energy plan, warns ACT minister
Shane Rattenbury says Josh Frydenberg is being locked into a no-compromise position by federal conservativesThe ACT has warned it will be “very difficult” to sign on to the national energy guarantee in early August if Josh Frydenberg fails to give any ground in the remaining weeks before the definitive meeting of the Coag energy council.
Shetland scallop fishery retains eco label despite dredging protests
Review rejects conservation groups’ complaints that use of dredging gear damages seabedA scallop fishery in Shetland has retained its coveted eco label after an independent review rejected allegations that it damaged the marine environment.The marine conservation charity Open Seas and the National Trust for Scotland protested that the fishery’s use of dredging gear to harvest scallops caused unjustifiable damage to the seabed and other marine species. Continue reading...
A world without puffins? The uncertain fate of the much-loved seabirds
On the small Welsh island of Skomer, puffin numbers are booming. But in former strongholds in Scotland, Norway and Iceland, the picture is ever more worryingBryony Baker lies spreadeagled at the edge of a cliff and reaches her hand deep into a hole in the ground that is almost entirely hidden beneath a clump of grass. She pushes further in and her arm disappears up to the shoulder. It is a little like watching a vet getting up close and personal with a labouring cow. “Ouch!” she exclaims suddenly, her face creasing in pain. She pulls her arm out and inspects her fingers, already covered in scars. “That one’s definitely a puffin. They look sweet, but they can be pretty aggressive.”She presses her lips together in anticipation of another nip and pushes her hand in again. A large, dirty white egg emerges from the burrow – “warm, good” – and she places it safely on a cushion of moss. She reaches into the ground again. When she withdraws it, a second later, she’s holding an irritated puffin by its orange beak. She rings it, notes its number – this is now Bird EZ88918 – then gently replaces it and its precious egg in the burrow. Continue reading...
'Barnacled angels': the whales of Stellwagen Bank – a photo essay
Off the tip of Cape Cod, pods of humpbacks return every summer to feed. For the past 18 years, Philip Hoare has been joining them to witness this incredible displayAt the tip of Cape Cod, a sandy spit reaches out into the Atlantic, like an arm, towards a vast underwater plateau where humpbacks gather each summer to feed. This is the US marine sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, where for the past three weeks I’ve been a guest on the Dolphin Fleet whalewatch boats, working out of Provincetown. Continue reading...
Cross-party MPs say government is dragging feet on air pollution
Calls by joint inquiry to bring forward UK car sales ban have been resisted by governmentThe government has been accused of dragging its feet on air quality improvements by a cross-party group of MPs.A partnership of four committees said serious concerns remained about the UK’s commitment to cutting pollution and its impact on public health. Continue reading...
Tony Abbott signals he'll cross the floor to vote against Turnbull's energy plan
Former PM could join Craig Kelly, who has also threatened to oppose national energy guaranteeThe former prime minister Tony Abbott has flagged crossing the floor to oppose the national energy guarantee, joining fellow conservative Craig Kelly, who telegraphed a similar threat three weeks ago in an interview with Guardian Australia.
'The entire habitat is gone': Hawaii's natural wonders claimed by lava
The Kilauea eruption has wiped out rare sites and whole ecosystems. As the island mourns a tragedy, it also accepts the brutal cycle of nature
Welcome to Brumbria: should the West Midlands become a national park?
Could a plan to turn the West Midlands into a national park transform the Black Country’s unlovely reputation, asks Wolverhampton native Stuart Jeffries“I think we have an extraordinary landscape here waiting to be discovered by millions,” says landscape architect Kathryn Moore, unrolling a jauntily coloured map of her visionary new park in a Birmingham City University office. The professor isn’t talking about of Cumbria, Umbria, Snowdonia or Amazonia. She’s talking about the touristic potential of the West Midlands plateau, the heart of England that threw itself into the fiery crucible of the Industrial Revolution and still bears sacrificial scars. It is here that Professor Moore wants to create the United Kingdom’s 16th national park.In the 19th century, Queen Victoria would lower the blinds on the royal train so she didn’t have to see the smokestack hell of the Black Country. Tolkien was inspired to create Mordor from nocturnal visions of its blast furnaces. If Moore has her way, though, in a decade or so Queen Kate will raise the blinds as the HS2 train passes the reconfigured Tame Valley between Birmingham and Coventry. “Look!” she’ll exclaim to King William. “What a vista of allotments, fisheries, fields, orchards, forests, hi-tech agriculture, green industries, creative hubs and cycle paths!” She’ll gaze in admiration at how the Tame has been rerouted using water from Birmingham city centre’s aquifer, all crisscrossed by new footbridges linking together suburbs long isolated by the city’s motorised arterial routes. Continue reading...
How can you support farmers who are using fewer antibiotics?
There are limited opportunities to support farmers who are using less, so the most important thing is to make your voice heard
More tigers live in US back yards than in the wild. Is this a catastrophe?
It is easier to buy a tiger in some states than to adopt a rescue dog – and only 6% of the animals are housed in approved facilities. This is bad for the big cats – and for humansAccording to estimates, the population of tigers in people’s back gardens in the US outnumbers those in the wild. Seven thousand of the big cats live in US captivity, whereas, despite increases, there are as few as 3,890 wild tigers worldwide. Most of the captive animals are kept in unregulated conditions, as the BBC reported last week. Only 6% are housed in zoos or facilities approved by the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The rest live in private breeding facilities, back yards, even urban apartments. In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a rescue dog.Leigh Henry, a species policy expert at the World Wildlife Fund, says the situation threatens the work that has been done to conserve wild populations in Asia. “A patchwork of regulations governs these tigers, meaning no agency can say how many there are, when they are born, when they die and what happens to their valuable parts when they do. Illegal trade in tiger parts remains the primary threat to tigers in the wild, and the last thing we want is parts from captive tigers helping sustain or even fuel this black market.” Continue reading...
Senate to probe Great Barrier Reef grant of $444m to small charity
Inquiry will look at what the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is capable of deliveringA parliamentary inquiry will examine how a $444m grant for work on the Great Barrier Reef was awarded to a small not-for-profit charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with no competitive tender process.Labor, Greens and crossbench senators have backed the inquiry, which was moved by a Greens senator, Peter Whish-Wilson. Continue reading...
Prehistoric platypus-like fish reconstructed by Australian scientists
Brindabellaspis had nostrils in its eye sockets and a long bill with jaws• Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noonPalaeontologists have reconstructed an ancient Australian fish that swam on the sea floor like a stingray and had the long bill of a platypus.Fossils that date back 400m years have allowed scientists to piece together a revealing picture of the strange fish, which had nostrils coming from its eye sockets and a long bill or snout with jaws. Continue reading...
Fracking: Labor pledges to tighten regulations to protect water resources
Shale gas not covered in by existing water regulations in ‘glaring omission’, Labor’s environment spokesman saysRegulations on unconventional gas development across Australia would be tightened up if Labor wins the next election.Labor’s shadow minister for the environment Tony Burke says the party, if elected, will keep the commitment it took to the 2016 election to broaden the “water trigger” to include other forms of unconventional gas extraction. The current water trigger, introduced by the Gillard government in 2013, assesses water resources as a matter of national significance only in relation to coal seam gas and coal mining. Continue reading...
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