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Heinz tomato ketchup will soon come in paper bottles to help the environment

Heinz tomato ketchup will soon come in paper bottles to help the environment

Whether it’s accompanying chips or slathered on a burger, ketchup is our trusted companion as BBQ season approaches.

But it seems the popular condiment might have a new look very soon.

That’s because Heinz plans to roll out completely renewable paper bottles, to help the environment.

The new bottles will be made with wood pulp and will be available alongside the current glass and plastic options.

And the good news is that these paper bottles will not affect the taste of the ketchup.

The new containers will be made in partnership with Pulpex – which also created a paper bottle for whisky brand Jonnie Walker – and are part of Heinz’s long-term plan to make all of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

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Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.

The traditional Starbucks disposable cup.


“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”

It’s worth pointing out that Heinz already uses 30% recycled plastic and recyclable caps – and the company aim to have zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Kraft Heinz CEO, Miguel Patricio, said: ‘Packaging waste is an industry-wide challenge that we must all do our part to address.

‘That is why we are committed to taking steps to explore sustainable packaging solutions across our brands at Kraft Heinz, offering consumers more choices.

‘This new HEINZ bottle is one example of how we are applying creativity and innovation to explore new ways to provide consumers with the products they know and love while also thinking sustainably.’


Lizzie Thomson at Metro

Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks

Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks

New capacity for generating electricity from solar, wind and other renewables increased to a record level worldwide in 2021 and will grow further this year as governments increasingly seek to take advantage of renewables’ energy security and climate benefits, according to the International Energy Agency.

The world added a record 295 gigawatts of new renewable power capacity in 2021, overcoming supply chain challenges, construction delays and high raw material prices, according to the IEA’s latest Renewable Energy Market Update. Global capacity additions are expected to rise this year to 320 gigawatts—equivalent to an amount that would come close to meeting the entire electricity demand of Germany or matching the European Union’s total electricity generation from natural gas. Solar PV is on course to account for 60% of global renewable power growth in 2022, followed by wind and hydropower.

In the European Union, annual additions jumped by almost 30% to 36 gigawatts in 2021, finally exceeding the bloc’s previous record of 35 gigawatts set a decade ago. The additional renewables capacity commissioned for 2022 and 2023 has the potential to significantly reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas in the power sector. However, the actual contribution will depend on the success of parallel energy efficiency measures to keep the region’s energy demand in check.

“Energy market developments in recent months—especially in Europe—have proven once again the essential role of renewables in improving energy security, in addition to their well-established effectiveness at reducing emissions,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Cutting red tape, accelerating permitting and providing the right incentives for faster deployment of renewables are some of the most important actions governments can take to address today’s energy security and market challenges, while keeping alive the possibility of reaching our international climate goals.”

Renewables’ growth so far this year is much faster than initially expected, driven by strong policy support in China, the European Union and Latin America, which are more than compensating for slower than anticipated growth in the United States. The US outlook is clouded by uncertainty over new incentives for wind and solar and by trade actions against solar PV imports from China and Southeast Asia.

Based on today’s policy settings, however, renewable power’s global growth is set to lose momentum next year. In the absence of stronger policies, the amount of renewable power capacity added worldwide is expected to plateau in 2023, as continued progress for solar is offset by a 40% decline in hydropower expansion and little change in wind additions.

While energy markets face a wide range of uncertainties, the strengthened focus by governments on energy security and affordability—particularly in Europe—is building new momentum behind efforts to accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency solutions and renewable energy technologies. The outlook for renewables for 2023 and beyond will therefore depend to a large extent on whether new and stronger policies are introduced and implemented over the next six months.

Offshore windfarm (Image courtesy: iStock/ssuaphoto)

The current growth in renewable power capacity would be even faster without the current supply chain and logistical challenges. The cost of installing solar PV and wind plants is expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022 and 2023 because of elevated commodity and freight prices, reversing a decade of declining costs. However, they remain competitive because prices for natural gas and other fossil fuel alternatives have risen much faster.

Global additions of solar PV capacity are on course to break new records in both this year and next, with the annual market reaching 200 GW in 2023. Solar’s growth in China and India is accelerating, driven by strong policy support for large-scale projects, which can be completed at lower costs than fossil fuel alternatives. In the European Union, rooftop solar installations by households and companies are expected to help consumers save money as electricity bills rise.

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Policy uncertainties, as well as long and complex permitting regulations, are preventing much faster growth for the wind industry. Having plunged 32% in 2021 after exceptionally high installations in 2020, additions of new onshore wind capacity are expected to recover slightly this year and next.

New additions of offshore wind capacity are set to drop 40% globally in 2022 after having been buoyed last year by a huge jump in China as developers rushed to meet a subsidy deadline. But global additions are still on course to be over 80% higher this year than in 2020. Even with its slower expansion this year, China will surpass Europe at the end of 2022 to become the market with the largest total offshore wind capacity in the world.

Biofuel demand recovered in 2021 from its pandemic lows to reach more than 155 billion liters—near 2019 levels. Demand is expected to keep rising—by 5% in 2022 and 3% in 2023. However, the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have contributed to a 20% downward revision of our previous forecast for biofuel growth in 2022. Since biofuels are blended with gasoline and diesel, much of the downward revision stems from slowing demand for transport, which has been depressed by a combination of factors including growing inflationary pressures, weaker global economic growth and COVID-related mobility restrictions in China.


International Energy Agency via techxplore

Fashion Industry Efforts to Verify Sustainability Make ‘Greenwashing’ Easier

Fashion Industry Efforts to Verify Sustainability Make ‘Greenwashing’ Easier

The report by Changing Markets Foundation found that, at best, the certification programs provided a “patchy promise of sustainability.”

Environmental certification programs that claim to verify the sustainability of fashion brands actually facilitate “greenwashing” for the apparel industry, according to a recent report by environmental advocacy organization Changing Markets Foundation. 

The organization, which was founded in 2015 and is based in the Netherlands, seeks to drive change toward a more sustainable economy by exposing what it feels are irresponsible corporate practices. Its analysis of voluntary efforts designed  to reduce fashion’s growing environmental footprint found the programs led to increased pollution instead, and are helping to cement the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“Waste increases, utilization of clothes decreases, and reliance on fossil fuels increases,” said George Harding-Rolls, a campaign manager at Changing Markets and lead author of the report. “Yet, these schemes continue to exist and say that sustainable fashion is just around the corner. This is actually preventing us from taking the more systemic action that we need, such as more regulation and legislation.”

Apparel retailers did not respond to requests for comment from Inside Climate News. Organizations running sustainable fashion certification programs glossed over many of the issues in the report, including the growing use of polymer or plastic fibers used in apparel. Instead, they focused on efforts to reduce plastics used in packaging and displays.

Fashion retailers “are lauded for working towards the reduction of plastic hangers, bags and other packaging, while their huge and growing use of plastic for clothes passes under the radar,” the report stated. 

The March 24 report evaluated 10 of the most prominent sustainability certification programs for the fashion industry, a rapidly growing sector that produces more than 100 billion garments each year and accounts for anywhere between 2 to 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Changing Markets analysis focused on the sustainability programs that claim to address issues of overproduction, including the rise of “fast fashion”—inexpensive clothing designed to keep up with rapidly changing fashion trends. It also addressed end of life management and the use of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals in production and manufacturing.   

At best, the certification programs provided a “patchy promise of sustainability,” focused on a small section of the supply chain, the report concluded.  At worst, the report found the certification programs, which are often funded by the brands that they evaluate, are “unambitious, opaque, unaccountable and compromised.”

For example, one such program, the New Plastics Economy initiative of the U.K.-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation, calls on member companies including Walmart to commit to reducing plastic packaging, but not the plastic, or synthetic, fibers used in clothes. The report noted that textiles, which increasingly rely on synthetic materials like polyester, are the second-largest market for plastics after packaging. Ignoring the use of these synthetic fibers is a major oversight, the report concluded. 

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment. However, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation defended its program. 

“It is correct that the focus of our plastic initiative is on packaging, as this is the single biggest application for plastics and accounts for huge amounts of pollution, climate emissions, and lost economic opportunity,” the organization said in a written statement. 

The organization added that its fashion initiatives have worked closely with experts from academia, government and industry to drive momentum towards a circular economy for fashion that eliminates waste.

One of the largest programs included in the analysis is run by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which bills itself as the “leading alliance for sustainable production” for the apparel, footwear and textile industry.  The coalition counts more than 250 brands, retailers, manufacturers, academic institutions, governments and NGOs among its members.  

Changing Markets found that the Coalition’s “Higg Index” scored among the lowest of the 10 sustainability programs that it evaluated and did not adequately address issues related to fossil-fuel feedstocks for apparel, overproduction driven by fast fashion and the release of microfibers or microplastics from garments into the environment.  The report also gave the Higg Index low scores on independence, performance and how it drives improvement on sustainability.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition declined an interview request but issued a written statement, saying “the Sustainable Apparel Coalition enables organisations to access trusted, credible and scientifically rigorous tools and support to measure the impact of product production. This provides a basis for tracking change, informing and empowering brands to progress on a continuous journey of improvement.

“We work in active partnership with many others in the sector to advocate for greater transparency and substantiation of claims,” the coalition wrote.

The report, however, stated that the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s paid membership model provides members the opportunity to sit on the organization’s Board of Directors and vote on key decisions, giving member companies the ability to pursue their own agendas, which may run counter to coalition’s stated sustainability goals. 

For example, the report suggested that Nike, one of the biggest users of synthetic fibers in the apparel sector, may have used its influence as one of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s founding companies to downplay the environmental impact of synthetic fibers. The report suggested that the coalition’s Higg Index, the original version of which was developed by Nike, may not account for the environmental impact of fossil-fuel extraction, including oil extraction used to create synthetic fibers.  

“Due to the fact the SAC was founded by numerous brands and retailers, these organisations such as Patagonia, Walmart, Nike, Target, Gap, H&M Group and Marks & Spencer continue to have a large presence within the coalition,” the report stated. “This is especially the case for Nike, which originally contributed its own MSI [Materials Sustainability Index] to create the [Higg] Index. 

Nike did not respond to a request for comment. 

SAC denied any outsized influence of Nike or other companies over its activities.  “It is misleading and inaccurate to suggest that one member can unduly influence either the strategic focus or the tool development of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition,” the organization wrote. “The Higg Index is a suite of five tools. Nike was involved with an early development of just one of these tools, the Higg MSI [Materials Sustainability Index], before gifting it to SAC in 2013. The Higg MSI went through a significant overhaul in 2016, with changes being approved by over 100 voting members. Nike is not a current Board member and hasn’t been for more than five years.”

One certification program, which was not mentioned in the Changing Markets report, has set its sights on driving measurable change in greenhouse gas emissions reductions where it matters most, the manufacturing supply chains of apparel brands.

The factories, mills and other industrial facilities that produce the raw materials, fibers, and finished apparel sold by leading fashion brands account for the vast majority of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the third-party companies that produce these goods do so in China, the world’s largest textile-exporting country.

The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, China’s largest environmental organization, released a report in October that ranks the sustainability of fashion brands with a strong focus on the greenhouse gas emissions from mills and factories across China.

“We focus on [the] supply chain like a laser,” said Linda Greer, a senior global fellow with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We do that, first of all, because for many sectors including the apparel sector, that’s where maybe 80 percent of the emissions lie. And then also we focus on [the] supply chain because we’re a Chinese NGO and so many of our factories are manufacturing for export.”

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IPE’s Corporate Climate Action Transparency Index scores brands from 0 to 100 based on their performance in addressing climate change. Points are awarded according to corporate climate policies, monitoring and disclosure of emissions, emission reduction targets and, most heavily weighted, direct action that companies are taking in China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chains. However, unlike the Changing Markets report, IPE’s index does not consider overproduction related to fast fashion. 

“The way that we differ from a lot of the other indices is that we’re really attempting to follow the pounds of emissions,” Greer said.  “You can’t get a very good grade unless you’re working on [the] supply chain and not just in governance and other things.”

IPE’s index got a major boost in February when China required many of the country’s largest polluters to publicly disclose their carbon emissions for the first time. Details of new regulation, including exactly which companies are required to report their emissions, are still being worked out, but Greer said she estimates it will apply to 80,000 factories, a tremendous increase from the limited number of manufacturers who have voluntarily reported their emissions in the past.  

The new regulation comes as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is proposing a similar regulation for publicly traded companies. The pending U.S. disclosure requirements come as Europe is weighing regulations that would target the low-cost, disposable apparel that fuels fast fashion. On March 30, the European Commission released its proposed Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles that seeks to ensure that apparel sold in the EU is long-lived, recyclable and, to the extent possible, made from recycled fibers.  

At the same time, a bill was introduced earlier this year in New York state that would require large fashion brands to disclose at least some greenhouse gas emissions, as well as water and chemical use, from their supply chains.

Harding-Rolls of Changing Markets said the pending regulations mark a turning point for the fashion industry.

“I think we’re really seeing the death throes of voluntary sustainability in the fashion sector,” he said. “We’ve been experimenting with the sector self-regulating for the last 20 to 30 years and what we’ve seen is that the environmental impact of the sector got much worse. There’s a stick and not just a carrot to sustainable fashion now. The next two or three years will be really critical to see how that plays out.”


Phil McKenna at Inside Climate News

Nature-Based Agroecology Is Gaining Momentum as a Key Climate Solution

Nature-Based Agroecology Is Gaining Momentum as a Key Climate Solution

Responsible for roughly one-third of the world’s carbon emissions, the global food system is one of the key places for transformative action.

The satellite imagery is staggering: an Antarctic ice shelf roughly the size of New York City collapsing into the ocean. Its demise, captured and reported by NASA scientists in mid-March, was only the latest startling news from a region where temperatures have soared up to 40° Celsius (72° Fahrenheit) above average.

From melting ice sheets to tornadoes ravaging New Orleans and wildfires sweeping Texas, it’s ever clearer that the climate crisis is here, now. In its sixth major report since 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conveyed the urgency: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet,” said IPCC Working Group II co-chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.”

Agroecology as a practice includes techniques such as intercropping and planting cover crops, integrating livestock and trees into landscapes, and deploying organic farming methods to enhance biodiversity and soil health while eliminating dependence on external inputs like pesticides and synthetic fertilizer.

One strategy the report highlights is agroecology. Defined in the report as a “holistic approach” to farming, agroecology as a practice includes techniques such as intercropping and planting cover crops, integrating livestock and trees into landscapes, and deploying organic farming methods to enhance biodiversity and soil health while eliminating dependence on external inputs like pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. It’s a nature-based solution that can “contribute to both climate mitigation and adaptation,” the IPCC stresses. It’s also a solution grounded in an embrace of the human rights of Indigenous and small-scale producers, as articulated in the 13 principles of agroecology from the United Nation’s High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition.

A science, a practice, and a movement

While its principles trace back millennia, agroecology’s roots in academia originate in the 1920s and 1930s as agronomists increasingly looked at how farming and ecosystems could be integrated. The term itself dates to Mexico in the late 1970s: It was there that a group of researchers were beginning to raise the alarm about a suite of relatively new agricultural practices being promoted there and in other key regions of the world. Dubbed the “Green Revolution” and underwritten initially by the Rockefeller Foundation, the approach centered on high-yielding hybrid seeds, whose vigor was only possible with annual seed purchases and massive investments in irrigation systems along with heavy use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, herbicides, and other pesticides.

As Liz Carlisle, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, describes in Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming, Mexican scientist Efraím Hernández Xolocotzi, Mexican plant pathologist Roberto García Espinosa, and Californian ecologist Steve Gliessman were documenting how agricultural practices long embraced by Indigenous Mayan farmers in Mesoamerica were producing high yields without the financial and ecological costs of Green Revolution methods. As they spent time in the field, the colleagues “came to believe that these farmers’ approaches were far more effective than the ones being promoted by their own institution,” Carlisle writes. They decided to develop a new academic program, one that would put these farmers’ voices “front and center.”

It was the summer of 1978 when they launched a master’s degree program at the Colegio Superior de Agricultura Tropical. The focus? What they called “agroecology.” From the beginning, they grounded the concept in wisdom from Indigenous communities and in the voices of farmers themselves. Echoes of this work reverberate in the IPCC report today, whose authors stress agroecology’s roots in Indigenous and local knowledge around the world.

Agroecology proponents are quick to underscore that the concept refers not simply to these agricultural practices and the academic field that has blossomed around them, but as Maywa Montenegro, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Mongabay, “The field of agroecology includes the academy, but very importantly is not limited to it. Agroecology is a science, practice, and a movement.”

Shifting resources and local resilience

While the new IPCC report helps underscore just how much potential agroecology holds, the movement element of agroecology is critical because achieving the mitigation and adaptation potentials of agroecology will require major transformations in policy—and a substantial shift in public and private resources.

The report shows what benefits could accrue from such a shift, particularly for greater climate resilience. By building healthy soil, agroecological practices like agroforestry provide “buffers against drought,” note the IPCC authors, and “reduce soil erosion during storms.” Adopting agroforestry—integrating trees into farming landscapes—”shelters stock and crops in heat waves.” And agroecology, which emphasizes multi-cropping, leads to increased “resilience to disease and pests,” say the authors. With “high confidence,” they write, “adoption of agroecology principles and practices will be highly beneficial to maintaining healthy, productive food systems under climate change.”

Agroecology also significantly reduces food system emissions. In one study the IPCC cites, a European Union-wide shift toward agroecology would cut the region’s emissions by 47% compared with 2010 levels without affecting its food security. Another cited study echoed this finding, showing that these practices don’t just hold yields steady, but can actually increase them: Small-scale farmers adopting agroecological practices across Asia, Africa and Latin America on farms of 2 hectares (5 acres) or smaller saw their yields jump by 25%.

The resiliency benefits of agroecological practices in the face of the climate crisis have been well-documented. Perhaps nowhere has this mattered more than in the Philippines. Made up of more than 7,600 islands, the country’s geography has made it one of the most at risk from the climate crisis, but leaders in the agroecology movement there have seen the results of decades of work. Cris Panerio, the national coordinator of a food and farming NGO called MASIPAG at the forefront of that organizing, told Mongabay that their farmers have reported recovering faster after being hit by typhoons and floods—extreme weather events made worse by the climate crisis—compared with their conventional counterparts. They credit agroecological practices, including planting rice varieties their farmers have bred for adaptation to such conditions.

Through farmer-led and participatory rice-breeding projects, MASIPAG has collected and developed more than 2,000 rice varieties since 1985. “In contrast to the hybrid rice developed by IRRI [International Rice Research Institute] or PhilRice [Philippine Rice Research Institute],” Panerio explained, “seeds that need to be purchased year after year and require synthetic inputs to deliver high yields, MASIPAG varieties can be saved and shared among farmers, and flourish without pesticides or synthetic fertilizer.” Today, MASIPAG farmers are independent from the formal rice breeding sector, says Panerio, tapping their own seed banks and a central backup seed bank should they need it.

Panerio’s group fosters farmer-to-farmer learning, emphasizing rice and habitat diversity. In the rice fields of their members, Panerio describes fish ponds integrated with raised beds growing a variety of vegetables, and livestock incorporated onto farms. Native forest and fruit trees are also included whenever possible. “You can only imagine the biomass from such a farm system,” Panerio said, “with everything, except the food itself and firewood, turned into biofertilizers through composting or mulching.” All this adds up to a much smaller carbon footprint than that of a farm dependent on purchased seeds and fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizer.

An ‘explicit’ climate solution

The benefits of such agroecological approaches led the authors of this IPCC report to emphasize their feasibility and effectiveness as a climate solution. As Cornell University professor Rachel Bezner Kerr, a coordinating lead author on the chapter on food, fiber and ecosystem products, told Mongabay, previous IPCC reports have mentioned agroecology, “but this report is highlighting the emerging and increased evidence around agroecology as an adaptation and mitigation solution.” Indeed, agroecology is mentioned throughout the report, including in the chapter on health and, importantly, Bezner Kerr notes, it’s included in the Summary Report for Policymakers. For Bezner Kerr, this is a sign of the “deeper understanding of humanity’s dependence on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Agroecology is one of those strategies that links people to nature in a very explicit way.”

It’s this dependency Bezner Kerr has been documenting through decades of research in partnership with farming communities, particularly in Malawi where she’s been conducting fieldwork in partnership with a local nonprofit as part of a 22-year-long research collaboration. When reached by Skype, Bezner Kerr described the work there, partnering with farmers to document food security, nutrition and biodiversity on the landscapes where farmers have adopted agroecology approaches. Bezner Kerr emphasized that this is exactly the kind of participatory learning the report lauds: “The report emphasizes the evidence that inclusive adaptation strategies are essential, and agroecology is one of those approaches that emphasizes co-knowledge production, participatory and inclusive methods. It’s not just about adding compost to soil, it’s much more than that.”

For agroecology critics, a common charge is that it cannot scale, but Bezner Kerr argues it’s quite the opposite: agroecology “lends itself to scaling out because it relies on farmer-to-farmer methodologies, local knowledge, available resources, and adaptation to local context.” Indeed, many agroecological efforts around the world operate across significant landscape scales: Panerio’s organization in the Philippines includes a network of hundreds of organizations reaching 30,000 farmers directly, and roughly three times as many through those farmers’ relationships. In another example, community managed natural farming efforts in Andhra Pradesh, India, now include 700,000 farmer participants. Globally, La Via Campesina, which was founded in the mid-1990s, now represents more than 300 million smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, Indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless peoples, women, youth, consumers, urban food-insecure people, and NGOs.

In his 1981 book The Gift of Good Land, U.S. farmer and poet Wendell Berry urged us to address our thorniest crises by “solving for pattern.” A poetic phrase for systems thinking, solving for pattern is a call for solutions that create a cascade of co-benefits. Agroecology is just such a solution. For those farmers in the Philippines, it has meant resilience in the face of extreme climate shocks while producing nourishing food for their own communities and achieving independence from expensive inputs. For the farmers Bezner Kerr is working with in Malawi, it means agricultural approaches that boost local biodiversity, not diminish it.

The counterpoint—what my mother Frances Moore Lappé and I called “solving by dissection” in our book Hope’s Edge—is the tactic of applying a technical fix to a discrete aspect of a crisis, without considering the whole and triggering a cascade of consequences. As Berry wrote, such a “solution” is dangerous “because it acts destructively upon the larger patterns in which it is contained. It acts destructively upon those patterns … because it is formed in ignorance or disregard of them.”

For years, the IPCC has warned against “solve by dissection” responses to the climate crisis, and in this latest report the authors underscore the concern even more clearly. As Maarten van Aalst, a contributing lead author, noted: “We have explicitly added the notion that responses to climate change can generate significant risks of their own: maladaptation inadvertently creating or aggravating risks.”

For Bezner Kerr, a food system maladaptation would be the rush to respond to droughts by promoting irrigation, for example. “In the short term, irrigation can reduce climate risks for producers and consumers,” she said, “but if done in an area with limited groundwater and with capital-intensive irrigation, it can lead to groundwater depletion, salinization, and worsening inequalities and debt loads for small-scale producers.” In contrast, agroecology can help farmers thrive in drought conditions by using seeds bred for drought tolerance, building soil organic matter so the land can retain more water, or using swales and other techniques to capture rainfall—all of which are good for the ecosystem and for the farmer.

Panerio sees maladaptation in the promotion of glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup to reduce plowing and thus soil carbon loss. While glyphosate can reduce the need to till for weed control, Panerio has seen the consequences of widespread use of this herbicide: Setting aside its health risks which are now widely known, the introduction of genetically engineered corn and other crops resistant to glyphosate—the two are marketed together heavily—traps farmers in debt. “Corn farmers get their inputs from traders, the same people who buy the farmers’ corn,” Panerio said. “In the end, the traders profit two ways: One from the sale of inputs (engineered corn seeds, pesticides, and fertilizer) and the other for the low price of the corn.”

He also sees the ecosystem impacts: the widespread use of glyphosate causes soil erosion year-round. “In the dry season, areas sprayed with glyphosate have no vegetation and are devastated by wind erosion,” Panerio said. “In the wet seasons, the topsoil is washed away by rain after the corn is harvested.”

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]


Buildings should be more productive, and it starts with growing food on our roofs.


Planting more trees is one of a combination of solutions to combating climate change, but some trees are far better than others. Which ones though? ​​Scientists have designed an experimental forest in England to work out the best formula for achieving ambitious tree planting targets.

Mounting evidence and growing momentum

For agroecology advocates, its multiple benefits are its superpower. As this latest IPCC report documents, evidence of these benefits continues to mount. Other recent studies have pulled together evidence from the field, including “The Politics of Knowledge” from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, which emphasizes how small farmers and Indigenous peoples are co-creators and scientists in demonstrating agroecology’s impact. (Disclosure: The foundation where the writer works is a member of the network.)

Worldwide, the momentum for agroecology is growing, within the academy and beyond. Since the first academic agroecology program launched in 1978, the field has exploded. There are now dozens of agroecology schools and programs around the world. UCSC’s Montenegro notes the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association’s growing list of degree-granting programs in agroecology as well as applied student farm programs, where students learn experientially. Her own university has had a long-standing, esteemed agroecology program and recently launched a new agroecology major. Even in the United States, where the vast majority of agricultural land goes to high-input commodity production, and half of all corn is diverted to ethanol, there is “palpable excitement about the resurgent interest in agroecology,” Montenegro said.

The movement beyond the walls of the academy is growing, too. Its advocates know, however, that for agroecology to really take hold, it will require a significant transformation of how agriculture is financed and incentivized, and where research dollars go. Today, relatively little public and private funding is geared to these approaches. One study found that among European donors, less than 15% of agricultural budgets were directed toward agroecological approaches. Among philanthropies focused on climate solutions, food systems funding has historically been a tiny fraction—with agroecology representing even less. That is changing, too, with efforts like the Agroecology Fund and other networks within philanthropy promoting agroecological solutions.

“Given the very limited investment in agroecological research and implementation to date,” Bezner Kerr said, “the fact that there is such evidence points to even greater potential should it be given more investment and attention by governments and other groups interested in adaptation and mitigation solutions.” This is one of the reasons why it’s important, advocates stress, that agroecology be considered holistically: it’s not just what happens on the farm, it’s the social movements needed to move policy and shift power into the hands of farmers themselves.

Nearly half a century ago, when those researchers sought a way to describe the practices they were documenting in the fields of Indigenous farmers in rural Mexico, the term agroecology resonated. Today, it’s a concept that provides a pathway for tapping long-held local wisdom to address one of the world’s most pressing crises.


Anna Lappé at Common Dreams

1,000-year-old oaks used to create ‘super forest’

1,000-year-old oaks used to create ‘super forest’

Planting more trees is one of a combination of solutions to combating climate change, but some trees are far better than others. Which ones though? ​​Scientists have designed an experimental forest in England to work out the best formula for achieving ambitious tree planting targets.

“They’ve lived for so long; just think what they’ve seen.” Forester Nick Baimbridge is gazing fondly at a majestic oak that has stood for more than a thousand years. On this wintry afternoon, birds sing from lichen-covered branches and a deer runs through the undergrowth.

There’s a sense of timelessness about this medieval forest, which contains the greatest collection of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe. Blenheim Palace, a few miles away across the park, is a mere youngster at 300 years old, quips Baimbridge, the head forester of the Blenheim Estate.

Nick at great oak
The oldest oak in the forest is believed to be 1,046 years old

Standing under one of the oldest trees, he can only speculate on the turns of history witnessed by this “old girl”, whose genetic heritage is set to live on through acorns collected from the forest floor.

The acorns, and the new generation of oaks they spawn, are crucial to the ambitions of an experimental “super forest” that is being planted where the rivers Dorn and Glyme wind their way through the Oxfordshire countryside.

The forest is spread across nine new neighbouring woodlands with the first trees planted out this winter.

Nine new woodlands planned in Oxfordshire

The Blenheim Estate has received a government grant of about £1m to plant 270,000 trees in the nine new woodlands covering 1sq km (0.4 miles) in an inaugural scheme paying landowners to create forests with public access.

The autumn of 2020 was a “mast year,” when the oaks produced a bumper crop of acorns, and foresters picked them off the forest floor and took them to a tree nursery on the estate, where they were planted into pots and left to grow. “We put them in compost and just wait for them to do their thing,” says Baimbridge.

Forester Robert Burgess inspects a new sapling in the nursery
​​A new sapling growing at the nursery – a number of trees are raised, including sweet chestnut, beech and oak

The saplings take several years to grow big enough to be planted out in the forest, but experts think it is worth the wait to harness the pedigree of the Blenheim oaks.

These native oak trees, which can support hundreds of different species of insects, birds and fungi, will be needed in the race to reforest the UK. ​​Britain remains one of the least wooded parts of Europe, and while new trees are being planted, ancient woodland continues to be lost. The government needs to treble tree planting efforts to meet its goal of creating 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by 2025.

But it’s not enough to randomly plant millions of trees; forests must be built to last, with a combination of species that will provide habitat for wildlife as well as absorbing carbon emissions.

Despite the fervour for planting trees, scientists warn it’s not a “silver bullet” for tackling climate change. If not done with utmost care, the rush to plant trees can harm biodiversity and block land needed for other essential functions, such as growing food. And natural woodlands that contain a mixture of native species are more resilient and better for wildlife than vast plantations made up of one type of tree.

Monoculture forests vs biodiverse forests

That’s where this experimental super forest comes in to play. The ethos behind it is to develop a formula for planting woodlands that can soak up carbon emissions, provide space for nature and people, and yield timber that will help trees pay their way.

The recipe they’ve come up with is to plant no less than 27 different types of tree, including conifers for absorbing carbon, a mixture of broad-leafed and native trees for biodiversity (the oaks are broad leafs), as well as trees that will supply valuable wood.

How trees will be grouped in new woodlands

Saplings from the ancient oaks will be planted on main paths and at entrances, and in clumps among the other native trees.

The woodlands will be scientifically monitored to assess their effectiveness at removing carbon emissions, enhancing biodiversity, and cleaning up air and water.

Oaks, hornbeams, limes, sycamore and other saplings are already in the ground, with the first phase of planting expected to be finished this month.

New shoots grow in the ancient woodland near Blenheim Palace
New shoots grow in the ancient woodland near Blenheim Palace

You might want trees everywhere for absorbing carbon, but that comes at the expense of other functions of the land, says Dr Casey Ryan of the University of Edinburgh. “That can be because you need that land for something else – probably agriculture in many cases, and we need to feed the world at the same time.”

Kathy Willis, professor of biodiversity at the University of Oxford, has had oversight of the plans and approach to the new woodlands. She says the Blenheim team has considered all aspects of “natural capital” – the Earth’s natural assets – from reducing flood risk to providing a habitat for birds and bees. Trees “can do fantastic things for biodiversity, but also carbon drawdown,” she says.

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A recent report from the Forest Survey of India (FSI) found that recent spurious tree planting activities have taken root in terms of the overall forest coverage in the nation.

The blue milk cap mushroom is a rich source of protein. laerke_lyhne , CC BY-SA


The conversion of forests to agricultural land is happening at a mind-boggling speed. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at around 10 million hectares every year.

It’s not just the government that is funding these experimental woodlands. The Morgan Sindall Group, which builds homes, schools and retail premises, is a partner in the project. A construction company might seem like an unusual bedfellow given the sizeable carbon emissions arising from the construction industry, but many businesses are trying to be more green by choosing to offset carbon emissions that can’t be reduced in any other way, through tree planting schemes.

Graham Edgell of Morgan Sindall says the company wanted to “do the right thing” by creating woodlands in the UK with paths open to everybody. “It’s not some gesture of writing a cheque and walking away; we’re going to be with this woodland for 25 years as a minimum,” he says.

Nathan Fall, Nick Baimbridge and Robert Burgess. These saplings will be tended for the next 25 years
Nathan Fall, Nick Baimbridge and Robert Burgess. The saplings will be tended for the next 25 years

So how are the new woodlands getting on? We visit the first woodland taking shape on a windswept valley carved out by the River Dorn. Nathan Fall of forestry company, Nicholsons, leads us through rows of tiny saplings emerging on what was once arable land.

England has been “woefully behind” on tree planting, he says, because of pressures on land. He hopes these woodlands will act as a template for future tree-planting efforts. “If we can say, look – there is a model that works both financially and from an asset value perspective, then this hopefully will encourage others to follow at scale.”

It is hard to imagine what this place will look like in a century, when the trees are fully grown. But that is not a problem for Fall, who, as a forester, is always planning for the next generation. Down near the river there is a natural amphitheatre shielded from the wind that is set to become the site of a forest school. And it’s good to think that when the new Blenheim oaks have grown to full size, they will be here for tomorrow’s children to admire.


Helen Briggs at BBC News

Starbucks is planning to phase out its iconic cups

Starbucks is planning to phase out its iconic cups

“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”

Starbucks has a love-hate relationship with its cups.

The company’s white — or sometimes holiday-themed — logo-emblazoned paper cups for hot drinks, and clear plastic cups for cold drinks are instantly recognizable symbols of the brand. But that’s not entirely a good thing.

“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”

That’s because the cups are disposable. When they are thrown away, the cups end up in landfills or as litter in streets and waterways. Some might be recycled, but recycling is an imperfect option — recyclable items still end up in landfills.

The best solution? “Eliminating the disposable cup,” Kobori said. He called that option “the holy grail.”

By 2025, the company wants every customer to be able to either use their own mug easily or borrow a ceramic or reusable to-go mug from their local Starbucks. That could mean rolling out more borrow-a-mug programs that require a deposit.

Starbucks is also planning, by the end of next year, to let customers use their own personal mugs at every Starbucks in the United States and Canada, even if they order ahead or use the drive-thru.The goals don’t mean Starbucks will get rid of the paper and plastic cups. But they do want to make that option less attractive. That won’t be easy to do, as most Starbucks customers are used to that simple, single-use option. But the company has a plan.

Testing out Borrow-A-Cup programs

Examples of Starbucks’ reusable cups.

To phase out disposables, Starbucks is considering a widespread borrow-a-cup program, in which customers pay a deposit for a durable cup that they take with them and drop back off after use.

Amelia Landers, a vice president of product experience whose team is responsible for sustainable packaging at Starbucks, expects that this model will resonate more with customers compared to other sustainability efforts.

“I think that will take the lead,” she said. “We are testing a number of different [borrow-a-cup] programs around the globe,” including “20 different iterations and in eight different markets.

“In Seattle, Starbucks tested a beta version of such a program last year.

“We developed a new cup that had a very low environmental footprint, was lightweight polypropylene, ultimately recyclable and could replace 100 single-use disposable cups,” Landers explained.

For that test, customers paid a $1 deposit, and had to return the cup to a smart bin located in the store to get their dollar back. Customers also earned rewards for using the cup.

Kim Davis, who manages a store where the program was tested, said that customers were curious about the bin, and once baristas explained it to them, many were on board with the concept.

“The excitement and engagement was really high among my customers and my [employees],” she said. For baristas, the process was straightforward enough — they just used the reusable cup instead of a regular one to prepare drinks. A third-party company collected the dirty cups for cleaning, so baristas didn’t have to worry about that part of the process.

Starbucks is running similar pilot programs in Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The model is the most promising because it’s the easiest to integrate into customers’ daily lives.

You don’t have to remember to bring your own reusable mug or, if you do, get stuck with a dirty cup for the rest of the day. And you don’t need to sit and sip your coffee at a Starbucks, something most people don’t have time for on a weekday morning.

But that model is still just being tested, so the company wants to encourage the use of reusable mugs in other ways.

Bringing back the personal cup

Starbucks wants all customers to be able to use reusable mugs and glasses at its stores.

Early in the pandemic, when people feared that the coronavirus could spread easily on surfaces, Starbucks barred customers from bringing their own mugs. It has since brought back the option and is now trying out ways to make it more attractive.

“We’re testing an incentive on the personal cup to go up from where it is today — from 10 cents to 50 cents,” Landers said. “We are also going to be testing a disposable cup fee.” She added that the chain is also experimenting with discounted prices for people who use a Starbucks-provided ceramic mug in stores.

That’s simple enough. But it gets a lot more complicated when customers bring their own cups to the drive-thru or when they order ahead through the Starbucks app.

Years ago, ordering ahead or using a drive-thru might have been a rare enough occasion. But since the pandemic, more customers have been coming through the drive-thru or ordering ahead.

During a February analyst call, Starbucks CFO Rachel Ruggeri said that Starbucks’ drive-thru windows and its mobile orders together account for about 70% of sales at US stores operated by the company.

So to achieve its zero-disposable-cups goal, Starbucks needs to figure out how to get reusables through a drive-thru, and make them available to customers who order ahead.

To that end, Starbucks has been testing different options at its innovation center.

“We’ve got mock stores set up,” said Landers. “We have different versions of the drive-thru layout.”

Customers can simply give their cups to baristas at the drive-thru window. But Starbucks is exploring ways to make the process smoother.

One option is to allow customers to drop off their cups at an earlier point in the drive-thru lane so that the drink is ready in a personal cup once they swing around to the window, Landers said. Another is for baristas to pre-make drinks when customers place their orders, and pour them into personal tumblers at the window or when they arrive at a store to pick up their order. Starbucks is also testing out cup-washing stations in stores.

The team is trying “different things, over and over again,” to figure out what might work, she said. “We’re right now in the middle of all of that work.

“It’s crucial for Starbucks’ mobile order and drive-thru experiences to be seamless. After just a few sluggish pickups, customers may take their business elsewhere.

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Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.

A woman picks up plastic cups along the riverbank of Pasig river, in Manila, Philippines, June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David


Three in four people worldwide want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible, according to a poll released on Tuesday, as United Nations members prepare to begin talks on a global treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution.

But Starbucks also has to be careful not to put too much additional burden on employees, who already have to prepare complicated, customized orders at high speeds.

That’s especially important now. Workers across the country are considering unionization, going against the wishes of the company’s leadership.

A Starbucks, in Buffalo, New York, was the first to vote to unionize in December. Employees at a handful of other stores have since made similar efforts and several Starbucks around the country are preparing for their own votes.

If the company’s initiative leads to the end of paper and plastic cups at Starbucks, it will be quite an achievement.

“We know that even the most ardent of sustainability champion customers, they really don’t change their behaviour all that easily,” Landers said. “Even though they really, really want to.”


Danielle Wiener-Bronner at CNN Business

Sustainable batteries: EU Parliament wants cellphones to be glued on

Sustainable batteries: EU Parliament wants cellphones to be glued on

If the battery no longer works, many mobile phones, computers, household robots or headphones end up in the trash. The European Parliament now wants to change that – and not only protect the environment.

Batteries and rechargeable batteries are playing an increasingly important role in many products, from laptops to vacuum cleaner robots and electric vehicles to industrial batteries.

The market is huge.

Estimates assume a volume of 250 billion euros for the year 2025.

At the same time, the proportion of batteries that are recycled at the end of their service life remains relatively low.

This is a problem for the environment, but also for the EU’s supply of raw materials and thus independence from unsafe suppliers, as the Ukraine war shows.

“Putin’s attack on Ukraine is challenging Europe’s supply of raw materials, so we need substitution and markets for recycled critical raw materials all the more urgently,” says MEP Henrike Hahn (Greens).

The European Parliament therefore wants to use new EU rules to ensure that batteries are produced more sustainably and that a higher proportion are recycled.

In Strasbourg, the MEPs now voted in favor of a corresponding proposal from the EU Commission at the end of 2020 and tightened it up on some points.

For example, Parliament wants to increase the proportion of recycled raw materials such as cobalt, lithium, nickel or lead in batteries.

They are expected to achieve a recycling rate of 90 percent by 2026.

A European deposit system for batteries and rechargeable batteries should make a contribution to this.

“We are therefore calling on the Commission to quickly submit analyzes and proposals here,” says CDU MP Hildegard Bentele.

Parliament gives the Commission until 2025 to do this.

“Durable and repairable devices”

In order to prevent the entire product from having to be thrown away when batteries reach the end of their service life, Parliament wants to ban the permanent installation or gluing of batteries in telephones, computers, headphones, household robots, electric toothbrushes, but also e-bikes or scooters.

Users should be able to exchange them with commercially available tools.

The manufacturer must ensure that there are replacement batteries available for a product’s expected lifetime.

In addition, independent repair shops should be allowed to carry out the exchange if a user does not trust himself.

Industry, on the other hand, is up in arms.

She argues that this jeopardizes the durability and safety of the batteries.

Manufacturers must inform consumers about the energy and performance capabilities of batteries and provide information about shelf life and charging times.

This should encourage users to buy high-quality, long-lasting batteries.

Parliament argues that this reduces the emissions generated during the production of the batteries.

In addition, manufacturers of car and other transport batteries as well as industrial batteries must calculate and report the carbon footprint over the entire product cycle.

Consumers should be able to read this via a QR code.

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Reducing the use of scarce metals — and recycling them — will be key to the world’s transition to electric vehicles.

By the end of 2025, the Commission is to examine whether this can be extended to all batteries.

“Consumers finally have the choice to opt for clean, durable and repairable devices,” said Green MEP Anna Cavazzini.

From 2027 onwards, an upper limit for the CO2 footprint will apply, which effectively excludes the production of batteries with fossil fuels.

The MEPs want to ensure that the new gigafactories that are currently being built in the EU for battery production are operated with 100 percent green electricity.

The European Parliament obliges manufacturers to control their supply chains in order to prevent violations of human rights and environmental protection.

This aims, for example, that the mining of lithium in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina leads to water shortages.

In a way, Parliament is anticipating the supply chain law recently presented by the European Commission.

The new rules for batteries are scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2023. First, however, the Council of Ministers, the body of the member states, must determine its position.

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must then agree on a common line so that the rules can come into force.


Teller Report

Amazon Rainforest Nears Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Faster Than Expected

Amazon Rainforest Nears Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Faster Than Expected

Hammered by climate change and relentless deforestation, the Amazon rainforest is losing its capacity to recover and could irretrievably transition into savannah, with dire consequences for the region and the world, according to a study published Monday.

Researchers warned that the findings mean the Amazon could be approaching a so-called tipping point faster than previously understood.

Analyzing 25 years of satellite data, researchers measured for the first time the Amazon’s resilience against shocks such as droughts and fires, a key indicator of overall health.

Resilience has declined across more than three-quarters of the Amazon basin, home to half the world’s rainforest, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In areas hit hardest by destruction or drought, the forest’s ability to bounce back was reduced by approximately half, co-author Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, told AFP.

“Our resilience measure changed by more than a factor of two in the places nearer to human activity and in places that are driest,” he said in an interview.

Climate models have suggested that global heating – which has on average warmed Earth’s surface 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – could by itself push the Amazon past a point of no return into a far drier savannah-like state.

If carbon pollution continues unabated, that scenario could be locked in by mid-century, according to some models.

“But, of course, it’s not just climate change – people are busy chopping or burning the forest down, which is a second pressure point,” Lenton said.

“Those two things interact, so there are concerns the transition could happen even earlier.”

Besides the Amazon, ice sheets on Greenland and the West Antarctic, Siberian permafrost loaded with CO2 and methane, monsoon rains in South Asia, coral reef ecosystems, and the Atlantic Ocean current are all are vulnerable to tipping points that could radically alter the world as we know it.

Global fallout

Deforestation in Brazil has surged since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, hitting a 15-year high last year.

Scientists reported recently that Brazil’s rainforest – 60% of the Amazon basin’s total – has shifted from a “sink” to a “source” of CO2, releasing 20% more of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere over the past decade than it absorbed.

Terrestrial ecosystems worldwide have been a crucial ally as the world struggles to curb CO2 emissions. Vegetation and soil globally have consistently absorbed about 30% of carbon pollution since 1960, even as emissions increased by half.

“Savannification” of the Amazon would be hugely disruptive, in South America and across the globe.

More than 90 billion tons of CO2 stored in its rainforest – twice worldwide annual emissions from all sources – could be released into the atmosphere, pushing global temperatures up even faster.

Regionally, “it’s not just the forests that take a hit,” said Lenton. “If you lose the recycling of rainfall from the Amazon, you get knock-on effects in central Brazil, the country’s agricultural heartland.”

Ominously, the new findings marshal data pointing in the same direction.

“Many researchers have theorized that a tipping point could be reached,” said co-author Niklas Boers, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

“Our study provides vital empirical evidence that we are approaching that threshold.”

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The blue milk cap mushroom is a rich source of protein. laerke_lyhne , CC BY-SA


The conversion of forests to agricultural land is happening at a mind-boggling speed. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at around 10 million hectares every year.

The living root bridges of north-east India have become famous as a tourist attraction - but they could also inspire European urban architecture (Credit: Getty Images)


For centuries, indigenous groups in north-east India have crafted intricate bridges from living fig trees. Now this ancient skill is making its way to European cities.

‘Saving grace’

To assess change in the resilience of the rainforest, Lenton, Boers and lead author Chris Boulton from Exeter University analyzed two satellite data sets, one measuring biomass and the other the “greenness” of the canopy.

“If too much resilience is lost, dieback may become inevitable – but that won’t become obvious until the major event that tips the system is over,” said Boers.

There may be a “saving grace” that could pull the Amazon back from the brink.

“The rainforest naturally has a lot of resilience – this is a biome that weathered the ice ages, after all,” said Lenton.

“If you could bring the temperature back down again even after passing the tipping point, you might be able to rescue the situation.”

“But that still puts you in the realm of massive carbon dioxide removal, or geoengineering, which has its own risks.”

Just under 20% of the Amazon rainforest – straddling nine nations and covering more than 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) – has been destroyed or degraded since 1970, mostly for the production of lumber, soy, palm oil, biofuels and beef.


Agence France-Presse via VOA News

Scientists Develop Breakthrough Method for Recycling Industrial Plastics at Room Temperature in 20 Minutes

Scientists Develop Breakthrough Method for Recycling Industrial Plastics at Room Temperature in 20 Minutes

A new and simple method for upcycling plastic waste at room temperature has been developed by a team of British researchers.

The researchers at the University of Bath hope the new process will help recycling become less energy intensive, and thus more economically viable.

While recycling rates are growing across Europe, traditional methods remain limited because the harsh remelting conditions reduce the quality of the material each time they’re recycled.

But this new rapid chemical recycling process for polycarbonates can be completed in 20 minutes at room temperature.

Using a zinc-based catalyst and methanol, they were able to completely break down commercial poly(bisphenol A carbonate) (BPA-PC) beads that make up a widely-used class of thermoplastics commonly utilized in construction and engineering.

The waste can then be converted into its chemical constituents, namely bisphenol A (BPA) and dimethyl carbonate (DMC), helping to preserve its quality for reuse over an infinite number of cycles.

Also important, BPA recovery prevents leakage of a potentially damaging environmental pollutant, whilst DMC is a valuable green solvent and building block for other industrial chemicals.

Promisingly, the zinc catalyst is also tolerant to other commercial sources of BPA-PC (e.g. CD) and mixed plastic sources, increasing industrial relevance, whilst being amenable to other plastics, like poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), at higher temperatures.

The team has also demonstrated a completely circular approach to producing several renewable plastic derived from waste PET bottles—poly(ester-amide)s (PEAs) and their terephthalamide monomers. These materials have excellent thermal properties and could potentially be used in biomedical applications, for example drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Lead researcher Professor Matthew Jones, at the University of Bath’s CSCT, said, “It’s really exciting to see the versatility of our catalysts in producing a wide range of value-added products from plastic waste.

“It’s crucial we target such products, where possible, to help promote and accelerate the implementation of emerging sustainable technologies through economic incentives.”

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The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.

First author of the paper, Jack Payne from the CSCT, said, “Whilst plastics will play a key role in achieving a low-carbon future, moving forward, it’s imperative we source plastics from renewable feedstocks, embed biodegradability/recyclability at the design phase and diversify existing waste management strategies.”

“Such future innovation should not be limited to emerging materials but encompass established products too.

“Our method creates new opportunities for polycarbonate recycling under mild conditions, helping to promote a circular economy approach and keep carbon in the loop indefinitely.”

Presently, the technology has only been demonstrated on a small scale, however, the team is now working on catalyst optimization and scaling up the process (300 mL) with collaborators at the University of Bath.


Good News Network

UN agrees to create world’s first-ever plastics pollution treaty in a blow to big oil

UN agrees to create world’s first-ever plastics pollution treaty in a blow to big oil

The United Nations approved a landmark agreement to create the world’s first-ever global plastic pollution treaty on Wednesday, describing it as the most significant environmental deal since the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Member states held talks for more than a week in Nairobi, Kenya, to agree the outline of a pact to rein in soaring plastic pollution, an environmental crisis that extends from ocean trenches to mountain tops.

Government officials cheered and punched the air after the adoption of a resolution to create a legally binding plastic pollution treaty, which is due to be finalized by 2024.

“We’re making history today and you should all be proud,” said Espen Barth Eide, president of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”

A delegate looks at a 30-foot monument dubbed “turn off the plastic tap” by Canadian activist and artist Benjamin von Wong, made with plastic waste collected from Kibera slums, at the venue of the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi/File Photo

The resolution, which UNEA calls “the most significant environmental deal since the Paris accord,” is written in broad strokes and an intergovernmental committee is now tasked with negotiating a binding treaty that will have ripple effects on businesses and economies around the world.

Any treaty that puts restrictions on plastic production, use or design would impact oil and chemicals companies that make raw plastic, as well as consumer goods giants that sell thousands of products in single-use packaging.

This would also have a significant impact on the economies of major plastic-producing countries, including the United States, India, China and Japan.

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A woman picks up plastic cups along the riverbank of Pasig river, in Manila, Philippines, June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David


Three in four people worldwide want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible, according to a poll released on Tuesday, as United Nations members prepare to begin talks on a global treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution.


Almost every country in the Mediterranean Sea has at least one Marine Protected Area (MPA) where over half of its macroplastics originated from another country, according to a new study.

Although UN officials were united in celebrating the agreement to have a plastic treaty, there remain disagreements over what should be include in a final pact, Switzerland’s ambassador for the environment Franz Perrez said.

“This is a division between those who are ambitious and want to find a solution and those who don’t want to find a solution for whatever reasons,” he told a news conference in Nairobi on Tuesday.

There is overwhelming public support for a UN treaty on plastic pollution, according to an IPSOS poll released this month, and delegates were swift to celebrate what they had achieved in Nairobi.

“This is only the end of the beginning, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said a tearful Monica Medina, the head of the United States delegation. “But it is the beginning of the end of the scourge of plastic waste for this planet.”


John Geddie and Joe Brock via Reuters