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Is solar cooking the new way to save forests

From cool, dewy European mountain ranges and humid Central Asian forests to the urban sprawl across North America and the arid landscapes of the African continent, millions of people are cooking with only the sun’s rays as fuel, CNN reports.

This culinary magic is known as solar cooking. Instead of burning a fuel source, solar cooking uses mirrored surfaces to channel and concentrate sunlight into a small space, cooking food while producing zero carbon emissions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.6 billion people around the globe cook their daily meals over open fires. Fuelled with wood, animal waste, kerosene and charcoal, these fires produce highly polluting smoke and contribute to deforestation, soil erosion and ultimately desertification — but solar cookers could provide an alternative.

Solar cookers and shrinking forests 

Solar Cookers International (SCI) is an non-profit that advocates for the adoption of solar thermal cooking technologies. SCI says it knows of over 4 million solar cookers around the world, which people are using to cook and bake in the direct sun or through light clouds.

One of these people is Janak Palta McGilligan. The 73-year-old is a member of the SCI Global Advisory Council and director of the Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development in Madhya Pradesh, India — which she founded with her late husband in 2010.

In a country where up to 81% of rural communities rely on polluting fuels for cooking, Palta McGilligan noticed people were being disadvantaged by cooking with firewood from shrinking ecosystems. Their health was impacted and the natural environment surrounding them eroded. “Girls couldn’t go to school because they spent all day collecting wood,” adds Palta McGilligan.

Yet with an estimated 300 sunny days a year, India has a substantial opportunity for using solar thermal energy.

Palta McGilligan introduced solar cookers to these communities, with the Jimmy McGilligan Centre covering all the training costs and 90% of the price of the cookers, both to protect the forests from degradation and to provide equal opportunities for women.

To date, the Centre has trained more than 126,000 people in sustainable practices such as solar cooking, and food curing and dehydrating techniques, as well as using solar thermal energy to heat up an iron to press clothes.

“It is about the environment, but it is also about equality,” she tells CNN.

A simple solution?

There are many types of solar cookers: from mirrored boxes to rooftop systems and evacuated tube cookers — a more complex device that functions well in colder climates.

Palta McGilligan advocates globally for the health benefits of solar cooking. “Even economic health is benefited,” she says. “All the polluting fuels are so expensive but solar cooking is free — always.”

Anyone can use a solar cooker and training is simple: “You have to learn to position the solar cooker, how to align it to the sun. That’s all,” explains Palta McGilligan.

A basic solar box oven can be constructed with a cardboard box and mirrors or foil, costing as little as a couple of dollars.

Solar cookers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all utilize thermal energy from the sun.

There’s one obvious drawback: You can’t cook after dark, and although food will cook quickly on a sunny day, in poor weather solar cookers can take considerably longer than a conventional stove or oven and may not reach temperatures high enough to safely cook meat. On cool or windy days, heavy foods — such as loaves of bread — may not cook at all.

But solar cookers can be used to dehydrate and cure foods to preserve them for stretches of time when there is heavy cloud cover.

‘Whole forests will be saved’

According to international NGO SolarAid, in sunny and arid climates a single solar cooker can save up to a ton of wood annually.

That can add up, with the use of polluting cooking fuels accounting for more than half of global black carbon emissions. Black carbon is one of the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide, but it only stays in the atmosphere for days to weeks. In fact, burning wood biomass generates greater CO2 emissions per unit of energy than burning fossil fuels.

Beyond the carbon cost, the use of biomass fuels can contribute to deforestation of rural regions.

“The planet is at risk,” says Palta McGilligan. “In rural India, we can’t grow trees quickly enough to make up for the wood burnt for cooking.”

She says that alongside training on solar cooking methods, she encourages the planting and nurturing of native vegetation and trees to begin to counteract the environmental impact lifetimes of woodfire cooking has had in rural India.

“The people in the villages are connected to the forests,” Palta McGilligan tells CNN. “They feel sorry the jungles are being lost, they’re sad that there will be no trees. Solar thermal energy is a great relief to them.”

Palta McGilligan has observed the recovery of ecosystems as a direct result of solar cooking being introduced to a village. “Whole forests will be saved by the use of solar cookers,” she says.

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Queen Elizabeth calls attention on lack of action on climate change

Queen Elizabeth II has said the lack of action on tackling the climate crisis is «irritating», CNN reports.

The British monarch made the remarks on Thursday during a conversation at the opening of the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff.

The Queen was chatting with the Duchess of Cornwall and Elin Jones, the parliament’s presiding officer, when her remarks were captured on video.

At one point, the Queen appears to be talking about the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, saying: “I’ve been hearing all about COP … I still don’t know who’s coming.” 

In a separate clip, the Queen appears to say it is “irritating” when “they talk, but they don’t do.” Parts of the two clips were inaudible.

In her reply, Jones appears to reference Prince William’s remarks from earlier Thursday, saying she had been watching him “on television this morning saying there’s no point going into space, we need to save the earth,” the PA Media news agency reported.

The Duke of Cambridge spoke about the ongoing rush for space travel in an interview with the BBC’s Newscast podcast, which aired on Thursday.

“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” he said.

His comments aired the day after “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, 90, made history by becoming the oldest person to go to space aboard a New Shepard spacecraft, developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

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Miners protest in Bulgaria

SOFIA, Oct 13 – About 1,000 miners and workers from Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched in Sofia on Wednesday to protect their jobs and to urge the government to support their industry, Reuters informs.

Demonstrators called on the Cabinet to guarantee it would not rush to shut mines and power plants at the Maritsa East lignite coal complex in southern Bulgaria, despite a European Union push to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.

“There should be green, clean energy, but time is needed for investment first,” said Spaska Ruskova, 58, who works for a mining equipment company.

“It will probably happen for our grandchildren, but it cannot happen now, because hundreds of families are destined to lose their jobs and doomed to high power bills,” she said.

Bulgaria needs to set a date when it will phase out power generation from coal if it wants to draw on EU recovery funds and meet the bloc’s climate goals.

The interim government has said it will present its plan for EU aid to Brussels on Friday. It will defend its target of closing coal-fired plants by 2038 or 2040 – largely in line with the miners’ demands.

Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded that the polluting plants be closed by 2030, urging Bulgaria to focus on renewable energy and providing new jobs in the coal regions.

Protesters say early closure of the plants, which produce 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity, would lead to power shortages and rising energy costs.

Some 10,000 people work at the Maritsa East complex, whose lignite coal deposits are rich in sulphur blamed for poor air quality and respiratory diseases.

Trade unions say the complex provides livelihoods for more than 100,000 people in the European Union’s poorest member and have vowed to keep up pressure on the government that is to formed after a Nov. 14 general election.

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Google will prevent climate change deniers from making money from ads

Google is cracking down on the ability of climate change deniers to make money off its platforms and to spread climate misinformation through advertisementі, CNN reports.

The company said Thursday it will no longer allow advertising to appear alongside “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” Google (GOOG) will also prohibit advertisements that deny the reality of climate change. 

The policy, which goes into effect next month, applies to any content on YouTube and other Google platforms that refers “to climate change as a hoax or a scam,” as well as denials that “greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”

“We’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” Google said in its announcement Thursday. “Advertisers simply don’t want their ads to appear next to this content. And publishers and creators don’t want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos.”

Big tech companies have faced increasing pressure in recent years to contribute more to the fight against climate change, including action against climate-related misinformation on their platforms. But as some of the big platforms have shown in the past, consistently implementing a policy after it has been announced tends to be the most challenging part.

Facebook last month announced its own effort to combat climate misinformation, including a $1 million grant to support fact-checking of false climate claims. 

Google also rolled out several products earlier this week to increase climate awareness, including a new setting in Google Maps that shows users the most eco-friendly route.

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Google maps will help tourists to find the most eco-friendly routes

Driving and flying are huge contributors to carbon emissions and climate change. So Google is helping users make more informed decisions about how they travel, CNN informs.

The company is releasing features on Google Maps and Google Flights to show how travel plans may contribute to climate change.

Eco-friendly routes

In addition to showing drivers the fastest way to get to their destination, Google Maps will now show the route that’s the most fuel-efficient. 

To provide the new feature, Google incorporated data from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which estimates that eco-friendly routing has the potential to prevent more than one million tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere per year. That’s the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road, Google claims.

On the Google Maps app, the most eco-friendly route will display with a small green leaf next to it. The route option will include information about how long the trip will take and how much fuel the driver could save. 

Options for bikers

It’s no secret that biking is a more eco-friendly travel option than driving, and the use of biking directions on Maps has increased by as much as 98% over the past year, according to Google. The tech company is focusing on tapping into bike riders with a new feature called “lite navigation” that gives cyclists important details about their routes.

This feature is being introduced after Google heard from cyclists who were sick of following turn-by-turn directions on their phones. Bikers tend to tuck their phones away for most of the ride, after all.

With lite navigation, bike riders will be able to see details about their route without needing to keep their screen on or engage turn-by-turn navigation. 

Cyclists will also be able to track their trip progress, see their ETA updated in real time and find details about the elevation of their route.

Bike and scooter sharing

In addition to the biking feature, in 300 cities — including Berlin, New York and São Paulo — Google Maps is introducing a feature that will provide more information about bike and scooter sharing. With this new option, Google Maps users will be able to find nearby docking stations and pinpoint how many vehicles are available at that moment.

To make this feature possible, Google is partnering with bike and scooter companies including Europe-based Donkey Republic, Tier and Voi, as well as Bird and Spin, which are based in the US.

Finding flights with fewer carbon emissions

Alongside price and trip duration information, Google Flights users will now be able to see carbon emissions estimates for nearly every flight in the search results. The estimates are “flight-specific” and “seat-specific,” Google said. 

“Newer aircraft are generally less polluting than older aircraft,” the company said in its press release. “Emissions increase for premium economy and first-class seats because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions,” Google added.

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The last Norway’s Arctic coal mine will be closed until the 2023

OSLO, Sept 30 – Norway’s state-owned coal company will close its last mine in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago in 2023, it said on Thursday, causing the loss of 80 jobs and ending 120 years of exploitation, Reuters informs.

While Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani (SNSK) has shut its major mines in the islands over the past two decades, it had kept the smaller Mine 7 open, primarily to ensure supplies to a local coal-fired power plant, as well as some exports.

The Arctic islands are warming faster than almost anywhere on Earth, highlighting the risks to fragile ecosystems from climate change, and Norway aims to cut its overall emissions, although it also remains a major oil and gas producer.

Svalbard’s main settlement will temporarily switch its energy source to diesel in 2023 before establishing a permanent renewable electricity supply, negating the need for a local coal supply, SNSK said.

“Now that the contract to supply the power plant has been terminated there will no longer be a basis for operating the mine,” Chief Executive Morten Dyrstad said in a statement.

In the meantime however, Mine 7 will increase its output to a rate of 125,000 tonnes per year from the current 90,000 tonnes, taking advantage of high global prices to boost exports for the remaining two years.

But the volumes are small compared to SNSK’s historical output of several million tonnes annually, and the local economy is now primarily geared towards tourism and scientific research.

Located around 700 km (435 miles) north of the European mainland, Svalbard is governed under a 1920 treaty giving Norway sovereignty but allowing all nations signing it to do business there and to exploit its natural resources.

Russia operates a coal mine at its Barentsburg settlement, supplying a local power plant.

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German young people protest over the politicans ignoring the climate change

BERLIN, Sept 24 (Reuters) – In one of the world’s most aged countries, some young people are resorting to drastic measures to voice their frustration at politicians’ failure to tackle climate change.

Outside Germany’s parliament, a group of activists have been on hunger strike since Aug. 30, bringing their demands for more action on climate change in person to the three candidates to succeed Angela Merkel.

Now, two days before the election that will bring her time in office to a close, two of the activists have stepped up their campaign, announcing that they will no longer even drink water until their demands are heard.

“We’ve tried everything,” said Klara Hinrichs, spokesperson for the two remaining hunger strikers. “Thousands of us were on the street with Fridays for Future. We started petitions. I chained myself to the transport ministry.”

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was in the German capital on Friday as part of a Fridays for Future global climate protest.

The three chancellor candidates, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, conservative Armin Laschet and Green Annalena Baerbock have not gone to see the hunger strikers, urging them to drop their strike and preserve themselves for future battles.

But while the other hunger strikers have now dropped their campaign, Henning Jeschke, now wheelchair-bound and very gaunt, and Lea Bonasera have vowed not to drink until Olaf Scholz, leading in the polls, either comes to them or declares there is a climate emergency.

“To the activists in hunger strike I say: I will stick to the agreement and speak to them after the election,” Scholz wrote on Twitter on Friday. “But now they must save their own lives and stop.”

Germany has long been in the vanguard of climate activism, giving birth to the first Green Party to win national prominence, and all parties are committed to action on climate change.

But its population also has the oldest median age in the European Union, and successive elections have revealed a gulf between the young, most exposed to the long-term impact of rising temperatures, and the old for whom climate change is one of many competing worries.

After a recent television debate, polls found that more than half those aged 18-34 thought Baerbock, the Green candidate, had won, compared to a fifth of older people, who were far more convinced by the SPD’s and conservatives’ candidates.

“The intergenerational pact has been broken,” reads the poster with which the seven original hunger strikers announced their campaign.

But Baerbock, at 40 the youngest of the three candidates for chancellor, also sided with Scholz.

“Don’t throw your lives away,” she told them via newspaper Die Welt. “Society needs you.”

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Brussel will ban diesel cars by 2030 and petrol until 2035

25 June 2021 – The government of the Brussels-Capital Region has today announced tightening its low emission zone after 2025. The proposal foresees phasing out diesel cars by 2030 while petrol and gas-powered cars will be banned as of 2035. No date was put forward for banning fossil fuel-powered coaches and heavy-duty vehicles. Fossil fuel-powered buses will be phased out as of 2036, the Clean Cities Campaign informs.

The regional government’s decision to set an end date for fossil fuel-burning vehicles in the city is a welcome improvement, according to the environmental NGOs. However, they call on the regional government to phase out all fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2030 at the latest, as is already the case in other European cities.

Eva Zemmour, Project Coordinator at Les chercheurs d’air said: “Setting an end date for fossil fuel-powered vehicles in Brussels is certainly good news. But we cannot wait another 10 or 15 years. The health, economic and climate impacts are far too pressing. Capitals like Paris and Amsterdam won’t have any of these vehicles on their roads by 2030. Why then should Brussels wait until 2035?”

According to a new study by Bruxelles Environnement, exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), originating mainly from road traffic, led to 950 premature deaths in Brussels in 2018. Currently, 100% of the Brussels population is exposed to levels of PM2.5 that are considered harmful to people’s health, according to the World Health Organization. The study shows that if all fossil fuel-powered vehicles, including heavy-duty vehicles, were banned by 2030, this figure would fall to 3-4%. Similarly, the number of premature deaths would decrease by 110 deaths per year.

ClientEarth’s director of nature and health Ugo Taddei said: “Every single citizen in Brussels is currently exposed to harmful levels of PM2.5 above the recommendations of the World Health Organization and their health is suffering day in and day out because of it. Phasing out fossil fuelled vehicles will have clear and significant benefits in reducing air pollution and protecting human health. So why wait so long? The Brussels government has a legal and moral duty to protect people and put in place the measures that will ensure healthy air as soon as possible.”

recent Yougov survey commissioned by the Clean Cities Campaign shows that six out of ten Brussels residents (61%) want to see a reduction in air pollution from traffic and ⅔ of them are asking for more action to be taken at local level to fight it.

Marie-Charlotte Debouche, coordinator of the Clean Cities Campaign in Belgium, said: “Citizens are aware of the impact polluting vehicles have on their health and are asking for more action against air pollution at local level. The Brussels government has certainly taken a historic step for Brussels today, but must now listen to its citizens and revise the current proposal to ban all fossil fuel-powered vehicles from the city by 2030 at the latest.”

Today’s proposal detailing the government’s plans for the Low Emission Zone after 2025 is part of a Royal Decree that will be reviewed by several governmental committees before the summer.

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Norwegian activists protest against the new oil exploration licences in the Arctic

A group of environmental activists chained themselves in front of the Norwegian oil and energy ministry on Thursday to protest against the awarding of new oil exploration licences in the Arctic, The globe and mail informs.

Carrying banners that said “No to new oil” and “Norwegian oil is boiling the planet” three campaigners sat in chains in front of the entry to the ministry from about 0600 GMT as ministry workers arrived for work.

Norway on Wednesday awarded four exploration licences to seven oil companies, including three for the Arctic Barents Sea, although fewer oil companies applied for the permits than in previous licensing rounds.

“We’re demonstrating here today because Norway is keeping on handing out new oil licences even though we’re in the midst of a climate crisis,” said demonstrator Halvard Raavand, 30, wearing an “oil free Arctic” black face mask.

Earlier, demonstrators glued images of individuals carrying slogans such as “keep the oil in the ground” on the windows of the ministry.

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French investors will be required to declare how green their assets are

France is striving to confirm its position as a global leader in corporate climate disclosures with a new set of binding targets that require investors to declare how green their assets are and set greenhouse emissions goals every five years.

In 2015, when it hosted U.N. climate talks that agreed a major deal to move the world away from fossil fuel, France took the lead in requiring financial institutions and asset managers to disclose their exposure to climate risks.

Since then the debate has moved further into the mainstream and countries and companies around the world are vying for position as environmental champions.

This month, Britain hosted G7 talks that backed mandatory climate disclosure and some policy-makers want a deal to establish global reporting requirements in time for November’s U.N. climate change talks in Glasgow.

France has sought to secure its lead with the world’s first regulations, published on June 2 and taking effect from the 2021 reporting period, to make it mandatory for investors to set greenhouse gas emission goals every five years to 2050 and for quantified targets to protect biodiversity.

The 230 portfolio management firms covered by the regulations will have to declare the percentage of their assets that is green and their exposure to fossil fuel companies.

France was keen to ensure European governments set the ground rules, rather than import U.S.-influenced voluntary recommendations. It says its 2015 rules served as a model for EU regulations on sustainable finance disclosure currently taking effect.

“We don’t want to depend on a framework that comes from the United States,” former state secretary for environmental transition Brune Poirson told Reuters.

BUILDING ON EXPERIENCE

In 2015, France was at the vanguard when it introduced a requirement that institutional investors and asset managers must explain how they factored in climate risks or to give a reason why they could not.

With several years of experience and disclosure regulation entering into force across the European Union, France is seeking to go further than its peers.

AXA Investment Managers, the French insurer’s asset management arm, said that the updated French rules were “more detailed than the European regulation” and should be used as a “user’s guide” to putting the new EU reguirements into practice.

This month’s update also made compulsory the recommendations from the industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which a growing number of companies internationally follow on a voluntary basis.

Paris has supported the principles behind the U.S.-influenced TCFD recommendations since they were issued in 2017, but had previously stopped short of bringing them into the French framework.

The shift places it just ahead of Britain, which has proposed UK companies should meet TCFD recommendations from next year.

Central bankers are among those who say mandatory rather than voluntary reporting is necessary to deal with the risk of assets that could prove to be of low value because of their climate exposure.

“Disclosure will help markets to appropriately price climate-related risks and ensure efficient allocation of capital,” Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau told an online central banking conference early this month.

“That is why disclosure should become mandatory, at least as a first step for financial institutions, as it is already in France, and for large corporates,” he said.

RULES VERSUS REALITY

While representatives of French asset managers supported France’s approach, they said that the disclosure rules for investors were ahead of those for companies making up their portfolios.

“The lack of data published by issuers is going to keep us from meeting the regulation’s demands in the short term,” Alix Faure, head of sustainable investing at the French asset managers’ association, said.

Independently of governments and regulators, many investors have been pressing for more climate transparency, which has to an extent eroded France’s first mover advantage.

Campaign group CDP, which tracks corporate disclosure, had 19 French companies on its transparency A-list last year, level with Germany but behind Britain which had 21 firms.

“Everyone is catching up, especially in Germany where big German companies have to be more transparent because investors demand it,” CDP capital markets director Laurent Babikian said.

Whereas once climate rules deterred investors that were seeking the highest returns, investing in sustainable and ethically governed companies is now widely seen as a way to reduce financial risk.

A study by France’s central bank in January found French investors have reduced their exposure to companies in the fossil-fuel sector by 39% since 2015, suggesting that 28 billion euros ($33.34 billion) have been channelled elsewhere.

Green pressure groups, however, question whether French leadership has had much impact so far.

“France has self-proclaimed itself as a leader of green finance since 2017, but four years later the government’s incapacity to spur a shift in financial flows exposes its failure on climate policy,” Friends of the Earth France campaigner Lorette Philippot said in a statement.

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