Your weekly roundup of environment and sustainability news in the UK.
We find out how many children in the UK are breathing toxic air, the Government continues to drag its feet on air pollution, solar growth in the UK declines again, Ben & Jerry’s calls for Government action on wind generation and McDonalds switches to paper straws. Then our very first guest Aleena Brown of Mummy Mama Mum will be joining us to ask how she can get her carnivore husband to embrace more vegan food.
Millions of UK children breathing toxic air. Unicef has reported that almost a third of under 18s in the UK live in areas with toxic levels of small particulate pollution (the PM2.5 from last week). This figure includes 1.6 million children who are under five and 270,000 babies. The Government has lost in the high court three times for failing to take adequate measures to reduce air pollution (The Welsh Government is also a named defendant in these cases) and is now being taken to Europe’s highest court. Research has shown that small children are particularly vulnerable to this sort of pollution because they are shorter and therefore closer to exhausts from passing cars.
Cross party MPs accuse UK Government of dragging its feet on air pollution. A partnership of the Commons committees for environment, food and rural affairs, health and social care, transport and environmental audit urged the Government in March to take more serious action on air pollution; recommending the Government bring forward the 2040 ban on new conventional petrol and diesel cars. The Government has resisted, leading MP Mary Creagh to say “it is worrying that the Government is dragging its feet on air quality, even in the face of legal action by the European court of justice”.
Solar growth halves for the second year running. The number of new solar installations in the UK has halved for the second year running. New solar energy capacity this year was just 0.9GW in 2017, down from 1.97GW in 2016. In 2015, it was over 4 GW. Solar growth in the UK has been so bad that we’ve dragged down the EU’s growth figures overall. It is thought that two rounds of subsidy cuts and changes to business rates for buildings with rooftop solar are to blame.
Ben & Jerry’s has backed a campaign to end planning blocks for onshore wind farms, renaming some of its ice creams to boot. Climate change charity 10:10 is calling for the UK Government to lift planning blocks to onshore wind developments. Research has shown wind to be a very popular form of renewable energy, with up to 76% of Brits surveyed saying they were “fans” of it. Clever cookies also say it is also the cheapest source of new-build electricity in the UK. Despite this, the UK government has put the brakes on onshore wind developments – stopping wind energy from playing a vital part in the UK’s route to a greener future.
McDonalds have announced that they are swapping to paper straws in response to a customer petition. Currently using an astonishing 1.8 million plastic straws in the UK alone, the fast food giant said it is listening to customer concerns and will begin phasing out plastic straws in September, with the process completing at some point in 2019. The paper straws will be biodegradable and sourced in the UK.
Want to find out how Aleena’s going to get her husband to eat more vegan food? Watch the video!
Read next: The Beginners Guide to Going Vegan