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Shareholders in the US are showing growing concern about their investments in companies exposed to climate change-related risks, according to new data released by Ceres, a US organisation that promotes more sustainable business practices.

The annual round of corporate shareholder meetings – referred to in the US as the proxy season – has recently ended. Ceres says that at those meetings a total of 110 shareholder climate change and environmental sustainability-related resolutions were filed with 94 US-based companies: issues covered by the resolutions included concerns about hydraulic fracturing, flaring and both the environmental and financial risks of further exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

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On Friday, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced a “game changing” development in solar energy. A company called 1366 Technologies, headquartered in Lexington, Mass., has developed a silicon solar wafer that would cut the cost of solar cell manufacturing by an estimated 50 percent.

The wafer technology was developed with the support of a pilot innovation investment program housed under the Department of Energy, known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). According to director Arun Majumdar, “ARPA-E is looking for high risk ideas that, if successful, can be high impact. Those that don’t exist today.”

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Buildings consume 40 percent of American energy
In its first ever National Building Competition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenged teams from across the nation to cut wasteful energy use in buildings in which they live and work. Residential and commercial buildings together consume 40 percent of U.S. energy and the Obama Administration is eager to show how that load  can be reduced.

In recent remarks at Pennyslvania State University, President Barack Obama promoted a plant that could help commercial buildings achieve greater energy efficiency.

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Pioneering research by the University of Reading has developed a new way to test the adhesive qualities of drugs under laboratory development which could replace the current practice of using animal tissue.

The study by University of Reading has produced a synthetic tissue, a hydrogel, which mimics the properties of mucosal tissues, such as that found in the mouth and stomach, to assess how medicines will react in the body.

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An International Maritime Organization panel adopted what it calls mandatory design and operational measures to reduce greenhouse gases from international shipping.

According to the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, which has met 62 times on this issue, this month’s action is the “first ever mandatory greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector.”

It sounds impressive but it has taken years to get this point and lots of work and unresolved issues still remain. The agreement by 55 of the world’s largest shipping nations was adopted by the MEPC this month.

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20 December 2010 – A project executed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in West Africa has succeeded in slashing the use of toxic pesticides, increasing yields and incomes, and diversifying farming systems.

Around 100,000 farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal are participating in the community-driven training programme, which promotes good agricultural practices through small groups called Farmer Field Schools.

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The U.N. Secretary-General’s High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing has released its recommendations for how the international community can raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to offset the impact of global warming on developing countries. Among the recommendations, the panel is urging increasing the price of carbon emissions.

In February, U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon established the advisory group and asked Ethiopian Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg, to co-chair it. On Friday, they presented the Secretary-General with the 21 member group’s recommendations on how to generate $100 billion a year by 2020 to help address the needs of developing countries in battling the effects of climate change. That target was set at last year’s climate conference in Copenhagen.

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1 March 2011 – The United Nations climate change chief today called on governments to quickly transform the agreements reached in the Mexican city of Cancún last year into tangible action on the ground, and provide clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases emissions.

“Governments must now implement quickly what they agreed in Cancún and take the next big climate step this year in Durban,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, told reporters in Tokyo.

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Anti-carbon divestment campaign targets £5bn of British funds

An international campaign to urge large institutions to dump fossil fuel investments reaches the UK this week, following rapid success in the US.

The year-old divestment campaign, Fossil Free, has grown even faster than similar efforts that once targeted apartheid, tobacco and arms manufacturers. It now aims to focus attention on the £5bn invested in coal, oil and gas by the endowment funds of UK universities. The move comes as financial giants such as HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs are starting to take seriously the prospect that global action to reduce carbon emissions could leave two-thirds of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves unburnable and worthless.

“The divestment campaign will start politically to bankrupt the fossil fuel industry and throw into stronger relief that it is a rogue industry, committed to burning more carbon than any government on Earth thinks it would be safe to burn,” said Bill McKibben, a prominent US climate campaigner and figurehead of the Fossil Free campaign. “One reason we are losing the battle against climate change – the most important challenge humans have faced – is the power of the fossil fuel industry to block change,” he told the Observer. “It is the richest industry in the history of human enterprise.”

The US campaign has already led to more than 40 institutions, including the city of Seattle, universities and churches, pulling out of fossil fuel investments. Addressing the political debate in the UK over rising energy bills, McKibben said: “England has been burning fossil fuels since James Watt: there is no way you get to transition [to low-carbon energy] for free. But as economist Lord Nicholas Stern has said over and over again, the cost of not doing it is orders of magnitude higher than doing it.”

Student divestment campaigns have sprung up at 20 UK universities, including the three with the largest investments: Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh. UK universities have more than £5bn – £2,000 per student – invested in fossil fuels, according to student group People & Planet and the 350.org campaign, which McKibben co-founded.

“Investing in fossil fuel companies, which harm communities and destroy the climate, is not OK,” said Miriam Dobson, from People & Planet at Edinburgh University, where the campaign tour begins on Wednesday before visiting Birmingham and London.

British campaigners claimed a first victory last week, with the University of Surrey shifting funds from two unnamed fossil fuel companies into a renewable-energy-focused company.

The report also lists the research funding that companies, including Shell and BP, give universities, including £6m to Oxford and £17m to Imperial College London. “UK universities have become victims of corporate capture,” said Kevin Smith from oil and gas watchdog Platform. “We are allowing public infrastructure to be used to subsidise a dangerous, outdated energy model.”

A separate report found that the fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing faster than any previous one. “Stigmatisation poses a far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies,” said Ben Caldecott, a research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and an author of the report. “In every case we reviewed, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation.”

The divestment campaign argues that there is also a financial reason for getting rid of fossil fuel investments, because increasing policies to cut carbon will eventually impact on the stocks’ value. The landmark climate change report in September, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated that agreement by the world’s governments to restrict global warming to less than 2C meant keeping total future carbon emissions under 500 gigatonnes. Analysis by the International Energy Agency and the Carbon Tracker thinktank has shown this would mean that about two-thirds of the coal, oil and gas on the books of fossil fuel companies would have to remain unburned.

Carbon capture and storage technology would, if developed successfully, bury emissions equivalent to just 4% of total global reserves, according to Carbon Tracker.

With the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies spending $674bn in 2012 on finding new reserves (compared to $281bn renewable energy investment), the risk of inflating a stock market “carbon bubble” to the tune of trillions of dollars is “very big indeed”, according to Stern. “The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” he said in April.

See the full story on The Guardian’s website here

UK scientists have been looking at how changes to the diet of cows and sheep could help reduce the animals’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The study suggested that certain feedstocks, in proportion to milk or meat yields, could reduce the release of methane by up to 33%.

According to latest figures, the agricultural sector accounts for about 43% of the nation’s methane emissions.

Ministers hope the study will improve the environmental performance of farms.

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PositiveTv would like to add it’s weight to the call to create this post too.

The UK government should create a new ministerial post for green economics, an international policy group that includes MPs past and present has said.

The minister would play a role similar to the Treasury chief secretary, but looking after “natural capital”.

The recommendation comes from Globe International, whose members include ex-Environment Secretary John Gummer – now Lord Deben – and Zac Goldsmith MP.

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Two British businesses responsible for attempting to illegally export 259 tons of mixed waste to China were fined the maximum amount on Wednesday.

The businesses disguised 10 containers of mixed waste as scrap metal for export but were discovered at Felixstowe, the largest British port, during a routine inspection by the British government’s regulatory body Environment Agency.

The last time illegal shipments to China caused a public stir was in 2005, when more than 1,000 tons of contaminated British household refuse disguised as waste paper was intercepted in the Netherlands.

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