Pollution trading in southern California has been turned into a highly effective tool for emission control. The emissions at issue in this case are nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur oxide (SOx), and the South Coast region certainly had a problem to deal with. It could claim the dubious distinction of smoggiest region in the nation, a real health hazard for a population of some 15 million in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. But by 2003, NOx and SOx emissions should be down to under a quarter of their 1993 levels, thanks to a market mechanism which has progressively ratcheted up the price of polluting.
The Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM) is based on determining an annual allocation of pollution permits to local businesses, adding up to that year’s overall limit on permissible output. And each year the numbers get smaller. Companies can buy credits from one another if they are going to exceed their pollution quotas, but as the quotas fall, the supply of credits shrinks, the demand increases - and the price skyrockets.
Customers can help the travel industry meet its obligations to the planet - but that won’t be enough on its own, argues Geoffrey Lipman of Green Globe.
It is a truism that all industry ultimately depends on the earth’s resources. But for the travel and tourism industry they are its very bread and butter: for without unspoiled scenery, clean air and clean water it would have little to sell, except perhaps airport lounge shopping.
A clean environment is thus inseparable from the industry’s self-interest, quite apart from any moral considerations. This cuts both ways, however - for, properly planned and managed, tourism can do more to support nature and heritage conservation than any other sector of the economy. It can do this through the travellers themselves: if people want to travel in ways that are less polluting, and stay in places that are less polluted, then by using companies that practise sustainability, a virtuous circle of demand and response will be created.
Local authorities up and down the country can tap into work done in Nottingham, London, Leicester and Derby to help them appraise how they are performing on ‘delivering best value and sustainability’. A checklist covering nine key areas of action, drawn up by Nottingham City Council (0115 915 5555) for the local authority executives’ association SOLACE, can be downloaded from SOLACE’s website (www.solace.org.uk).
Sustainable community projects should not just be isolated experiments. A report on learning lessons from five innovative projects in the UK, and from projects elsewhere in Europe, proposes ways of applying this experience to other initiatives, including future Millennium Village projects. Millennium Villages and Sustainable Communities is available for £24 from the DETR Publications Sales Centre and can also be viewed on its website.
Technology offers us our best chance to save the planet, writes Peter Malaise of Ecover.
The last thing I want to do is stop people dreaming of a better world. But I can’t help thinking that, despite all the sophistication and relative security of modern life, many of us are deluded as to what that world might be like.
It is a commonplace that people need to know that unspoiled nature exists: green fields, tropical beaches, mountain streams, that sort of thing. Somewhere to escape for the weekend, perhaps. Equally, it is a commonplace that, although such things survive in many places, our lifestyle is gradually destroying them. They are no longer a certainty, and the purity of the past is gone for ever.
What is certain is that a better world will look quite different from what many think. We should dream beyond a mere return to the past: dream up completely new solutions for the problems that face the entire planet. We can’t just go back to nature.
We are (or at least were) starting to switch from taxing labour to taxing pollution. According to a recent report for the EU Commission by Forum for the Future, “the most notable development in terms of environmental taxes is the increasing implementation of ecological tax reforms in EU member states”. Energy taxes provide more than three-quarters of total environmental tax revenues over the EU as a whole.
Their introduction has generally been offset by other tax changes to make them revenue neutral, and accompanied by complex policy packages, such as the establishment of rebates to mitigate effects on industrial competitiveness.
The UK is just one of nine member states, the report says, which have taken steps along this path or will do so in the near future.
Support the rural idyll - buy locally produced food. John Drinkwater on a far-reaching scheme from the Countryside Agency.
The rounded grassy slopes of the South Downs owe their unique appearance to generations of munching sheep. Right? Well, up to a point: you might just as well say they have been shaped by generations of munching humans.
Here’s how. The soft, springy turf of the South Downs chalk grassland developed over centuries with no cultivation or chemicals, thanks to grazing by sheep including the local South Downs breed. But the sheep were only there because there was a market for them. Over the last 50 years sheep farming on the downs has declined, and many areas have been ploughed up or have reverted to scrub woodland. As a result this important semi-natural habitat, rich in plant species, is threatened.
Car sharing has cut dependency and traffic in Europe - and now it’s taking off over here, writes Ben Proctor of Shell Better Britain Campaign.
OK, I confess: I own a car. I try to travel as much as I can by public transport -honestly - but there are times when the car is just too useful. I try, I really try to shop locally and use the bus; but I am middle class, you know - and I can’t lug a crate of wine from the merchant’s on the number 45, can I?
Greening your company, though hard, is good for business. But where, asks Mark Fairbrass of Beacon Press, is the government help?
We have spent a decade greening our company, from factory floor to delivery van. It has been a demanding time, but we have done it willingly - and successfully. We have spent a lot of money on environmentally sound technology. We have trained managers and staff, found environmental consultants and established an environmental management system (EMS) so that we could apply for the relevant quality accreditations.
For much of the time I have felt more like an environmental manager than a businessman trying to run a profitable company in a notoriously competitive market. Indeed, diverting so much of my time from gaining business to overseeing our environmental programme has been a big challenge - and only one of many.
Hannah Reynolds of the Engineering Council reports on this year’s crop of winners in the Environment Award for Engineers.
Engineers who think up clever ways to protect the environment were rewarded at the 10th annual Environment Award for Engineers ceremony at the Science Museum in London, where the results were announced by the former environment secretary, John Gummer.
The overall winner was Morrison Construction, for a £4 million scheme to end the discharge of untreated sewage into the sea off the Yorkshire village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Morrison’s client, Yorkshire Water, had proposed lengthening the outfall, which would merely have discharged the effluent further offshore. Morrison, however, came up with a scheme to pump the waste to the nearby resort of Whitby for treatment, saving the sea from pollution - and saving the water company £1 million as well.
Business has realised it is on to a good thing with socially responsible investment, writes Giles Chitty of Holden Meehan.
There was a great feeling of uncertainty when socially responsible investment (SRI) funds were launched 16 years ago. Back then, they were seen more as a way of feeling good about investing your money than as a way of making it grow.
No one knew how they would perform, but they were thought to be risky chiefly because whole sectors - such as banking, oil and pharmaceuticals - were ruled out on ethical grounds, restricting the range of investment.
Yet now investment managers are falling over themselves to get into SRI. Investment subject to some kind of environmental and social scrutiny has suddenly ballooned from £3 billion to £500 billion. Recent legislation obliging company pension schemes to state their environmental and social responsibility policies - or lack of them - has helped.
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