Responses to Rishi’s U Turns … What is yours? And a few more Rs – Renewal of Membership, and a Road Map for Renewing nature, linked to the RSPB Nature after Minerals Project in quarries.
Today we hit the Autumn Equinox, which means it is time for previous Members to Renew their donations to Meadow Barns, please. We also would love to sign up new Members.
Of course, if you only recently donated £5 for the blog (or indeed your choir fee for singing a wedding!) that’s fine, we will be flexible with your start point! But officially our trading year and public liability cover (so vital to the work we do) runs from 1st September – it is a major cost that we can only cover by your donations. £15 for the year, if you are in Cornwall, I can promise will be amply rewarded by opportunities for you and your family or close friends to join walks, presentations, receive publications and be part of Climate Action. School Membership is £33, for one teacher email serving up to 100 students and staff. Do please help to explain this to any school where you have a connection, whether in Cornwall or further afield.
UPDATE on FLOODING Libya and UK
CORRECTION The link I provided last time did not lead to a donation button, sorry. Here are 2 options for giving, I chose the Unicef one.
Reports of the U.N.’s migration agency say that at least 40,000 people were displaced in the area, including 30,000 in Derna. Many people have moved to other cities across Libya, hosted by local communities or sheltered in schools.
Local authorities said they have isolated the worst damaged part of Derna amid growing concerns about potential infection by waterborne diseases. Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign that initially targeted search and rescue teams, along with children in Derna and other impacted areas.
A day-long communication outage further complicated the work of teams searching for bodies under the rubble and at sea Wednesday. It was caused by fiber-optic cables being severed Tuesday, Libya’s state-owned telecommunications company said. Engineers were investigating to determine whether it happened because of digging for bodies or was sabotage, the company’s spokesman, Mohamed al-Bdairi, told a local television station.
The country’s chief prosecutor, meanwhile, has vowed to take “serious measures” to deliver justice for the victims of the floods, which killed thousands of people and devastated the coastal city. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/libya-ap-cairo-internet-samantha-power-b2415360.html
UK – a tiny COMPARISON
Libya has suffered massively. But it is far away and maybe some of us, sadly, will ignore the story for that reason. But on a way smaller scale, here is how floods impinged on a community called Kenton, near Exeter, last weekend. It’s reminded me of a previous blog entry not long ago – May 9th – about extreme flooding at Newton Poppleford, just on the other side of the estuary from Kenton. When you see and hear the effect it can have on one primary school, it really makes you realise the daily hardships. This Guardian report has a focus on orphaned children in Derna, being supported in the few school buildings that remain standing https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/22/orphans-children-derna-libya-floods
Rishi’s U TURNS
If by some unlikely chance you missed the story, our Prime Minister has reversed major decisions taken and enshrined in law during the final days of Theresa’s May’s premiership. They committed the UK to banning sales of new petrol or diesel cars starting in 2030; this is now postponed to 2035, plus another postponement of the ban on new oil and LPG boilers and new coal heating, from 2026 again extended to 2035.
The list goes on, up to 10, with various other requirements to be relaxed, such as for landlords energy regs, for recycling, for taxes on meat, removal of requirements to car share and (two I can approve of) a plan to shift ahead with reforms to energy infrastructure and create Fellowships to fund urgent research.
Responses are mixed! A very informative source to try, as an overview, is:-
I will share a few headlines for you below but my personal observations are that this looks like a ‘Headless Chicken!’. Someone in panic, as his final time of office dwindles away and he is so fearful of the potential wipe-out of Tories next year. Is that a good enough reason to enrage so many sectors of business, across our country? He claims his new approach is ‘Pragmatic’, so why did he not order a temporary pause to fund better, wider research, with the results being shared for the public to follow, so they really understand impacts and alternative options?? As an example, you know full well if you have been following the blog this year, that Hydrogen Treated Vegetable Oils need to be tried at scale for domestic motoring and home heating. It is still not even mentioned anywhere.
TOPICS and HEADLINES
Motor Industry Opinions
The delay has sparked wide-spread outrage across industry, with Lisa Brankin, Ford UK chair, stating yesterday that business needs three things from the government – “ambition, commitment and consistency”.
“A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three”, she said.
Lee Marshall, CIWM policy & external affairs director, said: “It is probably a first to have a prime minister scrap a policy that hasn’t been implemented and was never proposed in the first place. We have since received confirmation from DEFRA that the policy is still progressing, but is now badged as ‘Simpler Recycling’, a name change that is not needed and has the potential to cause further confusion.
“We have gone through two detailed and lengthy consultations and CIWM members have sat on numerous working groups to help DEFRA ensure these policy reforms were informed, insight-led and evidence-based. It feels as if this valuable knowledge has been ridden roughshod over by No.10 and we very much hope this is not the case. Now more than ever the sector can support the government in delivering these vital resource and waste policy reforms and our insights should be valued.”
Taxes on meat and flying
A number of policies that had never even been announced, (by any politician) have been pre-emptively scrapped by Mr Sunak.
He said he would rule out policy ideas requiring people to share cars, eat less meat and dairy, or have seven bins to hit recycling targets.
The prime minister also said he would not put forward any plans to discourage their flying by taxing it further.
And finally, the 2 much better ones: –
National Grid and Infrastructure
The chancellor and the energy security secretary will “shortly bring forward comprehensive new reforms to energy infrastructure”.
This will include the UK’s “first ever” spatial plan for infrastructure and proposals to “speed up planning for the most nationally significant projects”.
He also said the government will end the “first-come-first-served approach to grid connections by raising the bar to enter the queue and make sure those ready, will connect first”.
New £150m Green Future Fellowship
Sunak pledged to support at least 50 scientists and engineers to develop “real, breakthrough green technologies” through the new fellowship fund.
Before we leave this, who or what is the organisation called ENDS? Should we be inspired to subscribe? Unless I can see the costs, I won’t be. Their web page doesn’t have an ABOUT US SECTION, nor does it explain how big the charge would be, or what the benefits are, other than:-
Comprehensive insights on environmental law, policy, regulation and implementation.
Another useful source is Sky News, for putting the decisions into political, historical context.
Looking after Landscapes
Ends has another report, in a film format, which paints a sad picture of the deteriorating state of the landscape on Dartmoor. There is little by way of solutions – ‘Neither farmers nor environmentalists can agree on how to fix the problems’. FILM https://www.endsreport.com/article/1825475/watch-trailer-wilderness-wounding-englands-last-great-wild-spaces
This leads very smoothly to my other topic of the week, remediation of metal mines and quarries. I have written about mines in the UK a number of times, often referring to the Coal Authority work of cleaning up old coal mines (obviously) but also places in Cornwall like Wheal Jane, a scheme lauded by the Government on its own website https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/wheal-jane-mine-water-treatment-scheme. But we must not forget that mining is not only a Cornwall or UK issue, it is world-wide. Julie Tamblyn forwarded some info a day or so back (thank you!), which she saw in a BBC report, about remediation – or lack of it – in other parts of the world. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-66880697
It is a real surprise to me, seeing how much of the ‘Active Mining’ is on one side of the planet, mostly to the West of us, whereas the ‘In-Active’ is in Russia, East Africa, Asia and Australasia. Intervention is required for both types of site, but perhaps it is easier to get involved and influence Active Mining, through legal requirements and planning, than it is to force remediation of mine waste that has been long hidden beneath scrubland, undergrowth, car parks or buildings.
By coincidence, with my colleagues Bob and David, this past week I have been visiting 2 disused quarries and finding that these pose different challenges than metal mines. The residue is seemingly not toxic at all – huge chunks of granite, some just natural but many having been part-machined into shapes. In the base of the quarries, after work ceased in the 1930s, piles and piles of grit and gravel would have remained and this is now clogging all the small streams. We were accompanied by a Beaver officer from Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Chris Jones, Director of Cornwall Beaver Project, on a farm near Truro. The amount of grit and small amount of free-running surface water would probably not attract beavers in, although (to paraphrase) ‘We can never fully predict the choices that wild species, like beavers, will make for their homes!
Just as we began our return to the car park, Chris Jones dropped what, to me, was a bit of a ‘clanger’… ‘Isn’t this an example of Celtic Temperate Rainforest?’ Now, looking at criteria on the Woodland Trust website, Chris may well be right. But, because it is ‘incredibly rare’, does that suddenly change what we can and cannot do, to help the landowners make the most of their site? Let me show first, the description online:-
Compare this image with the pics above and the title ones, that I took well before lockdowns. There are many obvious similarities, but also some differences:-
These 2 quarries have boulders, but not open glades, not crags or a river gorge, just little streams. And primarily beech trees, plus invasive species, rhododendron and/or laurel.
Rhododendron (specifically Rhododendron ponticum and associated hybrids) has been called ‘the most damaging and most widespread non-native terrestrial plant in Britain’. Introduced to the UK around 1760, it’s an aggressive coloniser that reduces the biodiversity value of a site. It obstructs the regeneration of woodlands and once established, it’s difficult and costly to eradicate.
Rainforests are one of the most biodiverse habitats in the UK. The high humidity and low temperature range create the perfect conditions for moisture-loving lichens and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts).
A good example of this habitat could contain over 200 different species of bryophytes and 100-200 species of lichen. The UK has an international responsibility to protect many of these species due to their scarce global distribution.’
Migrant birds such as pied flycatcher, wood warbler, redstart and tree pipit thrive in the insect-rich conditions temperate rainforests offer, flying here to breed each summer. In the UK, the rare chequered skipper butterfly is also only found in the mild, damp and grassy habitats at the woodland edges of rainforest in western Scotland.
On our first walks we were not concentrating on looking for wildlife, but mention was made of having identified abundant eels in the shallow stream, in bygone days. The Wildlife Trust website tells us eels are ‘A Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Listed as Critically Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.’
WHAT NEXT? – Bob says, we need a Road Map!
Well Rishi, or at least the government, had a Road Map, but obviously it wasn’t set in stone … nor should it be, as I am sure it is right to build in review points. Review though is one thing, but Reverse is completely another and hardly ever good, from a financial or reputation point of view.
To make our Road Map of future action that can help protect nature and heritage but also ensure people can learn from and enjoy this amazing area requires us first and foremost to keep listening and supporting the land owners, working to tackle the challenges together. From this, hopefully, we can formulate a set of ideas for a plan all the way to 2030 and beyond. I am reminded that the 200 year anniversary of these quarries being made will be in the late 2030s, so that can be a great aim, a time to celebrate achievements over the years. And very exciting the possibilities look to be!
There will be many Cs involved – Carbeans and Colcerrow = quarry names, Classroom in the Woods and Courses that we can deliver, Cliffside Renewable Energy opportunities, Climate Ed achieved through Collaborations plus professional Consortium working, especially with Catharine Cullen, of RSPB and members of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust team.
Catharine is the Minerals Business Advice Manager, for the Nature After Minerals project
Having had an inspirational phone chat already, I feel confident that Catharine’s presentation online on 18th October is a DON’T MISS moment. And you never know, she was so excited about these 2 quarries that she may even include them in her talk!
Joint meeting of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and Cornwall Geoconservation Group. The talk will focus on the work of the RSPB’s Nature After Minerals programme https://afterminerals.com/ . Cornwall has hundreds of abandoned and disused quarries. Overall in England there are over 2,000, covering 64,000 hectares, that have planning requirements to restore them after quarrying has been completed. Appropriate and sustainable minerals restoration represents potentially the biggest terrestrial habitat expansion opportunity across large swathes of land in the UK.
Lots of further information on the RSPB Nature after Minerals projects is here:-