Tag Archives: U.K. – United Kingdom

Underground water supplies are being used to keep rivers flowing in the seasons when they are supposed to be replenished

The pond at St Peter’s Church in Snailwell, Cambridgeshire, is surrounded by clumps of bulrushes and thick oak trees that give it a timeless English appeal. Coated in a dusting of snow, this small body of water looked the epitome of rural charm. Only one odd feature upset its picture-postcard appearance. Around noon every day, automated pumps just above the pond are switched on and for the next few hours 400,000 gallons (1.8m litres) of water are sent cascading down a brick-lined gully into the lake.

The reason for this daily influx is straightforward. If engineers from the Environment Agency had not started pumping water into Snailwell’s pond every day this winter, it would have disappeared weeks ago, the victim of a drought that now threatens much of England with a summer of parched landscapes, rivers reduced to trickles and possible hosepipe bans ahead.

“When you use the word drought you become a hostage to fortune. Events can occur at the last minute to make you look silly,” said Andrew Chapman, a senior environment planning officer with the agency. “But the position is becoming very serious. In simple terms, unless we get a downpour that lasts for several weeks in the very near future, we are in trouble. There could be severe water shortages in many parts of the country.” Worst affected areas would include the Midlands, East Anglia and the south-east of England, say agency officials.

The impending crisis – which could have widespread consequences for farmers, food production, tourism, industry and domestic life – has been building for the past 18 months. Reservoirs were already low this time last year. Then came 2011, the driest year in England and Wales for 90 years.

In addition, we are now experiencing the driest winter on record, though this could change over the next few weeks, meteorologists have said. The crucial point is that boreholes and reservoirs are now at “notably low” or “exceptionally low” levels. At the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk, springs have dried up and many of the birds, including populations of bearded tits, marsh harriers and reed warblers, are now struggling to find food. Fresh water plants and animals such as water voles are also suffering. “This is a very worrying situation to have at this time of year,” said Grahame Madge, an RSPB official. “This is an incredibly important wildlife site that we cannot afford to have damaged. We are going to have to look very carefully at how we manage water supplies there in coming years.”

In addition, rivers have dried up in several areas. These include tributaries of the Welland in Lincolnshire and the Chess in Buckinghamshire. Fish have become stranded in pools and had to be rescued by agency workers and moved to areas where water is flowing.

“We sometimes have to carry out such rescues in summer,” said Ian Barker, the Environment Agency’s head of water, land and biodiversity. “But we are having to do this in mid-winter, the one time of year when there is supposed to be plenty of water and rainfall. That is certainly not a healthy state.”

The impending water crisis is particularly worrying for farmers. At this time of year, many build storage lagoons to hold water that they can use later in the year to irrigate crops. But to be allowed to dam up water that would otherwise flow into rivers, farmers have to be given permits by the Environment Agency.

So far this year, 345 applications for such stores have had restrictions placed on them by the agency, limiting the powers of farmers to provide water for their crops during the forthcoming growing season.

“We are facing drastic reductions in yield,” said Andrew Nottage, who runs the Russell Smith farm at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Among the crops grown by Nottage are potatoes and onions – vegetables that have a high demand for water. “We can switch crops to less water-intensive types, but there is a problem doing that,” he said. “Farmers are locked into long-term contracts with supermarkets to provide them with the vegetables they want to provide for the British public later in the year.

“It is therefore difficult to switch crops even if you know that you are going to be in trouble when it comes to supplying water for them.”

The problem for Britain is that East Anglia is one of the nation’s principal food-producing regions. It is also the driest in the country. “Rainfall patterns here are similar to Israel,” said Nottage. “That makes farming a tricky business some years.”

To address the shortage of rainfall last year, the Environment Agency estimated that it would need 20% above average for the months from December last year to April this year. To date, the rains have been 30% below average.

This month has also been cold – but dry. Instead of being replenished by rain percolating through the ground, boreholes are being used to pump what water they have left to prevent rivers and streams drying up – as is being done at Snailwell.

“If we don’t prevent the pond drying up, then the streams that feed from it will disappear and the local wildlife will really suffer,” said John Orr, a manager at the Environment Agency.

Whether these problems trigger a full drought in England this summer depends not just on rainfall but summer temperatures. Britain’s worst years for rainfall included 1921, 1933, and 1964, but these were not the worst years for drought. Summers then were relatively cool, and that made up for the lack of water in boreholes and reservoirs.

It was only when heatwaves began to take place, in years when water levels were only fairly low, that there were significant shortages. This occurred in 1911, 1955, and 1976.

In the case of 1976, the effects were devastating. The temperature reached 27C (80F) every day between 22 June and 16 July, and often climbed well above 32C (90F). Crucially, the previous summer and autumn had been very dry, while the winter of 1975-76 was also exceptionally dry, along with the spring of 1976.

Heath and forest fires broke out across southern England at the peak of the drought in August; 50,000 trees were destroyed at Hurn Forest in Dorset; and an estimated £500m of crops were lost across the country. Food prices rose by 12%. Many rivers ran dry.

A drought act was passed by parliament and Denis Howell was appointed minister of drought co-ordination. Among his homespun ideas in response was a suggestion to put bricks in lavatory cisterns and a proposal that husbands and wives should share baths.

There was also widespread water rationing across England. In some areas, supplies to homes were turned off and water was delivered by lorries or public standpipes in streets.

The country has a long way to go before it reaches these extremes, insist officials from the Environment Agency. It would require an exceptionally hot summer to trigger a serious drought, even if there was little rain over the next few months. On the other hand, the signs are worrying, even in Snailwell. “We are trying to offset the worst effects of the drought that we are already experiencing by pumping water into the pond to protect the streams that feed of it,” said Chapman.

“But at the end of the day, we are facing a situation in which there may be no more water to extract from the ground to keep the pond there. The next few weeks will be crucial.”

Author: Robin McKie
Source: The Guardian / The Observer


Ladybirds native to the UK and other European countries are declining fast as the invasive harlequin species spreads, scientists have shown.

Bestriding the countryside; harlequins breed more frequently than many native European species

Researchers found that seven out of the eight native British species they studied have declined, with issues also identified in Belgium and Switzerland.

The harlequin is an Asian species brought in for pest control, but which has now become a pest itself.

Some UK species are “near the threshold of detection”, the scientists write.

Scientists are warning of potential damage to ecosystems’ “resilience”.

In an unrelated study released at the same time, researchers found that the colour of ladybirds shows how toxic they are to predators.

The harlequin (Harmonia axyridis) was first spotted in Belgium in 2001, and in the UK and Switzerland in 2004.

Scientists have warned since it appeared that native species were likely to be vulnerable, but this study, reported in the journal Diversity and Distributions, measures the scale of the impact and ties it squarely to the alien’s arrival.

“This study provides strong evidence of a link between the arrival of the harlequin and declines in other species of ladybird,” said Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, who worked with colleagues at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge as well as Belgian and Swiss research institutes.

“This result would not have been possible without the participation of so many members of the public gathering ladybird records across Britain, Belgium and Switzerland.”

The UK database contains nearly 90,000 observations of ladybirds made between 2006 and 2010.

The Belgian sample is somewhat smaller but began earlier.

Surveying the same batch of species in the same locality year after year enables researchers to make a good estimate of the rate of change.

And for some native species, the rate is spectacularly high.

Numbers of the two-spotted ladybird (Adalia bipunctata), they estimate, fell by 44% in the UK and 30% in Belgium in the five years following the harlequin’s arrival.

The harlequin and the two-spot share a habitat of deciduous trees and as the harlequin is larger, it is able to out-compete its smaller rival for food, and prey on its larvae.

The only UK species apparently unaffected by the harlequin’s arrival was the seven-spotted ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) which is of a similar size and does not share the same habitat.

Declines were also seen in Switzerland, but the data was not as comprehensive.

The researchers warn that potentially serious consequences lie ahead if the harlequin continues its rampant march.

“Ladybirds provide an incredibly useful ecological function by keeping aphids in check,” said Tim Adriaens, from the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) in Belgium.

“At the continental scale, the arrival of the harlequin could impact on the resilience of ecosystems and severely diminish the vital services that ladybirds deliver.”

Currently, there is no way of selectively killing the harlequin. Gardeners are advised to take care if they decide to squish them, as their highly variable colour pattern means they can be hard to distinguish from native species.

The big seven-spot is able to hang on

Red signal

Another reason why the harlequin is able to out-compete native species appears to be because it is more toxic to birds and other animals that may try to eat it.

Working with the seven-spot, researchers discovered that individual ladybirds with red wings are more toxic than others.

As they detail in the journal Functional Ecology, the reason seems to be that these individuals are well-fed, enabling them to produce relatively large amounts of their defensive chemicals and the red pigment that probably warns predators off.

“Producing warning signals and chemical defences is costly, so when individuals lack access to an abundant supply of food they produce relatively weak chemical defences,” said lead scientist Jon Blount from Exeter University.

There is no explicit link to the harlequin study; however, if the harlequins are eating better than the native species, as appears to be the case, that could increase the difference in toxicity between the natives and the invaders.

Author: Richard Black
Source: BBC


Stratford’s industrial and contaminated land transformed to create Britain’s largest urban park for over a century

An aerial view of the Olympic site in Stratford. Photograph: Anthony Charlton – Locog/EPA

Work to clean up the Olympic site in Stratford, east London, and create the largest urban park in Britain for more than 100 years has been completed, the Environment Agency has said.

An area the size of 297 football pitches, much of which was polluted, has been cleaned up, with 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 native trees planted and five miles of the river Lea restored.

The Environment Agency, which has worked with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the London Development Agency and other partners on the site said it had helped the ODA decontaminate 2m tonnes of soil so it could be reused.

On the river Lea, invasive species including Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort have been removed, along with concrete walls, to improve the river habitat for wildlife and users.

Some 22 miles of cycleways and footpaths have been put in and 44 hectares (110 acres) of land has been turned into reed beds, wet woodlands, grassland and ponds to attract wildlife, the agency said.

It also said that by making space in the park for floodwater and improving defences, the flood risk to about 4,000 properties in Canning Town and West Ham had been reduced.

Lord Smith, chairman of the agency, said: “The Olympic Park has shown the way in securing major environmental improvement at the same time as enabling large-scale construction and development.

“The Environment Agency has worked closely with the ODA on issues such as improving water quality, restoring habitats and reducing flood risk.”

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the ODA, said: “To have created Britain’s largest urban park for over a century out of a contaminated, industrial landscape has taken both determination and clever thinking.”

He said organisations such as the Environment Agency had helped them deliver the cleaned-up site.

The Olympic Park also has environmentally friendly facilities such as a waste water recycling plant and an energy centre producing enough low-carbon energy to power more than 10,000 homes.

Source: The Guardian


More than 100 Conservative MPs have written to the prime minister urging him to cut subsidies for wind turbines.

Lib Dem president Tim Farron: “Ed Davey is an outstanding environmentalist”

They also want planning rules changed to make it easier for local people to object to their construction.

The Tory MPs – joined by some backbenchers from other parties – questioned the amount of money going to the sector during “straitened times”.

But the government said wind farms were a “cost-effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix”.

The challenge to the coalition’s policy presents an immediate problem for the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey. He was promoted to the job following the resignation of fellow Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne last Friday.

Lib Dem president Tim Farron told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Mr Davey was a “very, very capable man” and an “outstanding environmentalist” who would take projects forward.

‘Straitened times’

The government wants renewable sources, such as wind, to provide 15% of the UK’s energy supply by 2015.

It admits that this is “currently more costly” than using fossil fuels, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent on subsidising wind farms each year.

State help is being cut under plans set out by ministers last year, but MPs have demanded an acceleration.

“In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,” they wrote in the letter, seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

The politicians also expressed concerns that the proposed National Planning Policy Framework “diminishes the chances of local people defeating onshore wind farm proposals through the planning system”.

Organised by backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris, the letter’s 101 Tory signatories include senior figures such as David Davis, Bernard Jenkin and Nicholas Soames.

Another is Tory MP Matthew Hancock, a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne.

Mr Heaton-Harris said two Liberal Democrats, two Labour PMs and one Democratic Unionist were also among his backers.

‘Party divided’

BBC chief political correspondent Gary O’Donoghue said the signatories were not against renewable energy per se, but believe onshore wind got far too much money.

For Labour, shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: “Britain should be a world leader in wind energy. We need to put jobs, growth and reducing energy bills first, but David Cameron is failing to do this. We just get a Tory party divided amongst itself…

“If Tory MPs want to turn the clock back on renewable energy, it will be the public who pay the price through higher energy bills, as we become more reliant on volatile fossil fuel prices.”

But a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “We need a low-carbon infrastructure and onshore wind is a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix.”

She added: “We are committed to giving local communities the power to shape the spaces in which they live and are getting rid of regional targets introduced by the last government.

“The draft framework also aims to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans.”

Mr Huhne resigned as Energy and Climate Change Secretary on Friday after hearing he faced a charge of perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case, a claim he denies.

Source: BBC


Diariamente, das 6h às 23h59, os novos aparelhos de coleta seletiva reproduzem informações do mercado financeiro, de cultura e arte, generalidades e previsões do tempo

Coletores vão transmitir conteúdos da revista The Economist e da London Stock Exhchange (Forografia: Divulgação / Renew)

A cinco meses daquela que promete ser a Olimpíada mais verde já realizada no mundo, Londres estreou um moderno e inovador sistema de coleta seletiva – são 25 lixeiras inteligentes equipadas com duas telas LCD uma em cada lado, que são sensíveis ao toque e transmitem notícias em tempo real.

(Forografia: Divulgação / Renew)

Instaladas na última semana, as novas lixeiras de coleta seletiva reproduzem, diariamente, das 6h às 23h59, informações do mercado financeiro, de cultura, esporte, entretenimento, meio ambiente e generalidades, que se intercalam com as previsões do tempo. O conteúdo será fornecido pela revista The Economist e pela London Stock Exhchange, entre outros veículos britânicos de prestígio.

(Forografia: Divulgação / Renew)

Até junho, mais 50 aparelhos devem ser distribuídos pela capital inglesa. Há planos, inclusive, de garantir conectividade Wi-Fi na temporada dos jogos olímpicos. A ideia por trás da atratividade do aparelho é uma só: aumentar a taxa de reciclagem na cidade, chamando a atenção da população.

(Forografia: Divulgação / Renew)

Agora, a empreitada não sai barato. De acordo com o jornal britânico Mail Online, a fabricação e instalação de cada unidade da lixeira high tech custa 30 mil libras (cerca de 82 mil reais). Ainda segundo o periódico, a novidade já despertou interesse de outras cidades, como Tóquio e Manhattan, que estudam implementar as lixeiras em suas ruas.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame


Thousands of homes and businesses may now be able to claim higher payments after the government fails to overturn earlier ruling that cuts were illegal

HomeSun solar panels. Thousands of homes and businesses may now be able to claim higher payments. Photograph: Simon Burt/PA

The government lost its appeal on Wednesday against a judge’s ruling that its cuts to solar power subsidies were illegal, suggesting thousands of homes and businesses will now be able to claim the higher payments.

Three court of appeal judges unanimously rejected the government’s appeal. The government could still appeal for a second time, directly to the supreme court.

Announcing cuts to the solar feed-in tariff payments in October, ministers said the cost of the panels had dropped and unless the subsidy was also cut, the available funding for a range of low-carbon energy technologies would be rapidly exhausted. But in December, a high court judge ruled that the government’s handling of the cuts was “legally flawed”, following a challenge by two solar companies, SolarCentury and HomeSun, plus Friends of the Earth.

On 19 January, the government said that if it lost the legal case, they would fund the higher rate payments for any panels installed by 3 March. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) expected this to affect about 3,700 homes and businesses.

Daniel Green, chief executive of HomeSun, said: “Almost everybody except Decc have appreciated the potential and importance of the solar industry – from the National Trust, the Church of England through to the CBI as well as the British people. Surely this must be the point at which Chris Huhne stops taking the side of the big six energy companies and realise that solar is part of our future.”

Friends of the Earth had called the government’s action at the court of appeal a waste of public money. The group’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said on 4 January: “Trying to appeal the high court’s ruling is an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money. The government must expand the scheme – with all the tax revenue the scheme generates, this can be done at no extra cost to bill payers. Ministers should end business uncertainty and protect jobs with a clear plan to reduce payments from February – in line with falling installation costs.”

In October, the cuts to the solar scheme – from 43.3p per kWh of energy generated to 21p – were leaked online. The climate minister, Greg Barker, defended the cuts as necessary to protect the scheme in the long term. “The plummeting costs of solar mean we’ve got no option but to act so that we stay within budget, and not threaten the whole viability of the Fits [feed-in tariff] scheme.”

The cuts prompted a furious backlash from the solar industry and green groups, with the chief complaint being the speed of the changes, which were to come into effect just six weeks later, on 12 December. Critics also drew attention to the fact that the consultation did not end until 23 December – over a week after the changes were proposed to take place.

In December, a cross-party group of MPs said in a strongly worded report that said the reductions were “clumsily handled”, had threatened jobs and could have dealt a fatal blow to the scheme, because the changes required homes to meet the C-rated energy efficiency standard before becoming eligible for the solar feed-in tariff.

Author: Damian Carrington
Source: The Guardian


South-west England to be named the UK’s first marine energy park

The PowerBuoy wave energy converter, which is to be used as part of the Wave Hub project, will see a giant National Grid-connected socket built on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall. Photograph: Handout/PA

The south-west of England is to be named as the UK’s first marine energy park.

The announcement will be made today by climate change minister Greg Barker during a visit to Bristol.

The South West Marine Energy Park will stretch from Bristol to Cornwall and as far as the Isles of Scilly.

The announcement establishes a partnership in the region between national and local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter and industry, including Cornwall’s Wave Hub.

The aim of the partnership will be to speed up the progress of marine power development.

Energy from the waves or tides has the potential to generate up to 27GW of power in the UK alone by 2050 – equivalent to the power generated from eight coal-fired power stations.

Barker is expected to say: “This is a real milestone for the marine industry and for the south-west region in securing its place in renewables history as the first official marine energy park.

“The south-west can build on its existing unique mix of renewable energy resource and home-grown academic, technical and industrial expertise.

“Marine power has huge potential in the UK not just in contributing to a greener electricity supply and cutting emissions, but in supporting thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15bn to the economy to 2050.

“The UK is already a world leader in wave and tidal power, so we should capitalise on this leadership to make marine power a real contender in the future energy market.”

Chris Ridgers, cabinet member for economy at Cornwall council, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “Cornwall’s marine energy programme is reinforced by more than a thousand years of industrial heritage.

“The land and the sea have provided the foundation of Cornish entrepreneurship in engineering and innovation, recognised across the world.

Source: Press Association / The Guardian


Britain’s oldest environmental NGO, an expert body on air pollution and contamination, succumbs to government cuts

A man takes in the sight of smog covering central London. (Photography: Matt Dunham/AP)

The UK’s oldest environmental NGO has been forced to close after government cuts to local authority budgets drastically reduced its income.

Formed as the Coal Smoke Abatement Society at the end of the nineteenth century, Environmental Protection UK provided expert analysis on air quality and, more recently, contaminated land and waste issues. But over the past two years, the Brighton-based charity has faced severe financial challenges due to the coalition’s cuts to local authorities, which purchase its products and services.

The closure comes as a report by the European Environment Agency said air pollution costs the UK up to €18bn a year, and an influential group of MPs warning the government is putting thousands of lives at risk due to the UK’s failure to meet European air pollution standards.

Trustees announced on Monday that EPUK could no longer operate as a fully funded, staffed organisation, and that they will close it in March 2012. Ten staff will lose their jobs or take early redundancy.

Outgoing chief executive James Grugeon said: “Local authorities have been forced in the past year to make very difficult funding decisions, following severe cuts to their budgets imposed by central government. Within this economic environment, EPUK has faced an uphill battle to survive which, ultimately and despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to win.”

Caroline Lucas, a vice president of EPUK and MP for Brighton Pavilion said: “I am deeply saddened that EPUK has fallen victim to the devastating coalition cuts being forced on local authorities. The closure of the UK’s oldest environmental NGO is a serious blow to the green agenda, and to the ongoing campaign to tackle the UK’s growing air quality crisis.”

The charity said that despite its imminent closure it would continue to run its recently launched Healthy Air Campaign, which highlights air pollution’s public health impacts, as well as provide services to members and honour its commitments to existing projects and partners.

Trustees are hoping to maintain a skeleton organisation run by a network of volunteers after next March. Meanwhile, EPUK’S Scottish division is looking at whether it could survive as a stand-alone body.

Author: Flemmich Webb
Source: The Guardian


The European Union is requiring member countries to have no more than 35 bad air days per year by 2012 or the countries will face fines of around $450 million. In order to clean up air pollution to meet the EU’s standards, London is turning to glue. Well, a glue of sorts. The English capital is applying a calcium-based adhesive to streets to trap particulate air pollution and, believe it or not, it’s working.

The city’s street sweepers have applied the adhesive to air pollution hot spots around the city and particulate levels in those areas have dropped 14 percent. The project has cost the city $1.4 million so far, which is pretty expensive, but 14 percent is a pretty substantial reduction from glue alone and a far cry from a payout of $450 million if they didn’t meet the standards.

London will be taking other action to reduce air pollution, including rolling out cleaner buses, retiring the most polluting taxis, enforcing stricter emissions standards and planting trees.

Author: Megan Treacy
Source: EcoGeek


Health and environmental damage from industry costs up to €18bn a year, according to the European environment agency

Air pollution from industry in the EU costs the UK up to €18bn a year, says the European environment agency. (Photography: John Giles/PA)

Air pollution from industry costs Britain £3.4bn-£9.5bn a year in health and environmental damage, according to the European environment agency (EEA). When CO2 costs are included, the figure rises to £9.5bn-£15.5bn– more than the government spends a year on the arts, environment, transport and security and intelligence combined.

In a first attempt to link financial costs to emissions from large power stations, refineries, waste plants and factories, the Copenhagen-based agency calculates that air pollution cost Europe £86.1bn-£145.5bn in 2009. It has used government figures and has arrived at the costs by factoring in population densities, health costs, building damage and crop losses from pollutants such as low-level ozone. By far the biggest single pollutant is CO2, one of the main climate change gases. Costs have been calculated by using the British government’s “marginal abatement costs” – an estimate of what it expects it will cost to cut CO2 emissions in 2020.

Emissions from power plants made up the largest share of the damage costs, at £56.8bn-£96.4bn. Production processes cost £19.8bn-£24.1bn and manufacturing combustion £6.9bn-£18.1bn. Sectors excluded from the EEA analysis include transport, households and most farming activities. If these were included, the cost of pollution could more than double. Half of the total damage cost (between €51bn and €85bn) was caused by just 191 facilities.

Britain emerges as Europe’s third biggest industrial polluter, behind Germany and Poland, which depends almost entirely on coal for power. Britain’s largest and most costly polluter is Drax power station in Selby, North Yorkshire, which, says the EEA, emits 20.5m tonnes of CO2 annually and costs the economy more than €1bn a year. Drax emerges as Europe’s fifth most polluting plant.

Britain has 16 of Europe’s top 100 polluting plants, second only to Germany with 17. Longannet, Cottam, Ratcliffe-on-Soar and West Burton power stations together emit more than 30m tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants and cost the economy up to £2.3bn a year.

While there are stringent air pollution laws, governments have found it difficult to cut emissions in areas such as transport, and are mostly in breach of EU laws.

Pollution map Photograph:

The report follows a plan announced in March by the EU environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, to make 2013 the “year of air”. Potocnik says he wants stronger air quality laws across the EU but many member states are already failing to enforce current rules. The European commission has begun a comprehensive review of existing laws that could lead within a year to changes in the 2008 air quality directive.

“It’s very clear we’ve been able to reduce emissions but that those emissions have not translated into ambient air quality,” said Jacqueline McGlade, who heads the Copenhagen-based EEA.

The EEA’s 2011 report on air quality, released this month, shows broad historical improvements, levels of nitrogen oxide, ozone and particulate matter have risen, fuelling concerns about overall air quality, especially in urban “hot spots”.

Poor air quality has been shown in some studies to lead to nearly 500,000 deaths a year in the EU, while the EEA’s upper estimates show anti-pollution measures could cut premature deaths to 230,000 in 2020.

Germany, with its large industrial facilities and large power plants, is the biggest polluter Europewide – resulting in a cost of €21.5bn – €33.8bn of the overall €100-€169bn bill. Five of the top 10 emitters are German.

The two biggest polluters, which are in Poland and Bulgaria, are followed by the largest German brown coal power plant, a 3,000 megawatt power plant in Jänschwalde, in the federal state of Brandenburg, which is owned by Vattenfall Europe. It was taken into operation in the 1980s, and modernised in the 1990s, but has been a target of environmentalists for years. This month activists from Greenpeace and Oxfam protested in front of the plant, claiming that brown coal is a “climate killer” and its mining should be stopped.

Vattenfall plans to open five new mines and to build a carbon capture and storage demonstration plant in Jänschwalde. The other four big Geman polluters are power plants owned by the German energy company RWE.

Author: John Vidal and Hanna Gersmann
Source: The Guardian


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