Greenest Pope in history
Published: 11 Sep 2012
The green credentials of Pope Benedict XVI were increased yet again when he received an electric car to use within the grounds of the Vatican and his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
French car maker Renault presented the Pope with his very own white Kangoo, pimped out with the Papal coat of arms on its doors. The Kangoo Maxi van has a 44 kilowatt electric motor and lithium-ion battery and can travel 105 miles without recharging, although it will not be used as a Popemobile due to its lack of necessary security features.
Benedict has already made his mark as a green activist by installing photovoltaic cells in the Vatican's main auditorium and has joined a reforestation project to offset carbon dioxide emissions. The driving force behind Benedict's green schemes is his need to protect God's creation.
The city state intends that by 2020, 20% of its electricity will be provided by renewable energy.
Safety inspections to be cut again
Published: 10 Sep 2012
Plans to exempt thousands of businesses from health and safety inspections are set to be announced by ministers. New rules will be introduced in 2013, meaning checks will no longer be routinely carried out on premises considered to be low-risk.
Ministers claim that such checks can place an unnecessary burden on businesses, and the Government has plans to scrap or change more than 3,000 regulations in a bid to cut bureaucracy and save companies millions of pounds.
Under the plans announced by Business Minister Michael Fallon, shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face health and safety inspections. They will only do so if they operate in areas that are considered to be higher-risk, such as construction and food production, or if they have had an accident or a track record of poor performance. Legislation will also be introduced next month to make sure businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than "being tied up in unnecessary red tape." He said, "I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections." Mr Fallon added the move will inject "fresh impetus" into the Government's drive to cut red tape.
Business groups have welcomed the plan. Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors said the announcement was good news if it marked the beginning and not the end of the deregulation story. He commented, "Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up business both here and abroad."
New NI Building Regulations
Published: 07 Sep 2012
The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2012/192 will come into force on 31 October 2012.
They revoke and replace the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2000/389 and impose certain functional or performance requirements in relation to:
- the construction of any building and to certain services and fittings;
- the structural alteration or extension of any building; and
- any building undergoing a material change of use.
In addition, the following new guidance-based Technical Booklets for all Parts of the Regulations have been published:
- Technical Booklet B: Materials and Workmanship;
- Technical Booklet C: Site Preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture;
- Technical Booklet D: Structure;
- Technical Booklet E: Fire Safety;
- Technical Booklet F1: Conservation of fuel and power in dwellings;
- Technical Booklet F2: Conservation of fuel and power in buildings other than dwellings;
- Technical Booklet G: Resistance to the passage of sound;
- Technical Booklet H: Stairs, ramps, guarding and protection from impact;
- Technical Booklet J: Solid waste in buildings;
- Technical Booklet K: Ventilation;
- Technical Booklet L: Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems;
- Technical Booklet N: Drainage;
- Technical Booklet R: Access to and use of buildings;
- Technical Booklet V: Glazing.
Arctic melt "accelerating"
Published: 07 Sep 2012
Norwegian scientists have issued a warning about the rate that Arctic ice is now melting. They say that the rate of melting is part of an accelerating trend with profound implications.
The Arctic ice thaws every year, but the scientists have claimed that the annual thaw of the region's floating ice has reached the lowest level in over 30 years. As a result, sea ice is becoming thinner and more vulnerable.
Early researchers investigating the implications of melting ice suggested that a large reduction in sea ice is likely to affect the jet stream - the wind that guides weather systems and which has been responsible for much of the UK's wet summer weather this year.
It is therefore alarming that the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), which is at the forefront of Arctic research, suggested that the speed of the melting was faster than expected.
The international director of NPI, Dr Kim Holmen, said, "It is a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. It has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us."
Dr Edmond Hansen, one of the scientist involved, added, "This is not some short-lived phenomenon - this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating - you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what's happening."
Published: 07 Sep 2012
The Environment Agency, the Nature Locator team at the University of Bristol and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have joined forces to help combat the spread of the UK's most problematic invasive, non-native plant species.
Plants such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Floating Pennywort are examples of such plants, which are spreading quickly across the UK. They displace native species and detrimentally affect the ecology of many vulnerable habitats. Some also pose a considerable threat to human health and can present a large financial cost to the UK economy, with the annual cost of all invasive, non-native species totalling around £2 billion.
The first step in tackling this problem is accurately determining where these plants are. In order to do that an app has been developed to help build a comprehensive picture.
The PlantTracker app is available free from the iTunes App Store and Android Market, and shows you how to identify each species while enabling you to easily submit geo-located photos whenever you find one. The app features 14 invasive plant species and also includes a "Confusion Species" gallery for each one, to help you separate some of the similar looking plants you might encounter.
This is a pilot project, and the app is being trialled in the Midlands to begin with. It is hoped that in subsequent years, the project will be expanded to cover the whole of the UK.
You can get more information, and download the app, at planttracker.naturelocator.org.
Be safe when you start
Published: 07 Sep 2012
When starting work for the first time, you are 50% more likely to be injured in the workplace than more experienced workers. This is just one of the shocking facts outlined in a new Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) publication - "Be safe when you start."
The publication is aimed at young adults who are entering work for the first time either on work experience, as an apprentice or as a young worker. It highlights the common health and safety issues that they will encounter in the workplace and gives them sensible information to keep them safe.
"Be safe when you start", is written with the help of young adults and uses a number of case studies, graphic images and quizzes to reinforce the important safety and health messages that are discussed. It is a must read for any young person who is starting work for the first time and a useful guide to any employer, lecturer or teacher who is preparing young workers for their first job.