News

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has published the zero draft plan of their post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

In plans that have been likened to the Paris agreement on climate change, a deadline of 2030 has been set for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife that perform crucial services for humans if we are to avoid what scientists have described as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth's history.

The draft framework establishes five long terms goals for 2050 which are related to the 2050 UN vision for biodiversity:

  • no net loss by 2030 in the area and integrity of freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and increases (of at least 20%), ensuring ecosystem resilience;
  • reduction in the percentage of species threatened with extinction and an abundance of species average increase;
  • maintain or enhance genetic biodiversity in average by 2030 and for 90% of species by 2050;
  • nature providing benefits to people which contribute to:
    • improvements in nutrition,
    • improvements in sustainable access to safe and drinkable water,
    • improvements in resilience to natural disasters,
    • at last 30% of effort to achieve the target of the Paris Agreement on climate change;
  • increase in the benefits shared fairly and equitably from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

They also state a 2030 Mission for the framework: 'to take urgent action across society to put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit of the planet and people.'

This will be achieved through 20 key points which are covered in three key areas:

  • reducing threats to biodiversity;
  • meeting people's needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing;
  • tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the UN proposals.

Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, commented: "Today's draft shows that countries are listening and that they recognise the increasingly important role that protecting land and water must play in confronting climate change, preventing wildlife extinctions, and supporting people and local communities. This is a very encouraging first step. Much work remains to be done in the coming months to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are advanced, and bold conservation and finance targets are included in the final agreement."

The draft is expected to be adopted by governments at a UN summit in Kunming, China, in October this year.

For more information see the:

Rebuilt historical pub to change use
Published: 13 Jan 2020

A pub built in Battersea in 1854 - the Alchemist - ceased trading in 2013 after 159 years. In 2015, the pub was illegally demolished with the developer claiming the building was structurally unsafe. Having been ordered by Wandsworth Borough Council to rebuild the pub brick-by-brick, the Alchemist was once again standing in 2018, though not trading or re-fitted as a pub.

Once the work was complete, the developer then submitted a change of use request. It wanted to convert the newly restored building into an office, shop and restaurant. This proposal was rejected by the council. However, this led the developer to create further plans to change the use of the building to Class D2, assembly and leisure, which was also rejected.

Both decisions were then appealed, but inspector Benjamin Webb considered them both together. The key concern in the decision was social and community vitality. Public houses are generally considered as social areas where people go to meet therefore adding to community value. Although the building isn't in use, the inspector gave little weight to the hiatus, as it still had community value.

After careful consideration of both proposed change of use appeals, the building and its community value, the inspector concluded that the first proposed change of use (office, shop and restaurant) was not acceptable due to the loss of community use at the site, which would harm community vitality in conflict with local policies.

The second proposal would, however, still allow the community to use the premises and therefore would maintain social and community vitality, making the loss of the building being used as a public house acceptable as a whole.

The appeal to change the use of the pub to Class D2 was therefore allowed. The other appeal was dismissed.

For more information, see the:

  • Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order SI 1987/764.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Tánaiste, the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, have published the text of a deal to restore devolved Government in Northern Ireland, exactly three years after the Assembly collapsed.

The "New Decade, New Approach" deal has been tabled at talks at Stormont House for the political parties in Northern Ireland to agree. The aim is to transform public services and restore public confidence in devolved Government.

An agreement will see the full restoration of the institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the North/South Ministerial Council with the Assembly and Executive forming on Friday 10 January 2020.

Key points

Reforms to the health service, education and justice will be prioritised by a new Executive, as well as important improvements in transparency and accountability, and in how civil servants, ministers and special advisers conduct themselves.

Part of which includes strengthening the protections for whistleblowers.

Environment

There is a need for a co-ordinated and strategic approach to the challenge of climate change.

Actions and interventions will be required across a wide range of areas in order to address both the immediate and longer term impacts of climate change.

This includes:

  • a review of strategies to reduce carbon emissions in light of the Paris Climate Change Accord and the climate crisis;
  • a new Energy Strategy, which will set ambitious targets and actions for transition to a zero carbon society;
  • proposals for a new Climate Change Act, to give a legal footing for environmental targets;
  • establishing an Independent Environmental Protection Agency, to oversee this work and make sure targets are met;
  • creating jobs as part of a Green New Deal, through a new Economic Strategy;
  • the creation of a new plan to eliminate plastic pollution;
  • replacing the Renewable Heat Incentive with a scheme that effectively cuts carbon emissions.

Workers' and employment rights

There will be an enhanced focus on creating good jobs and protecting workers rights.

This will include:

  • access to good jobs;
  • a decent income;
  • security of tenure;
  • satisfying work in the right quantities;
  • decent working conditions.

This will help contribute to better health and wellbeing by tackling inequalities, building self-efficacy and combating poverty.

The Executive will also commit to becoming a "Living Wage" employer. They will also:

  • ban zero hours contracts;
  • agree that powers to set minimum wage standards should be a devolved matter;
  • put forward an "Age, Goods and Facilities and Services Bill", to make sure nobody is discriminated against because of their age.

Health

The parties have committed to measures which will end ongoing industrial action by healthcare staff immediately, which includes:

  • settling the ongoing pay dispute;
  • a new action plan on waiting times;
  • reforming the health and social care system;
  • an extra 900 nursing and midwifery undergraduate places over three years;
  • a mental health action plan published within two months;
  • funding for three cycles of IVF treatment;
  • a new graduate entry medical school in Londonderry.

Education

The Executive will also work towards resolving the teachers' industrial action and aims to:

  • make sure every school has a sustainable core budget;
  • arrange an external independent review of education provision;
  • establish a new special educational needs framework;
  • set up an expert group to examine links between educational underachievement and socio-economic background.

Petition of concern

The mechanism, which was designed to safeguard minority interests in the Assembly, will return to its intended purpose.

Parties will be committed to using it as a last resort, and petition can still be triggered by the support of 30 Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but it requires members from two or more parties.

Language and tradition

An Office of Identity and Cultural Expression will be established "to celebrate and support all aspects of Northern Ireland's rich cultural and linguistic heritage".

This includes a new Commissioner to:

  • recognise, support, protect and enhance the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland;
  • enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition.

There will also be official recognition of both Irish and Ulster-Scots languages in Northern Ireland.

Infrastructure

The Executive will benefit from increased capital infrastructure funding as a result of the UK Government's infrastructure revolution.

So potentially, capital projects such as the A5 and A6 road projects, a new York Street Interchange, Narrow Water bridge and sewage investment could benefit.

Other things of note

Some other interesting points of note include:

  • an increase in police numbers to 7,500;
  • a new anti-poverty strategy;
  • extended existing welfare mitigation measures beyond March 2020;
  • establishment of a Party Leaders' Forum, to meet at least once every month;
  • an Executive Brexit Sub-Committee;
  • an ad-hoc assembly committee to consider the creation of a Bill of Rights;
  • reaffirming the commitment to tackle paramilitarism and sectarianism.

Commitments from the UK Government

Additionally, the UK Government has committed to:

  • additional funding to help the Executive address its priorities, such as pay parity for nurses compared to England and Wales;
  • promote Northern Ireland as a global cyber security hub;
  • funding for projects which could include mental health provision, tackling paramilitarism and deprivation;
  • appointing a Northern Ireland Veterans' Commissioner, and the introduction of UK-wide legislation to further incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law;
  • enabling relatives of people from Northern Ireland to be able to apply for UK immigration status.

For more information, see:

Quorn is to become the first major brand to introduce carbon labelling on its products.

The new labels, aimed at helping consumers understand the environmental impact of their shopping, will start appearing on some products from June and on the entire Quorn range by next year.

From Thursday the "farm to shop" carbon footprint data, certified by the Carbon Trust, will be available online for Quorn's 30 best-selling products.

Quorn claims to be the first meat-free food manufacturer to achieve third-party certification of its carbon footprint figures, through the Carbon Trust, which is being integrated into its own food labelling.

It says that in 2018 its products enabled savings of 200,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent compared with meat. The greenhouse gas impact of mycoprotein, the fungi-based protein used in Quorn products, is 90% lower than beef.

Analysis of the damage farming does to the planet revealed that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way in which consumers can reduce their environmental impact, with animal agriculture a significant and fast-growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, despite Quorn's success there is criticism that they are heavily processed and far from natural plant-based foods.

Peter Harrison, chief commercial officer of Quorn Foods, said: "This is about giving people the information needed to make informed decisions about the food they eat and the effect it has on our planet’s climate – in the same way that nutrition information is clearly labelled to help inform decisions on health".

Carbon Trust research in 2019 found that two-thirds of consumers support the idea of a recognisable carbon label to demonstrate that products have been made with a commitment to measuring and reducing their carbon footprint.

For more information on this subject, see:

The organisers of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games aim to significantly reduce the impact of the waste generated during the event by using recycled and recyclable materials in the furniture used by the athletes.

There will be 18,000 beds needed for the Olympic games and 8,000 for the Paralympics. Bed frames will be made of recyclable cardboard, 2.10 metres long and will be able to support a weight of about 200 kg, which is more than any athlete weighed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Also, the mattresses will be formed of polyethylene materials that can be reused and recycled for other plastic products after the events.

BBC reports that the podiums will be made from recycled household and marine plastic waste and the Olympic torch is made from recycled aluminium waste. It was also reported that the electricity to power the event will come from renewable sources.

The Tokyo Olympics will take place between 24 July and 9 August 2020 and the Paralympics from 25 August and 6 September.

National bike and car part retailer Halfords Ltd was ordered to pay a total of £213,406.35 by Blackburn Magistrates' Court, for breaching a number of health and safety provisions.

The court heard that in December 2016 an employee was working at the store in Mariner's Way, Preston, and had been asked by the store manager to start moving a delivery of boxed bikes to the upstairs area of the store for them to be assembled.

72 boxed bikes had been delivered to the store the previous day and had been stacked two or three high on their narrow ends. There was a variety of sizes of bikes, each weighing between 10-20 kg. No supports had been used to secure the bikes or to prevent them from toppling over.

Whilst removing a boxed bike from the stack, some of the boxes fell forward onto other boxes, causing a domino effect, resulting in the employee being pinned to the wall by a number of heavy boxes. They fell on his chest causing him difficulty when breathing. It was later learnt that the employee had suffered a suspected cracked rib.

An investigation by health and safety inspectors from Preston council revealed that Halfords failed to:

  • undertake a risk assessment for stacking boxed bikes;
  • provide employees with appropriate training in relation to boxed bikes;
  • adequately control and manage the stock of boxed bikes.

It was found during the investigation that the store was overstocked by 91 bikes and the bike storage areas were overcrowded.

During the investigation, health and safety inspectors said they were misled by Halfords who told them that this was an isolated incident, when further enquiries by the council found this was not the case. The council also discovered that similar incidents had happened at other stores which had failed to implement recommended control measures.

Following the incident Halfords had:

  • instructed outside experts to conduct a full manual handling risk assessment;
  • employed a new Group Head of Health and Safety;
  • launched a new training programme;
  • reviewed its storage arrangements;
  • lowered the numbers of bikes being stored on site.

The court was shown evidence that Halfords had reduced bike stock in all stores by approximately 65,000 units and that the company had a good health and safety record, having never previously been prosecuted for health and safety offences since the company was formed in 1909.

The judge said that Halfords had substantial health and safety systems in place but they had not been adhered to, in that they were shown to be inadequate. He expressed concern by the fact the company were slow to react, but recognised the level of investment by Halfords in risk assessment, and the way they tackled the issue.

Craig Sharp, chief environmental officer at Preston City Council said "we are pleased that the outcome reflected the seriousness of this case and the Court imposed a substantial fine on Halfords Ltd. It was fortunate that more serious injuries were not suffered by the employee".

"Any employees with serious workplace safety concerns should raise those with their employer, or if necessary contact the council’s Environmental Health service".

Halfords pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, was fined £200,000, ordered to pay council costs of £13,286.35 and a victim surcharge of £120.

A Halfords spokesperson said the "health and safety of our colleagues is of the utmost importance to us. We accept that, in this isolated case which occurred three years ago, our health and safety procedures were not as robust as they could have been and this led to the accident and we apologise unreservedly for this".

"We are committed to maintaining the best possible health and safety procedures and continuing to ensure that Halfords remains a safe place to work for all our colleagues, and in the last 18 months have launched a new health and safety policy and company-wide training programme to ensure that best practice is adopted throughout our organisation".


« Previous  2  3  4  5  6   7  8  9  10  11     Next »