England’s farming policy to change for the better post-Brexit, the environmental impact of buying online, and the dreamlike fungi that thrive in nature’s damp corner
Welcome to this week’s news roundup. As always we’ll be mixing it up - there’ll be some good news stories, some not so good news stories, and maybe some stories you won't have seen elsewhere!
Hope you enjoy!
“England's countryside will radically change after the Brexit transition period, the government has confirmed. There will be more trees, meadows and wetlands - and fewer sheep and cows as controversial EU farm subsidies are phased out. Ministers say it represents the most fundamental shift in farming policy for 50 years. Under the outgoing EU system, farmers got taxpayers' money based on the amount of land they farm. So in many cases, that has meant the richer the farmers, the bigger the grant they get. This scheme will be replaced in the UK when the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. The new system, named Environmental Land Management (ELM), will pay farmers if they prevent floods, plant woods and help wildlife.”
“When Joe Biden won the US presidency earlier this month, it seemed like a huge opportunity to restore the country’s position as a leader in the fight against climate change. But whether he’ll be able to deliver on his climate agenda — the most aggressive ever put forth by a leading US presidential candidate — remains to be seen, especially because he will face a powerful Republican opposition in Congress. Still, climate-policy experts say that there is a lot the former senator and vice-president to Barack Obama can do, including exerting his authority over federal agencies to drive forward his agenda, and leveraging his experience working with both parties in the Senate to push legislation in Congress.
“This is really the first time that a US president is leading with climate,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of Georgetown University’s Climate Center in Washington DC. That’s exciting, she says, but suggests cautious optimism: global warming is still a partisan issue on Capitol Hill, dividing Republicans and Democrats, and “that is going to limit what Biden can accomplish”.”
E.P.A.’s Final Deregulatory Rush Runs Into Open Staff Resistance (New York Times)
“As President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency rushes to complete its regulatory rollbacks, agency staff, emboldened by the Biden victory, moves to stand in the way.”
“Canada’s eight biggest pension funds on Wednesday threw their weight behind global efforts to improve corporate sustainability reporting, urging companies and their investment partners to report environmental, social and governance (ESG) data in a standardized way. In the first joint statement of its kind, CEOs of the top pension funds, which manage C$1.6 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in assets, demanded increased transparency from companies. “How companies identify and address issues such as diversity and inclusion, human capital, board effectiveness and climate change can significantly contribute to value creation or erosion,” the statement released by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Public Sector Pension (PSP) Investment Board and others said. They asked the companies to use the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures framework to further standardize ESG-related reporting.”
The not so good:
What’s the environmental impact of buying online? (Independent)
“Britons are expected to buy an extra 145 million presents online this year due to Covid-19 – meaning more than one billion presents will be purchased electronically. Experts have calculated that the excess packaging from all the presents being delivered online is going to lead to an additional 150,000 trips by delivery vans – resulting in 86,488 tonnes of additional CO2 emissions. With fewer families seeing each other and many shoppers avoiding the high street, there’s going to be increased pressure on e-commerce supply chains, with 66 per cent of adults buying more products online compared to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The problem with zero carbon pledges (Financial Times)
“Ambitions to cut emissions are expressed in almost every company press release and annual report — but some are a lot more real than others.”
Plan to boost big Swiss firms’ liability fails in referendum (Associated Press)
“A proposal that could have stiffened penalties against companies based in Switzerland if they violate human rights or harm the environment abroad failed in a Swiss referendum on Sunday. The initiative titled “Responsible companies — to protect people and the environment” won a narrow majority of votes, with 50.7% percent backing it and 49.3% against, but failed because a majority of the country’s cantons, or states, came out against it. Support was strongest in urban areas, much of Switzerland’s French-speaking west and Italian-speaking Ticino.
The federal government opposed the plan championed by left-leaning groups and some big civil society organizations, asserting that it went too far. Parliament has proposed a countermeasure that would also boost scrutiny of such companies’ actions.The measure could have made large Switzerland-based companies liable in the country’s courts for their flawed operations or those of their subsidiaries and subcontractors in foreign nations, unless they were able to show that they conducted proper due diligence beforehand.”
And something a bit different:
The dreamlike fungi that thrive in nature’s damp corners (National Geographic)
“I've traveled all over the world taking pictures of nature and ecosystems. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020 in the Netherlands, where I live, I stayed home like everyone else. That’s when I began to notice the fungi growing in my yard and around my neighborhood. That mushrooms and other fungi thrive in humidity became abundantly clear to me starting in autumn 2019, when the Netherlands received an exceptional amount of precipitation. But perhaps more essential than humidity for fungi is dead wood. Rotting timber contains nutrients that enter the soil, which in turn can help microorganisms, fungi, and insects. The entire food chain benefits from it. Around here, deposits of wood left behind from a former era of forest cutting have long enriched the soil and supported biodiversity.”