Bycatch waste appears to be a major sustainability challenge in N. American fisheries

A new report from the oceans-oriented non-governmental organization Oceana indicates that about $1 billion of edible fish, or 20% of the total US commercial fishery, are being wasted each year, in part because of the unintended consequences of government regulations.

The problem is that regulations control the species that can be landed at fishing ports. But they do not protect, nor is it realistic for them to control, the species that are caught. So large quantities of fish that cannot be legally landed, or for which there are no markets, are tossed overboard from fishing boats. These fish are either already dead or are so damaged that they will not recover. Some are not edible but an estimated 2 billion pounds of edible fish are wasted in this way. This represents not only a waste of income to the fishing and fish processing industry but also a huge loss of food for the world’s hungry populations.

As the fish are discarded at sea there is little data on the loss of seafood and its environmental impact on fish populations and on the oceans in general. According to Oceana little work is being done to reduce the waste. Oceana reports that, in 2009, the World Bank reported this problem as costing the global economy $50 billion every year, and likely $2 trillion over the last three decades.

The problem can be solved but it requires a new way of approaching fisheries regulation. Oceana recommends:

  • investing in better bycatch data
  • bycatch limits. Oceana states that in several situations, bycatch caps have prompted fishermen to come up with innovative gear modifications and real-time open-source reporting to collectively ensure that limits are not exceeded and they do not suffer the economic losses from premature fishery closures.
  • changing fisheries management approaches to integrate economic tools into existing bycatch regulations, for example by requiring landing and sale of controlled bycatch.

The 10 page report Wasted Cash: The Price of Waste in the U.S. Fishing Industry is available via a link at

A Parliamentary waste management conversation

Canada’s House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently undertaking a study of the management of municipal solid waste and industrial materials. Recommendations on the role, if any, of the Federal government are a possible outcome of this Committee work.

Earlier this month Executive Director Michael Goeres from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Mr. Frank Moir, co-chair of the Neighbourhood Liaison Committee of the Highland Creek Treatment Plant (Toronto), Mr. Raymond Louie, first vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Gerry Moore of Island Waste Management Corporation, appeared before the committee. Raymond Louie was also speaking about the recently formed National Zero Waste Council. This was one of several  expert panels with which the Committee is meeting as it proceeds with its task.

The National Zero Waste Council presentation asked the Federal Government to engage with the Council, develop a Canada-wide strategy to reduce waste, develop incentives for producers and consumers, and reduce waste itself.

Of greatest interest to GallonDaily was the response and questions from the parliamentarians. Committee time is always very limited but these interjections can often give an indication of what our elected officials see as the highest priorities in a policy area and hence what they might seek to include in the Committee report. It is also important to note that the Government has control of Parliamentary Committees so nothing is likely to appear in the Committee report that does not have at least general agreement from the Government, meaning the Prime Minister’s Office.

On this particular hearing day, Committee Member comments included:

  • a Conservative Party Member asked why the Government of Canada does not legislate and regulate extended producer responsibility across the country.
  • an NDP Member asked what the federal government is doing right now on the matter of the circular economy, what a national waste management strategy might look like, and the role the federal government should play in the design of products and packaging to make them easier to recycle. Later in the proceedings he asked whether the federal government should adopt a clear policy on the cost of carbon to help companies in the recycling industry with economic viability.
  • another Conservative Member asked about optical sorting of recyclables and suggested that might be something for further study, whether or not the Federal Government should play a greater role in municipal waste management (mostly not), and whether businesses are coming forward to work with you [CCME?] to create opportunities to actually expand and grow industries in the waste diversion sector.
  • a Liberal Member asked about pharmaceutical waste.
  • another NDP Member asked about construction, renovation, and demolition waste and the possible role of the federal government in that sector.
  • another Conservative party Member focused on the relative cost of landfilling and recycling and made the point that, in his opinion, on this issue of waste management and recycling, there is far too much religion and not enough math. He asked how waste management companies deal with low-value materials and silage wrap. He also asked “What are the real environmental benefits of waste diversion” and suggested that the answer was kind of circular: “that the environmental benefit of reducing waste is to reduce waste”.
  • another NDP Member asked about food waste and the possible role of the federal government in funding waste treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.
  • another Conservative party Member asked how recycling can reduce the costs of waste management that are borne by the householder, whether energy from waste is profitable, and the challenges of recycling collection in rural areas.

A written transcript of the Committee proceedings on this particular day is available at

Air conditioners heat cities!

A recent article by researchers at Arizona State University reported that the heat emitted during the night from air conditioning systems increased the mean air temperature at two metres above the ground by more than 1°C for some urban locations with warm nights. This adds to the already significant “heat island” effect where energy use in all kinds of equipment and appliances may raise air temperatures by as much as five degrees.  During the day, due to greater thermal mixing of the air column, the effect of air conditioners on outdoor air temperature is negligible.

In areas with warm nights this increased air temperature causes air conditioning systems to work even harder, using more energy, putting out even more heat and warming the air even more.

Air conditioners are a form of heat pump and it is unavoidable that they move heat from inside the building being cooled to somewhere else, usually the air outside of the building. The researchers suggest that the warming effect of air conditioners might be reduced or eliminated if the waste heat is redirected to some other location. One possibility is to use it for heating hot water.

Our article on the GE GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater (17 February 2012) has been one of GallonDaily’s most popular articles ever (see for a Canadian brochure). In cities which regularly experience warm nights, this water heater could be one way of effectively reducing the outdoor temperature and energy use impacts of air conditioning systems. The researchers calculate that using the heat from air conditioners for another productive purpose instead of dumping it into the urban environment would save more than 1200 Megawatt hours of electricity per day in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, alone. A heat pump based air conditioning system which directly discharges heat from the building into a hot water heater or other system which can make use of the unwanted building heat would further increase energy savings.

An abstract of the article (free) and the full version (subscription or payment required) can be found at

EU claims report shows that it is possible to break the link between economic growth and GHG emissions

The European Environment Agency has just published its 1990 – 2012 greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The data show that the region has done better than projected for this period and is projected to ‘over-achieve’ its 2020 targets.

Between 1990 and 2012, the EU economy grew by 45% (in GDP) while GHG emissions were reduced by 19%.  Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the EEA, has stated that “The EU figures actually show that it is possible to break the link between economic growth and GHG emissions.”

Between 2008 and 2012, the EU economy contracted by 1.4%, but GHG emissions were reduced by 9.2%. Bruyninckx reports that economic recession can explain only between 30 and 50% of the GHG reductions in this period and that the EU has achieved a structural improvement of the EU economy towards a production system generating lower emissions per output and an increasing share of renewable energy in the energy mix.

It is interesting to study the sources of GHG emission reductions in the EU. Taking the original 15 EU countries, major changes in emissions over the period 1990-2012 in millions of tonnes CO2e are reported as:

  • Road transportation                                       + 72
  • Consumption of halocarbons                           + 71
  • Enteric fermentation (methane from animals)    – 21
  • Cement production                                          – 23
  • Production of halocarbons                                – 27
  • Nitric acid production                                        – 30
  • Agricultural soils                                               – 41
  • Fugitive emissions from fuels                             – 49
  • Iron and steel production                                   – 54
  • Manufacture of solid fuels                                  – 58
  • Adipic acid (raw material for nylon) production     – 58
  • Public electricity and heat production                   – 61
  • Solid waste disposal on land                               – 66
  • Households and services                                    – 78
  • Manufacturing industries (excl. iron and steel)      – 151

Of particular note, in GallonDaily’s opinion:

  • transportation emissions are up significantly, even though most other sectors are down
  • landfill emissions are down
  • household emissions are down
  • manufacturing emissions are down

The EEA reports that key factors in reducing GHG emissions are

  • lower final energy intensity (less final energy per GDP, e.g. less energy used by end users);
  • lower carbon intensity of fossil fuels (less CO2 per primary energy from fossil fuels, e.g. less carbon-intensive fuels);
  • improved energy-transformation efficiency (less primary energy per final energy, e.g. more efficient electricity production); and
  • higher non-carbon fuels effect (less fossil fuels in total primary energy, e.g. more use of renewables). The latter has been accounted for by a larger share of renewable energy sources in the fuel mix, and much less so by nuclear which has been declining since 2006.

Over the same period between 1990 and 2012 the EU population increased by 31 million and net GDP per capita increased by 36%.


The full report, with much more detail, is available at The Executive Director’s commentary is at

A report Why did GHG emissions decrease in the EU between 1990 and 2012? is available at

Nielsen poll shows consumers do care about corporate social and environmental responsibility

Contrary to the recent opinions of many commentators and analysts, newly published global data from Nielsen indicates that a significant percentage of consumers do care about the social responsibility of the companies from whom they purchase products. Nielsen N.V. is a global information and measurement company that is very well respected in the food and consumer product sectors as well as in television and other media measurement.

According to this year’s Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility:

  • Fifty-five percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
  • The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%). The numbers for North America and Europe are 42 and 40 percent, respectively.
  • More than half of global respondents (52%) say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company, with respondents in Latin America (65%), Asia-Pacific (59%) and Middle East/Africa (59%) exceeding the global average.
  • Four in 10 respondents in North America and Europe say they have made a sustainable purchase in the past six months.
  • Some fifty-two percent of global respondents in Nielsen’s survey say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63%), Latin America (62%) and Middle East/Africa (62%) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36%) and North America (32%).
  • The results from a March 2014 year-over-year analysis show an average annual sales increase of two percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of five percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only one percent.

The above information is abstracted from a Nielsen press release. Further details are at A more complete report is available by registration at


Demands on Northern Gateway pipeline are less conditions than reporting requirements

Much is being made of the Federal Cabinets imposition of 209 conditions, as recommended by the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, on the Northern Gateway pipeline. Most experts would consider a ‘condition’ to be a requirement for environmental protection or risk reduction over and above the stated plans of the project proponent. For example, if a company plans to install equipment that emits air pollutants then the regulator might impose a condition that the use of the equipment can only go ahead if it is installed in a building with emissions captured by an air pollution control system.

Even the count of 209 conditions seems to be carried out in a way that maximizes the number of conditions. The same condition applied to two components of the project is counted as two conditions, up to a maximum of five identical conditions for the five components of the project. GallonDaily counted 133 different conditions, not the 209 reported by the Panel.

Most of the NEB ‘conditions’ on the Northern Gateway pipeline are not measures that provide additional protection to the environment. Instead they are requirements that the proponent, Enbridge, report to the Board on the steps that it is taking to do what it has already said it would do. It is as if the NEB does not trust Enbridge to deliver on its commitments, but the ‘conditions’ impose very little. and usually nothing, in the way of pollution control or environmental protection over and above that which Enbridge has already announced its intention to implement. Furthermore, the Board has not indicated what it is that would comprise an adequate report from Enbridge nor is it clear what the Board would do, short of recommending that Cabinet rescind its approval or shutting down the pipeline,  if it decided that a report was not adequate and Enbridge declined to bow to the Board’s wishes. Given the Board’s increasingly limited resources it seems unlikely that much effort will be put into full technical scrutiny of Enbridge’s future Northern Gateway submissions.

Examples of the Panel’s conditions include:

3. Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, within 30 days after commencing operations, confirmation, signed by the President of the company, that the Project was completed and constructed in compliance with all applicable certificate conditions. If compliance with any of the conditions cannot be confirmed, the President of the company must file with the NEB the reason(s) for this and the proposed course of action for compliance.

14-15. Northern Gateway must use a three-layer composite coating or High Performance Composite Coating (a proprietary Bredero-Shaw product) for the pipeline between kilometre post 600 and the Kitimat Terminal.
Northern Gateway may specify a different coating if it will provide superior protection than that provided by the three-layer composite coating or High Performance Composite Coating. Northern Gateway must inform the NEB, at least 60 days prior to commencing pipe installation, of any coating substitution and the rationale for its use.

27-29 Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, within 1 year after the certificate date, a Pipeline Environmental Effects Monitoring Program for the Project’s operational life, in accordance with the Pipeline Environmental Effects Monitoring Program Framework filed during the OH-4-2011 proceeding.

44-45 When strain-based design will be used in accordance with CSA Z662-11 Annex C, Northern Gateway must determine the minimum acceptable Charpy V-Notch toughness (CVN) and crack tip opening displacement (CTOd) values for weld metal and heat-affected zone of mill circumferential, helical (if practicable), and longitudinal welds. At a minimum, testing must account for the lowest installation temperature and the most severe deformation during construction or operation. The CVN and CTOd tests must be conducted for all combinations of pipe steel producers and pipe mill manufacturers and be representative of applicable Project pipe with the maximum carbon equivalent (CE) heat.

b) When weld zone defect acceptance criteria will be established in accordance with CSA Z662-11 Annex K, Northern Gateway must determine the minimum acceptable CVN and CTOd values for field circumferential welds for the lowest installation temperature and the most severe deformation during construction or operation. The CVN and CTOd tests must be conducted at the welding procedure development phase, for all combinations of pipe steel producers and pipe mill manufacturers and must be representative of applicable Project pipe with the maximum CE heat.

c) Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, at least 60 days prior to conducting the tests for a) and b) above, the test procedures it will use.

d) Northern Gateway must file with the NEB, at least 60 days prior to field welding, the minimum acceptable CVN and CTOd values and the test results from a) and b) above.

110-111 Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, at least 90 days prior to commencing construction, a report that includes:
a) a description of the methods and conclusions of Northern Gateway’s investigations for the complementary leak detection technologies described during the OH-4-2011 proceeding;
b) a description of the complementary leak detection systems Northern Gateway has decided to implement and the reasons why; and
c) a timetable for installing and implementing the chosen complementary leak detection systems.

GallonDaily was able to find fewer than a dozen ‘conditions’ that actually required Enbridge to do something that it had not already committed to do, and even this was with some generous interpretation of the concept of a ‘condition’. For example, we included in this category such conditions as:

39-41 Quality Management Plan
Northern Gateway must file with the NEB for approval, at least 6 months prior to manufacturing any pipe and major components for the pipeline (including facilities along the pipeline) or the Kitimat Terminal, a Project-specific Quality Management Plan that includes:
a) material/vendor qualification requirements;
b) quality control and assurance of pipe and components that ensure all materials meet Enbridge specifications (i.e., processes, procedures, specifications, inspection, random testing, inspection, and test reports);
c) mandatory documentation of process conditions during manufacture and verification of the conformance of manufacturer material test reports with Enbridge requirements;
d) mandatory inspection requirements, inspector competency training, and qualifications;
e) non-conformance reporting and correction procedures;
f) change management process; and
g) commissioning requirements.

Hardly something that is likely to make a result in a significant improvement in environmental performance of the project compared to that which would have been achieved had the JRP not developed the ‘condition’. No responsible company would operate a pipeline without all of environmental performance aspects that the JRP has made into conditions. The question is how rigorously these things are done and on that the JRP has mostly been silent.

Fundamentally it is GallonDaily’s view that the Joint Review Panel conditions result in little more than a requirement for more paperwork to be submitted during the lifetime of the project. Unless the NEB becomes an aggressive overseer of pipeline operations, something that has not been seen in the past, one is left wondering how much the JRP actually understood about running a pipeline of this scale. Can it possibly be true the Enbridge knows so much more about running pipelines than anyone else at the hearings that the JRP was unable to find any conditions to impose that would significantly reduce the environmental impacts and risks of the pipeline?

The JRP reports are available at

New study indicates that pollution may be the world’s biggest killer

Most of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, eight goals for international development, come to an end in 2015 and most of the Goals remain at least partially unmet. At Rio+20, in 2012, nations agreed to finish the MDG job by adopting a new set of Sustainable Development Goals for international development. A UN Working group is currently working on a draft of those goals which is expected to be presented to the UN Secretariat later this year.

A multilateral ngo, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, has released a new analysis of data that points to pollution as the largest factor in disease and death in the developing world, killing more than 8.4 million people each year. According to GAHP, the World Health Organization and others have determined that 7.4 million deaths are due to pollution from air, water, sanitation and hygiene.  WHO figures released in May 2014 count deaths from outdoor and indoor air pollution at 6.58 million; water contamination, lack of sanitation and hygiene at 842,000. To these figure GAHP attributes an additional 1 million deaths to toxic chemical and industrial wastes from large and small producers in formal and informal sectors of economies in poor countries.

GAHP claims that pollution causes almost three times more deaths each year than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined (1.5 million deaths from HIV; 600,000 from malaria; and 900,000 from tuberculosis). It is urging the UN to ensure that reduction of pollution is included in the new Sustainable Development Goals with a target to reduce by two-thirds, by 2030 from the baseline of 2012, the number of deaths and disability adjusted life years from pollution of air (indoor and outdoor), soil, water, food and household products.

GAHP is an international collaborative body including members such as the Asian Development Bank, European Commission, Inter American Development Bank (BID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the World Bank. It is therefore a body with some significant clout with the UN SDG Working Group. Inclusion of pollution reduction in the SDGs is likely to focus a significantly higher level of international attention on the sources of pollution in low and middle income countries. A presentation at, especially pages 14 through 19, and a GAHP report The Poisoned Poor: Toxic Chemicals Exposures in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, to be found at, provide much more information on the sources of pollution that threaten human health in developing countries.

Details of the GAHP SDG initiative can be found at

Corn supplies will become tight: sustainability action required

CERES, a very reputable ngo founded 25 years ago as the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, has recently published a report which predicts a massive reduction in the availability of corn over the balance of this century as a result of the effects of global warming, unsustainable water use and inefficient and damaging fertilizer practices. The United States is the world’s largest producer of corn and corn is the largest crop produced in the US. Sixteen separate industry sectors—from fast food companies to fertilizer manufacturers to grocery retailers—depend on U.S. corn as a key ingredient of their products or as a market for their inputs and services. In 2013, the top 45 companies in the corn value chain earned $1.7 trillion in revenue.

The highly detailed corn value chain report, subtitled How Companies & Investors Can Cultivate Sustainability, make a series of recommendations:

  • Companies that buy corn should develop a corporate policy that commits them to sourcing agricultural inputs that are grown in ways that reduce impacts to freshwater and the environment. These policies should be tied to measurable, time-bound goals.
  • For companies not dealing directly with farmers 
(i.e. those buying grain from intermediary suppliers), priorities for reducing environmental risks in farming practices should be well communicated to suppliers and integrated into supplier codes and procurement contracts. Where possible, policies, metrics and data requests should be aligned with others in the industry.
  • To enable improved sourcing practices, supply chain managers will need additional expertise on environmental risks in agriculture, and should be compensated against performance objectives that include reducing these risks.
  • Companies should develop sourcing strategies that prioritize action in sourcing regions of higher risk, such as those associated with water stress, groundwater depletion and/or nutrient pollution.
  • Companies should consider constructive participation in initiatives such as Field to Market that are providing U.S. corn growers with the tools, information and other resources to improve farming practices.
  • Farmers should not be expected to change their practices without incentives and support from others in the value chain. Companies can help growers by providing direct agronomic assistance, performance guarantees and credit, as well as financial support to local and regional organizations that assist farmers.
  • Corn has an inherently higher fertilizer and water use profile than many other crops. For sectors with a heavy reliance 
on corn such as meat and ethanol, substitute grains with a preferable environmental risk profile may already be available or their production can be encouraged by working with growers to select profitable alternatives.
  • Government policies that mitigate climate change and encourage risk-reducing, environmentally beneficial farming practices and long-term land and water stewardship will lead to more stable commodity prices and resilient agricultural markets. Companies should ensure that their own policy positions, lobbying activities, and industry groups support legislation and regulation that advances those ends.
  • Disclose to investors and stakeholders the company’s exposure to climate and water-related risks in its agricultural supply chain, as well strategies and progress toward mitigating these risks.

A summary and a link to the full report, registration required, are available at

Ontario Liberal government environmental commitments

As Ontario residents will know, the environment played almost no part in the Ontario election which wrapped up last evening with the election of a majority Liberal government. Even the Green party seemed to spend more time talking about amalgamation of the public and catholic school boards than about climate change or hazardous waste.

In the pattern of recent elections, however, a group of ngos operating under the banner of Green Prosperity devised their own list of environmental priorities and quizzed the parties and/or the party platforms to determine where the parties stood on environmental issues. Note that GallonDaily does not endorse this list of environmental priorities but presents it only to indicate what the new Liberal government might feel committed to do with a list of priorities that some of the Province’s major environmental groups think are important.

The issues and the Liberal Party position, as interpreted by Green Prosperity, are as follows:

Priorities that will be addressed by Liberal policies

  • Creating a dedicated fund for transit expansion.
  • Meeting the 2020 target date for protecting 17% of Southern Ontario’s land base through protected areas and conservation stewardship arrangements as called for in the province’s Biodiversity Strategy.
  • Fully implement the province’s new Conservation Framework to help homeowners and businesses save money by improving energy efficiency.
  • Amending the Development Charges Act, 1997 to ensure that new development pays the full cost of growth. These changes must include ending counterproductive discounts and exemptions from municipal service charges, and reflect future demands for increased services — from schools to libraries — through full lifecycle costing.

Priorities that will be partially addressed by Liberal policies

  • Investing in immediate service improvements and bring provincial funding for operations back to 50% of costs.
  • Using development charges (fees paid by developers) to fund transit expansion.
  • Closing the high-cost and risky Pickering Nuclear Station by 2015.
  • Requiring a full review of the cost of nuclear refurbishment projects by the province’s new Financial Accountability Office or the Ontario Energy Board.
  • Developing a carbon pricing system for large carbon emitters.
  • Enhancing and procuring living green infrastructure, like urban forests and green roofs that reduce flooding, provide natural cooling and increase climate resilience.
  • Rewarding developers through development charge discounts when they increase density, create infill development, build energy and water efficient developments, and accommodate urban agriculture, community gardens and food retailers.
  • Establishing a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment Planning process to develop a “big picture” vision [for the Ring of Fire mineral exploration and development area in Northern Ontario] and community consensus around the future of the region rather than relying on fragmented and largely uncoordinated conventional planning approaches.
  • Create a coordinated infrastructure [for the Ring of Fire region] plan that protects the ecological integrity of the region rather than building roads and transmission lines in response to individual project demands.
  • Restricting the sale and commercial use of neonicotinoids and ban neonicotinoid seed treatments through changes to the Tables in sections 4 and 98 of Ontario Regulation 6/09 of the Ontario Pesticides Act?
  • Investing in the protection and restoration of habitats for pollinators, which contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in pollination services to Ontario each year.
  • Requiring labelling on products that contain carcinogens, with requirements for listing and labelling based on evidence from internationally recognized health authorities, such as Health Canada or the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • Closing the “fragrance” loophole by requiring full ingredient disclosure for cosmetics rather than allowing broad category descriptions such as “fragrance”.

Priorities that will not be addressed by Liberal policies

  • Repealing exemptions to the Endangered Species Act

The ngos also asked:

Will your party act quickly to reintroduce legislation based on these bills that were left unfinished by the election call: (please indicate which you support):

  • Bill 6, Great Lakes Protection Act
  • Bill 83, Protection of Public Participation Act
  • Bill 91, Waste Reduction Act
  • Bill 138, Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act
  • Bill 167, Invasive Species Act

The Liberal Party answered yes to all.

The full survey, including the answers from the parties that are not now part of the Government of Ontario, can be found at

Our summary of the environmental and sustainable development aspects of the Ontario Liberal Party platform will be published in Gallon Environment Letter next week. To subscribe visit

Devon state of the environment report is a jolly good model

The Devon Local Nature Partnership in the County of Devon, UK, is an umbrella body formed in 2012 which brings together and includes everyone with an interest in securing the benefits of our natural environment. The Partnership has just published its first State of the Environment Report and, given the relative scarcity of such reports on a municipal or regional basis, it provides a fairly substantial model for others to follow.

The SOE report is jam packed with information and has sections covering 13 themes:

  • People and Economy
  • Accessibility and Recreation
  • Historic Environment
  • Landscape
  • Land Use
  • Wildlife
  • Transport
  • The Water Environment
  • Flood Risk
  • Waste
  • Climate Change and Energy
  • Geology and Soil
  • Air Quality and Noise

Among the many items in the report which caught GallonDaily’s eye:

Large areas of open space and woodland within reasonable distance from where people live offer opportunities to explore the natural environment. People living in deprived urban areas view green space as a key service, alongside more traditional services such as housing, health, education and policing.

Few studies have determined the economic value of green space but the Merseyside Forest project estimated that every £1 invested will generate £2.30 over 50 years in increased gross value added (tourism, forestry products and improvements in health).

There are over 70,000 assets on the Devon Historic Environment Record. Although the majority of these do not benefit from statutory protection, there are a large number of buildings, sites and monuments given special protection by law. The number of assets ‘at risk’ in Devon continues to fall, but the number of listed buildings ‘at risk’ in Devon is rising. Common reasons for the ‘at risk’ status of buildings include unoccupied buildings without a use, and neglect.

Common pressures on our landscape include the influence of the urban fringe and sprawling urban centres, noise and light pollution and recreational pressures from tourism. Emerging pressures include the effects of climate change, alterations to agricultural practices and the development of the renewable energy sector. Other forces for change relate to biosecurity and the risk of disease on indigenous tree species that make a major contribution to our landscape, for example Ash Dieback and Sudden Oak Death.

When it works well, transport supports the economy, integrates with the environment, contributes to sustainable communities and encourages healthier and active lifestyles. However, due to the reliance on fossil fuels, transport currently produces approximately 30% of Devon’s carbon emissions.

The most prevalent method of travel to work for both Devon is driving a car. The second most utilised mode is walking. The use of a car, train and walking for commuting has increased between 2001 and 2011. Devon has also seen an increase in cycling – between 2005 and 2011 Exeter experienced a 49 – 51% increase in average daily cycle trips in the city. Walking is the main method of travel to school. The second most common method of travel to school is by car.

Railway station usage increased by 20% and 22% respectively between 2008/09 – 2011/12. Bus passenger journeys have increased by almost 12% between 2007/08 and 2011/12 – an increase of 402,488 annual trips.

Thirty three percent of surface waters (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters) in the region are at good or better ecological status. The Water Framework Directive target is 43% by 2015. Issues include impacted fish communities; physical modification; high levels of copper and zinc, linked to natural geology and historic mining activity; and phosphate, linked to agricultural fertilisers.

Surface water sources, such as reservoirs and river intakes, provide approximately 90% of the region’s public water. The remaining 10% is derived from groundwater sources. Since 1996 the South West region is using 14.8% less water, assisted by a reduction in leakage of around 40%. South West Water forecasts a continued reduction in per capita consumption, however increasing population is projected to increase overall water consumption.

In Devon, local authority collected waste (LACW) reduced by 13.8% between 08/09 and 2012/13, to 371,175 tonnes. Commercial waste arisings exceed the production of LACW at 542,000 tonnes. Projected LACW levels indicate that the overall tonnage of waste arising will increase alongside an increase in recycling rates – leading to a reduction in residual waste. This is based upon predicted economic prosperity, the number of households in an area, demographics and the impact of waste awareness campaign work.

Recycling rates have increased substantially from 32.7% and 21.9% in 04/05 to 55.3% and 42.7% in 11/12 respectively.

CO2 emissions in Devon and Torbay have decreased since 2005; respective emissions in 2011 were 16.2% and 21.7% lower. However, overseas emissions attributable to UK consumption are increasing at a faster rate than national emissions are reducing; meaning that Devon’s real impact on the global climate is increasing.

The condition of many soils in the UK – absolutely fundamental to continued productivity and support of biodiversity – is degraded because of atmospheric deposition of pollutants and inappropriate management. The main threats to soil quality in Devon include erosion by flooding, intensive cultivation, poor forestry practice and trampling by grazing animals.

Links to all parts of the report and to a summary document can be found at