Week Ending February 28th

A busy week again managing the pony grazing…

Monday.  We reached agreement with Natural England and a local farmer to spring/summer graze asap ‘Berwick Down’ near Alfriston.  This is a fairly large site of about 20 hectares.  Following 2/3 years of this action to hopefully remove much of the offending bulk of the tor grass, the plan is then to change to a winter grazing scenario which should encourage the other flora and fauna.

Tuesday.  Run around day, checking ponies at Hastings, Beachy Head, Belle Tout and Lullington Heath.  At BH we last week opened up a further section of grass reaching almost to the cliff edge; the ponies had now found this.  At BT the ponies are on course to finish grazing there in the coming fortnight before perhaps going on to a new National Trust property?

Wednesday.  A damp start but during the afternoon it was glorious!  We erected some 1200 metres of electric fencing in readiness for bringing the 18 ponies over from Lullington Heath next week.  To begin with, our 4×4 truck had to claw its way up a very muddy track, followed by us having to hump material up to 400 m away.  Phew!  Late afternoon and as we were about to come down off the downland escarpment, we spotted two short-eared owls quartering across the rank grassy slopes, presumably hunting for voles.

Saturday.  We almost finished the electric fencing at Berwick Down today – in fairly trying conditions, with near gale force winds and drizzle.

New European Team to Investigate Seabird Bycatch


The European Seabird Task Force is BirdLife’s new team of seabird bycatch experts.  We are working with fishermen across Europe to tackle seabird bycatch.

The establishment of the Seabird Task Force means that BirdLife International and our Partners can actively contribute to the understanding of seabird bycatch within Europe and begin to develop and adapt solutions to this problem with fishermen across the region. The Seabird Task Force is the European incarnation of the successful ‘Albatross Task Force’, a team which has been working collaboratively with fishermen to tackle seabird bycatch in southern Africa and South America. Around the world, our approach is simple and all about collaboration- we work with local fishermen to understand the seabird bycatch problem and develop solutions together. This approach builds mutual respect between the team and the fishermen, and allows an effective collaboration to take place to solve a shared environmental and economic problem.As the coordinator of the Seabird Task Force, I am working with a diverse team of seabird, bycatch and policy experts and our on-board observers/instructors (see our team) to tackle this problem. Over the next two years, we will be working in both Spain (Mediterranean) and Lithuania (Baltic Sea). In each country we are working with small, artisanal fishing boats, however we are focused on two different fishing gears-demersal longlines and bottom set gillnets.

Within the Spanish Mediterranean, we have prioritised working with fishermen using demersal longlines. Many of these small fishing vessels work in the same area as the main Spanish feeding grounds of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater, and we know that this species is just one which has been caught unintentionally by fishermen. Cost effective and efficient solutions exist for this type of fishery, and once we understand the problem in greater detail, our team will be working with fishermen to understand what methods could work best on-board their vessels.

In Lithuania, small artisanal fishermen use gillnets to catch cod, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of migrating sea ducks visit the Baltic Sea. As they dive and forage underwater many sea duck species are particularly susceptible to being caught in these nets. An estimated 76,000 seabirds are believed to be caught by this type of fishing gear in the Baltic each year. In comparison to longlines, we do not have proven methods to stop seabird bycatch in gillnets, therefore our team- together with local fishermen- will be at the forefront of trialling innovative solutions to see if we can reduce the number of birds caught in nets.

I hope that you will follow our project with interest. If you would like to subscribe to these updates, please register below. Our blogs are available in English, Spanish and Lithuanian. Please do contact us if you would like further information on the project.


Circular Economy Could Create Half a Million UK Jobs


Circular economy could create half a million UK jobs

New report from Wrap and Green Alliance outlines employment opportunities from circular economy, particularly in the north-east and West Midlands

Dr Liz Goodwin is the CEO of the Waste & Resources Action Programme

The Guardian.  Friday 30 January 2015.

We hear a lot about how we are running out of resources, but for many people it is hard to visualise. Sometimes I’m asked: “Could it really happen?” The simple answer is yes, it could. And a lot sooner than we might think if change isn’t initiated soon. In fact, we have examples of where it has already happened.

The stone-carved faces of Easter Island are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. But behind them hides a past – one where an island, once bountiful and rich in resources, was consumed until all the natural capital was exhausted. When European explorers came across the island in 1722, they arrived to find no trees remaining over 10-feet tall. For the islanders, the consequences were fatal: they left themselves no timber to fuel their fires, create fishing boats or build shelter from. Their collapse was inevitable. Some have since wondered what they were thinking when they cut the last remaining tree down.

It’s not an easy comparison to make to the British Isles, or indeed the rest of the world. This was a remote island isolated by shores that lay thousands of miles off the mainland, leaving little allowance for plan B. Things are different now – we have modern technology that brings the world closer together, with capabilities to transport, import and export goods should there be a geographic shortfall in resources. But the principles remain the same.

We know from lessons of the past that those who have stripped all available natural resources have suffered, such as those on Easter Island. But, looking at the present day, we also know that if the European lifestyle was adopted globally, we would need three planets worth of resources to support it. We can’t just go on forever, taking everything we can.

There’s no doubt that we need a plan. And there is a solution – the circular economy. The circular economy keeps resources in circulation for longer. It means that rather than taking or extracting natural resources from the source, the materials that have already been taken can be recovered and reused in a variety of ways, protecting these virgin resources from over-exploitation. To achieve this requires alternative business models, such as reuse, remanufacture, rental schemes, design for repairability and recycling. This approach protects the environment, increases business resilience from material price volatility and creates jobs while doing so – three tick boxes for any political agenda.

It’s not just about preserving the natural environment. The World Economic Forum estimates that $1tn could potentially be saved by businesses that adopt circular business models, which also benefits consumers. One example of a circular model in action is the resource-efficient peer-to-peer “sharing economy”, where businesses such as AirBnB and Zipcar have facilitated platforms that allow people to share belongings or property. This model is expected to reach £9bn by 2025, according to PwC.

And now the latest study by Wrap and the Green Alliance has for the first time pinpointed exactly what jobs could be created from a more circular uptake, and the results are encouraging. Government projections suggest that a decline of 67,000 lower-skilled jobs (pdf) in the labour market will be expected within the next decade. But this report suggests that continued uptake of the circular economy could create more than 200,000 jobs.

If circular economy activities received extensive expansion, expectations are even more promising. If given a significant push, it could be possible to see more than 500,000 jobs created – this would be the equivalent of providing jobs to every single resident in a city the size of Edinburgh, with job vacancies still plentiful. Unemployment could also be reduced by 102,000, which in turn could offset up to a third of the expected decline in skilled employment over the next decade.

What’s key is that there are strong opportunities in places where unemployment is high, particularly in the north-east and West Midlands. With spare employment capacity, it’s likely recruitment would be successful and regional disparity tackled.

By increasing existing activities such as the waste and recycling sector, and transferring manufacturing skills into remanufacturing skills, a range of jobs could be created, especially in operational and elementary labour roles. For example, 40% of unwanted electrical goods end up in landfill and less than 10% are re-used, despite much of it still being in good working order, or at least repairable. If we were to increase circular activity, people could be employed to collect unwanted goods, skilled technicians could then be employed to repair, refurbish or reassemble them, and sales and customer service personnel could be employed to trade the finished products once fit for use.

We already know the consequences of not safeguarding our natural resources. Let those deserted civilisations that perished because their natural capital ran out be a reminder to us all.

This new report adds to the growing case for the uptake of the circular economy. There’s a positive scenario that’s being laid out on the table if the opportunity is seized. It demonstrates that we can live within our means and prosper economically from doing so.

At the report’s launch, Walter Stahel, originator of the circular economy concept, laid out the following scenario: if a businessman says to you he wants to make money from opening a manufacturing plant, then why not suggest that he can make five times as much from opening a remanufacturing plant? As he said: “We have to sell the circular economy to different people using their own language”.

The circular economy hub is funded by Philips. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled ‘brought to you by’. Find out more here.


Failing to Protect Nature’s Capital Could Cost Businesses Trillions


Failing to protect nature’s capital could cost businesses trillions

Inger Andersen is director general at the International Union for Conservation of Nature

The Guardian. Wednesday 28 January 2015.

Nature is like an angel investor in the global economy: financially significant, yet widely unknown. The global pharmaceuticals industry, for example, is worth some $640bn. But few know that up to 50% of this market is based on the genetic diversity of wild species. Mangroves in Thailand are worth about $1,000 per hectare if exploited for wood. If left intact, the value of these coastal forests for flood protection, carbon capture and fish breeding grounds is more than $21,000 a hectare.

Often referred to as natural capital, nature’s infrastructure – forests, river basins, wetlands, coral reefs and so on – provides fundamental inputs to the production of all kinds of goods and services. A 2012 study by The Nature Conservancy and the Corporate EcoForum estimated that the environment provides some $72tn a year of “free” support to the global economy. That’s more than four times the size of the US economy.

Meanwhile, Unep reports that the use of these natural resources is generating environmental and social costs to the tune of $6.6tn a year (pdf) – costs that could climb to $28tn a year by 2050 if we fail to take action. So while we reap the benefits of nature, we are undermining its valuable inputs.

Two-thirds of the planet’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are now significantly degraded due to human activity. Fishing, logging, mining and agriculture are all pushing more and more species to the brink. The fishing industry, for example, is likewise threatening the survival of many species of fish, including its latest victims: the Pacific bluefin tuna and the Chinese pufferfish.

Failing to account for natural capital is the quickest route to depleting the planet’s resources. And because so many businesses depend on nature, short-term stripping of its assets is accumulating a big backlog of risk for investors.

So how can we continue to benefit from our planet’s natural capital without driving it into the red? An accounting system that improves economic information by incorporating natural capital can help.

Take fisheries, which support the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. Today, poorly managed fish stocks threaten the future of this important industry. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) latest report on the state of the world’s fisheries, almost 30% of fish stocks were estimated as overfished in 2011, while fully fished stocks accounted for more than 60%. The World Bank and FAO estimate that better management of marine fisheries would not only improve the sustainability of this important food source but increase income by some $50bn annually.

That’s a big opportunity cost. If you’re a financial institution looking to invest in this area, poorly managed fish stocks are a risky investment, and you will incorporate that risk into the price of your capital. For the fishing industry, an increasing cost of capital is a good incentive to improve the management of fish stocks.

But accounting for nature is not only about reducing risks. If nature is providing us with services, there is also a significant business opportunity involved. Consider the case of the Catskills and Delaware watersheds, which together provide New York City’s 9 million residents with 90% of their drinking water supply. In 1992, the city of New York decided that protecting these important watersheds was a better investment than spending $6-8bn to build new water filtration facilities, and $300m annually to operate them.

The numbers spoke for themselves. Protecting the watersheds required an investment of $1-1.5bn over 10 years, which was financed by a 9% tax increase on New York City water bills. By comparison, building and maintaining the new filtration plant would have entailed a tax hike on water bills of 100%.

The world desperately needs a new financial system, one that recognizes nature’s enormous contribution to global economic growth and incorporates the full cost of generating wealth. Earlier this month, I joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as director general. Stepping from global finance at the World Bank to nature conservation, I am struck by the urgent need for a united effort that brings these two worlds together and, in league with the business sector, creates this new system.

During my time at the World Bank, I helped start an initiative which brings together UN agencies, governments, NGOs and academics in a broad coalition to implement a natural capital accounting system in eight countries. The International Finance Corp, through its performance standards for environmental and social risk management in the private sector, is helping drive change among both companies and lenders. And the UN Statistical Commission recently adopted an international standard for environmental-economic accounting, which is being tested in several countries.

But to make significant progress, the private sector needs to come fully on board. IUCN, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Rockefeller Foundation are focused on creating robust information and data that can help shift corporate behaviour to enhance and conserve natural resources, rather than deplete them. The World Forum on Natural Capital, taking place later this year in Edinburgh in the UK, will showcase just how far we have come towards integrating natural-capital valuation into decision making.

Last week I was at Davos, Switzerland, where leaders from government and business met to talk about the new global context, which was described as complex, fragile and uncertain. Wouldn’t a new financial accounting system that values and conserves the nature we depend on be just the thing to help us thrive in this new and challenging context?

The values-led business hub is funded by SC Johnson. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled “brought to you by”. Find out more here.