Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter – Autumn 2005

Fête of the Earth

In early June, Cardiff Friends of the Earth held a climate change stall at the Fête of the Earth day. The event held in The Hayes, involved local community and environmental groups running stalls and activities. Children from local schools held a parade of environmental banners at midday.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth's stall aimed to raise public awareness of the global impact and imminent danger of climate change and the effect on Cardiff. Using a map of Cardiff showing the areas most likely to flood, we asked people to mark on it their home to see if it is at risk. We also used a range of other materials, such as local recycling leaflets, a quiz, information on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and materials promoting Friends of the Earth's Big Ask campaign. We had a great response from members of the public, with many people supporting us. We collected a large number of Big Ask campaign postcards addressed to their MPs asking them to support Friends of the Earth's Climate Change Bill. This asks for anew law setting legally binding targets to cut climate change gas emissions by 3 percent a year.

We will continue to campaign, hold events and talk to people in order to build local awareness and action against climate change in Cardiff. If you want to get involved in any way, please contact us. If we all work to make our lifestyles more energy efficient and we push our MPs to support the Bill, then we can reverse the increase in climate change.

Taking the Heart out of Borneo

In today's consumer-based society, the need for palm oil is becoming ever greater. It is this demand that is helping push many species in Malaysia and Indonesia to the edge of extinction.

Palm oil is found in about ten percent of supermarket products, such as bread, margarine, and processed foods. It is also in soaps, washing products, and shampoos. The oil palm tree is a highly productive source of vegetable oils and is a very valuable commodity. Ninety percent of the worlds palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. As demand grows, companies strive to produce greater yields. This leads to ever increasing destruction of forest to create palm oil plantations.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth have held stalls to collect postcards and letters from local people stating that they want to see a change in the new Corporate Reform Bill, which is going through Parliament at the moment. We want the Bill to strengthen the corporate responsibility of UK companies to prevent them doing social and environmental damage abroad.

It is not just endangered species which are at risk. The expanding palm oil industry threatens thousands of rainforest species as well as raising human rights issues as the projects ignore the existence of indigenous people and their claims to the land. The Indonesian Government has, for example, encouraged the felling of hundreds of trees in the gardens of the Dayak people of West Kalimantan and to replace them with palm oil trees. This destabilises societies that are based on local resources.

There are now Chinese-funded plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation, covering 1.8 million hectares on Indonesia's mountainous border with Malaysia. The knock-on effects of this would have a long-lasting and devastating impact on the wildlife, forest, and indigenous people of Borneo. Much of this region still has a great deal of forest, comprising part of the 'Heart of Borneo'. It is the origin of 14 of the island's 20 rivers and is home to a number of endangered species such as the Orang-utan and Borneo Bay Cat.

Despite growing concerns and increased public awareness for the plight of Borneo's people and wildlife, 84 percent of the UK companies that import palm oil have done nothing to ensure that it doesn't come from a destructive source.

Energy saving labels may be banned

Consumers may lose the chance to be environment-friendly, if plans to ban energy efficiency labels on appliances such as washing machines, fridges and irons are successful. The 24-28 October is Energy Saving Week, but a proposal to outlaw energy efficiency labeling is being discussed at the World Trade Organisation's ongoing negotiations. More than 200 similar “free trade” measures have been put forward and if successful, could deny consumers' access to green information on a huge range of products.

Countries including South Korea, the US and China are claiming that green labeling damages their competitiveness and acts as a barrier to trade. Other basic measures countries want ended include:

  • labels that show whether a product is recyclable, such as the triangle logo found on plastic bottles
  • labels that show whether a product, such as paper, has any recycled content
  • labeling that shows sustainable sourcing, such as 'dolphin-friendly' tuna
  • safety testing on imported foods, like compulsory testing for lethal toxins in shellfish
  • tax breaks for fuel-efficient vehicle engines
  • fines for manufacturers when testing shows that their products fail to meet their energy efficiency claims.

Friends of the Earth wants the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to use his influence with the EU Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson, to ensure that the EU opposes these WTO proposals.

At the moment, shoppers can chose energy efficient appliances because these products are labeled. They can save energy and money on running costs and do less damage to the environment. These labels could be outlawed if other countries successfully challenge them in WTO talks. The UK and EU must reject any attempt to undermine hard won environmental protection legislation.

At the moment there is a total failure by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to ensure that trade policies can deliver their promises on environmental protection.

Burning issues for Cardiff's waste

Cardiff City Council has reached a critical point in deciding the way in which it deals woth household waste and will soon make important decisions about how to solve the city's growing waste problem.

As the available landfill capacity rapidly runs out, the pressure to find alternative ways of dealing with waste becomes ever more intense. Environment Agency and Welsh Assembly Government officials are to attend Cardiff Council's Environmental Scrutiny Committee in October to try and find a way forward.

With only four years left before the city's landfill site at Lamby Way is full, Cardiff Friends pf the Earth is deeply concerned that the council will opt for some kind of incineration of the city's waste unnecessarily.

This would not only be bad for the environment, the economy and public health, but would also have wider negative effects. Councils that burn their waste often find themselves locked into long-term contracts with private incinerator companies.

The problem with long-term contracts is that the waste stream could well change due to advances in recycling facilities or changes in legislation. The council could then find itself in the situation where it may either have to pay huge fines for delivering less waste to the incinerator than agreed, or continue to supply waste materials that could actually be recycled.