Green News

BusinessGreen Technology and Investment Forum clean tech showcase: Crop Intellect

BusinessGreen Technology and Investment Forum clean tech showcase: Crop Intellect

VIDEO: Director of crop nutrition specialist pitches his business to top investors as part of BusinessGreen's Technology & Investment Forum

Last month saw 15 of the UK's most exicting clean tech entrepreneurs pitch their prospective businesses to investors at BusinessGreen's Technology & Investment Forum, which was hosted online this year in association with Innovate UK.

A vast range of businesses and ideas were on show covering renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, green buildings, ultra-efficient toilets, and much more, and this month BusinessGreen is publishing a series of short pitch videos from the event. Each entrepreneur was given four minutes to deliver an 'elevator pitch' introducing their business, the opportunities it offers, and its short to medium-term fund-raising plans.

Delivered as part of the Net Zero Innovate Hub, hosted with support from Boston Consulting Group and Kingspan, the cleantech showcase series continues today with Apostolos Papadopoulos - director of Crop Intellect, which has developed a system called R-Leaf it claims can turn air pollution into liquid plant fertiliser.

His pitch can be watched in full above, while the rest of last month's event - including all of the pitches - can be watched back on-demand via the event website.

It's the economic model, stupid: The Treasury is failing to grasp the severity of the ecological crisis

It's the economic model, stupid: The Treasury is failing to grasp the severity of the ecological crisis

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak's name is nowhere to be seen in the government's weak response to the Dasgupta Review, writes Green Party MP Caroline Lucas

You can tell how much weight Ministers attach to a report by who writes the foreword. In the case of the response to the Treasury-commissioned Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, the Chancellor's name is nowhere in sight.

The Review is a landmark report on how nature needs to be incorporated in economic decision making. It was commissioned against a backdrop of the catastrophic decline in biodiversity in Britain, and its publication in February came with a clear warning that "nature is a blind spot in economics that we ignore at our peril".

It includes clear recommendations - above all, the need for "urgent and transformative change in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world".

If Rishi Sunak even read it when it landed on his desk, he hasn't bothered to sign up to the response. That's been left to a junior Treasury minister and the Environment Secretary, reinforcing a deeply worrying impression that the Treasury, or at least the current Chancellor, just doesn't seem to grasp the basics: that we must stop treating nature as an expendable resource to serve the relentless expansion of consumption, profit and GDP growth.

If the Chancellor can't grasp the severity of the ecological emergency, and his responsibility to make nature a top Treasury priority, he's not fit for office. It's time he shook off his previous career as a hedge fund manager and paid more attention to the fate of hedgerows and hedgehogs. Current and future generations will pay a heavy price if he doesn't.

In its official response to Dasgupta, the government repeats its commitment to leaving the environment in "a better state than we found it".  Perhaps that can be chanted by the drivers of bulldozers as they fell ancient woodland for infrastructure projects like the £27bn roadbuilding programme. 

The government claims to accept that nature and biodiversity ultimately sustain our economies, livelihoods and wellbeing. Yet it ignores Dasgupta's key call to action: that protecting nature requires nothing short of transformative changes to the economy. Instead, much of the Treasury's response is taken up with parroting environmental policies that already exist - the (inadequate) Environment Bill, some tree planting, new farm support schemes. Many of these aren't even Treasury policies. In fact, some of them are actually being side-lined or undermined by Sunak himself, for example the sweeping exemption for Treasury activities from the already weakened environmental principles in the Environment Bill.

Even specific proposals in the Review, like enhancing access to nature and green space, are fobbed off with the promise of "an expert roundtable".  That is no substitute for a commitment to include a new right to local, nature-rich green space in the forthcoming Planning Bill.

The government response notes that that pandemic has highlighted the link between access to nature and people's health and wellbeing. But there's a deathly silence on the links between pandemics, biodiversity loss and economic growth. As scientists warned last year: "As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity - particularly our global financial and economic systems, based on a limited paradigm that prizes economic growth at any cost."

But it's also highly disingenuous to claim these green schemes are a response to Dasgupta when the core message is that our economic system needs transformational change, shaped by the recognition that the economy depends on a healthy biosphere. 

Promises to deliver "a nature positive economy" are meaningless if this central truth is not grasped. One nod to this is a commitment to work with the Office for National Statistics to improve "its natural capital estimates and maximise their policy relevance".

It's no comfort to know that when we destroy even more of this country's biodiversity and natural capital, it will have been assiduously measured by the ONS. In any case, the statisticians have already done their jobs - what is lacking is political action.

Sunak's response to Dasgupta should be a commitment to replace GDP growth with new measures of economic progress that give nature and biodiversity the priority they deserve. As a first step, this could include giving natural capital more weight than GDP growth in economic policy making, starting today.

There is no shortage of alternative economic approaches ripe for the Treasury to adopt. The Wellbeing Economy is being embraced by local authorities here in the UK and a growing number of nations - most famously in New Zealand, home to the first ever Wellbeing Budget. Doughnut Economics and GDWe (Gross Domestic Wellbeing) are just two more examples. 

But all the commitments, from assessing the environmental impacts of free trade agreements to calling on multinational development banks to promote the mainstreaming of nature, amount to little more than greenwashing because they ignore Dasgupta's core message: it's the economic model, stupid.

Caroline Lucas is the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion.

We are at a defining moment on the path to net zero

We are at a defining moment on the path to net zero

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng reflects on green progress made since the Energy White Paper was published by the government six months ago

With all the recent talk around climate change at last week's G7 Summit and the UK hosting the UN's climate summit COP26 in Glasgow later this year, you'd be forgiven for forgetting all the incredible progress we have made over the past few months and years to lead the charge and take action against climate change.

Six months ago we published our ambitious Energy White Paper which establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution. Since then, we have all broken new ground and new records decarbonise our economy, create jobs and attract private investment.

We are cleaning up the way we turn on the lights, heat our homes and businesses, and cook our meals by using renewable sources that do not pollute our air. We are continuing to break new records in wind and solar power, while coal has all but been relegated to the history books.

And new government investment in offshore wind manufacturing and the green technologies of the future like hydrogen and carbon capture will not only help us ensure we are eliminating the UK's contribution to climate change but will breathe new life into our industrial heartlands, supporting the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs across the country.

We're also seeing an incredible response from all corners of the UK. Businesses large and small are pledging to become net zero by 2050 or earlier - for example, Nandos hasn't chickened out of its environmental pledges, committing to becoming carbon neutral by November while Lucozade Sport is fizzing with action with its bottles set to be made from 100 per cent sustainable plastic by the end of this year.

And the British public is becoming more aware of the impact of its carbon footprint by making small but simple changes in their everyday lives.

We are at a defining moment and the decisions we all make today, however small, could have a lasting impact on the future of our planet and all of our lives. At every step on the path to net zero, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come.

From new jobs, protecting our planet and helping to cut our energy bills, tackling climate change is a win-win for all of us.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP is Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

'Cars of the future': Volvo to test fossil-free steel for its vehicles

'Cars of the future': Volvo to test fossil-free steel for its vehicles

Swedish automaker announces partnership with SSAB that will see it test steel made from hydrogen reduced iron from HYBRIT plant

Volvo has announced it is to test fossil fuel-free steel for its cars, after inking a deal with Swedish steel maker SSAB to purchase steel made from hydrogen-reduced iron at the pioneering HYBRIT plant in Sweden.

The car maker announced yesterday that steel purchased through the deal would be used for testing purposes, and potentially a concept car.

The HYBRIT project is a joint venture between SSAB, iron ore producer LKAB, and energy firm Vattenfall that aims to replace coking coal with fossil fuel-free electricity and hydrogen to power the steel making process.

Operations at the pilot plant in Lulea, Sweden, started last August and the partners are hoping for steel from the facility to be commercially available by 2026.

Volvo said that it was the first car maker to secure fossil-free steel from the pioneering plant, and pledged to be the first among its peers to use the material for its cars.

Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive at Volvo Cars, said the tie-up would help the Swedish automaker reduce the environmental impact of its broader supply chain.

"As we continuously reduce our total carbon footprint, we know that steel is a major area for further progress," he said. "The collaboration with SSAB on fossil-free steel development could give significant emission reductions in our supply chain."

Decarbonising steel presents a major challenge for industry and policymakers as they attempt to hit climate goals, given the hugely energy-intensive sector is a prolific industrial emitter and responsible for around seven per cent of global carbon emissions. Meanwhile, demand for the material is expected to grow over the coming decades to meet demand for green infrastructure like railways, wind turbines, and power stations. A number of techniques are being explored to decarbonise steel-making, but pilot projects remain at a relatively early stage and experts fear green steel will initially cost considerably more than conventional steel.

However, SSAB president and CEO Martin Lindqvist said that HYBRIT was aiming to build "an entirely fossil-free value chain, all the way to the end customer".

"Our breakthrough technology has virtually no carbon footprint and will help strengthen our customers' competitiveness," he added. "Together with Volvo Cars, we aim to develop fossil-free steel products for the cars of the future."

The announcement came the same day as Volvo was singled out by think tank Transport & Environment as one of just two major carmakers in Europe with an "aggressive and credible" strategy to transition to all-electric sales and operations by 2030, alongside German auto giant Volkswagen.

The firm is aiming to be a fully electric car brand by 2030 and a carbon neutral company by 2040. It has also pledged to reduce the life cycle carbon footprint of its cars by 40 per cent between 2018 and 2025.

Government launches search for 'iconic' British EV public charge point design

Government launches search for 'iconic' British EV public charge point design

Government announces that chosen design will be unveiled at COP26, as DfT confirms recipients of latest £20m EV innovation funding pot

More than 60 electric vehicle technology innovations have won a share of £20m of government funding, with successful projects unveiled today ranging from zero emission ambulances and solar-powered refrigeration units to systems that provide a temporary boost to battery car range.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the funding, which has been awarded to 62 "promising" EV innovations, could unlock some of the biggest barriers to EV ownership by providing solutions to improve battery health and access to charging in both rural and urban areas.

Projects winning funding today include an on-board plug-in device that provides drivers with data on battery health that should help improve the experience of buying second-hand EVs, and a kinetic battery that provides a temporary power boost for charging the next generation of ultra-fast EVs at peak times in rural areas.

Others successful bidders were a project to design a new zero emission ambulance with a hydrogen range extender, and the development of a solar-powered refrigeration unit for small commercial vehicles, DfT said.

The funding awards came as the government today also launched a new project to find an "iconic British design" for public EV charge points, with a view to seeing charging devices "become as recognisable as a red post box or black cab".

The winning EV charge point design it set to be unveiled at the crucial COP26 UN climate summit, which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the funding unveiled today was aimed at ensuring the UK remains a world leader in EV design and manufacturing. "Ahead of the major climate summit COP26 this year, investment in exciting projects such as these is key to making the switch to electric vehicles more attractive for drivers than ever before," said Shapps. "Not only will they propel us further towards our net zero ambitions, they will also help harness some of the brightest talent in the UK tech industry, encouraging businesses to become global leaders in EV innovation and creating jobs as we build back better."

However, the move follows a report yesterday from NGO Transport & Environment which warned the UK risks being left behind in the race to develop its EV industry due to a lack of investment by manufacturers in Britain compared to the continent.

What next for giant e-waste sculpture that loomed over G7 summit?

What next for giant e-waste sculpture that loomed over G7 summit?

musicMagpie founder Steve Oliver says it would be 'criminal' if new home not found for giant artwork exhibited near Carbis Bay last week

UK households have £16bn worth of old consumer tech "lying around" that is probably bound for landfill, according to the man behind a giant e-waste-based sculpture of G7 leaders.

'Mount Recyclemore' received widespread media coverage from outlets including the BBC, ITV, CNN and The Guardian last week after it popped up on a beach near Carbis Bay just ahead of last week's G7 summit.

Depicting G7 leaders including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Joe Biden, the artwork used 12 tonnes of e-waste and around 20,000 piece of tech. 

Talking to BusinessGreen's sister title CRN, Steve Oliver, founder and CEO of musicMagpie - which commissioned the structure - said his motivation was to raise awareness of the growing threat of e-waste, citing UN figures predicting that the current 53 million tonnes of e-waste generated annually worldwide will more than double by 2050. 

Just one per cent of mobile phones are recycled globally, said Oliver. 

"It's scary just how little recycling activity happens. There's £16bn worth of old consumer tech items in UK households alone - an average of 11 items that we have laying around," he said.

The biggest competitor to musicMagpie - which bills itself as a 'recommerce' specialist - is "people keeping stuff in drawers, boxes or under the stairs and just leaving them there", Oliver said. 

"I can guarantee that it's three-quarters of the way to being taken to the tip in a few years' time," he explained. "If that happens, at best, it may end up in a normal bin. But actually, there are some really precious metals in a mobile phone - gold, silver and platinum - but equally there's some really nasty stuff - lead, mercury and even arsenic. 70 per cent of the toxicity of landfill comes from the e-waste, and mobile phones are some of the worst examples of that." 

Already claiming to be the UK's biggest consumer mobile phone recycling service, musicMagpie last year launched a corporate recycling programme aimed at IT managers. 

Created by artist Joe Rush and sculptor Alex Wreckage (see interview above), Mount Recylemore is currently being dismantled, but Oliver said he hoped to find a new home for the eye-catching sculpture. 

"We've had a lot of interest from different people. One thing's for sure, having made the impact with it last week, we want to very much continue that and get it back on display," he said. 

This article and video originally appeared at CRN.

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