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Gerda appointed to the EPA Board

We are pleased to announce that Gerda has been appointed to the Environmental Protection Authority Board. The new board members, along with the new chairperson and deputy were announced earlier this week by Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage

The EPA board is responsible for the EPA’s governance. The EPA makes decisions for and regulates hazardous substances and new organisms as well as specified marine activities in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It also provides administrative support for the decision-making on major infrastructure and called in projects under the Resource Management Act and operates the New Zealand Emissions Trading Register under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Congratulations Gerda!

Read the full media here: Environmental Protection Authority chair and deputy announced

Mysterious rise in banned ozone-destroying chemicals

A sharp and mysterious rise in emissions of a key ozone-destroying chemical has been detected, despite its production being banned around the world. Unless the culprit is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, could be delayed by a decade. The source of the new emissions has been tracked to east Asia, but finding a more precise location requires further investigation.

CFC chemicals were used in making foams for furniture and buildings, in aerosols and as refrigerants. But they were banned under the global Montreal protocol after the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s. Since 2007, there has been essentially zero reported production of CFC-11, the second most damaging of all CFCs.

CFCs used in buildings and appliances before the ban came into force still leak into the air today. The rate of leakage was declining steadily until 2013, when an abrupt slowing of the decline was detected at research stations from Greenland to the South Pole. The rise in CFC-11 was revealed by Stephen Montzka, at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Colorado, and colleagues who monitor chemicals in the atmosphere. “I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the most surprising thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I was just shocked by it.” Scientists then embarked on an investigation, published in the journal Nature, to find out the cause.

Michaela Hegglin, at the University of Reading, UK, and not part of the research team said researchers had taken rigorous steps to rule out alternative explanations for the rise in CFC-11 when reaching their conclusion that new production must be occurring.

She said: “The study highlights that environmental regulations cannot be taken for granted and must be safe-guarded, and that monitoring is required to ensure compliance.” Prof Piers Forster, at the University of Leeds, UK, said: “This new study is atmospheric detective work at its finest.”

[Source: The Guardian]

Pods simulate air quality in five cities

An art installation of five geodesic domes by Michael Pinsky have been set up within London’s Somerset House, with each pod simulating the air quality at a different location from across the globe – namely London, New Delhi, Sao Paolo, Beijing and Tautra (Norway). The installation allows visitors to walk through each pod and experience the air quality at these locations with varying levels of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The “Pollution Pods” exhibit will be on display at Somerset House from 18th to 25th April.

[Source: Twitter, 19th April 2018]

NZ’s first truck conversion workshop opens

Waste Management NZ has opened the country’s first workshop dedicated to converting diesel trucks in to electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to convert 20 of its national truck fleet by 2020. The first conversion is almost complete and the truck will be used to collect waste from Auckland Hospital.

The workshop is also open to other companies looking to transform their vehicles into EVs.

Waste Management managing director Tom Nickles says he is delighted to open the workshop in what is a major step forward for the company and electric vehicles in New Zealand.

“Our investment in the EV workshop will create a knowledge centre for EV conversion in New Zealand and will help us move towards our long term goal of a fleet of fully electric vehicles.” Nickles acknowledged their conversion partner, EMOSS, based in the Netherlands who provided the kitsets and knowledge for the team in Auckland to start completing conversions locally.

Waste Management announced its move towards a fleet of electric vehicles in September 2016 as part of its sustainability commitment. Since then the company has launched the Southern Hemisphere’s first sideloader electric truck for residential wheelie bin waste collections, which has started work on Christchurch streets. Another sideloader electric truck will soon be in operation in Auckland. This is in addition to the electric box body truck which started work in Auckland in November 2016.

Waste Management has also added more than 20 electric cars within its light fleet during this time.

[Source: Transporttalk.co.nz, 29 March 2018]

Emissions testing to provide data from vehicles in NZ

Emission Impossible Ltd and Mote have collaborated to undertake a research project funded by New Zealand Transport Agency. The project aims to more accurately identify the emissions from on-road vehicles and fuel consumption in New Zealand rather than relying on data derived from overseas test drives. Twenty-eight types of cars and six different models of truck are being tested with an interest in the levels of pollutants in our atmosphere, particularly nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and toxic particles and the effects they’re having on our emissions targets.

To conduct the test, an analyser is installed in the back of the vehicle and reads its exhaust emission every second of the hour long test drive. Analysis of the results will help with setting emission standards, transport planning and monitoring high traffic areas where emissions may be close to failing World Health Organisation standards.

See the full news story on TVNZ’s website Emissions testing to provide data on vehicles in NZ. 

[Source: TVNZ, 25 March 2018]

UK Government loses third air pollution case as judge rules air pollution plans ‘unlawful’

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth today won a third case against the UK government over the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

In a ruling handed down at the High Court in London this morning, Judge Mr Justice Garnham declared the government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area unlawful.

He ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution in 33 towns and cities as soon as possible – as 12 of the 45 are projected to have legal levels by the end of 2018.

This will be of great embarrassment to ministers, as it is the third time that they have lost an air pollution court battle against ClientEarth.

Speaking outside of the court, ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “For the third time in the space of three years, the courts have declared that the government is failing in its obligation to clean up the air in our towns and cities.

“We are delighted that the court has today ordered the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over eight years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough.

“The people who live in areas of England and Wales covered by this judgment deserve to be able breathe clean air and the government must now do all it can to make that happen quickly.”

There was no ruling against the government for its decision to back-pedal on a previous commitment to legally ensure five cities implemented charging ‘Clean Air Zones’ – which charge the most polluting vehicles to enter the most polluted parts of a city.

However, Ministers issued Directions to those five cities in December 2017 requiring them to prepare a business case identifying measures to tackle pollution as soon as possible.

Lawyers for DEFRA told the court in January that they plan to issue further Directions to make sure those measures are implemented.

The Welsh government, which was also named as a defendant in the case, conceded at a High Court hearing in January that its failure to produce a plan was unlawful.

The Welsh government must now come up with a plan to meet legal limits of air pollution in Wales as soon as possible.

Today’s result means that Welsh Ministers will have to produce a draft plan by 30 April 2018 and a final plan by 31 July 2018.

[Source: ClientEarth]

Norway’s First All-Electric Ferry in Service

Geoff Dobson, 7 Feb 2018

Norway’s first all-electric ferry has reportedly cut emissions by 95% and costs by 80% compared to its fossil fuel counterparts.

The results are bringing in customers.

The ferry “Ampere” started in May 2015, aiming to reduce carbon dioxide and mono-nitrogen oxides as well as noise, electrek reports.

The partnership between ferry operator and shipping firm Norled AS, Fjellstrand Shipyard, Siemens AS, and Corvus Energy saw the latter two develop the electric powertrain and 1mWh battery system.

Another called “Elektra” also went into operation.

The ferry results were announced at the Nordic EV summit in Oslo on February 1-2, where Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) transport general manager Liz Yeaman of New Zealand was among the speakers.

A further 53 orders for electric ships have been received by shipbuilder Fjellstrand.

CleanTechnica reports Dutch company Port Liner will be introducing an autonomous electric barge for the European market from August.

Port Liner chief executive officer Ton van Meegen tells The Loadstar shipping industry trade journal that five autonomous electric barges will begin operating between the De Kempen intermodal terminal in the south of the Netherlands and Antwerp starting in August. They have been designed to fit beneath the many bridges there and are expected to remove 23,000 mostly diesel trucks from area roads.

Larger barges which can carry up to 280 containers are expected to enter service between Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam later this year.

[Source: TransportTalk.co.nz]

Consolidated biking statistics

We were introduced to Bikemunk, a handy website (not just for biking enthusiasts) which consolidates resources about various cycling statistics including related environmental and health statistics. Statistics from Bikemunk describe research conducted in 1995 which compared the exposure of cyclists, car drivers and pedestrians to traffic related pollutants. The 1995 study is consistent with the research we described in an earlier post showing that the health benefits of being outside (cycling or walking) outweigh the costs and risks of breathing in pollution.

2017 US EPA Integrated Science Assessment – Sulphur Dioxide

In December 2017, the US EPA published an updated integrated science assessment for sulphur dioxide using research published to end August 2016. Key findings on causality are summarised below as compared with the 2008 assessment.

The assessment also noted that reproductive and developmental effects were inadequate to infer a causal relationship for a wide range of exposure durations.

It should be noted that the assessment did not consider transformation products such as sulfate (these being considered in the integrated science assessment for particulate matter, US EPA, 2009).

Full assessment here:

 

Table 1. Causal determinations: short-term exposure*

Health effect category 2008 SOx ISA 2017 SOx ISA
Respiratory effects Causal relationship Causal relationship
Cardiovascular effects Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Total mortality Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship

*Short-term exposure refers to time periods of minutes up to 1 month

 

Table 2. Causal determinations: long-term exposure**

Health effect category 2008 SOx ISA 2017 SOx ISA
Respiratory effects Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Suggestive of, but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship
Cardiovascular effects Not included Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Total mortality Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship
Cancer Inadequate to infer a causal relationship Inadequate to infer a causal relationship

*Long-term exposure refers to time periods of more than one month to year.

 

 

Walking in traffic-polluted vs traffic free areas

Research has shown that long-term exposure to pollution can lead to diminish lung function, particularly for older populations or those suffering from illnesses, while short-term exposure to pollution at higher levels has been found to cause deaths from ischaemic heart disease and exacerbate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Research funded by the British Heart Foundation undertook a study to assess the effects on respiratory and cardiovascular responses of walking down a busy street with high levels of pollution in London (Oxford Street) compared with walking in a traffic-free area with lower pollution levels (Hyde Park) in older adults. This randomised, crossover study included men and women aged 60 years or older with angiographically proven stable ischaemic heart disease or COPD who had been clinically stable for 6 months, and age-matched healthy volunteers.

Ambient concentrations of black carbon, NO2, PM10, PM2.5 and ultrafine particulates were higher in Oxford Street than in Hyde Park. Participants with COPD reported more cough, shortness of breath, and wheeze after walking down Oxford Street compared with Hyde Park. All participants, regardless of their disease status, found walking in Hyde Park led to an increase in lung function, but these beneficial responses, in contrast were diminished after walking along Oxford Street.

The results indicate that short-term exposure to traffic pollution prevents the beneficial cardiopulmonary effects of walking in people with COPD, ischaemic heart disease, and those free from chronic cardiopulmonary diseases. These negative health effects emphasize the need to develop policies to control ambient levels of air pollution along busy streets.

[Source: The Lancet]