This week's environmental news roundup: September 16th 2011

By Laura Brown - 16 Sep 2011 14:30:0 GMT
This week's environmental news roundup: September 16th 2011

A small ceremony in Vancouver this week marked 40 years of Greenpeace at the frontline of environmental politics and activism.

Dr Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director, marked the occasion with a ceremony in Vancouver applauding the organisation's founders, but also reiterating there is more to be done calling for greater action on climate justice.

"After four decades of putting environmental issues centre stage and achieving significant victories in defence of the planet, today we face a perfect storm of crises; economic, ecological and democratic. And none more challenging than climate change."

"No more can we put up with politicians squabbling over and squandering opportunities to agree on how to avert the worst ravages of climate change. We need leaders with vision who will take bold action to curb climate change and protect those most at risk from its effects. We need active citizens who will hold their political and corporate leaders to account," Dr. Naidoo sad.

Greenpeace began in Vancouver and the city named 15 the September 'Greenpeace Day', planting a tree to mark the occasion. The organisation's first campaign was to tackle nuclear testing in the Aleutian islands.

Greenpeace now operates in over 40 countries with over 11.6 million subscribers and nearly three million donors.

While debating the impact of climate change in Vancouver, focus turned this week to the UK Government who has been accused of acting slowly on fulfilling its green pledges.

Analysis from a coalition of green groups including Greenpeace, Green Alliance, the WWF, Christian Aid and the RSPB accused the government of back biting and obstruction by the treasury.

When taking office in Downing Street, David Cameron pledged to make his the "greenest ever" but the damning report for only seven of the 29 environmental promises he made has been met. The report noted they had made progress on policy decisions like cancelling the third runway at Heathrow and cutting green house emissions but that work still needed to be done on increasing green taxes and the 'green deal'.

The Coalition government was not the only UK institution criticised for environmental activity this week. A report compiled by federal investigators blamed BP for taking shortcuts that caused the explosion at Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 and a massive oil spill.

Put together by a joint task force the report found BP was under pressure to complete it Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. Behind schedule and millions over budget they cut corners, the report says. These shortcuts contributed to the blow-out and oil spill. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement found "poor risk management, last-minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well and for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon."

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the explosion and US commentators believe the latest study, which mirrors earlier conclusions, could lead to indictments and heavy fines.

Still in the US and this week scientists voiced their concerns over the environmental impact left in the wake of Tropical Strom Irene. The clean up, they warn, could cause even more damage to forests, waterways and wildlife along the east coast.

Debris flowing along swollen rivers, chemical and oil spills; all the impact still has to be fully measured. Activists say in their haste to clean up, construction crews are not taking the necessary precautions including dredging streams and damaging habitat.

Out of the outdoors and into the kitchen, this week the UK's Environment Minister called for manufacturers to scrap food sell-by dates to cut waste.

The government wants food packaging to only include a use by or best before date, instead of sell by and display until labels. It is hoped this would reduce the £12bn of edible food waste discarded each year. Caroline Spelman says it is because food packaging is just too confusion. The Food Standards agency back the move with its head of hygiene and microbiology, Liz Redmond saying, "We always emphasise that use-by dates are the most important, as these relate to food safety."