GALLERY: Top 10 sustainability stories in 2014

What were the biggest stories for sustainability professionals in 2014? Find out in our round-up which takes a look back at the year in pictures.

In a special edition of top-10 round-up, edie has highlighted some of the news and features our readers were keen to read and share during the year of 2014.

It was the year of the summit, with the UN climate summit in New York seeing China pledge to take firm action on climate change. A promise closely followed by an emissions deal between China and the US  the world’s two most polluting countries  in November.

The World summit in Lima in December was a disappointment to many green groups who believed there to be a lack of ambition by world leaders with The Climate Group’s Mark Kenber claiming that ‘policy makers [were] trying to play catch up with what [was] happening on the ground.’

This year also saw Scotland vote to stay in the UK, a vote which, according to Richard Dixon of FoE Scotland, means the ‘start of a lively debate about what more powers might come to the Scottish Parliament.’

The Chancellor’s Budget 2014 and Autumn Statement both gave green issues short shrift and a survey in August showed that more than 90% of climate scientists agree the main cause of climate change is human activity.

But by far the most-read story of the year was the announcement of edie’s Sustainability Leaders Award-winners!

GALLERY: 2014’s top 10 sustainability news stories

1) Sustainability Leaders Awards 2014: Winners announced at glittering ceremony

The great and the good of the sustainability sector descended upon the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on the night of 19 November for the eighth year of edie’s Awards which celebrate the very best in sustainable business.

A glittering ceremony, hosted by TV comedian and environmentalist Alistair McGowan, saw 74 shortlisted finalists whittled down to winners in 14 categories ranging from Carbon Management to Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Reporting.

2) Climate Summits: UN Climate Summit in New York and World Climate Summit in Lima

In September, more than 120 international figureheads descended upon the UN headquarters in New York to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris 2015 and galvanise transformative action to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions. 

The UN Climate Summit in New York saw a host of impassioned speeches, revamped national commitments and new industry-led initiatives.

In December, international negotiators at the Lima climate change talks agreed on a plan to fight global warming that commits all countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan was hailed as an important first step towards a climate change deal due to be finalised in Paris next year.

3) 10 things you need to know about the circular economy

The circular economy is touted as a practical solution to the planet’s emerging resource crunch. Reserves of key resources such as rare earth metals and minerals are diminishing, while exploration and material extraction costs are rising.

A working circular economy could be a practical solution to the planet’s emerging resource problems.

Here’s 10 facts you should know.

4) 10 things you need to know about ESOS

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme is a Government policy which calls for mandatory energy audits in the UK. It requires all companies with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than €50m to produce detailed reports on their energy use and efficiency every four years.

In order to comply with ESOS, businesses must produce their first environmental audit report and notify the Environment Agency by 5 December, 2015.

Participants must then carry out an ESOS assessment in each subsequent four-year compliance period, ending on 5 December 2019, 2023 and so on.

Here are the 10 things you need to know.

5) Scottish independence: What the NO vote means for UK renewables 

On 18 September, Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom after voters decisively rejected independence. Edie investigated the impact this will have, if any, on the nation’s renewable energy sector. 

Ahead of the vote, edie investigated what might have happened to the nation’s renewable sector if Scotland did strike out as an independent country. And the effects could have been huge.

6) Budget 2014 and Autumn Statement

In his 2014 Budget speech in March, the Chancellor George Osborne confirmed a cap on the Carbon Price Floor at £18 per ton of CO2 from 2016-2017 to the end of the decade.

Osborne did mention his support for renewables but said little else, focusing more on cutting energy bills for businesses and households.

In his last Autumn Statement before the General Election in May 2015, Mr Osborne brushed past green issues and thew his weight behind shale gas and other fossil fuels.

He also received criticism for his ‘soft’ promise on flood defence spending, which fell short of what many expected.

7) Survey reveals widespread misconceptions about energy and climate change

On 27 August, a new survey revealed a ‘huge gap’ between reality and the perception of the UK public on some key climate and energy issues. 

The survey was commissioned by new not-for-profit organisation the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and showed a perceived lack of consensus among climate scientists, despite scientists being one of the most trusted groups in society.

Nearly half (47%) of the UK population think that most climate scientists reject the idea that human activities such as fossil fuel burning are the main driver of climate change, or that scientists are evenly split on the issue.

8) Adidas hits back at Greenpeace report

In January, Adidas hit back at Greenpeace after the environmental group accused the brand, along with several other clothing companies, of using hazardous chemicals in children’s clothes and shoes.

Testing was carried out by Greenpeace on products sold by 12 brands across the industry, including American Apparel, GAP, Primark, Nike, Disney, Burberry and Adidas, with the findings showing levels of hazardous chemicals in clothing made for children similar to that of adult ranges when compared with previous studies.

According to the report, A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet, every brand tested was found to have products containing hazardous chemicals.

9) Solar-powered beer: Heineken unveils UK’s largest green brewery 

On 26 September, edie reported on Heineken’s improved sustainability strategy. The brewer became the first in the UK to implement a large-scale solar panel installation on the roof of one of its flagship production sites in North Yorkshire. 

John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster is set to power up over 4,000 solar panels that cover its huge corrugated iron roof; generating more than 876MWh of electricity each year which will be used to power the brewery’s bottling and canning departments.

10) Closing the loop: Sainsbury’s powers supermarket entirely by food waste

On 21 July, Sainsbury’s in Cannock became the UK’s first supermarket to run on electricity generated solely from food waste.

The supermarket giant partnered with leading waste management firm Biffa to convert food waste from Sainsbury’s stores across the UK into energy, using Biffa’s anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities.

Waste from Sainsbury’s stores is now able to be turned into bio-methane gas, which is used to generate electricity at the Biffa plant, also in Cannock.

Lois Vallely

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