UK business briefs: Curbing vehicle use, Beckett chemical statement, Met Office research, £1 million rural boost, Green conference

Inappropriate use of public rights of way by mechanically propelled vehicles will be curtailed via legislation, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael confirmed today. The Minister's confirmation follows a Defra consultation on proposals to address widespread concern about the use of ancient, and often fragile, tracks by motor bikes, quad bikes and 4x4s. In particular, views were sought on the existing principle that permits use by modern motor vehicles on the basis that the routes were once used by horse-drawn carriages. The Government's response to the consultation is published today, alongside the results of a Defra research report on the use of byways open to all traffic by motor vehicles.

The Chemical Industries Association (CIA) hosted a meeting of the Industry Forum on Climate Change and Energy, at its London offices, on Wednesday 12 January 2005. Judith Hackitt, the CIA Director General, thanked Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for being the Forum’s guest and speaking about a subject so relevant to the Chemical Industry. “The CIA is a great believer in the need for high quality, regular dialogue and understanding between government and industry,” said Mrs Hackitt. “We were delighted to be able to host the forum who have long and successfully hosted these kinds of relationships.” She concluded by praising Mrs Beckett’s personal support of the Forum since its inception.

The increased flow of Russian rivers into the Arctic Ocean has been caused by man-made greenhouse gases and could indicate changing global rainfall patterns, a report leading scientists at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, part of the British Meteorological Office, have stated. Their computer models clearly showed the cause to be human activity and predicted that things were likely to get worse. Lead scientist Peili Wu stated that the findings were in line with previous predictions that global warming would lead to changes in the water cycle. The report also said that changes in the world’s water cycle could also have implications for the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean and the key Atlantic Conveyor current, which recent international research has shown to be weakening. The statement comes one month before the Kyoto climate change treaty enters into force, aimed at curbing the emissions of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

A £1million boost for science and research aimed at helping to shape a prosperous future for rural England was announced today. Defra has given £1million to the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme, designed to support social and economic development and to promote environmental protection and conservation in the countryside. Food and Farming Minister Larry Whitty said a mix of social and natural science which dealt with real-life rural issues could support efforts to improve the quality of life for countryside communities. Larry Whitty told a RELU conference: “Defra’s five-year strategy is all about creating thriving rural communities. That means affordable housing, access to local services and an economic boost for areas lagging behind the relative prosperity of the majority of rural England. It means tackling social exclusion and it means protecting and enhancing the countryside, vital to the health of the rural economy. Our rural plans and policies are informed by the most detailed evidence base there has ever been, designed to deliver real, sustainable benefits which balance people’s social and economic needs with a responsibility to protect and enhance our natural heritage.”

And finally, GreenWorks, a conference on sustainable development to be held this March is a one-day conference for trade unionists, employers, advisers, energy specialists and those interested in future industries. It is organised by TUSDAC – the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee. Speakers include Government Ministers, leading trade unionists, energy experts, industry and NGOs including: Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary, Dr Garry Felgate, Carbon Trust, Mike O’Brien MP, Energy Minister, Paul Noon, General Secretary Prospect, Adrian Wilkes, Chair, Environmental Industries Commission, Gordon Edge, British Wind Energy Association, Richard Yemm, Ocean Power Delivery Jeremy Leggett, Solar Century, and Lord Whitty. Delegates will focus on practical changes at work – including the launch of TUSDAC’s model policies on Developing Sustainable Workplaces. TUSDAC believes that the workplace is the most obvious starting point to tackle the challenge of climate change.

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