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Your Weekly Sustainability News Roundup

This week we explore a new wildlife and rural crime coordinator in North Wales, the uphill battle facing the Irish transport sector and the extreme heatwave that has taken over Western North America.

Wales Appoints UK’s First Wildlife and Rural Crime Coordinator.

The Welsh government last week unveiled its wildlife and rural crime coordinator, the first role of its kind in the UK. Rob Taylor’s job will involve working with the four police forces in Wales, the UK government, other emergency services and wildlife and farming representatives to tackle countryside crime from fly-tipping to heating oil theft.

However, there are other cases that involve the protection of biodiversity and animal species in the region as well. The most headline-grabbing investigation he is involved in is the attack on the nest of a pair of ospreys at the Llyn Brenigreservoir in north Wales in May. He is also charged with saving sheep as well. There are more than 100 attacks a year in the North Wales police area alone, resulting in the deaths of many animals. Taylor acknowledges that an increase in visitors to Wales this summer could lead to more incidents. “But it also means more witnesses,” he said.

Rewilding has also been a contentious issue in North Wales as local residents have accused the government of pushing an agenda without engaging with the local communities. Many view it as an attack on local farmers who fear business constraints would force them to rely on ecological tourism. The hope is that an agreement can be reached that promotes biodiversity and animal habits while also keeping local residents happy.

Ireland Faces An Uphill Battle To Cut Emissions In Transport.

A report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that even with half a million electric vehicles (EV) on the road in Ireland by 2030, emissions in transport will barely decline. Reaching the full target of nearly 1 million EVs will reduce transport emissions less than a quarter relative to 2018, only a portion of what is needed to meet climate laws. 

Ireland has set ambitious targets, however, one year into this pivotal decade they are already behind their intended targets. Issues involve addressing demand and the lack of current measures included to make sustainable transport the default option. Even meeting that target would require a doubling of EV sales every year. While not impossible, it would require sustained subsidies and a much faster rolling out of charging infrastructure which looks unlikely.

The number of cars on Irish roads has tripled since 1990. While road traffic deaths and air pollution have decreased a lot despite this, CO2 emissions have grown nearly as fast as the size of the car fleet. Cars are getting bigger and more powerful. SUVs makeup half of new car sales now, up from 13% a decade ago. SUV sales far outstrip those of EVs. Even though cars have become more efficient in the past 30 years, oil demand in transport has grown nearly 2.5 times in the past 30 years with oil demand in freight tripling. If we simply switched petrol SUVs with electric SUV sales it will also cause problems. Unless demand is tackled, electricity demand could double by 2030 relative to 2018 which would have an adverse effect on decarbonising the energy grid.

At University College Cork, researchers are developing a model to further understand how and why travel is driving emissions in Ireland. What they have suggested is a transformative change in transport. Things like foot spaces, use of cycling infrastructure and reinventing public transport that will make the spatial development and planning systems compatible with sustainable transport.

Western North America Continues To Grip With Excessive Heat.

Last week, much of the western United States and western Canada were blanketed under a prolonged and record-breaking heatwave. 50 million Americans were placed on alert for excessive temperatures which approached 50 degrees in some areas. Average temperatures in the vast region are above the seasonal norm, with the arid desert states of Arizona and Nevada most likely to shatter records. So far there have been about 450 heat-related deaths in Western Canada while there are about 140 deaths in the northwest of America. Canada recorded the country’s highest temperature ever measured at 49.6 degrees.

Many cities lack proper cooling infrastructure for people and authorities have opened “cooling stations'' for vulnerable residents without access to air conditions. Cities like Seattle and Portland in the Pacific Northwest of the US have the lowest and third-lowest percentage of air-conditioned households among major metro areas in the whole country. Heatwaves are a major cause of weather-related deaths in the United States with an annual average of about 700 heat-related deaths per year. Utility companies are scrambling to keep up with increasing demand and have threatened Authorities are also concerned that the heat - arriving so early in the year - could lead to deadly forest fires, aggravated by chronic drought in the American West. Some 88% of the region is in a state of drought, including all of California, Oregon, Utah and Nevada, according to the latest government surveys.

Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.