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US: This huge corporation is tackling climate change - because it's a threat to the bottom line
30 July 2014 - Food giant General Mills has released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it 'the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions'. Key points include: By August 2015, the company has promised to account for emissions across its entire operation and to set clear reduction targets. The company also aims to achieve 'zero net deforestation' in 'high-risk supply chains' by 2020. (more)

Australia: Promise check: $40 million to establish a Great Barrier Reef trust
30 July 2014 - On 2 September 2013 then opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt promised $40 million to establish a trust for the Great Barrier Reef. The trust would be one of three components of the Coalition's Reef 2050 Plan. 'The Reef Trust will combine both Commonwealth and private funds to focus on improving coastal habitat and water quality along the Great Barrier Reef,' Mr Hunt said in a press release. The following chart shows how the promise has been tracking. (more)

US research: The health benefits of trees
30 July 2014 - It is becoming increasingly clear that trees help people live longer, healthier, happier lives -- to the tune of $6.8 billion in averted health costs annually in the US, according to research published this week. And we're only beginning to understand the nature and magnitude of their tree-benevolence. In the current journal Environmental Pollution, forester Dave Nowak and colleagues found that trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That was related to 17 tonnes of air pollution removed by trees and forests, which physically intercept particulate matter and absorb gasses through their leaves. (more)

UK to allow driverless cars on public roads in January
30 July 2014 - The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK's road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. The US States of California, Nevada, and Florida have all approved tests of the vehicles. In California alone, Google's driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road. (more)

US economy rebounds strongly in second quarter
30 July 2014 - US economic growth accelerated more than expected in the second quarter and the decline in output in the prior period was less steep than previously reported, which could bolster views for a stronger performance in the last six months of the year. Employment growth, which has exceeded 200,000 jobs in each of the last five months, and strong readings on the factory and services sectors from the Institute for Supply Management underpin the bullish expectations for the rest of the year. (more)

UN Secretary General lauds Nicaragua's 'forward-looking' energy policy during day-long visit
30 July 2014 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed Nicaragua's 'forward-looking' energy policy as he arrived on an official visit to discuss how the United Nations and the Central American nation can work together in promoting peace and sustainable development. 'Renewable energy is important to promoting sustainable development -- this is the golden thread in achieving sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental areas,' Mr Ban noted in remarks at a press encounter with President Daniel Ortega in the capital, Managua. (more)

The rise of electric cars in the US, in six charts
30 July 2014 - It's still only a tiny fraction of Americans who actually own electric cars. But that number is growing fast. So far this year, roughly 54,973 plug-in electric and battery-electric vehicles have been sold in the United States. That sounds negligible at first -- it's a scant 0.67 per cent of the 8.1 million vehicles sold in 2014. But it also represents a 35 per cent jump over last year. And both May and June were record sales months. (more)

New report offers hope for Antarctic Ocean
30 July 2014 - An alliance of leading environment groups called the (AOA) has launched a new report entitled 'Antarctic Ocean Legacy: Towards Protection of the Weddell Sea Region.' It's part of the group's recent proposal to designate marine protected areas (MPA) and marine reserves across 19 regions around Antarctica. 'Recognizing the ecological importance of the Weddell Sea, Germany, in collaboration with Russia, is leading the process that will bring about the protection of this crucial area,' said Steve Campbell, AOA Campaign Director at the launch of the report. (more)

Tracking Australia's promise check: Create a 15,000 strong environmental 'green army'
30 July 2014 - On 5 July 2013, the Coalition launched a policy to create 'a standing 'green army' that will gradually build to a 15,000 strong environmental workforce'. The policy's objective was to 'combat land degradation, clean up our waterways, provide real and practical solutions to cleaning up riverbanks and creek beds, re-vegetate sand dunes, re-vegetate mangrove habitat, and a host of other environmental conservation projects'. Here's how the promise has been tracking: (more)

Revised data: US grew faster in second half of 2013
30 July 2014 - Fuelled by healthier consumer spending, the US economy grew in the second half of last year at the strongest pace in a decade and more than previously estimated, new government data show. Revised data released Wednesday also suggest a possible factor behind the pickup: Americans saved much more in 2012 than previously thought, leaving more to spend in 2013. For 2013 as a whole, the economy expanded 2.2 per cent, up from the previous estimate of 1.9 per cent. (more)

Finnish architecture project receives international recognition
30 July 2014 - Sunrays shine through golden bamboo structures and the building walls are a bright turquoise. Finnish architecture group Komitu's new youth centre was completed in Phnom Penh in Cambodia in early 2014. Now it has been awarded with an honourable mention at the Rethinking Future Awards architecture competition. (more)

US: San Francisco nonprofit Rainforest Connection and Neil Young team to save the rainforest
30 July 2014 - Musician Neil Young has teamed up with US nonprofit Rainforest Connection to help them raise much-needed funds. The central idea behind Rainforest Connection is simple -- old cellphones are retrofitted with a solar-powered energy source and placed in trees around the rainforest. When they pick up the sound of chainsaws, animals in distress, or gunshots, they alert authorities in real time. (more)

US: With new clean air standards come fresh economic opportunities
30 July 2014 - For the past several years, businesses ranging from the Fortune 500 corporations to family-owned companies have been making strong commitments to cut pollution and invest in clean energy. With the recent release of new carbon pollution standards for the nation's power plants, the US Environmental Protection Agency finally has caught up to what's been happening in boardrooms across the nation. (more)

Thailand to celebrate ASEAN Day
30 July 2014 - Thailand is moving with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations partners toward an ASEAN Community. ASEAN will celebrate its 47th anniversary on 8 August 2014. Thailand will organize various activities to commemorate this event. Activities to mark ASEAN Day are held each year to promote awareness and understanding of the ASEAN Community among the Thai public. This endeavour will help raise the young generation's preparedness for Thailand's future in the ASEAN Community. (more)

US: GreenStep Cities sprouts in Minnesota
30 July 2014 - Several years ago in connection with a road project, the city of St. Anthony built an underground tank next to City Hall to collect runoff and use it for irrigation. Three fountains sit atop the tank, and the site has become a popular spot for wedding portraits. The initiative is one of more than two dozen that St. Anthony has undertaken to be more eco-friendly and that it has reported as part of Minnesota GreenStep Cities, a voluntary statewide programme aimed at promoting such efforts. GreenStep provides participating cities with information, giving them an easy-to-follow list of how-tos. Since its inception four years ago, 69 cities have joined and reported 1,600 projects. St. Paul, Duluth, and Coon Rapids are among the latest to join. (more)

Australia: Knitters art project warms things up on National Tree Day
30 July 2014 - While Canberra shivers through some chilly winter mornings, the trees at the National Arboretum are being kept warm by a colourful new art installation. Volunteers have knitted squares, scarves and shapes which have been installed in the forests at the National Arboretum as part of Canberra Tree Week. (more)

US consumer confidence jumps to highest level in 7 years
29 July 2014 - US consumers are more confident about the economy than they have been in nearly seven years. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index rose to 90.9 in July from an upwardly revised 86.4 in June. The July reading is the highest since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession officially began. (more)

China stocks hit 2014 highs as economy bets gather steam
29 July 2014 - China shares jumped on Monday, with Hong Kong's index hitting its highest close in more than 3-1/2 years, on growing bets that the world's second-largest economy has turned a corner and as investors expect more growth-friendly policies. The Hang Seng Index closed at its highest since November 2010. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose to its highest close since 11 December. The rally in the markets which began last week gathered steam on Monday and has been helped by a slew of recent optimistic news which has propped up emerging market indices. (more)

'Please stop!', Pope Francis makes plea for peace
29 July 2014 - Pope Francis made an emotional plea for peace on Sunday in an impromptu addition to comments delivered at his weekly Angelus address in Saint Peter's Square. With his voice appearing to crack with emotion, the Pope broke off from his scripted remarks to make a direct appeal for fighting to end. 'Please stop!, I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please!' (more)

Asia stocks reach 3-year peak, China on the rise
29 July 2014 - Asian shares touched fresh three-year highs on Tuesday as investors in the region drew encouragement from a rally in Chinese markets. Hong Kong's key stock index rose to its loftiest level in over 3-1/2 years on optimism that the economy has turned a corner and as investors wagered on more growth-friendly policies from Beijing. Japan's Nikkei rose to a six-month high as investors focused on the positive in mixed economic news. (more)

Britain's recovery pushes economy past pre-crisis peak
29 July 2014 - Britain's economy is now bigger than it was before the financial crisis struck six years ago after strong growth in the second quarter that keeps it on track to lead the way among developed countries this year. (more)

British manufacturing emerges from years in the shadows
29 July 2014 - New business is coming from unexpected places to help power the whirring, high-tech lathes on the factory floor of Future Advanced Manufacture, one of the companies spearheading Britain's manufacturing revival. 'Even the Germans are starting to deal with us, which is unheard of,' said Future AM's managing director Craig Peterson. British factories are in the midst of a resurgence. (more)

Japan labour demand strengthens, good omen for economic recovery
29 July 2014 - Job availability in Japan hit its highest in 22 years in June as companies grew more confident about hiring, and household spending rebounded modestly -- reinforcing expectations economic recovery will resume in the third quarter without the need for additional stimulus from the central bank. (more)

Madagascar billed as surfing paradise
29 July 2014 - Itching to catch a wave? Try Madagascar. The island nation in the Indian Ocean has become the 86th member of the International Surfing Association as part of a drive to promote the sport in Africa, the California-based association said. Madagascar offers more than 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) of coastline that have been largely unexplored by the global surfing community, it said. 'It's world class,' Blair Rogers, a surfing tour operator in southwest Madagascar, said. He described the 'perfect, uncrowded' waves as comparable to those in Indonesia and other top surfing destinations. Madagascar is the 14th country in Africa to become a member of the International Surfing Association, joining Nigeria, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, and other countries on the continent. (more)

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