Seahorse Summaries August 2019

Seahorse Summaries is a monthly round-up of the top environmental news stories. Launched in April 2019, it provides you with Seahorse’s insight on what we’ve seen and heard in the news, covering both the important and the intriguing.

Amazonian wildfires and major power blackouts dominated the environmental headlines in August, causing outrage far and wide. However, August wasn’t all bad; the month also brought a glimmer of hope for a number of threatened species whose protection has now been ramped up at the latest Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting.

Blackout chaos

On 9th August, a major power cut left one million people across large parts of England and Wales without electricity. This was Britain’s most severe blackout in the past ten years, the power cut happened at possibly the worst time (Friday evening rush hour), angering commuters, with serious impact on rail and road services and hospitals.

Unsurprisingly, the blackout raised several imminent questions for the Government and the National Grid, yet the National Grid became reluctant to reveal the cause of the chaos. Questions, speculation, and anger began to mount.

After it was revealed that the power outage was caused by two power plant failures at a windfarm and a gas-fired power station, some incorrectly used the blackout as supporting evidence that a power supply based on renewables will be risky for consumers. However, there is no evidence that variations in renewable energy have caused grid failures. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the UK’s battery storage helped prevent the blackout to be much worse than it was through pumping much-needed power into the system.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State at BEIS, then confirmed that the incident was not linked to the variability of wind power and argued that the blackout proved the need for a diverse energy mix to legitimise the place of renewables within the UK’s strategy for net-zero.

However, ironically, later in the month, Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee concluded that the Government is failing to implement low-carbon technologies as part of the net-zero transition. Although the official cause of the blackout is yet to be determined, it has shown that the Government must help facilitate the rollout of new grid management technologies as we inevitably move towards a decentralised and low carbon energy system.

Amazon fires

August saw all eyes turn to focus on the catastrophic Amazon forest fires; there has been over 72,000 fires across Brazil this year, which is an 84% rise to last year, with toxic smoke from the fires so intense that Sao Paulo was plunged into darkness. Outrage grew as the Brazilian President blamed NGOs for starting the fires on purpose to discredit his government.

Along with the world, Emmanuel Macron, Sadiq Khan and Donald Tusk took to Twitter to voice their outrage using the #PrayforAmazonia tag and to address the lack of media coverage. Efforts to publicise the fires on social media then put pressure on world leaders to address concerns at August’s G7 summit.

The G7 did offer an aid package of $20million to help finance the fires but this received backlash from officials, including Cristiana Palmer (UN), who argued that the costs of extinguishing rainforest fires is close to a billion dollars. It was also pointed out that this is very much a structural development issue, linking to trade and the economy and will require much more than the G7 offered. The President of Brazil went on to refuse the G7’s aid offer, accusing Emmanuel Macron of adopting a “colonialist” mindset.

In response to the fires, the Brazilian government set a 60-day prohibition on deliberately burning the Amazon and deployed 44,000 troops. Despite this, within 48 hours almost 4,000 new forest fires were started.

August has shown that it’s not enough to deal with solely the symptom of these fires; putting out the flames will not rectify the biodiversity lost and it also won’t prevent future fires. Instead, these devastating fires are a product of the world’s increasing consumption of resources and therefore another vital wake up call for the world to reassess its land management, which involves the UK to think seriously about its beef, soy and timber trade.

Wins for wildlife

Delegations from all over the world gathered in Switzerland to discuss the protection of more than 500 species, at the 18th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The treaty was enacted more than 45 years ago to enhance the protection of wildlife and this specific meeting shed light on the future of the ivory trade, illegal killings of rhinos, management of African elephant populations and enhancing protection for marine life.

During the final two days of the meeting, almost all the decision from earlier in the summit were approved. Many critically endangered marine life gained a much-needed safety net, as 18 species of mako shark, wedgefish and guitarfish secured increased protection. Giraffes also gained increased protection and will now be listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable to restrict the trade.

However, there was some disappointment as a proposal to list the more than 100 species of glass frogs failed to get the required two-thirds majority.

The importance of CITES as a mechanism to protect wildlife has never been more critical and while there is still progress to be made, the 18th meeting in August showed key progress in protecting some of the world’s vulnerable animal and plant species. Costa Rica has offered to host COP19, which will take place in 2022.

Seahorse Summaries July 2019

Seahorse Summaries is a monthly round-up of the top environmental news stories. Launched in April 2019, it provides you with Seahorse’s insight on what we’ve seen and heard in the news, covering both the important and the intriguing.

It’s fair to say that July has seen us swelter: not only have we endured record breaking temperatures but a cabinet reshuffle that was not so much of a ‘shuffle’ but a total overhaul. But, what does this all mean for the environment?

The new Government

On 24th July, Theresa May stepped down as leader of the Conservative Party and made way for the UK’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. With no time to spare, Johnson began one of the country’s most notable cabinet reshuffles. Although now dubbed as a Hard Brexit cabinet raring to take the UK out of the EU by October, the new appointments have also been described as surprisingly green and include keen environmentalist Zac Goldsmith and net zero champion Simon Clarke.

Michael Gove also scored a top job as head of the Cabinet Office, and we have high hopes the passion he showed in Defra will help him drive the environmental agenda across government departments. The new Defra Secretary, Theresa Villiers, looks to have good green credentials, but how they will weigh up against the priority of leaving the EU no matter what is yet to be seen.

Former clean energy minister, Claire Perry has been appointed President of next year’s UN climate talks, likely to be hosted in the UK, which shows the new Prime Minister’s seriousness and commitment to making the talks a success. Perry has extensive experience and knowledge in climate policy. Her appointment has been praised across Twitter, with former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres tweeting that she is ‘thrilled’.  

However, just one week before the new appointments, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its annual update on the UK’s progress on meeting its carbon targets and climate resilience goals. The reports were damning, showing that the UK has met only one of its 26 climate targets. The Committee concluded that despite well-intentioned ambition, the UK has stalled on its progress on tackling and preparing for climate change.

With bold leadership and clear and stable policy vital for putting the UK back on track, the new Government may have missed its chance. Brexit continues to dominate the political discourse and now a no-deal Brexit is becoming increasingly worrying given the unknown ramifications.

The major reshuffle has also seen the return of some big hitters to the backbenches, notably Rory Stewart, Penny Mourdant, Philip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt. We hope all will continue to encourage ambitious action on climate and the environment. We also hope a few other shy greens might come out and decide to champion these issues.

Record heat

During July, the UK experienced its highest ever officially recorded temperature of 38.7C; the country buckled under the heat and crudely demonstrated how ill-equipped we are at adapting to hotter temperatures. Heat on this scale, however, is not an anomaly anymore, with, for instance, this summer proving to be Deja-vu for last summer. And now, the Met Office has revealed that the UK’s hottest years have all happened since 2002 and the average temperature across the country is now almost 1C warmer than it was between 1961 and 1990.

The abnormal is becoming the new normal.

July’s record heat is another environmental wake up call and sign that the climate change is an emergency that we are facing now. There is evidence, however, that these signs are beginning to influence public opinion; a recent survey has revealed that 71% of the public believe climate change is more important that Brexit in the long term, with 60% believing that the government is not focusing enough on this climate emergency.

A little bit of hope…

The world celebrated the landmark anniversary of the Apollo II landing in July. 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and uttered the now infamous words ‘…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. Back in 1969, the moon landing demonstrated unmatched ambition, focus and imagination and generated unsurprising awe that remains to this day.

The anniversary has fuelled discussions around how achieving net zero is this century’s equivalent to the moon landing: unparalleled commitment, creativity and cooperation are urgently needed to drive the engineering enterprise and change to reach a goal that will have an impact for centuries.

If we can put a man on the moon, we can get to net zero.

The immediate actions our new Prime Minister should take to showcase their commitment to net zero while they’re busy with Brexit

We find out tomorrow who our new Prime Minster will be followed by Cabinet appointments on Wednesday and Thursday. While Brexit is dominating the debate, Michael Gove the current environment Secretary, said on Thursday evening that the next Prime Minister's 'single greatest responsibility' will be addressing the climate and environment emergency. The environment community would certainly agree with him. Earlier this month, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published two new reports assessing the UK’s progress on meeting its carbon targets and climate resilience goals. The conclusions were damning, with the committee criticising the government’s progress to date and warning that the UK is now badly lagging in its efforts to cut its carbon emissions and boost its climate resilience.

The reports reiterate calls for the Government to step up its action on climate change: the UK may have been the first G7 economy to legislate for a net zero emission target, but that’s just the start. The government must now show how it will meet the target.

I’ve outlined some immediate actions the new leader can take get the UK back on track to meeting its climate change pledges.

Appoint the best ministers

It sounds simple but appointing the best ministers really is a crucial first step. Political will is the only way we will meet the net zero targets. The Conservative Party is full of talent and ambition for tackling climate change. Many have campaigned on it by pushing the current Prime Minster to legislate for net zero and engaging with their constituents on climate and environment issues. There’s a very promising pool of candidates for Johnson or Hunt to pick from when they appoint new ministers.

Alongside this, the Prime Minster should create a Sub-Cabinet Committee on Net Zero. This would not only showcase political will but ensure cross-Whitehall engagement. As the CCC said, the most coordinated we are, the cheaper the transition.

Immediately strengthening policy

1. Bring forward the phase out of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2030, or 2035 at the latest. To achieve this, investing in the charging infrastructure required to support this will be especially important. The 2020s will be a vital decade for accelerating the take up of EVs as well as other technologies and the government must help this market develop.

According to Green Alliance’s recent report on acting on net zero, bringing forward the ban to 2030 would account for 33% of the emissions reductions needed for the UK to reach net zero by 2050.

2. Scrap the onshore wind ban. Polling commissioned by the Conservative Environment Network has shown that onshore wind farms are hugely popular, with 74% of 15,000 conservative voters in favour of them. Onshore wind is significantly cheaper than other sources of energy, but it is currently excluded in the government’s contracts for difference scheme, which has prevented further investment in the technology. New onshore wind and solar energy could account for 12% of the emissions reductions needed for the UK to reach net zero by 2050.

3. Bring forward the Future Homes Standard – in this year’s spring statement, the chancellor announced that from 2025, all new homes must be fitted with low carbon heat systems and meet world leading levels of efficiency. The Zero Carbon Homes initiative, initially introduced in 2006, would have required new-build homes to have a net zero release of any carbon emissions from 2016. The initiative was scrapped in 2015. We can’t afford to wait another 6 years. 

An ambitious new home energy efficiency programme could account for 31% of the emissions reductions needed for the UK to reach net zero by 2050. It could also save nearly six million low income homes £408 a year on energy bills.

Engage the public

There has been very little push back from Parliament or the public in legislating for net zero but that really is the easy part. It would be completely understandable for the push back to begin once we start asking the public to make changes to their daily lives. If the environmental community and business sector don’t take the public with them, we will struggle to get the necessary policies through to meet our net zero targets. That’s why I think the Government needs to set up a GOV.UK Net Zero portal for the public to understand what national and local government are doing to deliver net zero and how communities and businesses are also contributing.

The UK’s emissions may only count for one per cent of global emissions but we have the ability to influence considerably more: from putting the appropriate policies in place that can help markets develop and low-carbon technologies to grow globally, to pushing and persuading other governments to step up and act, to providing and mobilising the climate finance to support action elsewhere.

We now wait in anticipation to see what the new Prime Minister will do to pave the way for net zero emissions and whether they will show true leadership on climate action at both this year’s climate conference (COP25) and next year’s landmark climate conference (COP26), likely to be hosted by the UK.

Seahorse’s MD, Isabella Gornall, presented these recommendations on a panel hosted by Green Alliance and IPPR alongside Ed Miliband (Labour MP for Doncaster North and Co-chair of the IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission), Scarlett Westbrook (school climate striker) and Leah Davis (Senior Advisor to Shirley Rodrigues Deputy Mayor of Environment and Energy).

IG Ed panel.png

Seahorse Award Nominations 2019

After 14 months of business, Seahorse Environmental Communications are delighted to have been awarded the Highly Commended prize for Communications Agency of the Year at the Business Green Leaders Awards and named as finalists for Communications Agency at the Renewable Energy Association Awards 2019. Seahorse’s Managing Director, Isabella Gornall, has also been selected for the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2019.

Seahorse Summaries May 2019

Seahorse Summaries is a new monthly round-up of the top environmental news stories. Launched in April 2019, it provides you with Seahorse’s insight on what we’ve seen and heard in the news, covering both the important and the intriguing.

May has proven to be another big month for environmental news. It started with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) publishing its highly-anticipated government advice on how to achieve net zero emissions (a riveting bedtime read for some) and ending with Europe voting green in record numbers in the European Parliament elections. It looks like the momentum that started with Extinction Rebellion’s protests is continuing to help drive change. 

Another wake up call

The UN published the findings from its landmark report on the state of the planet’s global ecosystems. The results were sobering. One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, accounting for an eighth of all known animal and plant species on Earth. 75% of terrestrial land and 66% of marine environment have been significantly altered by human activity, with only 3% of the world’s oceans free from human pressure. This natural decline will undermine progress in 80% of the Sustainable Development Goals, proving that this is not only an environmental issue but a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue too. Biodiversity, humanity’s safety net, is reaching breaking point, but it continues to receive far less public and political attention than climate change.

This month also shone a light on Government’s inadequate action to tackle climate change. Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) published its report, UK aid for combating climate change, which exposed the Government’s contradictory climate and aid investments. The report revealed that between 2010 and 2016, the UK spent £4.8bn on schemes that contribute to harmful fossil fuel projects but notably, this sum was found to be almost equal the £4.9bn the UK spent between 2011 and 2017 on international climate change mitigation projects. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon responded that “these figures and policies are hard to reconcile with the UK’s commitments under the Paris agreement”.

After last month’s landmark environmental media coverage and public engagement, Seahorse had high hopes that this trend would continue throughout May, yet the IDC’s findings, coupled with No. 10’s failure to declare a climate and environmental emergency, has dampened such thoughts. However, as we approach the final weeks of Theresa May’s premiership, there are calls for the Prime Minister to consider adopting the CCC’s recommendations for net zero to revamp her Brexit-tainted legacy. And as the Conservative Party leadership contest gets properly underway in June, Seahorse expects to see several contenders run on an environmental ticket to secure votes from younger party members.

Coal clings on

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the results of the Australian elections disappointed and shocked environmentalists around the world. It was dubbed as the referendum on climate change, with Labor presenting the green policies and the Liberal National Coalition pushing back. Regardless of what the polls said, the Liberal National Coalition secured a majority and reports now say this could lead to the resurgence of ‘big coal’ in Australia.

The win has been attributed to Scott Morrison managing to frame Bill Shorten’s green policies as a loss for the country, especially for the economy. The Sun argued the results showed that ‘ordinary voters prefer low taxes, sensible economics and job creation over high taxes and climate change lectures’. This confirms why decarbonisation can’t happen without placing people at its heart; policies must ensure that jobs will not be taken away and a prosperous and sustainable future is available for all. So, as the rest of the world either begins or continues to transition to a green economy, we hope it learns from this tragic failure of the Labor party.

Environment and sport

Finally, on a separate note, the Independent launched its interesting series on sport, environment and the climate crisis, discussing how they interact with one another. Sport fundamentally relies on a healthy planet, but the large carbon footprints of professional athletes are becoming a threat to it. For instance, Saturday’s Champions League final has been criticised for Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and the teams’ fans travelling to Spain to watch the match when it could have been held in the UK. At the same time, sporting events can be used as a platform for spreading awareness about the urgency of tackling the climate crisis. The series offers a unique way to examine environmental stewardship and protection, demonstrating that initially contrasting sectors are more interlinked than first thought.

Seahorse Summaries April 2019

Seahorse Summaries is a new monthly round-up of the top environmental news stories. Launched in April 2019, it provides you with a Seahorse insight on what we’ve seen and heard in the news, covering both the important and the intriguing.

April 2019 has been an incredible month for environmental media coverage, specifically climate change coverage. Yet this has been no coincidence. April provided a perfect setting for climate change to grab headlines because of the Brexit hiatus; with national news dominated by Brexit for so long, there was resultant media lull when Parliamentary recess began. Love it or hate it, Extinction Rebellion cleverly used this media space and made it its own.

Climate Change

Although it seems worlds ago when Extinction Rebellion held its underwhelming naked protest in the House of Commons, it happened in April and the media reported it with such satire. Fast forward just a few weeks and climate change has been mentioned the most this April in the past five years (!). Extinction Rebellion’s mass protests, lasting from 15th April to 25th April, mobilised support from previously disinterested groups and placed climate change right in the headlines. It generated divisive op-eds, ranging from the Telegraph’s disdain to the Guardian’s support. Meanwhile, business leaders voiced their support, stating that ‘future costs imposed on our economies by climate change will be many orders of magnitude greater [than the costs Extinction Rebellion is imposing at the moment from the protests]’. We are indeed approaching a new public narrative.

climate change media mentions graph.PNG

And now political action follows – or so it seems as first glance. The SNP, the Welsh Government and Labour have all committed to a climate emergency, placing the parties on a pedestal for UK climate leadership, until you delve deeper and see that Labour has backed a new coal mine, the SNP continue to be committed to oil and gas, and the Welsh Government continues to invest in high-carbon infrastructure. Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion achieved another one of its goals by meeting with Michael Gove, though recent news has shown that Extinction Rebellion is frustrated at the outcome and will not stop until the Government properly meets its demands.

With no signs of Extinction Rebellion quietening down and the CCC’s advice that the UK should commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, Seahorse can’t wait for what is to come in May.

Air Pollution

Earlier on in the month, London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) came into force on 8th April. At the time, this generated fairly extensive media coverage (although trumped later by Extinction Rebellion) and unsurprisingly, divisive views: some bemoaned that the ULEZ is a form of stealth tax; several charities argued it will hinder their operations into central London; and British Lung Foundation and British Heart Foundation commended it for its predicted positive impact on health. Others, however, disagreed and said it doesn’t go far enough. Regardless, a survey found that almost 72% of Londoners welcomed the charge. 

Interestingly, recent coverage has shown that 70% of the 91,000 vehicles entering the ULEZ every day are meeting the standard, evidencing initial success - although it should be mentioned that the figures may not be entirely representative due to lighter traffic from school holidays and Extinction Rebellion protests. We expect the debate around clean air zones to continue not only because of the relentless research published that outlines the terrifying impact air pollution has on our health, but also as other cities keep a close eye on the public reaction as they begin to finalise plans for their own clean air zones.

Environmental Collapse

Only five weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated Mozambique, Cyclone Kenneth hit the country on 25th April. It was predicted to be the strongest ever storm on record to make landfall in the country, but thankfully its intensity eased when it hit land. However, it is not normal that Idai and Kenneth hit in such quick succession; there is no previous record of two storms of such power hitting Mozambique in the same season, with climate change expected to be the reason.

Kenneth and Idai are further reminders that climate change hits the world’s poorest the hardest. Mozambique is the world’s sixth poorest country and the damage caused by  Cyclone Idai has killed hundreds and left a trail of devastation, costing the country $773 million. Africa contributes the least to climate in absolute and per capita carbon emissions, yet it pays the highest price. Stories like this further evidence that climate change continues to be a problem of injustice.

And finally, after Twitter celebrated World Penguin Day on 24th April, the media reported on a new study revealing that the world’s second largest emperor penguin colony is facing collapse. The colony has experienced three years of almost total breeding failure after 10,000 chicks died in a storm in 2016. The authors of the paper have said that the breeding failure, caused by habitat loss, is unprecedented, and it is unusual that these penguins are still vulnerable since the initial collapse three years ago. Tragic events like this are a stark reminder that environmental collapse remains an overarching threat for all life on Earth.

If you want to know more about the aims of Extinction Rebellion and the UK School Climate Network, read our latest insight piece here: https://bit.ly/2vggiLr

The mainstreaming of climate action within the UK’s political landscape

The debate surrounding climate change action has intensified and entered the mainstream. Over the past month David Attenborough’s Our Planet series has engaged households across the country and political space is occupied by climate action groups. In this insight we set out the main actors involved in the current climate movement, exploring their main asks and the political reality of the climate change debate.

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion is an international network using ‘civil disobedience to protest for climate action’. Their demonstration on 15th April resulted in the occupation of five locations within London, over 100 arrests, and vandalising Shell’s London offices.

Extinction Rebellion have three demands:

1.    The government to declare a climate and ecological emergency.

2.    Immediate action to achieve net zero by 2025.

3.     A Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

The group argue strongly that climate change cannot be tackled within a circular capitalist economy. Whilst Extinction Rebellion’s unapologetically disruptive protest techniques have sparked criticism, it is undeniable that the movement has put climate change onto the political agenda.

UK Student Climate Network

United under the lead of 15-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, the UK Student Climate Network mobilised together 50,000 students in their latest UK strike.

The group have four main asks for the UK Government:

1.    The Government to declare a climate emergency and implement a Green New Deal

2.    The national curriculum reformed to prioritise educating the ecological crisis

3.    The Government to communicate the severity of the ecological crisis

4.    To lower the voting age down to 16

Alongside the Extinction Rebellion protests, the UK school strikes have resulted in widespread media attention and political debate that brings the current system into question.

Green New Deal

The momentum for a Green New Deal in the UK was influenced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey’s mainstreaming of the deal in the US. The Democrat’s Green New Deal is originally an idea by the New Economics Foundation a decade ago and was also influenced by an IPCC report that warned carbon emissions must be halved by 2030. Last month, Labour launched their Green New Deal campaign, aiming to respond to the climate and social crises. The central principle is that climate change is a class issue and is rooted in an economic system that works for private profit before society. Labour’s Deal involves policies for renewable energy, transport decarbonisation and a net zero economy, on top of plans to tackle unemployment and poverty. In March, Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary, announced a climate and environment emergency in parliament. Rebecca Long-Bailey, energy and industrial strategy secretary, announced plans for a green industrial revolution. However, critics highlight the need for cross-party support for the Deal in order to gain political leverage.

The recent climate protests highlight that there is no time for complacency, and that politicians have a mandate to take action. The government’s intention to introduce a net zero target and to host the key climate summit in 2020 make us optimistic that the UK means to lead the global transition to a low carbon economy. The Clean Growth Plan, Industrial Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan show we also know how to get there. But there is still a long way to go before the UK reaches its emission reduction targets and tackling climate change will require more than plans. To deliver on the commitments made, over the next ten years we must see emissions to fall across all sectors of our economy, increased fossil fuel divestment, widespread public engagement on the issue and the UK’s continuing international leadership.

In the meantime we look forward to seeing the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on a net zero target for the UK, due to be published in the next few weeks.

Seahorse and Seahorse MD shortlisted for Business Green Leaders Awards 2019

Seahorse Environmental Communications and Seahorse’s Managing Director, Isabella Gornall, have been shortlisted for Communications Agency of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year respectively at the Business Green Leaders Awards 2019.

Isabella said “I am delighted that we have been shortlisted for two of the UK's most prestigious and high profile green business awards. We look forward to the award ceremony on 26th June.”

Year One at Seahorse

This week, Team Seahorse is celebrating the company’s first birthday and we wanted to share our year one highlights. Launched in April 2018, Seahorse Environmental Communications is a specialist consultancy that designs and executes political campaigns and communications programmes to enhance both the natural environment and the commercial success of our clients.

It’s been a fantastic first year, growing the team from two to six, working across eight client accounts and to date, we are finalists for Agency of the Year at both the Business Green Leaders Awards and the Renewable Energy Association Annual Awards.

We want to thank our brilliant clients, the Seahorse Advisory Council and all of those across the sector who have supported us this year. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Here are a few of our year one success stories:

  • With Greener UK, we helped secure the one key environmental amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that required the government to publish provisions for environmental principles and for the creation of the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

  • For our work with Greenpeace on the Fisheries Bill, we helped win the only amendment passed at Committee Stage and we successfully lobbied Labour to reform Labour Party policy on the Bill to directly align with Greenpeace’s asks.

  • We secured supportive videos and quotes of e-cargobikes.com from ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Transport, helped orchestrate e-cargobikes.com’s involvement in Business Green’s Future Jobs Hub as part of BEIS’ Green GB Week, and facilitated extensive national media coverage for e-cargobikes.com’s launches with Sainsbury’s and the Co-op.

  • With our coalition coordination and political strategy for On The Hook, we significantly raised public, political and expert awareness of the need for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to improve its Standard, leading to the issue to be featured in the Sustainable Seas Parliamentary Inquiry. The MSC has subsequently opened new consultations on the issues associated with its Standard.

  • Seahorse does a selection of pro-bono work including for the Seahorse Trust, a seahorse conservation charity. We are currently working with Facebook to discuss ending the illegal wildlife trade of seahorses on the platform.

  • Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S helped us launch Seahorse Sittings, a new series of interviews with industry and parliamentary leaders. Follow us for our next round of interviews!

The environmental impact of any organisations’ activities is now of major and growing importance to consumers, governments, shareholders and NGOs. As a result, every organisation needs to plan and manage their environmental impact and strategically communicate this to all stakeholders. This demands specialist advice from people who understand the environmental community, matched with top level communications skills and first-hand experience of how governments, parliaments, civil servants, shareholders and consumers operate, think and behave. This is the market in which Seahorse operates.

We’re driven by our passion for enhancing the natural environment and tackling climate change. Seahorse provides expert policy advice, impactful communications programmes and winning campaigns for clients who share our vision for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable tomorrow.

If you have an issue you would like to discuss with us do please get in touch at info@seahorsecomms.co.uk.

Seahorse shortlisted for Renewable Energy Association Awards 2019

We are delighted to announce that Seahorse Environmental Communications has been shortlisted for the 14th British Renewable Energy Awards in the Communication Agency category.

“Seahorse are relative newcomers, but have already established themselves as leaders in the environmental communications world. With an already impressive list of clients, they have notched up some significant wins this year, with particular success on the fisheries bill.“

We look forward to the announcement of this year’s winner on 11th June 2019.

Responding to Environmental Breakdown: the need for effective communication

This Is A Crisis.

This is the title of the new Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report on the world’s current state of environmental breakdown. Human activity has negatively impacted our natural world to such an extent that the world has now reached a critical state, whereby economic instability, conflict, famine, large-scale migration and societal and economic collapse will unravel if we don’t act now: we are in a crisis. The report calls for urgent and radical reform to generate transformational change in a rapidly closing widow of opportunity. Yet also curbing these environmental impacts, such as climate change, soil infertility, pollinator loss, chemical leaching and ocean acidification, can lead to a better and fairer society.

To mark the launch of the report, IPPR held a conference on how to respond to this environmental breakdown. Seahorse Managing Director, Isabella Gornall, spoke on the event’s Politics panel, outlining the ways we can communicate environmental breakdown to the public to spur policy action as well as the barriers we may face in doing so. How we communicate these messages was a key theme throughout the day and unsurprisingly generated interesting conversations. Here we outline a selection of points raised at the event by Isabella and the other panellists:

Is ‘crisis’ the appropriate term for the state of our planet?

This was the reoccurring question throughout the day, with some arguing that describing our current state as a ‘crisis’ was alarmist and disengaging; ‘crisis’ can fuel images of apocalyptic doom and gloom, creating dragons of inaction. Yet, the main consensus in the room was that ‘crisis’ was the correct word because frankly it’s impossible to capture the scale of the story without this narrative. The key, however, is to ensure that messaging also presents pockets of optimism, especially around individual help and action.

What are the barriers communicators face?

Environmental breakdown is a difficult topic to communicate. Using climate change as a specific example, it presents numerous psychological challenges. Last week, the Met Office warned that global warming could exceed 1.5C within five years, yet we are unable to properly apprehend what this temperature increase because the temperature fluctuates, on average, considerably more than 1.5C every day with no disastrous consequences for our wellbeing. This means that we can subconsciously feel detached from climate change, believing it’s a future problem for a different place. 

This links to how climate change is complex; its narrative is encased within scientific and complicated terms. Climate change is framed around percentages, statistical errors, potent greenhouse gases and average trends…The topic is difficult to understand and consequently disengaging. Encased within technical language, tackling climate change can lose its urgency simply because the message isn’t getting across.

So how can we improve messaging?

Firstly, messaging around how we tackle environmental breakdown needs to be less technocratic and less scientific; climate change, and indeed other environmental crises, has been framed around big multinational conferences, big business and government. It’s created an image that climate change is simply a problem that voters cannot truly have a say in.

Ultimately, messaging needs to place the voter at its core. We need to make messaging personal, emphasising the impacts happening at home – for instance, we know that climate change helped fuel this summer’s heatwave and drought; let’s talk about climate change within these terms. Let’s show how acting locally can have an influence globally. UK100, for example, is a network of local government leaders who are seeking to transition and push for cleaner and greener cities, towns and rural areas.

We need to demonstrate the other benefits of tackling climate change to incentivise action. Unsurprisingly, the policies that work to curb climate change tend to have socio-economic benefits. For instance, incentivising active transport leads to not only reduced fossil fuel car use but also benefits our health and leads to safer roads, reduced congestion and cleaner air. Retrofitting our homes would lead to healthier and warmer homes, with more affordable energy bills, alongside reduced carbon emissions.

These types of policy, however, require long term vision and investment, which has traditionally led to reduced support for these of policies. A perfect example of this is the Zero Carbon Homes initiative, which would have required new-build homes to have a net zero release of any carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this initiative was scrapped in 2015, but a recent report found that if it was implemented occupants of these types of homes would be saving more than £200 on bills every year.

Ultimately, messaging must envisage a new type of world that voters can support; a future that’s better, fairer, cleaner and healthier. Messaging must connect voters to local places and show why and how this matters to them, whether that’s reduced energy bills and warmer homes and an active lifestyle with cleaner air. We will not be able to tackle this crisis without effective communication that gains the vital support for urgent policy action.

Read IPPR’s This Is A Crisis report here: https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/age-of-environmental-breakdown

Seahorse Sittings: in conversation with Mike Barry, Director of Sustainability at M&S

Seahorse Sittings is a series of interviews with sustainability experts to discuss their opinions on all things environmental.

To commence our Seahorse Sittings, Seahorse met with Mike Barry, Director of Sustainability at M&S, where we discussed his thoughts on successful government policies, past and future major sustainability trends, and how businesses can lead the way to a more sustainable future.  

What do you think has been the most successful environmental policy made by the UK government this year and in the last 10 years?

Over the last 10 years, the UK government has done something truly exceptional with the Climate Change Act (2008). It was world leading, not just in terms of putting the climate reduction target in law but also because it created an enabling mechanism. Too often legislation just throws out a target or a rule and doesn’t put any of that enabling architecture in place. This did. We should learn from that, and absolutely we should push forward with that kind of architecture.

If you narrow it down to what’s happened in the last 12 months, it is really important that the UK government asks the Committee on Climate Change for some advice on the pathway to Net Zero by 2050. We need to up our ambition. We’re heading in all the wrong direction when it comes to climate change globally. The UK can be a leader in terms of decarbonising our economy, exporting new technologies, new products, new service, and making the UK a happier, healthier place.

Have there been any technologies or actions from other countries that you think have had a marked difference in improving sustainability standards globally?

The real surge for me in 2018 has been the follow-on from what Silicon Valley and California have been doing on mobility. We’ve seen the electric car, Tesla, for the last two to three years revolutionising mobility. Now it’s starting to happen with food. If you look at what’s happening in California now, the amount of venture capitalism money that’s been going into new forms of agriculture or food, such as meat alternatives. There is now much more precision agriculture, including vertical farms. There’s a flood of money, which is going to unlock our potential to create a fundamentally better food system for the future. It’s early days, but that’s where we’re looking at the moment.

Plastic seems to have dominated over the past 12 months. What trend do you think will be big next year?

Plastics has absolutely been the issue of 2018, and it will only continue to be so for the next four, five, six years. Building a new plastics economy is not going to be done overnight, but if you look at the secondary emerging issues around it, I think we’re starting to see something about meat alternatives. There are lots of people starting to explore being a flexitarian, vegetarian, or vegan, because the food and the alternative is brilliant now. People are no longer seeing it as worthy but quite dull food, but rather, they’re seeing it as something really exciting to get into. You’re starting to see mass-market penetration in terms of meat alternatives.

Real questions are starting to arise about fast fashion as well. People are now starting to look, just as they have with food, at the systemic underpinning system that we have. Buying ever more stuff, wearing it once, throwing it away, cheap clothing that has poor quality - that’s got to change. The fashion industry is a decade behind where the food industry is. It’s got so much more to do to make clothes that last, that you can wear with pride, that have been produced in truly sustainable systems behind the scenes from cotton fields to dye houses to factories, and that when you’ve finished with it, you can return it to the shop or some other source so that it can have a second life, rather than being thrown away to landfill.

Meat alternatives, fast fashion – watch out 2019!

We are expecting a new Environment Bill in the coming months – what would be your three main asks of government?

I want the Environment Bill to have ways to really engage people. Too much of our entire life generally, but particularly the environment, has become too technocratic. It’s about big conferences in Poland on Climate Change and New York on Sustainable Development Goals, it’s about Westminster and Big Business making decision. Many people want to see better environment and better society in the local place where they live. Let’s make sure that in coming up with a new infrastructure for the UK with environment, that we don’t just think about the big global things we’ve got to solve, which we must, but how we can engage with millions of people in the places where they live, they feel proud about, and they want to make a difference to.

I also want to see the Environment Bill look at the surge of innovation, of research and development, and radically different ways of living our lives and how technology can help us get there. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is out there. Let’s look at how we reset ourselves environmentally in 2019 to be positive, to be ambitious, and to use technology as a force for radical good.

What was M&S’s biggest environmental achievement this year and why?

M&S has been working on ‘Plan A’ now for over 10 years, so a lot of it has become business as usual. But if I look at what we’ve done with raw materials, I’m really proud of what we’ve done with cotton this year. We’re nearly to the point where 100% of our cotton is going to be from a more sustainable source (Better Cotton Initiative source), with a demonstrable difference in terms of reduced water use, fertiliser, pesticide, and better incomes for the farmer as well. We’ve done it with wood in the past, we’ve done it with coffee and tea, we’ve done it with fish, making sure that everything comes from a sustainable source. Now we’re about to conquer cotton. Remember the difference that will make, not just to hundreds of thousands of smallholders producing cotton that goes into our supply chain, but for millions of M&S customers who buy a product from us, they can know that they can buy a garment with better cotton in it, with no more cost to them.

What is the biggest challenge you face when ensuring sustainability standards across the M&S supply chain?

The challenge for any retailer is the sheer number of locations and issues they deal with. Our products are coming out of hundreds of different factories around the world that we do not own. Behind these factories, there are 20,000 farms – fruit, veg, meat, flowers, wine etc. – and behind them, thousands of commodity sources – the cotton fields, the palm oil, the soya etc. Whenever you’re dealing with these issues, you’ve got the sheer scale.

The key thing for us in 2018 is getting good traceability and increasing transparency in terms of our supply chain. We’ve named every food and clothing factory that we use around the world in a very easy-to-use map; it’s not hidden away as a PDF spreadsheet somewhere. Crucially for the first time, we’ve got traceability on the 7,000 beef farms in the UK that supply us with beef. We know where they are, we know the standards they produce to, and we work with the farmers to improve animal welfare standards, environmental standards, and social standards as well.

What do you think the balance is between consumer-led change and retailer’s responsibility? Does this need to change?

If we’re going to build a truly sustainable economy, we need change by business, by government, and ultimately by the consumer. It is going to have to be all three working in tandem together, but to start the flywheels spinning, the lead must come from business. We have to step forward, put our hand up and say today’s system is not working. When putting it right, so much of it is behind-the-scenes. We need to improve those factories, farms, fields, forests, fisheries; we’ve got to do that.

The government has to be there to make sure there is consistency across the marketplace through policy framework. There are a few freeloaders out there still: for every M&S, Tesco, Unilever, Mars & Co. working hard on this, there are many businesses not. We need policy that drives them forward. We also need the government to bring in one set of laws in terms of what we put on the marketplace, the materials we use, and how others recycle and reuse them as well.

Only once Big Business and Big Government are in order, can we possibly go to people and ask them to do things differently as well. This is the excitement about new products and services that are truly sustainable. Those that put the customer at the heart: an electric car that you want to own and drive because it looks fantastic and performs well, alternatives to meat that taste fantastic and you want to consume because they’re brilliant food. That is where we win, and where consumers buy into this with scale.

Given the complexities around sustainability messaging, what are your top three recommendations for an environmentally conscious consumer?

There are lots of things that consumers can do. If you think about diet, there are choices that people can make about the food they eat that makes a massive difference.

Recycling: first and foremost, we as businesses have got to make recycling as easy as possible, but don’t throw away clothing; donate it to a charity shop, give it to a clothes bank. Everything can be reused. Buy quality as well and don’t just buy something that can have one use and is then thrown away. Think about the purchases you make, from technology to food to clothing, things of quality that you can cherish and are never wasted.

The third thing, if you want to, is become an activist. For many people, that can be being on a march, writing to an MP, filling in a petition online. Be an activist in your community as well; it can be helping at a Green Gym, cleaning things, it can be litter picking, or it can be working with colleagues and friends to get renewables into your community. Stand up for this planet. When you pass the baton to your children, you want to be able to look them in the eye and say: ‘I’ve given you a fighting chance of having the prosperity and lifestyle that my generation have had’. Be that activist.

#PalmOilFreeChristmas and the politics of retail

This year’s most popular and memorable Christmas advert may well be the one which never made it on to our TV screens. Marketing tactic or not, Iceland’s banned advert should be praised for raising awareness of the havoc wreaked by the palm oil industry, and for prompting debate on the inevitably political nature of consumer choices.

What happened?

Iceland’s planned Christmas advert features a Greenpeace video of an animated orangutan emotively describing the destruction of its habitat by the palm oil industry. It ends with a pledge that palm oil will be phased out of all of Iceland’s own-brand products by the end of this year. Clearcast, the agency which clears ads for the UK’s commercial channels, prohibited it on the basis that it was too political. It appears they made this decision on the basis of this video being originally produced by Greenpeace. News of the ban has received widespread media coverage and the video has been viewed millions of times on social media.

Why is this important?

Public responses to the ban have highlighted that awareness of the prevalence of palm oil in common products remains low. This ad has the potential to make a real step towards addressing this.

More than half of all supermarket products, from bread to shampoo, contain the ingredient and it is often hidden under one of over 50 names (including vegetable oil, glyceryl and stearate) making it difficult for consumers to spot, let alone avoid. The more consumers know about the impacts of palm oil, the more they can expect and ask of retailers. As we have seen with the increased public awareness of ocean plastics, consumer attitudes are powerful drivers of market shifts.

The broader message resulting from the incident is that the regulator’s definition of what is ‘political’ is an inadequate one and one which is increasingly out of touch with consumer attitudes.

Increasing consumer interest in sustainability demonstrates a growing awareness that every choice we make in the market place is ultimately a political one; indeed, this is the case whether such a choice is made consciously or not. The Iceland advert is arguably political but so is every other advert shown on TV, every product stocked in every store, and every purchasing decision. The fact that adverts depicting consumerism as a demonstration of love are deemed unpolitical, while a reminder of the destruction consumerism can entail is considered too political to air, is both concerning and outdated.

Possible outcomes

It is undeniable that the outcry around the prohibition of this was almost certainly the intended result. However, regardless of cynicism as to the motives, Iceland should be praised for putting their head above the parapet and leading on the palm oil issue. This incident has significantly increased consumer awareness and can be hoped that more aware consumers will drive change from other retailers too.

More broadly, the fact that a major retailer chose to focus their Christmas ad on an environmental issue is a positive sign of changing times. This change reflects increased consumer demand for ethical products. Retailers must now act to provide for this demand. Where Iceland has led, others must follow.

Inevitably the issue is more complicated, and the neatness of the marketing tactics must not distract from much-needed follow-up conversations. Risks have been expressed that removing palm oil from products will lead to its replacement with other oils that are less productive and require greater land conversion from forest to plantation. Iceland’s ban on palm oil is just the first step of a process; the next steps must be ensuring the sourcing of truly sustainable alternatives. Furthermore, despite their market-leading work on palm oil, praise for this ad must not distract from Iceland’s overall need for further sustainability improvements.

For now, however, Iceland certainly deserves praise for innovatively raising awareness both directly of the environmental havoc wreaked by the palm oil industry, and indirectly of the politics of retail choices.

Seahorse hopes that that this is a sign of things to come, and that 2019 will see retailers across the sector make great strides in their responsible sourcing policy.

The World’s First WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health – a blueprint for action against the biggest environmental risk to public health

With every breath you take on a busy city street, you will unknowingly inhale approximately 20 million particles. Scientific evidence has shown that these particles can impact not only your body, but also your mind, causing between 28,000 and 36,000 premature deaths in the UK and over 7 million globally every year. It is clear that air pollution is a public health emergency for all nations.

WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health

With the need to address air pollution unsurprisingly gaining considerable attention, the World Health Organisation (WHO) timely held the world’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health last week. The three-day conference brought together government officials and health experts from over 100 countries, providing a consultation space and facilitating engagement between the two sectors. On its final day, the Conference called for urgent action on tackling air pollution in relation to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Outcomes

By the end of the Conference, participants had set the aspirational goal of reducing the current 7 million deaths resulting from air pollution by two thirds by 2030. 81 additional pledges were also made by individuals, including from the UK. These pledges made, however, are all non-binding.

Seahorse Insight

Firstly, the Conference was organised in collaboration with the following:

·       The UN Environment

·       The World Meteorological Organisation,

·       The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants,

·       The UN Economic Commission for Europe,

·       The World Bank, and

·       The Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This multi-sector collaboration highlighted the urgency and importance of tackling air pollution due to the prestige and weight these bodies have. This collaboration importantly demonstrated how tackling air pollution requires engagement and efforts from a range of sectors; there is not silver bullet to the solution and, instead, stakeholders from ministries of health and beyond, local and national governments, nongovernmental organisations, donors and scientists need to cooperate to create a world free of toxic air pollution. 

The aspirational goal that was set, specifically to reduce the current 7 million deaths from air pollution by two thirds by 2030, has created a measurable target for countries to aspire to and provides context for the initial blueprint to achieving this important target. Although the UN SDGs cite targets of reducing the number of deaths resulting from air pollution (e.g. SDG 3.9 which calls for a substantial reduction in deaths and illness from air pollution), this is the first air pollution goal that has a quantified target. This importantly enables governments to measure their progress to meeting the goal, an essential stimulus for action.

Perhaps most interestingly, however, the Conference received hardly any significant press coverage. This is surprising when it’s the world’s first conference on the topic, attracted officials from over 100 countries, and set an aspirational goal to save millions of people. The lack of media coverage is especially apparent when you compare it to the coverage on the IPPC’s recent Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C. Importantly, however, air pollution and climate change are intrinsically linked. The solutions to this both of these crises complement each other; avoiding fossil fuels in transport and energy productions, stopping the burning of solid and agricultural waste, reducing the use of fertilisers in agriculture, and promoting cleaner and greener fuels and cities would keep warming within 1.5C as well as ensuring we can all breathe safe air. Therefore, if the Conference’s goal of reducing air pollution deaths by one third was met, it would help considerably with global climate change targets and so should not be undermined.

The UK’s commitment

In his closing address at the Conference, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, highlighted the importance of political will and intervention to solve the air pollution crisis; he thought that participants at the Conference have shown this drive and will be key for meeting the Conference’s goal of saving millions of lives.

So how do the UK’s credentials align with this statement?

At the Conference, the UK announced its commitment to ‘put in place a £3.5 billion plan to reduce harmful emissions from road transport and end the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040. Launch a 25 Year Environment Plan in 2018 and put in place legislation for a new Environment Act in 2019.’ All of these commitments are reiterations of previous announcements:

·       The £3.5 billion fund was announced in May 2018 as part of the Government’s response to a joint select committee report on Improving Air Quality.

·       The vehicle ban was announced in July 2017 as part of the plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. 

·       The plan for a new Environment Bill was announced in July 2018.  

Although these commitments offer nothing new, the Environment Bill could be a game-changer for the UK’s leadership in clean air; the Environment Bill will include air quality legislation, including potential air quality targets, with speculation that they may be more stringent than current targets set by the EU. This autumn, we are expecting the draft of the Environment Bill, which will outline the details of a new environment watchdog. We can then expect Government to outline further detail of the wider environmental aspects of the Bill, including clean air, in the next few months.

By putting air quality targets and a framework for setting them into legislation, the Environment Bill will be complementary to the Clean Air Strategy. The Government consulted on the Clean Air Strategy earlier this year and set out measures to achieve compliance with these air quality targets.

With WHO hosting the world’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, a milestone has been reached. The Conference engaged multiple sectors and set the measurable goal of reducing the number of deaths from air pollution by two-thirds by 2030, resulting in air pollution to be cemented onto the political agenda cross the world.  We have to wait to see what specific actions materialise and for the UK, it is these next six months that will be especially crucial in determining whether we are able to become a leader in tackling this air quality crisis.

 

Seahorse's Environmental Guide to Conservative Party Conference

This is Seahorse’s environmental guide to Conservative Party Conference. After a turbulent 12 months, CPC18 is set to be a packed four days with 100 stands, 450 events and 11,000 people.

We’ve sifted through the fringe guide to pick out the must-see events and set out the environmental announcements Gove could make to cement his title as one of the UK’s best Environment Secretaries.

To our delight, environmental announcements seem to be all the rage. In this week alone, Michael Gove called for the protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 and Penny Mordant the Development Secretary committed £2 million for the protection of endangered species and The Global Plastic Action to avert the growth in plastic pollution by 2025. There is also a promising Agriculture Bill waiting to be debated in the Commons.

Credit to the government – these are very strong announcements. But the Labour Party showed at their Conference that they’re after the title for greenest party. They have pledged to boost low carbon jobs and to insulate the country’s inefficient homes with the hope of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This is a goal that over a hundred of cross-party MPs have rallied around but that government has yet to commit to. This has put Labour slightly ahead of the Conservatives, who, at this stage, have pledged to look into its feasibility and, as of today, will be joining the Coalition for Carbon Neutrality. 

So, what can the Conservatives do to win back first place, or have they come out too early this week to steal back the limelight?

A strong Environment Bill. We know it’s coming, and we’ve been promised a green watchdog, but how independent will it be, and will it hold government to account if it fails to meet its environmental obligations? What ambitious targets will we set to make our air and our water cleaner and to restore declining nature and wildlife across the UK? Will vital environmental principles be in the bill too?

A world leader on Electric Vehicles. Will the UK bring forward the ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2040 to 2030, in line with other leading countries to show the ambition needed to stop deadly air pollution? Germany will phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030; Norway and the Netherlands by 2025; and Scotland by 2032.

A sustainable fishing industry. We’ve been waiting to see a fisheries bill for a while now. The fishing sector has been made lots of promises, but so far, the white paper that was published last month is light on detail. What are we hoping for? Sustainability at the heart and better access to fishing opportunities for small scale fleets – they make up the majority of the UK’s fleet (79%) and have a much lower environmental impact.

The must-see conference events…

This year’s Conference contains an abundance of green fringe events, ranging from plastics and nature conservation to electric vehicles and decarbonisation. Amongst this sea of green, it would be easy to get lost. For the active environmentalists to the armchair activists, this is your reliable, go-to advice for the best conference experience. 

Sunday

16:00 Greener UK in Conversation with Michael Gove

The first major fringe event you will not want to miss. Greener UK is bound to scratch beneath the surface of Gove’s promises for the Environment Bill and expose some of those much-needed specifics. Top tip: the event is RSVP only so make sure to contact pmcnamee@green-alliance.org.uk for the chance to go.

18:00 Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Reception at The National Sea Life Centre

Drink with the fishes and Michael Gove to get all the best environmental news and gossip.

Monday

8:00 How do you solve a problem like marine plastics? hosted by Tearfund, CFID and CEN

If you’re the plastic fanatic, wake up early to attend in the Hyatt Regency Soprano.

12:45 Our Planet: Restoring Nature after Brexit hosted by WWF

WWF’s event discussing how Brexit could be make the UK a leader in international efforts to protect the environment with Tony Juniper CBE (WWF), Amy Mount (Greener UK), Rebecca Pow (MP), Zac Goldsmith (MP) and David Wheeldon (Sky). Held at Hyatt Regency Dolce.

13:30 Accelerating the Transition to Electric Vehicles and Cleaner Air hosted by UK100 and CEN

Seahorse Managing Director, Isabella Gornall, joins Polly Billington, Neil Parish and Jonathan Cook to discuss the essential decarbonisation of the transport sector and how this can help clean up our toxic air. Held at Austin Court Boulton/Faraday Room.

14:30 Gove’s Speech

It is likely that Gove’s highly-anticipated speech will be around 14:30 in the Symphony Hall.

Top tip: beat the crowds of the Symphony Hall and come to the UK100 and CEN panel but keep informed about the best bits of Gove’s speech via Twitter through @GreenerUK_ and @Rebecca_Newsom Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK.

16:30 UK’s role in a new deal for global nature hosted by Seahorse Environmental Communications

Head over to Novotel Wedgwood Suite to hear this experienced panel including Rt Hon Justine Greening MP (former International Development Secretary), Zac Goldsmith MP, Dr Mike Barrett (Director of Science and Conservation at WWF) and Joanna Elliot (Senior Director Conservation Partnerships at Fauna and Flora International).

19:30 Sustainability Hub low carbon reception with Conservative Environment Network CEN reception in the Hyatt Regency Fortissimo to meet leading figures in the low carbon economy.

21:30 Brexit: Opportunities for Animal Welfare & The Environment Reception

Finishing on a high, follow CEN in joining the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Zac Goldsmith and George Eustice for their joint reception in the Hyatt Regency Concerto

Tuesday

8:00 A Menu for a Sustainable and Healthy Future, hosted by the Vegan Society.

Start your day off early again in the ICC Executive Room 8, to delve into how the UK can produce food that can improve the nation’s health, be environmentally sustainable and remain affordable.

12:00 Earth, wind and fire: can clean energy really grow the economy? Hosted by The Spectator and Centrica.

Regardless of the impressively titled pun and the fact that gin and tonics are served to guests, this event looks to be an interesting one, with clean energy and economic growth hugely topical. Head to the Crowne Plaza Vista Suite.

15:45 Protecting Oceans, Reducing Plastic: In Conversation with Michael Gove.

To finish your conference experience, we recommend going to this Demos event in ICC Hall 8a. With Michael Gove and Lewis Pugh (UN Patron of the Oceans) confirmed as speakers, this event won’t shy away from discussing the state of our oceans and the vital protection that is needed to deliver a sustainable future.

So, with two days to go, we hope that you’re excited as us. 2018 has been a packed year for the environment, from Brexit forecasts to new Bills and promises. We anticipate that Conference will be just the same. Time to get packing.

Seahorse partners with The Seahorse Trust

Seahorse Environmental Communications is delighted to announce that we are partnering with The Seahorse Trust to provide assistance with their communications and media work.

The Seahorse Trust was founded in 1999 (backed up with founder Neil’s 41 years of seahorse expertise) to preserve and conserve the natural world, especially the marine environment, with the seahorse as its flagship species. The Trust makes a difference through education, conservation and campaigning for protected areas.

Seahorse Environmental Communications will be supporting the Seahorse Trust in raising public and political awareness around the issue of the illegal wildlife trade in seahorses (including the trade through online platforms such as Etsy) and around the need for a marine conservation zone in Studland Bay.

We look forward to working with The Seahorse Trust as they seek to protect and conserve the marine environment one seahorse at a time!

Seahorses under threat

A large number of seahorse species around the world are endangered as a result of threats including habitat loss, pollution, climate change, invasive species, as well as overfishing, illegal fishing and destructive fishing practices. A key threat is that posed by the trade in seahorses as curios, pets or for traditional medicine.

The extent of this exploitation has resulted in seahorses being placed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are currently classified under Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT)

Every year The Seahorse Trust partner Save Our Seahorses in Dublin estimates that over 150 million seahorses are taken from the wild and traded illegally, for the curio and illegal medicine trades, severely reducing populations and threatening the integrity and diversity of ecosystems. The Seahorse Trust continues to campaign against the curio trade in all its forms, including the trade through online platforms such as Etsy, who have so far not responded to repeated requests to ban the sale of seahorses on their platform or comply with legal regulations whereby seahorse products must be CITES-certified.

Seahorse Environmental Communications will also be helping The Seahorse Trust to spread awareness of this campaign. The upcoming Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference being hosted by the UK Government in London in October 2018 looks set to be a key moment to boost public and political awareness of the illegal wildlife trade.

Studland Bay

Seahorses occupy most of the world’s coastal areas, including the British coastline where two species are found: the Spiny Seahorse (Hippocampus Guttulatus) and the Short Snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus Hippocampus), which are mainly found on the west and south coasts of the UK.

Studland Bay, Dorset, was home to a large colony of Spiny Seahorses and indeed was their only known UK breeding ground but is now suffering a major seahorse population decline as a result of anchoring and mooring damaging seahorses’ seagrass habitat. In 2008, the Seahorse Trust spotted 40 spiny seahorses, yet in May 2018 no sightings were recorded.

Studland Bay has been put forward by the Government in the third tranche of proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and The Seahorse Trust hopes that this will help conserve and protect the declining seahorse population. Seahorse Environmental Communications will be helping The Seahorse Trust raise awareness and communicate with stakeholders around the need to protect this incredible haven for seahorses.

Isabella Gornall, Managing Director of Seahorse Environmental Communications said:

“We’re thrilled to formally collaborate with the Seahorse Trust who are wonderful advocates for this incredible, yet highly threatened, species. The team at Seahorse look forward to supporting them in their vitally important work especially leading up to the Illegal Wildlife Trade Summit next month and the development of Marine Conservation Zones in the UK.”

Neil Garrick-Maidment, Executive Director of the Seahorse Trust

“I am so proud and pleased to have Seahorse Environmental Communications as a partner with The Seahorse Trust and I am looking forward to working with the team on our projects not just here in the UK but around the world as well. Thank you to everyone involved and looking forward to a positive seahorse future.”

Seahorse Welcomes Costanza Poggi

Seahorse is thrilled to announce that Costanza Poggi has joined Seahorse as a Consultant. Costanza joins after three years as a policy adviser in the politics team of leading think tank Green Alliance. She has experience of collaborating with stakeholders across the sector to promote political leadership on the environment including on climate change, air pollution, Brexit, marine protection and low carbon trade. Before Green Alliance she worked as a research consultant for the International Institute for Environment and Development, focusing on the political economy of low carbon and climate resilient development. She holds an MA in Environment, Development and Policy and a BA in International Relations, both from the University of Sussex.

From prediction to observation: a change in climate change perception

With the Met Office confirming that summer 2018 was the joint hottest summer on record in the UK, Seahorse questions the impact this summer’s notorious heatwave has had on the way climate change is framed.  

Across the Northern Hemisphere, summer 2018 has been characterised by extraordinary climatic extremes, from soaring temperatures to persistent droughts and devastating wildfires. The heatwave has had severe and extensive impacts on human health, agriculture, nature and infrastructure: there were 663 more deaths than average in England and Wales during June and July, whilst consistent water shortages and hot temperatures have caused alarm over crop yields and livestock vitality.

Due to its extremity, the heatwave received a great deal of media attention, beginning towards the end of June when temperatures started to soar across Europe. According to preliminary research by the World Weather Attribution consortium of scientists, this summer’s heatwave was made more than twice as likely by human-caused climate change. The media, however, initially portrayed the heatwave as a result of an unusually weak jet stream, without highlighting any possible links between climate change and the weather we were experiencing. Over time, however, there was a shift in the media’s narrative. Climate change began to be presented as a key cause with even traditionally climate sceptic media outlets, such as the Sun and the Daily Mail, citing the link.

The extreme weather of summer 2018 is in line with climate model predictions, namely that a warmer world will experience more extreme weather. In contrast to remarkably persistent views of climate change as a distant threat, this summer’s extreme weather provided clear evidence that the consequences of climate change are materialising on our doorstep, with serious consequences for human health, livelihoods and the natural environment. It would have been difficult to avoid observing the persistence and unusualness of this summer’s weather, and it inevitably became a key topic of conversation, as evidenced by the increased media interest. So, what might the long-term impact of this summer’s weather be on our framing of the climate change debate? And will this translate into strengthened action?

Primarily, the first-hand observation of the impacts of climate change and warming within the UK this summer has made it increasingly difficult for climate change to be solely termed in the language of prediction; observational data can now add to the framing of the climate change conversation here.

This shift from solely prediction to both prediction and observation in our framing of climate change is key in promoting action and communication. Predictions inherently involve some degree of statistical uncertainty, which makes them subject to scrutiny for various reasons and with various motives.  In the case of climate change, the degree of scrutiny plaguing discussions has often served to hinder much-needed action. Observations, on the other hand, cannot be refuted to the same degree as predictions – it is much harder to deny what is clearly happening around us. Observations from this summer’s heatwave therefore act as vital wake-up calls. In demonstrating that climate change has arrived, this heatwave has increased awareness of the lack of climate change resilience and adaptation currently in place, across both the UK and the world.

Climate change is no longer a future phenomenon framed only within predictions. Instead, it is a present-day threat that we are observing with our own eyes. With its record-breaking temperatures and deadly droughts, summer 2018 has ultimately shifted the way we can discuss climate change and its threats. This heatwave has refocused lost minds and engaged new ones in the fight for action against climate change. Seahorse hopes that once autumn arrives and we experience the inevitable cooler weather, this summer’s irrefutable display of the abnormal changes in our climate system are not forgotten and that the chorus of calls for essential action on climate change continues to grow.

Michael Gove Praises Seahorse MD on Clean Air Essay

The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has praised Isabella Gornall, Managing Director of Seahorse for her "Brilliant Essay" on how the Government could tackle the air quality crisis in the UK. The essay, 'Driving Towards a Smog-Free Britain' is part of a new collection from the Centre For Policy Studies on 'New Blue- Ideas for a New Generation' with other contributions from  Ben Bradley MP, Simon Clarke MP, Helen Whatley MP and Bim Afolami MP. 

Holmes Report 'New agency from the Gornall family'

LONDON — Isabella Gornall, who previously headed specialist environmental practice Maitland Green, has set up a new agency, Seahorse Environmental Communications. The firm launches with four clients including Greener UK and World Wise Foods and an advisory council including DEFRA board member Ben Goldsmith. Alastair Gornall, chairman of Hanover Communications, is the new agency’s non-executive chairman.