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Current Climate: Business Leaders Highlight Innovations At Forbes Sustainability Leaders Summit

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Saturday, September 23, 2023

This week’s Current Climate, which every Saturday brings you the latest news about the business of sustainability.

This week’s Current Climate, which every Saturday brings you the latest news about the business of sustainability.

This week’s Current Climate, which every Saturday brings you the latest news about the business of sustainability.
Read the full story here.
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TxDOT holding public meetings in Houston ahead of construction for I-45 expansion project

A total of six community meetings will be held this week and next to address design and construction updates related to a $9.7 billion initiative to widen and reroute I-45 near and north of downtown.

Gail Delaughter/Houston Public Media Drivers sit in traffic on I-45 northbound at North Main Street.The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is holding a series of virtual and in-person public meetings this month about its controversial Interstate 45 expansion project in Houston as construction is expected to start next year. The community engagement sessions, part of an agreement between the state agency and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) after an investigation into environmental and civil rights concerns about the $9.7 billion initiative, will provide design and construction updates while giving members of the public the opportunity to ask questions and offer feedback, according to TxDOT. There will be one in-person gathering and one virtual meeting for each of the three segments of the project, which will widen and reroute a 25-mile stretch of the freeway near and north of downtown. The first set of meetings will focus on Segment 3 in the downtown area, where construction is projected to begin in late 2024. The in-person meeting is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at St. John's Downtown Church, 2019 Crawford St., followed by a corresponding virtual meeting from 5-7 p.m. Thursday. "TxDOT will update the public on the overall project status, design refinements, details regarding the Voluntary Resolution Agreement (with the FHWA) and future construction schedule," the state transportation agency said in a news release. The Segment 2 meetings, which cover the part of I-45 between North Loop 610 and Interstate 10, are scheduled for next week. The in-person gathering will be held from 5-7 p.m. Monday at the Moody Community Center, 3725 Fulton St., and the virtual meeting is 5-7 p.m. Tuesday. For Segment 1, which covers I-45 from the North Loop to Beltway 8, the virtual meeting is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 13. The in-person meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Aldine Ninth Grade Center, 10650 North Fwy. For each segment, the same information will be presented at both the in-person and virtual gatherings, according to TxDOT, which said they will be conducted in English with real-time Spanish translation. TxDOT's "North Houston Highway Improvement Project" has been in the works for more than a decade, and construction is expected to last until 2042, according to the agency's presentation in May to the Houston-Galveston Area Council. The plan calls for reconstructing and rerouting I-45 from the west side of downtown to the east, aligning it with Interstates 10 and 69, while also widening the freeway north of downtown. The FHWA asked TxDOT to pause its work in 2021 amidst local complaints about the project, which also calls for the displacement of more than 1,000 homes and businesses in low-income communities of color. Harris County also filed a federal lawsuit against TxDOT in 2021, asking a judge to compel the state agency to respond to concerns about those issues and how the project might exacerbate flooding risks, air pollution and traffic congestion. Officials with TxDOT, Harris County and the City of Houston reached an agreement about the project late last year, with the county dropping its lawsuit, and the FHWA lifted its pause in March. That allowed TxDOT to move forward while pledging to improve its public engagement, allocate $30 million to help those who are displaced and incorporate green space, sidewalks and bicycle paths into the project design, among other concessions. TxDOT says the project will "help manage congestion, improve mobility, enhance safety and provide travelers with options to get to their destinations." But the plan continues to have opponents, including the Stop TxDOT I-45 grassroots campaign, which is inviting interested members of the public to attend "casual community dinners" following each of the upcoming in-person meetings. "Stop TxDOT I-45 will continue to advocate for a transformative I-45 project that, based on thorough community engagement, actually relieves traffic, actually makes us safer, actually improves air quality, reduces flooding and allows residents of Houston and Harris County to choose how they move around," the group said in a news release. "We want a project that does not displace, and we know that widened freeways do not relieve traffic." In addition to the upcoming meetings, TxDOT said members of the public can provide project feedback through Jan. 5. Correspondence in any language may be mailed to TxDOT I-45 NHHIP Ombudsman, TxDOT Houston District, P.O. Box 1386, Houston, Texas 77251-1386. Feedback also may be submitted by email to or A schedule for the upcoming meetings is below: SEGMENT 3 (DOWNTOWN AREA) In-person meeting: 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at St. John's Downtown Church, 2019 Crawford St. Virtual meeting: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, on Zoom. SEGMENT 2 (I-45 FROM I-10 TO NORTH LOOP 610) In-person meeting: 5-7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at Moody Community Center, 3725 Fulton St. Virtual meeting: 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, on Zoom. SEGMENT 1 (I-45 FROM NORTH LOOP 610 TO BELTWAY 8) Virtual meeting: 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13, on Zoom. In-person meeting: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at Aldine Ninth Grade Center, 10650 North Fwy.

Decades After Europe, Turning Blades Send First Commercial Wind Power Onto US Grid

Off the coast of eastern Long Island, an 800-foot turbine is sending the first electricity onto the U.S. grid from a commercial offshore wind farm

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Off the coast of eastern Long Island, an 800-foot tall turbine has begun sending electricity onto the U.S. grid from what's set to be the country's first commercial offshore wind farm.It’s a milestone many years in the making and at the same time a modest advance in what experts say needs to be a major buildout of this type of clean electricity to address climate change.Danish wind energy developer Ørsted and the utility Eversource announced Wednesday the first electricity from what will be a 12-turbine wind farm called South Fork Wind 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Montauk Point, New York. It will be New York’s first offshore wind farm.Ørsted and Eversource planned to meet Wednesday with New York officials to celebrate this “first power” milestone, in East Hampton, New York, where the wind farm connects to the onshore electric grid. They say the achievement builds a foundation for other large U.S. offshore wind farms that will follow. So far, two of the 11-megawatt turbines are up. The second is undergoing testing, then it can begin producing power too. When the other ten are spinning and South Fork opens by early next year, it will be able to generate 132 megawatts of offshore wind energy to power more than 70,000 homes. The first power announcement is “an incredible moment in the American clean energy story,” said Stephanie McClellan, executive director of the nonprofit Turn Forward, which advocates for offshore wind. She said South Fork will be a source of clean, reliable, domestically-produced energy.“This is just the beginning of what offshore wind can do,” she said in a statement.Large offshore wind farms have been making electricity for three decades in Europe, and more recently in Asia. The first U.S. offshore wind farm was supposed to be a project off the coast of Massachusetts known as Cape Wind. The application was submitted to the federal government in 2001. It failed after years of local opposition and litigation.Turbines began turning off Rhode Island’s Block Island in 2016. But with just five of them, it’s not a commercial-scale wind farm.Currently there are two commercial offshore wind farms under construction in the United States, South Fork Wind and Vineyard Wind. Vineyard Wind will be a 62-turbine wind farm 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the coast of Massachusetts. It has not started generating power yet, the developer said Monday. They’re installing and testing five turbines first. At State Pier in New London, Connecticut, blades and massive tower sections for South Fork are lined up, ready to leave port for the sea where they'll be erected in the coming weeks. The nacelles that house the generator for each wind turbine are there, too. On Monday, a barge carrying three blades and a nacelle for the third turbine left port. As Jeff Martin, of Eversource, watched, he said it was a “joy” to see the industry finally move from concept to fruition in the United States, to help reduce the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.“Finally we’re taking this step to catch up with the rest of the world and do our part to collectively address climate change,” said Martin, Eversource’s director of business development for the offshore wind group.Large, ocean-based wind farms are a linchpin of government plans to shift to renewable energy in populous East Coast states with limited land for wind turbines or solar arrays. The Biden administration aims to power 10 million homes with offshore wind by 2030 and establish a carbon-free electric grid five years later. But the industry has had hard times recently. Ørsted announced it's cancelling two large offshore wind projects in New Jersey due to problems with supply chains, higher interest rates and a failure to obtain the amount of tax credits the company wanted. Developers in New England recently canceled power contacts too, saying their projects were no longer financially feasible. The series of setbacks for the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry jeopardizes the clean energy goals.Other projects though, are advancing. Ørsted is moving forward with Eversource on construction of Revolution Wind, Rhode Island and Connecticut’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. The 704-megawatt project will power roughly 400,000 homes. Tower sections, blades and nacelles are expected to begin arriving in New London as early as this spring.South Fork and Revolution Wind are a “bright spot for a challenged industry," said David Hardy, group executive vice president and CEO Americas at Ørsted.“As we demonstrate that we can build this project and build Revolution, then people will realize the real opportunity of offshore wind,” he said. Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Leading News Outlets Are Doing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Greenwashing

Seven of the world’s “most trusted” media companies produce and promote content touting the key talking points of oil and gas. The post Leading News Outlets Are Doing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Greenwashing appeared first on The Intercept.

In a recent episode of the podcast “Powered By How,” award-winning journalist Nisha Pillai leads a discussion on the energy transition. Over the course of 25 minutes, the guests — a business psychologist, a renewable energy investor, and the head of an innovation lab — describe the challenges of scaling new technologies to combat the climate crisis. The casual listener could easily miss the first five seconds, when Pillai, a former BBC World News presenter whose voice instills instant confidence, announces that the podcast was produced by Reuters Plus in partnership with fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco. Pillai never explains that Reuters Plus is the publication’s internal ad studio, nor does she remind listeners of the show’s sponsor when the head of the innovation lab, an Aramco executive, touts the benefits of unproven, industry-backed technologies. Reuters is one of at least seven major news outlets that creates and publishes misleading promotional content for fossil fuel companies, according to a report released today. Known as advertorials or native advertising, the sponsored material is created to look like a publication’s authentic editorial work, lending a veneer of journalistic credibility to the fossil fuel industry’s key climate talking points. In collaboration with The Intercept and The Nation, Drilled and DeSmog analyzed hundreds of advertorials and events, as well as ad data from MediaRadar. Our analysis focused on the three years spanning October 2020 to October 2023, when the public ramped up calls for media, public relations, and advertising companies to cut their commercial ties with fossil fuel clients amid growing awareness that the industry’s deceptive messaging was slowing climate action. All of the media companies reviewed — Bloomberg, The Economist, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Politico, Reuters, and the Washington Post — consistently top lists of “most trusted” news outlets. They also all have internal brand studios that create advertising content for major oil and gas companies, furnishing the industry with an air of legitimacy as it pushes misleading climate claims to trusting readers. In addition to producing podcasts, newsletters, and videos, some of these outlets allow fossil fuel companies to sponsor their events. Reuters goes even further, creating custom summits for the industry explicitly designed to remove the “pain points” holding back faster production of oil and gas. (Disclosure: Co-author Matthew Green was formerly a Reuters climate correspondent.) With United Nations climate talks underway in the United Arab Emirates, oil and gas companies have been sponsoring even more advertorials and events with media partners than usual, primarily designed to portray the industry as a climate leader. “It’s really outrageous that outlets like the New York Times or Bloomberg or Reuters would lend their imprimatur to content that is misleading at best and in some cases outright false,” said Naomi Oreskes, a climate disinformation expert and professor at Harvard University. “They’re manufacturing content that at best is completely one-sided, and at worst is disinformation, and pushing that to their readers.” Chevron is the exclusive sponsor of “Politico Energy,” a daily podcast bringing listeners “the latest news in energy and environmental politics and policy.”Screenshot: Amy Westervelt Spokespeople for Bloomberg, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Washington Post told us that advertorial content is created by staff members who are separate from the newsroom, and their journalists are independent from their ad sales efforts (Politico and The Economist did not respond to requests for comment). But the independence of these outlets’ journalists is not in question; what’s important is whether readers understand the difference between reporting and advertising. And according to a growing body of peer-reviewed research, they do not. “It tarnishes the reputation of that news outlet. So it’s baffling to me why newsrooms are continuing to pursue this.” A 2016 Georgetown University study, for example, found that advertorials are confused for “real” content by about two-thirds of people. Another study, conducted in 2018 by Boston University researchers, found that only one in 10 people recognized native advertising as advertising rather than reporting. Michelle Amazeen, the lead author on the Boston University study, found that those who did recognize sponsored content for what it was thought less of the outlet they were reading. “It tarnishes the reputation of that news outlet,” Amazeen said. “So it’s baffling to me why newsrooms are continuing to pursue this.” COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a press conference at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Dec. 4, 2023.Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images Crafting “Climate Narratives” This year’s 28th annual U.N. climate negotiations — known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP28 — are currently being held in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s top oil-producing countries. Presided over by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the head of the UAE’s state-owned oil company, Adnoc, it is the most industry-influenced COP yet. Fossil fuel companies are seeking to preserve their business models by promoting carbon capture and storage, hydrogen power, and carbon offsets as viable climate solutions, even though the technologies are on track to do little more than extend the life of the fossil fuel industry. As COP28 president, Al Jaber backed these technologies in the leadup to the summit. The enormous influence oil and gas executives are wielding at COP28 has thrown commercial partnerships between media outlets and the fossil fuel industry into sharper focus. Climate reporters at every outlet we analyzed have diligently covered the challenges that the industry’s so-called solutions face, but when that reporting is placed alongside corporate-sponsored content touting the technologies’ benefits, it leaves readers confused. In addition to the Reuters Plus podcast produced this year for Aramco, the New York Times’s T Brand Studio created “the Energy Trilemma,” a 2022 podcast for BP about how high-emitting industries are decarbonizing — but not by reducing the development or use of fossil fuels. Bloomberg Media Studios, meanwhile, created a video for Exxon Mobil touting hydrogen power and carbon capture and storage, or CCS. In the video, Exxon CEO Darren Woods says the company is “ready to deploy CCS to reduce the world’s emissions” but leaves out the fact that the company also plans to increase annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece — news Bloomberg’s own climate reporters broke. Reuters Events offered to help corporations hone their “climate narrative” at COP28 via opportunities to secure “exclusive interviews,” seats at high-level roundtables, coverage on the Reuters website, exclusive dinner invites, and a Reuters presence in corporate pavilions at the Dubai expo center where negotiations are held. The media plays a fundamental role in shaping both policymakers’ and the public’s understanding of climate issues, according to Max Boykoff, who contributed research and analysis to the most recent climate mitigation report from the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “People aren’t picking up the IPCC report or peer-reviewed research to understand climate change,” he said. “People are reading about it in the news. That’s what shapes their understanding.” Reuters Events marketing email sent to reporter Matthew Green on July 3, 2023.Photo: Matthew Green “Vast Sums of Money” The fossil fuel industry’s attempts to extend its social license by buying friendly advertorials and other sponsored content date back to 1970, when Mobil Oil Vice President of Public Affairs Herbert Schmertz worked with the New York Times to create the first advertorial. The company proceeded to run these pieces, which Schmertz described as “political pamphlets,” in the Times every week for decades — a program that Mobil Oil extended to dozens of other outlets. A peer-reviewed 2017 study of Mobil and then Exxon Mobil’s New York Times advertorials found that 81 percent of the ones that mentioned climate change emphasized doubt in the science. The advent of “brand studios” inside most major media outlets over the past decade has supercharged such content programs. Now many publications have staff dedicated to creating content for advertisers, and the outlets market their ability to tailor content to their readership. These offerings come at a higher cost than traditional ad buys, making them increasingly important to for-profit newsrooms facing a crisis in the traditional revenue models. And fossil fuel companies have been happy to pay. “They wouldn’t be spending vast sums of money on these campaigns if they didn’t have a payoff, and it’s well documented that for decades, the fossil fuel industry has leveraged and weaponized and innovated the media technology of the day to its advantage,” said University of Miami researcher Geoffrey Supran, a co-author of the 2017 advertorial study with Oreskes. “It’s sometimes treated as a historical phenomenon, but in reality, we’re living today with the digital descendants of the editorial campaigns pioneered by the fossil fuel industry — the old strategy is very much alive and well.” “It’s well documented that for decades, the fossil fuel industry has leveraged and weaponized and innovated the media technology of the day to its advantage.” As their content marketing about the journey to net zero continues to get bigger and better, oil majors’ investments in fossil fuel development have only increased. A peer-reviewed study comparing oil majors’ advertising claims and actions, published in the journal Plos One in 2022, found that while the companies are talking more than ever about energy transition and decarbonization, they are not actually investing in either. “The companies are pledging a transition to clean energy and setting targets more than they are making concrete actions,” the study’s authors wrote. Reporters at the publications we reviewed often cover this disconnect between advertising and action. Their employers, however, then sell the space next to those stories for industry-sponsored takes that research shows many readers take equally as seriously. Screen capture of WP Creative Group’s “Our Work” page, taken on Nov. 20, 2023.Screenshot: Amy Westervelt Taking a page from Schmertz’s book, the WP Creative Group — the Washington Post’s internal brand studio — describes on its website how it goes about “influencing the influencers.” In 2022 alone, Exxon Mobil sponsored more than 100 editions of Washington Post newsletters. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Post also ran a series of online editorials for the American Petroleum Institute, the most powerful fossil fuel lobby in the U.S., including a multimedia piece that argued renewable energy is unreliable and fossil gas is a needed complement — talking points that the paper’s news reporters often debunk. During this time, the Washington Post editorial team published Pulitzer Prize-winning climate reporting and expanded its climate coverage. Over the past three years, the Financial Times has also created dedicated web pages for various fossil majors, including Equinor and Aramco, along with native content and videos, all focused on promoting oil and gas as a key component of the energy transition. In that same period, Politico has run native ads more than 50 times for the American Petroleum Institute; organized 37 email campaigns for Exxon Mobil; and sent dozens of newsletters sponsored by BP and Chevron, the latter of which also sponsors Politico’s annual Women Rule summit. According to data from MediaRadar, the New York Times took in more than $20 million in revenue from fossil fuel advertisers from October 2020 to October 2023 — twice what any other outlet earned from the industry. That number is due largely to the paper’s relationship with Saudi Aramco, which brought in $13 million in ad revenue during that three-year period, via a combination of print, mobile, and video ads, as well as sponsored newsletters. The revenue figure does not include creative services fees paid to the Times’s internal brand studio. New York Times spokesperson Alexis Mortenson said that the studio creates custom content for fossil fuel advertisers in print, video, and digital, including podcasts, and promotes it to the New York Times audience via “dark social posts”: advertisements that cannot be found organically and do not appear on a brand’s timeline. Mortenson noted that the Times also allows fossil fuel companies to sponsor some newsletters, provided they are not climate related. “I feel like it’s really important not to beat around the bush and to just recognize these activities for what they are, which is literally Big Oil and mainstream media collaborating in PR campaigns for the industry,” said Supran. “It’s nothing short of that.” “Gross,” “Undermining,” and “Dangerous” Of all the outlets we reviewed, only Reuters offers fossil fuel advertisers every possible avenue to reach its audience. Its event arm even produces custom events for the industry, despite counting “freedom from bias” as a core pillar of its “trust principles,” which were adopted to protect the publication’s independence during World War II. Since Reuters News, a subsidiary of Canadian media conglomerate Thomson Reuters, acquired an events business in 2019, the distinction between the company’s newsroom and its commercial ventures has become increasingly blurred. Reuters’ in-house creative studio produces native print, audio, video, and newsletter content for multiple oil majors, including Shell, Saudi Aramco, and BP, while Reuters journalists routinely take part as moderators and interviewers and propose guest speakers for Reuters Events. In a media kit for “content opportunities in the upstream industry,” Reuters Events staff offers to produce webinars, white papers, and live-event interviews for those hoping to get in front of its “unrivalled audience reach of decision makers in the oil & gas industry.” For its Hydrogen 2023 event, Reuters Events produced a companion white paper on the top 100 hydrogen innovators, which it then used to market the event in various other outlets. Topping the list of innovators were key event sponsors Chevron and Shell. Reuters Events also stages fossil fuel industry trade shows aimed at maximizing production of oil and gas, and it creates digital events and webinars for vendors in the fossil fuel supply chain looking to connect with oil and gas companies. In June, Reuters Events convened hundreds of oil, gas, and tech executives in Houston for Reuters Events: Data Driven Oil & Gas USA 2023, a conference held under the banner “Scaling Digital to Maximize Profit.” “Time is money, which is why our agenda gets straight to key pain points holding back drilling and production maximization,” the conference website said. In December 2022, Reuters ran an event sponsored by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a lobby group that includes many of the world’s largest oil companies, to discuss the “major part” fossil fuel companies “play in ensuring a sustainable energy transition.” During the event, industry talking points were tweeted directly from the Reuters Events Twitter account. For the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, the only real KPI is how much greenhouse gas is being removed from the oil and gas industry's output every year.#ReutersIMPACTWatch the full session, brought to you by @OGCInews:— Reuters Events (@reutersevents) October 28, 2022 Other news outlets, including the Financial Times, The Economist, and Politico, have held their own climate-focused events, sponsored by petrochemical majors like BP, Chevron, Eni, and Shell. “Business-to-business publishers always had an events revenue stream, but consumer-facing news publications didn’t really get into the events business until digital advertising became commodified,” media analyst Ken Doctor said. Now events represent 20 to 30 percent of revenue for some publications. Doctor called them a “thought-leader exercise” for the advertisers. “There are only a few top media brands out there, and if you are associated with any of them, there is a lot of tangential brand building benefit to that.” “How can we expect people to take our climate coverage seriously after everything these oil companies have done to hide the truth?” Climate reporters at the outlets we reviewed, who requested anonymity to avoid professional repercussions, described the practice of selling advertorials and event sponsorships to fossil fuel companies as “gross,” “undermining,” and “dangerous.” “Not only does it undermine the climate journalism these outlets are producing, but it actually signals to readers that climate change is not a serious issue,” one climate reporter said. Another journalist at a major media organization said the outlet had undermined its credibility by striking commercial deals with oil and gas companies with a long history of casting doubt on climate science. “Where is our integrity? How can we expect people to take our climate coverage seriously after everything these oil companies have done to hide the truth?” This article was reported in partnership with DeSmog and The Nation. Additional reporting: Joey Grostern. The post Leading News Outlets Are Doing the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Greenwashing appeared first on The Intercept.

UK ad watchdog to crack down on ‘biodegradable’ and ‘recyclable’ claims

Consumers left angry and dismayed when they found out the truth about these terms, says Advertising Standards Authority studyPlastic bottles, takeaway cups and food packaging that could take an unlimited amount of time to break down are being advertised as “biodegradable”, with the advertising regulator calling for more clarity on such claims from businesses.British consumers believe they are making green choices while disposing of waste when they are often not, according to a new report. The study, from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), based on extensive interviews with consumers, found widespread misunderstandings around common terms such as “biodegradable”, “compostable” and “recyclable”, leaving participants angry when they discovered what they meant. Continue reading...

Plastic bottles, takeaway cups and food packaging that could take an unlimited amount of time to break down are being advertised as “biodegradable”, with the advertising regulator calling for more clarity on such claims from businesses.British consumers believe they are making green choices while disposing of waste when they are often not, according to a new report. The study, from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), based on extensive interviews with consumers, found widespread misunderstandings around common terms such as “biodegradable”, “compostable” and “recyclable”, leaving participants angry when they discovered what they meant.According to the ASA, households in the UK take pride in recycling and food-waste management, and hope to play their part in preventing the destruction of nature by putting rubbish into correct bins or buying products with green packaging.However, some participants in the new research believed the labelling meant that packaging would disappear entirely or decompose. Some of those surveyed were surprised to learn that “biodegradable” packaging has an unlimited timeframe to break down and could produce toxins.Many “compostable” products need to be taken to a specialist waste centre and would not break down in a household compost bin, although many of those surveyed believed the products could be composted at home.Miles Lockwood, director of complaints and investigations at the ASA, said the regulator would be cracking down on the use of the terms in adverts as part of its action on greenwashing.“Consumers were telling us that they were proud of what they were doing on the environment. They have green bins, they were separating things out, they were doing their bit for the environment and it made them feel good.“When we began to explain the differences between recycling in the home or recycling in a centre, it created a sense of depression or disappointment at what is happening,” said Lockwood.“People assume because it’s ‘compostable’, they can put it into their garden compost bin. When you explain that you can’t and it’s not going to compost without being taken to a council facility, it generated a really negative response,” he said.“With the issue of biodegradability, there is no definition of what makes something biodegradable. It can take years and sometimes degrade into microplastics – that created a real sense of disappointment and anger. Businesses need to work a lot harder to explain the difference.”Previous studies have shown that most plastics marketed as “home compostable” do not work, with as many as 60% failing to disintegrate after six months. Pollution is a leading driver of biodiversity loss and waste is a significant source of methane emissions.‘Compostable’ plastic bags often will not decompose in a home compost heap, and must be handled in a council facility. Photograph: Angela Hampton Picture Library/AlamyIn recent years, the ASA has banned ads that it felt misled consumers on the climate crisis and the destruction of nature. In 2022, the ASA banned a Lipton Ice Tea advert for giving the impression that the bottle was made from entirely recycled materials when the cap and label were not.It has previously upheld complaints about baby wipes and dog poo bags over their biodegradability claims, and promised to ban claims of “carbon neutrality” using offsets, amid concerns that many offsets have no benefit to the climate.The ASA research also showed how participants routinely believed environmental claims in advertising, assuming that brands would not be able to make claims without verification or evidence, particularly when a company made a claim using statistics. Those surveyed said they wanted clear information about what was in products, where it would be disposed, how long that would take and what the outcome of the disposal would be.The report comes against a backdrop of tighter restrictions on green claims in advertising. Last week, the ASA banned two Toyota adverts for condoning driving that disregards its environmental impact, stating that the SUV ads had been created without “a sense of responsibility to society”.“Business are trying to get it right but they often make really silly mistakes. Half the time we see companies who are a bit too enthusiastic, who are a bit too broad brush and a bit vague, who don’t walk consumers through a journey with them. They make assumptions about what consumers know,” said Lockwood.“We have been focusing a lot on cases around oil and gas, airlines and banks and so on. We are calling time in those sectors on companies making ‘green halo claims’, where they just focus on the green bits of what they do and ignore the rest,” he said.

Pilots Flying Tourists Over National Parks Face New Rules. None Are Stricter Than at Mount Rushmore

Fewer airplanes and helicopters will be flying tourists over Mount Rushmore and other national monuments and parks as new regulations take effect that are intended to protect the serenity of some of the nation’s most beloved natural areas

Fewer planes and helicopters will be flying tourists over Mount Rushmore and other national monuments and parks as new regulations take effect that are intended to protect the serenity of some of the most beloved natural areas in the United States.The air tours have pitted tour operators against visitors frustrated with the noise for decades, but it has come to a head as new management plans are rolled out at nearly two dozen national parks and monuments. One of the strictest yet was recently announced at Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, where tour flights will essentially be banned from getting within a half mile of the South Dakota sites starting in April. “I don’t know what we’re going to be able to salvage,” complained Mark Schlaefli, a co-owner of Black Hills Aerial Adventures who is looking for alternative routes. The regulations are the result of a federal appeals court finding three years ago that the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration failed to enforce a 2000 law governing commercial air tours over the parks and some tribal lands. A schedule was crafted for setting rules, and many are wrapping up now.But now an industry group is eying litigation, and an environmental coalition already has sued over one plan. The issue has grown so contentious that a congressional oversight hearing is planned for Tuesday.Critics argue that the whirr of chopper blades is drowning out the sound of birds, bubbling lava and babbling brooks. That in turn disrupts the experiences of visitors and the tribes who call the land around the parks home.“Is that fair?" asked Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association, noting that visitors on the ground far outnumber those overhead. "I don’t think so.”The air operators argue they provide unrivaled access, particularly to the elderly and disabled.“Absolutely exhilarating, a thrilling experience" is how Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the Helicopter Association International, described them. Sightseeing flights got their start in the 1930s as crews building the massive Hoover Dam asked the helicopter pilots working on the project to give their families flyovers, Wood said. “It took off from there,” he said, jokingly adding, “Sorry, aviation pun.”The issue hit a tipping point at the Grand Canyon in 1986 when two tour aircraft collided over the national park in Arizona, killing 25 people. Congress acted the next year and a plan was enacted to designate routes and minimum altitude for canyon flights.Congress passed another round of legislation in 2000 with a goal of setting rules in other national parks. But bureaucratic difficulties and delays stalled compliance.The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Hawaii Island Coalition Malama Pono sued, demanding something be done. Historically, some of the nation's busiest spots for tour operators are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Haleakala National Park. In 2020, a federal court ordered compliance at 23 national parks, including popular sites such as Glacier in Montana, Arches in Utah and Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. That same year, the latest in which data is available, there were 15,624 air tours reported, which was down about 30% because of the pandemic, the park service said. As of this month, plans or voluntary agreements have been adopted for most of the parks, although not all of them have taken effect. Work is still underway on five, the park service said. Parks exempted from developing plans include those with few flights and those in Alaska, where small planes are often the only way to get around. “Mostly, the plans have been pretty generous to the industry, allowing them to continue as they have done in the past with some limited air tours around these parks," said Peter Jenkins, senior council for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.His group went to court over a plan to allow a combined total of about 2,500 flights over the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and other nearby parks, alleging an inadequate environmental study.Then came last month's announcement about restrictions over Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. “This isn’t a management plan,” complained Ray Jilek, owner of Eagle Aviation Inc. and its chief pilot. “This is a cease and desist plan, as far as I’m concerned."Andrew Busse of Black Hills Helicopter Inc. said his tours already don't fly directly over Mount Rushmore. The park is relatively small, so the monument to the nation's presidents is still visible from outside its boundaries, he said. The plans are aimed at taking tribal desires into account. But Shawn Bordeaux, a Democratic state lawmaker in South Dakota and a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, said he hasn't heard complaints."We don’t want them flying around trying to watch our sun dances or ceremonies or something," he said. "But as for tourism, I don’t see why it’s an issue."A similarly strict plan has been proposed for Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. Bruce Adams, owner of Southwest Safaris, flies a fixed-wing plane with tourists a couple times a week over the area known for the dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs. "Changing the route is going to force me to fly over Pueblo tribal lands that I have assiduously avoided doing for 49 years because I know it’s going to cause noise problems,” he said. Glacier National Park, meanwhile, is phasing out the flights by the end of 2029. Wood said the process has been “broken and rushed” and threatens to put some operators out of business.“Litigation is one tool that is definitely under consideration," he said.But Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association said the resistance doesn't have much traction. An amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would have required the agency to factor in the economics of commercial air tours over national parks failed in July, she said.“People go to Arches, people go to Hawaii to hear the sights and sounds of these places," Brengel said. "It’s so utterly clear that the vast majority of people who are going to these parks aren’t going to hear the sounds of helicopters over their heads.”Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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