Our very own bellweather of environmental news, debates and latest intriguing and interesting blog activity

Here come the turbines ... or do they?

Challenging targets from Europe on Wednesday. That's a 16% cut in emissions from buildings over 2005 levels (our emissions crept up by 1.25% in 2006) a 20% share of energy from renewables about 2020 and a 15% cut overall (covering heat, electricity and transport.)

Willy De Backer offers a point by point critique of the five further proposals, calling the plans a missed opportunity. He resents the EU's 'jubilant' tone. There's too much scope for national arguing, he says, and he doesn't reckon the economists have done their maths on working out the correct mechanism for ensuring that the carbon market works properly this time since energy intensive sectors have been offered free allowances. He doesn't really suggest much in the way of an alternative though.

John Hutton's speech in the House of Commons also vague, promising plans for a consultation in the summer on the 'options for meeting our share of the EU 2020 renewable energy target' and a 'renewable energy strategy in the spring of next year once the EU directive is passed.'

Surely it is fairly clear what the options are at this point? Does this not look suspiciously like a further delaying tactic from the Government? This Times thinks so and reported that 20,000 turbines seemed to be the likely only way to reach our 2020 targets in addition to a 10-15% rise in energy prices before inflation. We are currently at 2% renewables, less than much of the rest of Europe. However, reports are arising that the MoD is raising vague yet final objections "raising a risk of air disaster" to wind farms in East Anglia and Northumberland. Does the right hand know what the left is doing?

BREEAM of a happier world

There have been rumblings about BREEAM assessment in the industry for a while. Mel Starrs on her blog says that she is happy with it but that it must be seen a means to an end but what she is noticing is that BREEAM assessors are increasingly dictating the elements of the building to gain the required rating, thus removing an element of free choice from the proceedings. Like other industry folks I have spoken to, she wonders whether the US' simpler LEED, with its money back guarantee for LEED Platinum status is not simple. Contacts here point out US banks are increasingly having to carry out two audits anway, meaning that there are assessors being trained in the UK. But, Mel says, LEED and BREEAM are, in the end, victims of human nature; of people trying to simplify essentially complex situations.

A Present from PRUPIM

PRUPIM has released a sustainable framework document based on its own developments which aim to achieve BREEAM 'Very Good' for projects above £5m. The document provides an unusually clear series of guidelines and flow charts towards 'Very Good' at each stage from feasility to operation. The very fact that it is colour coded adds a great deal to its readability. For a developer to share this knowledge is rather encouraging.

The Myth of Affordable Housing

Jean Rentoul, chief political correspondent in the Independent points out the dodgy economics abused by Gordon Brown in his bid for £3m cheap homes. Supply increases demand, he points out, as in roadbuilding and new runways. Mark Brinkley has pointed to the experience of Ireland, where 90,000 new homes were being built every year by 2006, but prices had trebled in ten years. Is there a point in driving to build homes sustainably if their creation won't relieve current pressures anyway?

Glorious Mud

Building methods don't come much more sustainable than earth so if you fancy warming up a bit this February, you can make your way to the 10th International Conference on the Study and Conservation of Earthen Architecture, which will be held in Mali, West Africa.

Take you to Brooklyn

The East River State Park in Williamsburg has the best views in the world - of the side of Manhattan. But it's currently a scruffy patch of concrete and shrubs. In 2005, a competition resulted in three winners being chosen to redevelop it. But it is only recently that a masterplan - a collaboration between three of them, Gareth Mahon, 3SAP and Fabrica 718 - has been published. The design features an eco-pier with wind turbines in a pool on green islands, looking somewhat like lilies. There's a definite feeling of fetishising the technology here, but having lived in the area, all I can say is the only way is up for the Williamsburg shoreline.

In a Temple

Diamond Geezer went around the tour of the Temple Open Day last weekend - the first in 400 years(!) and gave us a glimpse of the world of the QC. 'Crammed into tiny offices with overflowing piles of red-ribbon-wrapped legal files, each representing a different courtroom case, it's not quite the glamorous world depicted in This Life.' It sounds like my desk, minus the red ribbon. I missed the open day so will have to wait another 400 years.