Image for What went right this week: divesting from fossil fuels, plus more positive news

What went right this week: divesting from fossil fuels, plus more positive news

England geared up for a cycling revolution, the UK’s largest pension scheme shunned fossil fuels and a simple blood test was found to predict Alzheimer's disease

England geared up for a cycling revolution, the UK’s largest pension scheme shunned fossil fuels and a simple blood test was found to predict Alzheimer's disease

Positive news: the UK's largest pension fund shunned fossil fuels
UK’s largest pension fund began fossil fuel divestment

“No-one wants to save throughout their life to retire into a world devastated by climate change.” So said Mark Fawcett, chief investment officer of the UK’s largest pension fund, Nest, which announced this week that it was to divest from firms involved in coal extraction, tar sands and arctic drilling.

Nest, the largest pension scheme by membership, also said it would shift £5.5bn into “climate aware” investments to spur a green recovery from coronavirus. “Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also what our savers want and expect from us,” said Fawcett. “How can we offer them the prospect of a better retirement if we ignore the world they’ll be retiring into?”

Environmental said Nest’s decision set an example for others to follow. “We warmly welcome Nest’s new policy on climate change and hope it will encourage other pension schemes to up their ambition,” said Lauren Peacock, campaign manager at ShareAction, a charity that promotes responsible investment.

Image: Zbynek Burival

A simple blood test has been found to detect Alzheimer's at earliest stage
Blood test found to detect Alzheimer's at earliest stage

New research has found that a simple blood test could spot Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms appear. Early diagnosis is important because it provides more opportunities to treat the disease and halt its progress.

Research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, held virtually, suggested blood tests measuring p-tau217 protein levels could predict Alzheimer’s disease with up to 96 per cent accuracy. The tests are not likely to be in clinics imminently as further research is needed, but the studies bode well.

“Currently people only receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis once symptoms appear,” said Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “A reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s disease would be a huge boost for dementia research, allowing scientists to test treatments at a much earlier stage which in turn could lead to a breakthrough for those living with dementia.”

Image: Obi Onyeador

Positive news: England geared up for a cycling revolution
England geared up for a cycling revolution

It wasn’t the smoothest of starts: within hours of launching on Tuesday morning, the “fix your bike” scheme website, which is giving away 50,000 bike repair vouchers worth £50 to people in England, crashed due to high demand. The good news? The country appears to be in the throes of a cycling revolution.

There are an estimated 16.5m cycles gathering dust in England’s sheds and the voucher scheme is part of the government’s £2bn strategy to get people using them. Number 10 has also pledged to create a new national standard for cycle lanes and a new body, Active Travel England, to ensure local authorities adhere to those standards.

“The government has laid out a truly comprehensive and far reaching set of measures to improve cycling and walking in England, that will help would-be cyclists on their journey as well as the regular riders,” said James Scott, Cycling UK’s director of behaviour change. Read the full article here.

Image: Gemma Evans

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Plastic bag use has cut by half in a year

According to the latest figures, sales of single-use plastic bags by retailers in England between April 2019 and March 2020 were down by 59 per cent year-on-year.

The main supermarkets sold a total of 226 million 5p plastic bags in the year, down from 549 million in the year April 2018 to March 2019, and 1.04 billion the year before that. Overall, single-use plastic bags have declined by 95 per cent in the introduction of the 5p charge in 2015.

However, Sam Chetan Welsh, a political campaigner at Greenpeace, urged caution, pointing out that sales of supermarket ‘bags for life’, which contain more plastic, have increased to 1.5 billion.

Image: The Creative Exchange

John Lewis’ empty stores could become affordable homes

A letter from Sharon White, chair of retailer John Lewis Partnership, to the company’s 80,000 employees this week revealed that she is considering turning empty retail space into affordable housing.

Earlier this month, John Lewis, which is the largest employee-owned business in the country, announced the closure of eight stores. Meanwhile, 17 Waitrose supermarkets have also closed in the last two years.

In a letter to employee-partners, White wrote: “As we repurpose and potentially reduce our shop estate, we want to put excess space to good social use. We are exploring with third parties the concept of new mixed-use affordable housing.”

Image: John Lewis
Main image: Markus Spiske

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