State of the natural environment in the West Midlands

West Midlands Biodiversity PartnershipOn Thursday 23rd April 2009, I attended the Annual Biodiversity Conference organised by the West Midlands Biodiversity Partnership (WMBP) at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham.

Key speakers included Olwen Dutton (Chief Executive of the West Midlands Regional Assembly), Roger Owen (Regional Director of Natural England), David Pape (Head of Ecology, Hampshire County Council), Conor Kretsch (Director of Cohab Initiative) and Heather Webb (Coordinator at Bedslife).

During the day the speakers highlighted the key role that biodiversity plays in the development of the West Midlands.

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April 2009 briefing on economic downturn’s impact on skills and labour market in the West Midlands

Briefing coverThe West Midlands Regional Observatory has produced its third quarterly briefing monitoring the impact of the economic downturn on skills and the labour market.

The overall picture is one of continued decline but with the first tentative indications of some improvement. This is reflected in the decreases in the rate of job losses expected, at least in the service sector.

It is also notable that over 60% of firms are maintaining their investment in training budgets at present levels.

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‘Green’ firms fight the recession

Wind farmThe environmental technologies or “green” sector is showing greater resilience to the recession than the manufacturing sector as a whole, according to recent skills research by the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The environmental technologies sector comprises companies concentrating on renewable energy, pollution monitoring and waste management, amongst others. Although the sector has been adversely affected by the recession, companies are fairing better than their counterparts in other sectors.

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Can we do it? Walking the talk on climate change

Chris CreanChris Crean is the West Midlands Regional Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth and he provided the final presentation to delegates at the Observatory’s State of the Region climate change event.

Chris posed the question of whether we are prepared to, or capable of, walking the talk on climate change.

Chris’s presentation considered the impacts of regional strategies and the contradictions and challenges they present when looking at climate change.

In simple terms Chris’s message was “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency!”

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Evidence based climate change policy: six tricky challenges

Roger LevettRoger Levett of Levett-Therivel sustainability consultants led the presentations at the Observatory’s State of the Region Climate Change event. Roger laid down six tricky challenges to delegates.

He stressed that the evidence is already overwhelming that unless we cut greenhouse emissions deeply, fast, soon, irreversible catastrophic climate change will almost certainly become unpreventable. Delaying action to improve the evidence is no longer necessary.

Roger was also keen to lay down challenges to the Observatory in how we present and use the data to influence policy makers in the region. How we tackle these challenges will be key to the development of the State of the Region dialogue.

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West Midlands unemployment now highest of all regions

Office for National Statistics logoLatest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that unemployment has increased to 8.4 per cent in the West Midlands – higher than any other English region – as 36,000 more people became unemployed in the quarter from November 2008 to February 2009.

The unemployment rate has now increased by 2.4 percentage points on the same period last year, and 1.4 percentage points on the previous quarter. Employment has declined by 2.8 percentage points in the year February 2008 to February 2009 and is declining at a rate almost three times the national rate of 1.0 percentage points.

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Is this the future for the West Midlands?

Ann-Marie BrouderDr. Ann-Marie Brouder from Forum for the Future shared a vision of what the region might look in 2020. This is not just any vision though, as it considers what a low carbon West Midlands will look like.

Developed on behalf of Sustainability West Midlands, A low carbon vision for the West Midlands 2020, looks at the technologies and developments that may have shaped our lives over the next decade.

Will we be seeing vertical farms in our city centres or power generating dance floors in nightclubs?

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