International Update Volume all, Issue 10
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<p>On April 4, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third and final installment of its Sixth Assessment Report, which outlines steps for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit global warming.

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<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 107%; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman';">Reports from a Malaysian environmental group, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, led officials at the country’s Department of Environment to believe an incoming shipment of plastic waste from the United States contained hazardous waste (</span><a href="

<p>On April 1, the United Nations announced it would postpone this year’s climate change conference to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (<a href="https://unfccc.int/news/cop26-postponed">UNFCCC</a&gt;). The talks, originally to be held November 9-20 in Glasgow, mark the five-year deadline for countries to update their national climate targets according to the Paris Agreement of 2015.

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<p>On April 1, the United Nations announced it would postpone this year’s climate change conference to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (<a href="https://unfccc.int/news/cop26-postponed">UNFCCC</a&gt;). The talks, originally to be held November 9-20 in Glasgow, mark the five-year deadline for countries to update their national climate targets according to the Paris Agreement of 2015.

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<p>On April 4, Singapore announced that authorities had seized 12.9 tons of pangolin scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The scales were found in a shipping container destined for Vietnam, along with 390 pounds of elephant ivory. Pangolins are critically endangered, and the conservation group WildAid estimates that roughly 100,000 pangolins are poached from the wild each year.

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<p>On April 5, the European Commission charged BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology. The Commission alleges that the carmakers colluded between 2006 and 2014 to limit, delay, or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides emissions from diesel passenger cars. The carmakers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of up to 10% of their global annual turnover.

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<p>On April 5, the German government announced plans to approve an aid package for mining regions affected by its plans to phase out coal by 2038. The package would distribute 14 billion euros to the four German states affected by the phaseout and 26 billion euros in direct federal investments. The Bundestag lower house of parliament will vote on the package after the cabinet has given it the green light.

<p>New British biofuel targets, which officially went into effect April 15, aim to double renewable fuels usage in the United Kingdom's transport sector and reduce reliance on imported diesel. With these targets, large-scale transport fuel suppliers will mix at least 12.4% biofuel by 2032. The changes will also support the production of sustainable aviation fuels in Britain.

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<p>On April 11, an Indian court ruled that Monsanto cannot claim patents on genetically modified cotton seeds in India. Since Indian law excludes seeds from patenting, Monsanto was not permitted to claim patents and charge royalties. More than 90% of India’s cotton crops are genetically modified, making this ruling financially devastating for Monsanto.

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<p>In March, a major smog indicator rose by more than a quarter in the industry-heavy Beijing-Tianjin-Heibei region. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment worries this is due to the end of a six-month anti-pollution campaign, which ended on March 15. The campaign required Chinese cities to reduce fine particulate matter levels by lowering industrial output, traffic, and coal use. The restrictions successfully reduced pollution output while they were in effect, but now that the campaign is over, there is increased concern that pollution levels will revert.

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<p>Earlier this month, the New Zealand government granted Te Awa Tupua, the country’s third largest river, the legal status of a living person. The Maori tribe, who have been fighting for this recognition for 140 years, considers the river as an ancestor, which has been the basis of their legal argument. The law means that harm inflicted on the river is considered equivalent to inflicting harm on members of the tribe. The new law now reflects the worldview of the Maori.

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<p>The EU is intending to pass into law this year a rule that would require EU electric utilities to offer flexible pricing contracts. These contracts would effectively reduce the cost of electricity when the supply of energy is, abundant; in electric grids with renewable energy, this means during times when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

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<p>Last week, El Salvador became the first country to ban all metal mining activities nationwide. The bill passed in a unanimous vote. The new law places an immediate and permanent ban on all metal mining, including exploratory activities, barring a two-year transition period for small-scale artisanal gold mines. The law is the culmination of years of campaigning and local action and of a 9-year moratorium on mining. In 2008, El Salvador denied a permit to El Dorado (now a subsidiary of OceanaGold), which then sued the country and lost.

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<p>On March 29, a Costa Rican court sentenced four men for the murder of sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval and the kidnapping of his volunteers. Three other defendants were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Jairo Mora Sandoval and four female volunteers were kidnapped on May 30, 2013. Sandoval died of asphyxiation after being beaten, tied up, and dragged along the beach. Sandoval’s conservation work was the primary motive for his murder. Sea turtle eggs, considered an aphrodisiac, are linked to drug trafficking in Costa Rica.

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<p>The creation of a marine reserve around the Austral Islands, originally proposed in 2014 by the municipal councils of the region, is close to becoming reality. On March 30, inhabitants of the Austral Islands submitted the proposal to the government of French Polynesia. If the project is approved, it will be the largest natural reserve in the world. It would span 1 million square kilometers—an area larger than Texas and Nevada combined.

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<p>China ordered power transmission companies to ensure that there is grid connectivity for all renewable power generation sources. The National Energy Administration (NEA) explained that the grid companies are now required to plug in all renewable power sources that are in compliance with technical standards. China is the biggest user of wind and solar energy in the world, but so far a huge amount of renewable power has not been included in the national grid because transmission capabilities are lagging generating capacity by three to five years.

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<p>On March 31, an Australian court began hearing arguments in a case challenging what would be the country's largest coal mine. The environmental group Coast and Country filed suit in the Land Court of Queensland against Indian mining conglomerate Adani and the company's proposed Carmichael mine. The $16.5 billion project would consist of strip and underground mining and cover about 174 square miles.

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<p>China is instituting a two-year inspection campaign to curb the submission of fraudulent air monitoring data, which Vice Minister for Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing says some local governments have been providing to Beijing. Under the program, the ministry's own monitoring stations will cross-check data from localities. Recent amendments to China's environmental law impose criminal liability for evading pollution monitoring requirements.

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<p>The Tanzanian parliament adopted a disaster assistance law in hopes of alleviating the country's increasing vulnerability to storms, floods, and droughts. The new legislation creates the Disaster Management Agency, which will stockpile supplies and have the authority to order evacuations. The agency will also have the power to halt movement of guns and alcohol into disaster areas, in an effort to reduce the surge in criminal activity that authorities say has accompanied recent disasters.

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<p>Spain’s national government has opened the door to fracking even while regional and local authorities maintain opposition to oil and gas development. With a hurting economy and an unemployment rate of 26%, the government hopes to lessen what consumers pay for heating fuel—which currently stands at about triple the U.S. price. Over the past few months, the People’s Party-led government has changed a law in an effort to foster shale exploration and has sought to wrest control over land use from anti-fracking regional authorities.

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<p>Japan has cancelled an upcoming whale hunt in response to an International Court of Justice ruling that banned the country’s annual Antarctic whaling drive. Commercial whaling was prohibited in 1986, but Japan has continued to hunt the animals for years, ostensibly in order to gather scientific data. The recent ruling, handed down last Monday, rejected the nation’s claim that expeditions were for research purposes in a decision that amounts to a long-sought victory for environmentalists.

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<p>Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) agreed to hear an appeal by Chevron Corp of a lower court’s decision that would allow Ecuadorean villagers to pursue a $9.51 billion lawsuit in Ontario. The SCC’s decision to hear the case is the latest episode in a drawn-out conflict between Chevron and villagers of Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region in the Amazon. In November, Ecuador’s National Court of Justice upheld a 2011 verdict that held that Chevron was responsible for pollution in the Amazon rainforest caused by Texaco, an oil firm that was absorbed by Chevron.

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<p>China's fishermen fail to report up to 91 percent of fish caught in African and international waters to the United Nations, according to a study at the University of British Columbia. Fisheries experts have long stated that the figures reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are low, but officials there contested the findings of the study. “The new estimates seem far, far too high,” says Richard Grainger, chief of the fisheries statistics and information service at the organization.

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<p>An investigation in Borneo cleared Asia Pulp &amp; Paper (APP) of violating Indonesia's zero deforestation committment, but an analysis released by a coalition of environmental groups stated that the commitment will not provide any "real conservation benefits." An investigation by the Forest Trust followed allegations that two APP suppliers were actively clearing within two concession areas, which would put them "in clear violation of their commitment to APP’s forest conservation policy," according to a consortium of local NGOs.

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<p>An increase in foreign demand for beef and soy may lead Brazil to reverse decades of slowing forest losses by clearing more of the Amazon, according to the <span>Center for International Climate and Environmental Research. The Center warned that demand for the products, which already account for 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon emissions caused by Brazil's deforestation, may indirectly contribute to the loss of forests industrialized countries had hoped to protect with international agreements.

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<p>China's Three Gorges Dam Corp. began preparations last week on a dam that will flood the last free-flowing portion of the middle section of the Yangtze, the nation's longest river.

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<p>As Interpol carries out its largest anti-ivory poaching operation ever, executive director of police Bernd Rossbach called for a tougher crackdown on wildlife crime at a law enforcement summit last week. Calling ivory poaching and illegal logging "serious, organized and often transnational," Rossbach said there was increasing evidence that environmental crimes were connected to other forms of crime.

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<p>Farmers and seed companies appealed a ban on a genetically modified strain of Monsanto's corn, saying the ban was economically harmful and unjustified. Agricultural minister Bruno Le Maire imposed a temporary ban on MON 810 in March, saying it was a "precautionary measure" to protect the environment.

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<p>Farmers and seed companies appealed a ban on a genetically modified strain of Monsanto's corn, saying the ban was economically harmful and unjustified. Agricultural minister Bruno Le Maire imposed a temporary ban on MON 810 in March, saying it was a "precautionary measure" to protect the environment.

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<p>A United Nations study released last week found that a "deadly collision between climate change and urbanization" will take place unless effective urban planning measures can deliver energy and emissions savings. According to the study, an estimated 59 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2030, and cities tend to be energy intensive.

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<p>Five days of mass protests around the upper Yangtze River failed to stop China Three Gorges' planned Xiangjiaba hydropower project last week, and the corporation's website still lists June 2012 as the expected start date of electricity generation. Some 2,000 villagers blocked a main road and a bridge over the Yangtze and hurled bricks and stones at police to protest the valuation of the forcible land acquisition for the 40,000 people who are being displaced to make way for the dam, joining green groups that have long opposed the project.

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<p>Oilsands projects and their subsidies have become a contentious issue in the Canadian federal elections, as the New Democratic Party's Jack Layton vowed to eliminate C$2 billion in oil and gas subsidies and use the money instead for renewable energy. The party has also proposed a moratorium on new oilsands projects pending efforts to manage their environmental impacts.