International Update Volume all, Issue 12
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<p>Last week, the Denmark government released a new energy proposal that details plans for natural gas, renewables, and a carbon tax. The proposal calls for a temporary increase in natural gas production to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian energy. The proposal also aims to output more natural gas to assist other countries in dropping Russian gas. The government noted production from gas fields in the North Sea could increase by 25% in the short term.

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<p>On April 22, U.S. President Joseph Biden convened a virtual summit to commemorate Earth Day. The summit was attended by the leaders of 40 countries, including many of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-pledges-halve-its-emiss…;). Observers have called the event the return of U.S.

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<p>European leaders have called for green investments in their coronavirus recovery plans, citing the need for clean air and a circular economy to rebuild resilience. On April 15, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reaffirmed strong support for the European Green Deal, which aims for zero carbon emissions in the European Union (EU) bloc by 2050.

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<p>Australia's environment minister, Melissa Price, has granted extensions sought by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for 13 threatened species. The extensions effectively delay assessments for up to three years. The 13 species include the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum and the vulnerable Australian sea lion. Cuts to the federal environment department appear to be one reason for the extensions.

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<p>On April 24, South Korea announced a $5.87 billion supplemental budget to fight unprecedented air pollution levels and boost exports. The budget includes subsidies for replacing old diesel-powered cars, buying air purifiers, and encouraging renewable energy technologies. It also proposes increasing export credit financing and creating jobs.

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<p>A report has found concerning levels of 27 pesticides in 1,400 towns across Brazil. Of the pesticides found, 11 are prohibited in Brazil and 21 are banned in the European Union (EU). The study was performed by a Swiss nonprofit group called Public Eye and investigative journalists from Repórter Brasil and Agência Publica. Most test results fell within loose Brazilian safety limits, but 12% of samples breached the EU's stricter regulations.

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<p>Last Thursday, the French government launched a plan to renovate 500,000 homes every year to make them energy efficient and to cut heat loss, power consumption, and carbon emissions. The government will disburse 200 million euros (US $242 million) to help accelerate the plan by training building professionals on new energy efficiency standards and providing aid to families who need to do home renovations.

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<p>Environmental experts and activists are closely watching a lawsuit filed against an academic whose testimony helped convict a governor on corruption charges, in a case many fear could set a worrying precedent. Basuki Wasis, an expert on environmental degradation from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), has testified in more than 200 cases involving environmental crimes such as forest fires and pollution.

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<p>The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on April 27, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

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<p>Ridhima Pandey, a nine-year-old Indian girl, filed a lawsuit against the Indian government last week to bring government attention to the need for action on climate change. India is home to 4 of the world’s top 10 cities with air pollution problems. Although the government has committed to addressing air quality, including changing its energy portfolio to draw at least 40% of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources, it has not proven enough.

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<p>New information from Colombia’s National Hydrocarbon Agency reveals that the government has granted at least 43 hydraulic fracturing concessions to several multinational companies. The country’s oil and gas sector has been promoting the need to use hydraulic fracturing as conventional oil resources have dwindled. Exploratory drilling is already taking place in the Cundinamarca province, despite protests from local communities.

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<p>Although Shanghai has been successful in some environmental protection efforts, the city is lagging behind significantly in its efforts to improve environmental quality. A month-long investigation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection found that garbage was being dumped illegally; approximately a third of the city’s water was unfit for either farm or industrial use; and the city has delayed improvements to its sewage and wastewater treatment.

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<p>On April 14, 2016, El Salvador declared its first water shortage emergency in history. The president of El Salvador cited the effects of El Niño and climate change as reasons for the shortage. Rainfall in El Salvador has decreased significantly in the past four years, leading to the current situation where water reserve levels are at a critical state. In the past couple of weeks, the Central American country has seen protests among neighborhood residents from the outskirts of San Salvador, the capital city, against the water shortages in their communities.

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<p>The top administrative court in France overturned a 2014 ban on genetically modified (GM) corn earlier this month. The April 15, 2016, ruling overturned a March 2014 decree that prohibited Monsanto's MON 810 corn, stating that the corn did not demonstrate serious health or environmental risks, as required by the European Union's rules for withdrawing a GM crop already approved by the EU.&nbsp;But the ruling was largely symbolic, as France has already legislatively banned the growing of any GM corn.

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<p>The top administrative court in France overturned a 2014 ban on genetically modified (GM) corn earlier this month. The April 15, 2016, ruling overturned a March 2014 decree that prohibited Monsanto's MON 810 corn, stating that the corn did not demonstrate serious health or environmental risks, as required by the European Union's rules for withdrawing a GM crop already approved by the EU.&nbsp;But the ruling was largely symbolic, as France has already legislatively banned the growing of any GM corn.

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<p>South Africa said it will not seek to lift the global ban on rhino horn trading and will retain its current policy of stockpiling the commodity. Poachers in South Africa kill thousands of rhinos for their horns, which are valuable in Asian markets. South Africa had considered trading rhino horns globally as a tactic to combat poaching activities, but ultimately decided to retain the current policy of keeping the rhino horns rather than selling them.

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<p>For the first time since November 2013, the European Union (EU) has approved for import 12 genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 10 crops and 2 flowers. The corn, soybean, cotton, and rapeseed varieties are produced by Monsanto, BASF, and Bayer CropScience, and will be used primarily as livestock feed. Sixty-eight GMO crops are now approved for import into the EU, but a recent proposal would allow individual countries to restrict imports despite the approval of the bloc.

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<p>The Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia, overturned a license suspension that has prohibited the energy company Metgasco from proceeding with a major gas-drilling project on the state's northern coast since May 2014. The suspension, issued by the Office of Coal Seam Gas, was declared unlawful due in part to the office's consideration of negative responses during the company's community consultation process. The court said the office should have considered the quality of the consultation process itself, not its outcome.

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<p>Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announced the formation of a joint task force to crack down on illegal fishing operations in the wake of revelations concerning the use of slaves on Thai boats fishing in Indonesian waters. The announcement came two days after the European Union threatened an import ban if Thailand does not address the problem within six months. Representatives of the Thai fishing industry are skeptical about meeting that deadline, saying there are about 2,000 unlicensed fishing boats in Thailand.

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<p>On April 24, China passed the most significant changes to its environmental protection laws in 25 years. The new rules will encourage public participation and open information, according to UCLA law professor Alex Wang, and will impose much tougher penalties on polluters. In addition to levying consecutive daily fines on polluters who don’t make improvements, the amendments will allow non-government groups to file lawsuits for environmental damage and will create channels for whistleblowers to make environment-related appeals.

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<p>Last week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called on Europe to “rehabilitate” coal’s image in an effort to gain energy security. According to Eurasia Group analyst Mujtaba Rahman, in light of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, countries need to find a way to lessen energy dependence on Russia. Tusk sees Poland’s massive coal resource—which currently supplies 90% of Poland’s power—as a way to prevent Russia from using natural gas as a weapon.

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<p>Environmental groups in Australia are gearing up to take the government to court for what they see as a host of anti-environment measures. Over the past few months, green groups have objected to the Abbott government’s repeal of the carbon price in favor of a “direct action” policy, the bid to remove parts of Tasmania’s forests from World Heritage protection, and the handover of power to pro-development state governments. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comment in March that Australia has too much “locked up forest” fueled the conflict.

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<p>A Toronto-based mining company said that it was working closely with the Indonesia government to remove the protected status of around 1.6 million hectares of forest on the Sumatra island. According to a group of Indonesian environmentalists, East Asia Minerals Corporation has hired Fadel Muhammad, former Golkar Deputy Chairman, to help convince the Aceh government to re-zone sections of the forest for a gold mine. The re-zoning proposal would include close to a million hectares for mining, over 400,000 for logging, and over 250,000 for oil palm plantations.

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<p>A federal court suspended the use of the military during research on the São Luíz do Tapajós Dam in the Amazon. The government brought in police and military personnel to halt indigenous protests from groups living along the Tapajós, but a judge decreed that such groups must give free, prior, and informed consent before further studies on the dam.

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<p>The European Parliament rejected a plan last week that would have cut the surplus of carbon allowances being traded after opponents claimed it would cause a rise in energy costs. The plan, referred to as "backloading," was proposed to fight the sinking cost of carbon permits, dipping below $6.50 a ton. In an effort to push up prices, the European Commission proposed to withhold around 900 million permits over the next few years, hoping that the scarcity would drive up prices.

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<p>Officials and activists detected toxins in consumer products in unrelated incidents in Beijing last week. The state's Xinhua News Agency said that police had arrested nine people and detained 54 others over chromium detected in gel capsules manufactured with industrial waste. According to Xinhua, police had seized 77 million capsules and halted 80 production lines as of last week, and no one has become ill or died from the capsules. The police also said they had arrested a local official who ordered his brother's factory torched last week to avoid the crackdown.

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<p>Brazil's congress voted to approve legislation easing rules on how much land farmers must preserve as forests. Though the bill requires millions of hectares of cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists say it makes land use regulations too lenient. "The approved bill gives a total and unrestricted amnesty to those who deforested . . . and goes against what the government itself had wanted," said Greenpeace in a statement. The final law allows federal states to decide how much forest needs to be replaced alongside rivers.

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<p>Peru is the latest developing nation to adopt a domestic climate change initiative in the absence of a binding international pact. The nation adopted a resolution to lower carbon emissions. The long-term plan is based on South Africa's plan and aims to add more renewables to Peru's energy mix, curb illegal logging, and move to a low-carbon economy. Peru said that it is already feeling the effects of climate change, including melting glaciers and crop-destroying record rainfall.

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<p>The deputy director of China's Ministry of Land and Resources said that the country may begin shale gas production within the next five years to "meet rising demand for cleaner-burning fuels," according to Reuters. Deputy director Che Changbo said that China wants to triple the use of natural gas to help cut its reliance on coal. According to a U.S.

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<p>Point Carbon analysts said that UK's plan to introduce a price floor for carbon emissions permits may harm business by introducing a £9.3 ($15) billion burden, but will likely cut emissions from the energy industry by 5.3 percent. The proposed floor will begin at £16 ($26) per metric ton in 2013 and rise to £30 ($49) per metric ton by 2030. However, according to Point Carbon, the price could rise to €54 ($78) per metric ton by 2020, while the rest of EU's Emissions Trading Scheme sees prices closer to €36 ($52).

<p>Point Carbon analysts said that UK's plan to introduce a price floor for carbon emissions permits may harm business by introducing a £9.3 ($15) billion burden, but will likely cut emissions from the energy industry by 5.3 percent. The proposed floor will begin at £16 ($26) per metric ton in 2013 and rise to £30 ($49) per metric ton by 2030. However, according to Point Carbon, the price could rise to €54 ($78) per metric ton by 2020, while the rest of EU's Emissions Trading Scheme sees prices closer to €36 ($52).

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<p>Point Carbon analysts said that UK's plan to introduce a price floor for carbon emissions permits may harm business by introducing a £9.3 ($15) billion burden, but will likely cut emissions from the energy industry by 5.3 percent. The proposed floor will begin at £16 ($26) per metric ton in 2013 and rise to £30 ($49) per metric ton by 2030. However, according to Point Carbon, the price could rise to €54 ($78) per metric ton by 2020, while the rest of EU's Emissions Trading Scheme sees prices closer to €36 ($52).

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<p>Brazilian officials announced last week that the government would seek $1.2 billion in fines against over a dozen companies being investigated for buying beef from farms illegally deforesting or engaging in slave labor. The complaint also implicated Brazil's Institute for the Environment, which was accused of failing to supervise the companies. However, while Brazil has managed to reduce levels of deforestation by 70 percent since 2004, other areas of Brazil may have borne the brunt of the switch away from using deforested areas as grazing lands for livestock.