International Update Volume all, Issue 17
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<p>Last Thursday, a judge in Paris ordered mediation in a legal dispute between France's Casino Group and Indigenous groups over deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

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<p style="text-align: left;" align="center">On June 8, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared to the Insurance Development Forum that the insurance and reinsurance industry has “a key role to play” in the future of climate action (<a href="https://www.reinsurancene.ws/un-chief-says-decisive-climate-action-need… News</a>).

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<p>Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose once again to the highest values ever recorded, despite global emissions drops due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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<p>Twenty-seven island states across the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean are uniting under a new initiative to manage and eliminate toxic chemicals and waste. Under the new initiative, called the Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) program, the island states will work together to eliminate over 23,000 metric tons of toxic chemicals and avoid the release of over 185,000 metric tons of marine litter.

<p>The United Kingdom (UK) government is proposing to amend its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, which was agreed to under the Climate Change Act in 2008, to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The net zero target was recommended last month by the government's advisory Committee on Climate Change. According to the committee, there is a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5°C temperature rise by 2100 if the UK and other countries achieve the target.

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<p>On June 14, the International Energy Agency released its first major report on fuel that calls for the use of hydrogen as a potentially emissions-free source of energy. According to the report, the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable energy could fall by 30% by 2030 and the fuel could reduce emissions in the transport, chemicals, and steel industries. The agency outlines several recommendations for producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources and spreading its use across economies.

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<p>On June 14, EU negotiators agreed to phase out the use of palm oil in transport fuels by 2030. The wording on the specifics of the phase-out are yet to be agreed upon, but EU negotiators agreed that the use of palm oil would be capped at 2019 levels until 2023 and reduced to zero by 2030. The agreement is part of the EU's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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<p>Hebei, the steel heartland of China and the country's smoggiest province, has a new plan to encourage enterprises to cut pollution and carbon emissions, upgrade technology, and improve efficiency. Under the new "pace setter" plan, enterprises from industrial sectors like steel, cement, glass-making, coking, and waste-to-energy can obtain "pace setter" status by adopting stricter than necessary emissions standards or implementing a "green supply chain" system.

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<p>France is taking aim at cigarette butt pollution, and looking to the tobacco industry for help. The government is asking tobacco companies to voluntarily propose commitments to reduce the number of discarded cigarette butts that litter the country's streets and contaminate its water. If the industry does not produce effective commitments by September, the government will force the industry to participate in measures to eliminate cigarette butt waste.

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<p>Sungrow Power Supply Co.&nbsp;has built the world’s largest floating solar farm, with&nbsp;166,000 panels on a lake created when a nearby mine collapsed.&nbsp;The scale of the project is another example of how China hopes to be the world's global leader in the environment. The country plans to spend $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020. By the end of September, Sungrow will complete more than 150 megawatts of new floating capacity.

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<p>At a UN oceans summit, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas. It is&nbsp;estimated that 5-13 million tons of plastics&nbsp;flow into the world's oceans annually.&nbsp;The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that&nbsp;75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just 10 rivers, predominantly in Asia.

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<p>At a UN oceans summit, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas. It is&nbsp;estimated that 5-13 million tons of plastics&nbsp;flow into the world's oceans annually.&nbsp;The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that&nbsp;75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just 10 rivers, predominantly in Asia.

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<p>At a UN oceans summit, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas. It is&nbsp;estimated that 5-13 million tons of plastics&nbsp;flow into the world's oceans annually.&nbsp;The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that&nbsp;75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just 10 rivers, predominantly in Asia.

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<p>At a UN oceans summit, delegates from China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would work to keep plastics out of the seas. It is&nbsp;estimated that 5-13 million tons of plastics&nbsp;flow into the world's oceans annually.&nbsp;The Helmholtz Centre in Leipzig, Germany, estimated that&nbsp;75% of land-borne marine pollution comes from just 10 rivers, predominantly in Asia.

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<p>The Phillipines is believed to hold around $1 trillion worth of mineral resources, but activists' opposition has stalled development and economic growth. Activists oppose mining development on the basis of financial fairness and environmental concerns. OceanaGold, a Canadian-Australian mining firm, earned $275 million in copper and gold sales last year, according to the Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Miners, some residents of the area surronding the mine, work for about a $1 an hour.

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<p>The parliament of Norway agreed unanimously to pursue carbon neutrality, cutting Norway's net greenhouse gas emissions to zero, by 2030—20 years earlier than its most recent goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. In order to meet this goal, either Norways' carbon output must be lowered or the country must purchase enough carbon credits to offset its emissions. In 2008, Norway set the same goal, but later pushed the timeline back to 2050 because international negotiations failed at reaching a global climate change deal.

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<p>India stated on June 7 that it plans to work towards joining the 2015 Paris climate accord this year. India joins the United States and China with this commitment, providing momentum to the international push to curb climate change. U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to the White House, highlighting the strong relationship between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.

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<p>India stated on June 7 that it plans to work towards joining the 2015 Paris climate accord this year. India joins the United States and China with this commitment, providing momentum to the international push to curb climate change. U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to the White House, highlighting the strong relationship between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.

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<p>India stated on June 7 that it plans to work towards joining the 2015 Paris climate accord this year. India joins the United States and China with this commitment, providing momentum to the international push to curb climate change. U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to the White House, highlighting the strong relationship between the leaders of the world's two largest democracies.

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<p>The department of environmental resources in South Africa announced on June 8 that a moratorium on the domestic trade of rhino horns has been reinstated. This means that no new permits will be authorized to trade rhino horns or products until the Constitutional Court makes a decision about the legality of domestic rhino horn trade. The moratorium was prompted by an appeal by the department of environmental conservation to South Africa's top court. In May, the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the government's bid to uphold a seven-year ban on rhino horn trade.

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<p>The department of environmental resources in South Africa announced on June 8 that a moratorium on the domestic trade of rhino horns has been reinstated. This means that no new permits will be authorized to trade rhino horns or products until the Constitutional Court makes a decision about the legality of domestic rhino horn trade. The moratorium was prompted by an appeal by the department of environmental conservation to South Africa's top court. In May, the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the government's bid to uphold a seven-year ban on rhino horn trade.

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<p>The department of environmental resources in South Africa announced on June 8 that a moratorium on the domestic trade of rhino horns has been reinstated. This means that no new permits will be authorized to trade rhino horns or products until the Constitutional Court makes a decision about the legality of domestic rhino horn trade. The moratorium was prompted by an appeal by the department of environmental conservation to South Africa's top court. In May, the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the government's bid to uphold a seven-year ban on rhino horn trade.

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<p>An international law enforcement coalition has released the results of a massive investigation aimed at curbing illegal wildlife trafficking. Sixty-two countries as well as several international organizations conducted a series of operations during May that netted over 300 arrests and the seizure of more than 600 items of contraband from across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Officials claim the arrests included eight kingpins from three countries.

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<p>Negotiators settled on a draft agreement of the REDD+ forest conservation plan during United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, in mid-June. Key issues hammered out in Bonn include reporting requirements for forested countries, payments for non-carbon benefits of forest protection, and the use of non-market mechanisms for REDD+ payments. While some critics worry that unresolved financing issues will still prohibit implementation, many observers are now hopeful the unexpected agreement will play an important role at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.

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<p>The German Ministry for the Environment released a plan for interim storage of the country's nuclear waste as the nation mulls over final disposal options after shuttering its nuclear fleet following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The plan identifies four sites to be used, including one in the Isar region of Bavaria, which prompted outcry from state officials. The plan has its proponents as well, with Germany's four largest utility companies offering to dismiss several pending lawsuits if the plan leads to a lasting agreement.

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<p>British oil company Soco International has announced that it will suspend oil exploration in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. Virunga—Africa’s oldest national park—is home to a number of endangered species, including the mountain gorilla, okapi, and several species of rare birds. Although Soco’s exploratory activities in the park had been supported by the DRC's government, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other conservation groups have opposed exploration, fearing it will hurt the park’s fragile ecosystem.

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<p>In light of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the EU has promulgated a new law that would strengthen nuclear safety measures. Prompted by the devastating aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, the EU conducted a series of stress tests on nuclear power stations and found that nearly all European power plants need safety improvements. The new rules, announced last Wednesday, specify that power plants be designed so that reactor damage would not have any consequences outside the plant.

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<p>Last week, the Chilean government rejected plans to construct the highly controversial HidroAysen dam project, which would have built dams on two of Patagonia’s rivers. Opponents, organized into a coalition known as the Patagonia Defense Council, had fought the project from the outset, fearing that it would endanger both the environment and the local communities.

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<p>The European Commission released a draft safety law last week that adds mandatory reviews for nuclear plants every six years. The proposal follows a series of stress tests enacted after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and builds on the tests' conclusions, which found that plants need anywhere from $13 to $33 billion in repairs. The rule also proposes that reactors be designed so that they <span>will not have any consequences outside the plant. </span>"<span>There are 132 nuclear reactors in operation in Europe today.

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<p>European coal power causes 22,300 premature deaths a year and costs government and companies billions in health costs, according to a new study. The study also suggests that an additional 2,700 people can be expected to die prematurely each year due to 50 planned new coal fired power plants. Analysis of emissions shows that coal is linked to as many or more deaths than road accidents in many countries, and in 2010 Europe lost 240,000 "life years" as a result of coal-related air pollution.

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<p>Deforestation data opened up by the Peruvian government shows that the rate of forest clearing has slowed in recent years, though Peru's Amazon has lost more than 100,000 hectares annually since 2005. Overall, the area has gone from 80 to 78 percent forested from 2000. Peru's monitoring system, in development since 2009, is based mostly on satellite imagery and can detect changes as small as .09 hectares. "This is a big deal," said Greg Asner, a research at the Carnegie Institution for Science who has been working on the project.

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<p>A senior official in China demanded last week that foreign embassies stop releasing air pollution data after a U.S.-run Twitter feed directly contradicted official Chinese readings over several months. Many residents of smog-coated cities dismiss official readings of "slight" pollution, and since the state tightened monitoring standards in January, the embassy's measured air pollution level is often at odds with China's own data. Though China did not specifically mention the U.S.

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<p>Mexican president Felipe Calderon signed into law a bill adopting binding targets on greenhouse gases last week. Mexico is ranked 12th among the world’s highest carbon emitting countries, although it accounts for only 1.5 percent of global emissions. The measure was passed by the Senate by 78 votes to none in April and commits the nation to a 30 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2050.

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<p>Interpol and the United Nations launched a joint initiative to fight forest crime. "Project Leaf" will target crimes involving illegal logging and timber trafficking and will provide support in countries with the largest forest problems. Interpol's environmental crimes manager said that illegal logging is an issue that is not restricted by international boundaries and that international action is needed to halt forest crimes.

<p>Britain said last week that, despite protests from the industry, it would reduce support tariffs for large-scale solar plants starting August 1, attempting to avoid the creation of a large number of new commercial solar farms that would compete with homes for funding.&nbsp;Ronan O'Regan, director of energy and utilities at consultancy PwC, said that the move would allow the government to focus on the smaller end of the market, as the reduction would only affect plants producing more than 50 kilowatts.

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<p>The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned that countries should improve water management ahead of droughts and water availability issues brought on by climate change. A statement released last week cautioned that changes in water availability will tighten agricultural water supplies, and that "livelihoods of rural communities as well as the food security of city populations are at risk." The organization suggested that mapping vulnerability to water scarcity is crucial, but that the rural poor are likely to be disproportionately affected.

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<p>A report released last week said that carbon pricing is Australia's cheapest, most effective way to cut pollution. The report, by Australia's Productivity Commission, assessed how nine major economies were taking climate change action and was requested by Prime Minister Gillard to deflect political opposition to her plan. "The consistent finding from this study is that much lower cost abatement could be achieved through broad, explicitly carbon pricing approaches, irrespective of the policy settings in competitor economies,"&nbsp;the report said.