International Update Volume all, Issue 18
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<p>Last Monday, the Canadian government published final regulations banning the manufacture and import of certain single-use plastics by the end of 2022 (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canada-publishes-regulations-ban…;).

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<p>On June 23, Brazil’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, resigned. This news comes one month after the country’s Supreme Court authorized an investigation against Salles, alleging he had obstructed a federal investigation into illegal logging in the Amazon. He will be replaced by Secretary for the Amazon Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite (<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/24/americas/brazil-ricardo-salles-resigns-i…;).

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<p>On June 11, the Russian government charged the mayor of Norilsk, a remote Arctic city, with criminal negligence over a bungled response to a major oil spill (<a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-russia-pollution-investigation/russia…;). On May 29, a fuel tank at a power station in Norilsk lost pressure and collapsed, leaking more than 20,000 tons of diesel into rivers and subsoil.

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<p>On June 17, a Dutch court fined Shell $2.8 million for violating environmental and labor laws at its chemical plant in the village of Moerdjik. The court ruled that the company did not take sufficient precautions to prevent two explosions at the plant that injured two workers, and held that the company was liable for an ethylene oxide gas leak at the same plant. For the full story, see https://www.apnews.com/a4e35696a00f4e8790b1f61fdb32f116.</p&gt;

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<p>On June 18, Canada passed a new law banning the import and export of shark fins. Called the Fisheries Act, the new law also requires depleted fish populations to be rebuilt. Canada, which is the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia, is the first G20 country to ban the export and import of shark fins. For the full story, see https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-canada-fisheries/canada-becomes-first…;

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<p>At a European Union (EU) summit on June 20, efforts led by France and Germany for the 28-member EU to agree to a 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target was blocked by three central European countries. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland refused to sign on to the agreement, which is projected to require the bloc to invest an additional 175 billion to 290 billion euros per year in clean energy technology. The summit was the last chance to agree to the target before global climate talks in September.

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<p>On June 20, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Malta broke EU law by allowing the hunting and trapping of wild finch species. The ECJ declared that Malta failed to fulfill its obligations under the European Wild Birds Directive by adopting a derogation regime that allowed the live-capturing of seven species of wild finches. Finch-trapping was once common across Europe, but the introduction of the EU's Wild Birds Directive, which aims to conserve avian species and prevent habitat destruction, has effectively rolled back the practice.

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<p>On June 21, Thailand's Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Gen. Surasak Karnjanarat, announced that he will lead an effort to institute a total ban on the import of electronic waste. Electronic waste creates significant health concerns, as many components are laden with toxic materials like lead and mercury. Thai police began raiding factories last month that have been accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste. So far, over 30 factories have been raided.

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<p>In an effort to crack down on officials who are engaging in "perfunctory" environmental protection work, China has ordered inspectors to keep their eyes peeled for perfunctory, superficial, or fraudulent environmental rectifications. Inspectors have been reviewing authorities' responses to environmental violations previously uncovered during a central government probe. In the first half of June, 641 firms were fined a total of 58 million yuan ($8.92 million) for failing to properly rectify violations, and 58 people were detained.

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<p>On Mar. 4, the 90-meter-long <em>Caledonian Sky</em>, owned by tour operator Noble Caledonia, ran aground at low tide on a shoal at the Crossover Reef dive site at Raja Ampat. Nearly 205,000 square feet of reef were damaged in the accident. The Indonesian government cannot restore the coral reef until it reaches a settlement with Noble Caledonia. Noble Caledonia has pledged to cooperate with the Indonesian government to reach a fair settlement, but scientists say that compensation should be higher than normal because of the area's high marine biodiversity.

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<p>The Marginal de la Selva, a $1 billion dollar highway project that would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains, could mean deforestation and industrial development in regions important for indigenous groups, and threaten biodiversity. The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity.

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<p>Norway told visiting Brazilian President Michel Temer that it would slash its payments to help safeguard the Amazon rainforest in 2017 by more than half, to about $35 million, because of a rise in forest destruction. Norway has invested more than $1.1 billion in an Amazon Fund since 2008 to help Brazil protect the forests, which are under threat from logging and their conversion to farmland. Temer said Brazil was working to protect the Amazon, for example by expanding national parks. Brazil's deforestation climbed to 8,000 square kilometres (3,088 square miles) in 2016.

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<p>In the first case of its kind against a government department, Chinese prosecutors successfully sued a county environmental agency for not adequately punishing a sewage firm that was producing dye without the necessary safeguards. On June 20, China's top prosecutor, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, announced that prosecutors had proved the environmental protection department in Eastern Shandong dealt with the Qingshun Chemical Technology Company illegally. In 2014, it was found that the firm produced dye without adequate safeguards.

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<p>The coalition government in Germany agreed to ban fracking for shale gas. According to the decision, only test drilling will be allowed, with permission of the relevant state government. Industry in Germany would like to keep the option of fracking open, arguing that it lowers energy costs, but Germany has a strong green lobby opposed to fracking. If the law is approved by the German parliament, Germany will join France, which has already banned fracking.

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<p>The coalition government in Germany agreed to ban fracking for shale gas. According to the decision, only test drilling will be allowed, with permission of the relevant state government. Industry in Germany would like to keep the option of fracking open, arguing that it lowers energy costs, but Germany has a strong green lobby opposed to fracking. If the law is approved by the German parliament, Germany will join France, which has already banned fracking.

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<p>More than 7,100 cities in 119 countries joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy on Wednesday, June 22. This alliance, the world's largest, intends to make ground-breaking change to slow global warming. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, cities consume 70 percent of global energy and are responsible for approximately 75 percent of carbon emissions. The group is a merger of the European Union's Covenant of Mayors and the U.N.-backed Compact of Mayors. The alliance represents eight percent of global populuation.

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<p>The Canadian province of Alberta announced new regulations designed to meet increased emissions reduction targets and extend its climate change program over the next two years. The Ministry of Environment and Parks intends to increase the province's excess carbon price by 50% and to raise emissions reduction targets to 20% of normal emissions by 2017. The rules, due to expire at the end of June, also extend the climate program through 2017.

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<p>A Dutch district court in The Hague ruled that the national government must reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than planned, a decision following a suit filed by the Urgenda Foundation, an environmental organization, on behalf of 900 Dutch citizens. The opinion declared that the state must cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. The country is currently on pace to be at 17% of 1990 levels by that year. To some observers the decision is a landmark ruling, especially if it withstands appeal.

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<p>Citizens and nongovernmental organizations in Turkey's Black Sea region are growing increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of hydroelectric development projects in the region and the lack of civil society participation in the process. The region is mostly rural and contains some of Turkey's most biologically diverse landscapes, but in recent decades it has faced rapid industrial encroachment. Dozens of small hydroelectric projects are planned for multiple valleys in the region, as well as mines and factories.

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<p>Last week, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected environmental appeals against oil drilling off the Canary Islands. Spain had granted exploration permits in the region in 2012, but they were put in hold due to environmental concerns. Now, the Supreme Court has opened the door for businesses such as Spanish oil company Repsol to move forward with exploration plans. The court’s decision angered islanders—who are concerned about the potential impacts on tourism—as well as environmentalists, who fear damage to the Canary Islands’ unique ecosystems.

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<p>The United Nations has rejected a bid by the Australian government to delist 74,000 hectares of forest from Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. The area in question is part of the 170,000 hectares of forest that had been added to the World Heritage Area in 2013 by the former federal and state Labor governments as part of a deal between the forest industry and green groups. According to Australia’s Abbott government, the area they proposed to delist was not worthy of World Heritage status, as it had been damaged by prior logging.

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<p>In an effort to meet EU rules, Germany has drafted legislation that would raise the surcharge paid by German industrial companies that produce their own electricity. The legislation seeks to address objections the European Commission made to an initial draft of Germany’s renewable energy bill. The Commission had requested that Germany treat households and industry equally, rather than granting heavy industry discounts or exemptions from the surcharge.

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<p>China has given courts the authority to hand down the death penalty in cases of serious pollution, according to state media.

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<p>The European Parliament's Environment Committee agreed to back a ban on the use of fluorinated gases in refrigerators and air conditioners. The greenhouse gases, introduced as an alternative to <span>ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons after their ban,</span> are up to 23,000 times more damaging than greenhouse gases. The plan, <span>which seeks a gradual phase-out and ban in new equipment by 2020, would have to be approved by a plenary session of parliament and by EU member countries before going into effect.

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<p>Singaporeans were urged to stay indoors last week as a haze from Indonesian forest fires dramatically worsened, with air pollution levels hitting their highest since 1997. The pollutant standards were above the "hazardous" level, at which point air quality can trigger respiratory ailments.

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<p>Singaporeans were urged to stay indoors last week as a haze from Indonesian forest fires dramatically worsened, with air pollution levels hitting their highest since 1997. The pollutant standards were above the "hazardous" level, at which point air quality can trigger respiratory ailments.

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<p>Despite some criticisms that the results of Rio were "a failure of leadership" and "insipid," the summit did manage to secure some financial commitments to sustainability goals and new approaches to measuring sustainability and economic progress. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced last week that more than 50 governments have committed to new energy strategies while private investors have pledged $50 billion toward a goal of doubling the share of renewable energy and the rate of efficiency by 2030.

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<p>European's conservation values vary greatly by region, according to a study supported by the European Commission. The study investigated whether members of the public valued conservation priorities similarly by conducting 1,502 interviews asking how much people were willing to pay to conserve different species. Researchers chose three coastal locations in Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Poland to carry out their survey, and found significant differences in the way people valued mammals, fish, birds, algae, and invertebrates.

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<p>The death toll of environmental activists has almost doubled in the last three years, according to a new report by Global Witness, and almost one activist per week was killed in 2011. The organization released the report in Rio last week, calling on leaders to better monitor and counter rising violence by reducing the pressures that drive development in remote areas. "This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio," said a campaigner at Global Witness.

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<p>Germany announced last week that it will not cut its wind subsidies as fast as planned, saying the reduction in feed-in tariffs would remain at one percent rather than going to two percent. The move is designed to continue to make renewables competitive with conventional forms of energy, as faster cuts may have threatened German companies like Nordex and PNE Wind.

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<p>Norway agreed to a $1 billion deal to aid Indonesia in forest protection on Thursday, despite a long list of exemptions, a "maze" of reforms, and a lack of maps indicating specific conservation areas.

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<p>Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said last week that Canadian cuts to science budgets are disproportionately affecting climate change scientists, compromising the government's ability to assess risks to critical infrastructure, communities, and industry. May warned of risks from flood damage, an issue, she said, Canada is already facing from overflowing sewers. Ian Rutherford, director of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, estimated that Canada has cut science research in half and is also moving away from funding research networks.