International Update Volume all, Issue 19
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Last Tuesday, the South Korean government announced plans to resume stalled construction on nuclear reactors in support of the government’s recent shift to&nbsp;a&nbsp;pro-nuclear energy policy (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/skorea-lift-nuclear-powers-shar…;).

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<p style="text-align: left;" align="center">On July 1, the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, found that the French government has not taken sufficient legislative action to meet its carbon emissions reduction goals, and ordered the government to take “all necessary measures to curb the curve of greenhouse gas emissions” (<a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/top-court-asks-france-to-take-more-m

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<p>Scientists warn that people living in tropical regions from Brazil to Indonesia may face a heightened risk for COVID-19 complications due to particulate matter released from forest fires (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-wildfire-trfn/smo…;, <a href="

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<p>Scientists warn that people living in tropical regions from Brazil to Indonesia may face a heightened risk for COVID-19 complications due to particulate matter released from forest fires (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-wildfire-trfn/smo…;, <a href="

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<p>On June 24, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations pledged to tackle marine trash in the region. The declaration was adopted by the association's 10 member states at its biannual summit and expresses the members' commitment to "prevent and significantly reduce marine debris, particularly from land-based activities." The association also published a framework for how it intends to address the trash problem, including policy planning and engaging the private sector.

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<p>On June 26, a Kenyan environmental tribunal blocked construction of a coal-fired power plant in Lamu County, where a UNESCO world heritage site is located. Environmental groups challenged the government's issuance of a license to a power company to operate the plant, arguing the plant would cause environmental damage. The tribunal found that the National Environmental Management Authority failed to adequately involve county residents in public participation, as required by law.

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<p>In a lawsuit brought by a resident arguing that air pollution in Paris caused her respiratory problems, the administrative court of Montreuil held that the state had repeatedly failed to take sufficient measures to prevent pollution from rising above government-set thresholds between 2012 and 2016, when the resident contracted bronchitis.

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<p>In Mumbai, municipal authorities have criminalized the use of plastic bags with fines of up to $US 366 and jail sentences for repeat offenders. India has a low consumption of plastic compared with Western countries, but the ban has potential to reduce the 26,000 tons of plastic waste that is produced daily in the country. Authorities have already collected $US 5000 in fines from 87 shops since the ban was enforced.

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<p>PepsiCo has launched an investigation into reports of deforestation carried out by one of its supplier's oil palm plantations. The investigation is in response to a complaint by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) alleging that PepsiCo has failed to investigate deforestation allegations that were first reported four years ago.

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<p>On June 29, Poland's upper house of parliament approved an amendment to the renewable sources of energy law in hopes of removing obstacles to green energy investment and helping Warsaw meet EU renewable energy targets. The amendment removes tax disincentives and kicks off auctions under a new subsidy system in which renewable producers will be assured a stable price for their energy in any given period.

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<p>Ahead of the G20 summit a report revealed that the G20 nations provide four times more public financing to fossil fuels than renewable energy. The authors of the report accused the G20 of “talking out of both sides of their mouths.” Soft loans and government guarantees, along with fossil fuel subsidies, make fossil fuel plants cheaper and lock in carbon emissions for decades to come. A new report showed that G20 countries provided an average of $71.8 billion of public finance for fossil fuel projects per year between 2013-2015, compared to $18.7 billion for renewable energy.

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<p>The North China leopard, one of the nine subspecies of leopards, has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups. However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards' habitat. The species was widely found across Africa and Asia.

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<p>Indonesia’s goal of achieving food self-sufficiency, especially for rice, might be in doubt as the country converts agricultural land into coal mining sites. Researchers for the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Mining Advocacy Network found that 19 percent of Indonesia's rice-growing land falls within exploration or mining concessions for coal. The study calculated that coal mining already costs the country 1.7 million tons of potential rice production, and another 6 million tons of current production are under threat.

<p>Authorities in the United Kingdom are taking action against 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing illegal timber from Cameroon. Cameroon’s forests are one of the most biodiverse in the Congo Basin, but they are being decimated at a rapid pace due to illegal logging. Pursuant to the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), British authorities have started the first steps in targeting 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing the illegal timber, sending 6 letters of remedial action, 7 letters of warning, and 1 letter of advice.

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<p>Authorities in the United Kingdom are taking action against 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing illegal timber from Cameroon. Cameroon’s forests are one of the most biodiverse in the Congo Basin, but they are being decimated at a rapid pace due to illegal logging. Pursuant to the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), British authorities have started the first steps in targeting 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing the illegal timber, sending 6 letters of remedial action, 7 letters of warning, and 1 letter of advice.

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<p>Authorities in the United Kingdom are taking action against 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing illegal timber from Cameroon. Cameroon’s forests are one of the most biodiverse in the Congo Basin, but they are being decimated at a rapid pace due to illegal logging. Pursuant to the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), British authorities have started the first steps in targeting 14 companies that are suspected of sourcing the illegal timber, sending 6 letters of remedial action, 7 letters of warning, and 1 letter of advice.

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<p>Starting July 1st, the highest polluting cars have been banned from driving on Parisian streets between the hours of 8AM and 8PM on weekdays. Drivers that do not comply with this restriction can be fined 35 euros. The ban applies to all cars that were registered before January 1,&nbsp;1997; it also applies to two-wheeled vehicles, such as scooters, that were registered before June 1, 1999. This ban is an initiative by Mayor Anne Hidalgo to lower the city’s air pollution levels. Approximately 500,000 drivers will be affected.

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<p>Mining companies BHP Billiton and Vale SA, both involved in the 2015 Samarco iron ore mine disaster, intend to appeal a decision from the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice that suspended their financial settlement agreement. Though Samarco, BHP, and Vale had agreed to staggered payments over 15 years to cover cleanup and repair costs, the court ruled that the payment schedule was "insufficient" after federal prosecutors appealed the decision.

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<p>Australian government officials welcomed a decision by the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) not to list the Great Barrier Reef among World Heritage Sites considered "in danger." Effects of climate change and coastal development prompted the organization to review the status of the world's largest reef in May. The recent determination affirms the earlier decision that the reef does not warrant endangered status.

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<p>In a joint announcement with the United States, Brazil announced its plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in preparation for United Nations climate negotiations in Paris later this year. Details of the plan include doubling electrical generation from renewable sources to 20% of the nation's power by 2030 and restoring 30 million acres of Amazonian rainforest. Though the plan has yet to be submitted to the U.N., commentators have praised the announcement for bringing another major economy into the fold.

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<p>The Chinese government issued new guidelines clarifying that senior officials, even those who have retired or changed positions, will be held accountable for illegal pollution that occurred on their watch. The guidelines follow a law enacted in January that strengthens monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws and allows for unlimited fines and prison time for repeat offenders.

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<p>Last week, the Singapore government proposed legislation that would levy substantial fines on companies responsible for air pollution that crosses over the border from Indonesia. Air pollution in Singapore reached record levels in 2013, due in part to forest fires in Indonesia, and experts predict that this year’s haze could be worse than last year’s pollution.

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<p>Chinese officials recently announced that the government is turning to unmanned aerial drones as part of their most recent efforts to combat air pollution. The drones, which are equipped with infrared cameras, can detect illegal pollution from factories at night, and, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, would be able to “recognize a matchbox from 1000 meters above.” Eleven drones have flown missions in the most polluted regions of the country so far and have detected 64 factories committing violations.

<p>New figures released last Wednesday by the British government show that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the Greater London urban area, West Midlands urban area, and West Yorkshire urban area will likely continue to exceed EU limits until at least 2030. The UK has violated the EU pollution limits since 2010, but before Wednesday the government had maintained that all parts of the UK would be in compliance by 2025.

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<p>Australia accused Japan of carrying out commercial whaling under the pretext of scientific research in violation of an international ban during the first day of court hearings between the two countries. Australia, which seeks to put an end to the yearly slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean, has asked the International Court of Justice to withdraw the Japanese fleet's whale hunt permits.

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<p>Australia accused Japan of carrying out commercial whaling under the pretext of scientific research in violation of an international ban during the first day of court hearings between the two countries. Australia, which seeks to put an end to the yearly slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean, has asked the International Court of Justice to withdraw the Japanese fleet's whale hunt permits.

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<p>New EU proposals would require ship owners using European ports to measure and report annual carbon emissions starting January 2018. The plan will not include shipping emissions in the carbon market, but the proposal would create a legal framework for collecting and publishing data for all ships using EU ports, regardless of where the ships are registered.

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<p>China announced last week that it would impose duties of up to 37 percent on <span>toluidine--a chemical used to produce dye, medicine, and pesticides--imported from the European Union. The duty will run for five years and accompanies an announcement that China may look into complaints about luxury cars imported from the EU. </span><span>The move follows a months-long trade battle between China and the EU on solar panels in which each side has accused the other of engaging in unfair practices.

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<p>China announced last week that it would impose duties of up to 37 percent on <span>toluidine--a chemical used to produce dye, medicine, and pesticides--imported from the European Union. The duty will run for five years and accompanies an announcement that China may look into complaints about luxury cars imported from the EU. </span><span>The move follows a months-long trade battle between China and the EU on solar panels in which each side has accused the other of engaging in unfair practices.

<p>The European Commission refused the United Kingdom's plans to delay air quality improvements in 12 major cities last week, and the government may be forced to ban or fine heavily polluting traffic. The cities will likely have to introduce low-emission zones to curb nitrogen dioxide emissions, which, in addition to particulate matter, are recognized by the government as the second biggest public health threat after smoking. Air pollution reduces U.K.

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<p>The European Commission refused the United Kingdom's plans to delay air quality improvements in 12 major cities last week, and the government may be forced to ban or fine heavily polluting traffic. The cities will likely have to introduce low-emission zones to curb nitrogen dioxide emissions, which, in addition to particulate matter, are recognized by the government as the second biggest public health threat after smoking. Air pollution reduces U.K.

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<p>Plaintiffs in the Ecuadorian case against Chevron have filed a lawsuit in Brazil, seeking to enforce an $18 billion court ruling against the oil giant. The initial case concerned pollution from Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the company, working with Ecuador's state-owned oil company, dumped drilling waste into unlined pits that is alleged to have caused illnesses among indigenous people. The plaintiffs sought a judgment that would force Chevron to pay both the cost of cleanup and damages to injured groups.

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<p>Plaintiffs in the Ecuadorian case against Chevron have filed a lawsuit in Brazil, seeking to enforce an $18 billion court ruling against the oil giant. The initial case concerned pollution from Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the company, working with Ecuador's state-owned oil company, dumped drilling waste into unlined pits that is alleged to have caused illnesses among indigenous people. The plaintiffs sought a judgment that would force Chevron to pay both the cost of cleanup and damages to injured groups.

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<p>Plaintiffs in the Ecuadorian case against Chevron have filed a lawsuit in Brazil, seeking to enforce an $18 billion court ruling against the oil giant. The initial case concerned pollution from Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the company, working with Ecuador's state-owned oil company, dumped drilling waste into unlined pits that is alleged to have caused illnesses among indigenous people. The plaintiffs sought a judgment that would force Chevron to pay both the cost of cleanup and damages to injured groups.

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<p>Germany's parliamentary mediation committee approved allowing carbon capture and storage on a test basis last week after a compromise that reduces the scope of the original proposal. Though the technology is costly, the method is seen by some as vital to help power plants meet legally binding climate targets. Many citizen groups have opposed the proposal over fears that carbon dioxide emissions, which can be fatal in high concentrations, may leak and rise to the surface.

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<p>Energy Minister Eric Besson announced last week that a nuclear exit was among the options being considered in a study on the share of France's energy mix by 2050. Public opinion in France, which is heavily dependent on nuclear power, has shifted according to recent polls. Last month, a poll showed that three quarters of French people interviewed supported a withdrawal from nuclear power, while 22 percent wanted a nuclear expansion program. "We will study all possible scenarios for what we call the energy mix . . .

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<p>Australia is slated to tax carbon at a rate of A$23 per metric ton, but it has halved the number of companies liable for the tax to 500 companies. Though the price, reported by newspapers in advance of an official announcement, is roughly in line with expectations and the price of emissions in Europe, Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to confirm reports, saying she would not "play any games" about the price in an interview with Sky TV.

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<p>Chinese wind farms and European rooftop solar panels helped increase global renewable energy investment by 32 percent in 2010 to reach $211 billion, a UN study reported last week. Additionally, developing nations invested more in renewable power than developed nations for the first time, passing the total of developed nations at $70 billion by $2 billion. China topped the list with almost $49 billion in spending, while the Middle East and Africa increased spending by 104 percent to $5 billion.