International Update Volume all, Issue 20
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<p>Last week, India—the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide—announced it is preparing to submit official plans to the United Nations with updated emissions targets in September (<a href="https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/india-preparing-to-submit-… Times</a>). This obligation under the Paris Agreement was supposed to be fulfilled before last November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

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<p>On July 5, Roberto David Castillo, the former head of Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA), was convicted as a co-conspirator in the murder of Honduran environmental defender and Indigenous rights activist, Berta Cáceres. His sentencing hearing will take place on August 3.

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<p>Norway’s oil ministry plans to auction up to 136 new exploration blocks, including 125 in the Arctic Barents Sea, for oil and gas extraction. “We need new discoveries to uphold employment and value creation. I have good faith that the opportunities we now offer in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea will be attractive to companies,” said Tina Bru, Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy.

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<p>On July 9, France's transport minister announced plans to introduce a new "ecotax" on all flights from French airports beginning in 2020. The tax, which will cost between 1.50 euros and 18 euros, is expected to raise over 180 million euros that will be used to invest in eco-friendly transport infrastructure, such as rail. The tax will not apply to flights arriving in France. For the full story, see https://www.apnews.com/be0605b81b214502b2fce419869ea09e.</p&gt;

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<p>India's western state of Gujarat has launched the world's first "cap and trading" program in an effort to combat particulate air pollution. The program is being launched in the city of Surat, where textile and dye factories are a major source of pollution. Under the program, the government will set a cap on emissions and allow the factories to trade permits among themselves to stay below the cap.

<p>On July 11, Britain's maritime minister announced that all new ships ordered from 2025 onwards and destined for its waters must be equipped with zero emission technology in an effort to curb maritime pollution. The new requirements are part of the Clean Maritime Plan that includes a competition to find innovative ways to reduce maritime emissions and a call for evidence to reduce emissions in the United Kingdom's (UK's) waterways and on its domestic vessels.

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<p>China's cabinet has launched a new cross-ministerial leadership group to tackle pollution around Beijing. The group will assist in creating a "coordination mechanism" to tackle pollution in and around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The group will be headed by the vice-premier Han Zheng, and environment minister Li Ganjie, the mayors of Beijing and Tianjin and the governor of Hebei province will serve as deputies.

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<p>Nestlé has been suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world's largest association for ethical palm oil production. The RSPO was established by environmental groups and industry representatives in 2004 to push back against destructive practices by oil palm growers, like deforestation and land grabbing. According to RSPO, Nestlé's suspension was due to its failure to submit a 2016 progress report, for submitting an incomplete report in 2017, and for failing to pay its membership fees.

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<p>On July 12, Ireland's lower house of parliament passed a Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill that, if passed by the upper house, would make the Republic of Ireland the first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies. The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction, or refinement of fossil fuels, and it allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if the investment funds move away from fossil fuels.

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<p>On July 13, the Colombian government announced the expansion of two indigenous reserves in the buffer zone of Serrania de Chiribiquete, the country’s largest national park. The Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located near the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of deforestation in Colombia. The move is part of the government's larger climate change adaptation initiative. The expansion creates a conservation corridor larger than Honduras.

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<p>Drought in southern Europe threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, as well as other regional crops including olives and almonds. Spanish soft wheat imports are expected to rise more than 40% according to Agroinfomarket. Olive production is expected to fall in both Italy and Spain, the world's top producers of olive oil. Olive production in Italy was already plagued by insect and bacterial disease in recent years.

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<p>Floods in India's northeast region have killed at least 83 people. Torrential rains across the hilly states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur over the past two weeks have also triggered landslides. In all, more than 2 million people have been displaced. The overflowing Brahmaputra River has also completely marooned the Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary in Assam, forcing animals to flee to safer areas. The Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to an estimated 2,500 rhinos out of a world population of some 3,000.

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<p>The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague declared China in violation of Philippine sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The dispute was taken to the PCA in January of 2013 by the Philippines after the Chinese Navy seized Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs and rocks off of a Philippine island. Under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, only natural islands that can sustain human habitation would qualify for legitimate Chinese territorial jurisdiction of surrounding waters (up to 200 nautical miles in an exclusive economic zone).

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<p>The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague declared China in violation of Philippine sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The dispute was taken to the PCA in January of 2013 by the Philippines after the Chinese Navy seized Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs and rocks off of a Philippine island. Under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, only natural islands that can sustain human habitation would qualify for legitimate Chinese territorial jurisdiction of surrounding waters (up to 200 nautical miles in an exclusive economic zone).

<p>Fourteen Pacific Island countries are considering an expansive new climate treaty at the annual leaders’ summit of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). Pacific Island nations are considered some of the most vulnerable to climate change effects and have pushed strongly for significant climate action. The proposed legal model, written by the Pacific Island Climate Action Network, would be the first international treaty to ban or phase out fossil fuels.

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<p>Fourteen Pacific Island countries are considering an expansive new climate treaty at the annual leaders’ summit of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). Pacific Island nations are considered some of the most vulnerable to climate change effects and have pushed strongly for significant climate action. The proposed legal model, written by the Pacific Island Climate Action Network, would be the first international treaty to ban or phase out fossil fuels.

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<p>A Spanish court ruling declared Volkswagen’s parent company, Volkswagen Group, liable for any charges over emissions fraud. This decision makes the Germany-based corporation responsible in court rather than its smaller affiliates. Spanish affiliate companies include Seat, Volkswagen-Audi España, and Volkswagen Navarra. Initial proceedings against Volkswagen began in October, after Volkswagen admitted to cheating diesel emissions tests in the United States with illegal software.

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<p>A co-developer of the massive HidroAysen hydropower project in Chile said last week that the project will not move forward in its current state. The controversial project—a joint effort between companies Endesa Chile and Colburn involving the construction of dams on two of Patagonia’s rivers—had come to a halt in June, when a Chilean ministerial committee cancelled the permit that would have allowed construction to move forward.

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<p>Last Thursday, Australia's senate voted 39 to 32 to repeal the carbon tax, a measure established under the previous Labor government that imposed a levy on the country’s biggest polluters. Prime Minister Tony Abbott had long opposed the tax, arguing that it cost jobs and caused energy prices to rise, and had made its repeal part of his election campaign.

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<p>A proposed coal mine near the border of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the oldest protected wilderness in Africa, may endanger the already at-risk rhino population. Rhino poaching in South Africa is on the rise, with 13 killed in 2007 and 1,004 killed last year, and critics fear that the 14,615 hectare coal mine will worsen the problem, in addition to displacing local communities and polluting the air and rivers. According to one community member, the mine would make it easier for poachers to enter the park and access the threatened species.

<p>Britain's high court ruled last week that the government can favor small vessels when redistributing fishing quotas. Small fisherman fought for the government to reallocate unused or underused permits given to large trawlers, saying that smaller ships provide more jobs and are more environmentally friendly than large vessels. It is unclear how broadly the ruling applies, however, because the court only considered unused quotas, which only represent a small fraction of UK's total.

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<p>Eight cities in China are likely to follow Beijing's example and restrict the sale of new vehicles, according to an official at <span>the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The group warned that restrictions could cut sales by 400,000 vehicles, roughly two percent of sales in 2012. The measures would be part of China's overall efforts to control air pollution. </span><span>Kiyotaka Ise, president of Toyota's Lexus brand, said that he would welcome measures that included incentives for hybrid cars.

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<p>The European parliament's environment committee voted last week to limit the use of crop-based biofuels. The proposed limit of 5.5 percent of total transport fuel use would seek to ease the environmental damage thought to be caused by some biofuels, especially biodiesel, which accounts for more than two thirds of the EU's market. Recent studies have shown that biodiesel made from vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, palm oil, and soy oil may do more damage to the environment than conventional diesel.

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<p>The European Union said that it is "totally committed" to reaching a deal on carbon emissions from airlines, but the fight is escalating as opposing nations prepare for a July 31 meeting to discuss how to fight against the new rule.

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<p>Australia announced that it will build the world's largest marine park, banning offshore oil and gas exploration in an area the size of India. The plan will increase the nation's total park cover to 6 million square kilometers and increase the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60, preventing all new oil and gas projects in the area and limiting commercial fishing in the most sensitive spots.

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<p>Environment Minister Peter Kent plans to crack down on the 150 billion liters of raw sewage pumped into Canada's waterways every year, a spokesman announced last week. The government has repeatedly pushed back on planned regulations to improve municipalities' treatment systems, which have been drafted since 2010. However, Kent stressed the importance of creating new standards that will allow Canada's water quality levels to be on par with those of the European Union and the United States, which has required secondary wastewater treatment since the 1970s.

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<p>T. Boone Pickens' Texas-based renewable energy firm Mesa Power Group said on Thursday that it had initiated a complaint with Canada after "last-minute changes" to Ontario's energy plan that, it claimed, violated NAFTA. Mesa Power was unable to win contracts for wind energy projects in western Ontario in the latest round of feed-in tariff awards, which pay above-market rates for renewable energy.

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<p>The movement of direct action campaigns for the environment in China, whose mantra of "public participation" was popular just a few years ago when Premier Wen Jiabao personally blocked plans to dam China's last free flowing river, may be on the decline as activists face an increasingly hostile political climate, according to an article in Yale's online environment journal.

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<p>Indonesia responded to criticism of its new forest protection plan by releasing a new moratorium map, one forestry analysts say is an improvement over its predecessor. The plan, which received $1 billion in aid from Norway, includes a two-year ban on deforestation in new and existing protected areas throughout the country. However, the original map, at 1:19,000,000 scale, was immediately criticized as useless for determining which areas were and were not exempted from the moratorium. The new map is 1:250,000 scale.