International Update Volume all, Issue 21
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<p>Last Wednesday, the European Union’s (EU’s) executive branch announced an emergency plan to reduce natural gas consumption in preparation for energy shortages this winter and shifting the bloc away from dependence on Russian energy (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/eu-plans-emergency-target-count…;).

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<p style="text-align: left;" align="center">United Nations negotiators have released 21 proposals, setting ambitious new goals for environmental conservation this decade (<a href="https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/abb5/591f/2e46096d3f0330b08ce87a45/wg2020-03-… Environment Programme</a>). The draft agreement is broad in its targets.

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<p>On June 30, the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed to shift the baseline year for CORSIA, a landmark carbon emissions offsetting scheme for airlines, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the industry. CORSIA, set to begin in 2021, requires airlines to buy credits to offset carbon emissions from international flights that exceed the baseline of average emissions in 2019-2020. The airline industry argued that using 2020 in the benchmark calculation would artificially lower the offset ceiling due to huge declines in flights this year.

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<p>On July 18, Colombia's constitutional court upheld restrictions on the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate to eliminate coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. All eight of the court's judges held that the national narcotics council would decide whether spraying could restart, noting that it was not necessary to prove with absolute certainty that the herbicide was not harmful, but that the council should consider all available scientific evidence about minimizing risks to health and the environment.

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<p>On July 17, Indonesian authorities seized 72 helmeted hornbill casques that were hidden in a woman's carry-on bag at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The woman carrying the casques was charged under the 1990 Conservation Law, for which she could face up to five years in prison and up to 100 million rupiah in fines if convicted. The helmeted hornbill is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, a decline which has been driven by demand for their casques.

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<p>On July 16, a Spanish judge blocked an attempt by Madrid's council to lift restrictions on vehicles entering the city center. Under the current restrictions, only certain vehicles—primarily electric and hybrid cars—are permitted to enter a central area of around five square kilometers without being subject to fines. The court held the restrictions should remain in place pending further review by magistrates because lifting them would have an irreversible immediate impact on the environment.

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<p>On June 25, Europe's highest court declared that crops obtained by mutagenesis, or gene editing, should fall under laws restricting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Court of Justice of the European Union took the view that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive because mutagenesis involves techniques that alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally.

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<p>Vietnam will stop issuing new licenses for the import of waste. The country has seen a surge in waste imports since the Chinese government banned the entry of several types of solid wastes at the beginning of 2018, with roughly 6,000 containers of paper, plastic, and metal scrap currently sitting at its ports. The waste is a supplemental source of raw materials for Vietnam's paper, plastic, and steel industries, but the government has stated that this demand benefits only the processors, not the environment.

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<p>China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment has approved a new plan to tackle growing pollution threats in the country's rural areas. The new plan will aim to clean up contaminated rural land and drinking water, and improve waste management throughout China's countryside. The plan also mandates cuts in fertilizer and pesticide use, and improved recycling rates.

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<p>On July 28, 2017, EU's top court ordered Poland to halt large-scale logging of Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The forest is one of Europe's last primeval forests and home to its largest herd of European bison as well as unique birds and insects. The European Court of Justice ruled that logging should stop immediately as it could cause "serious and irreversible damage" to the forest. Poland's environment ministry says the logging is needed to protect the forest from an invasion of beetles.

<p>The British government committed to ban the sale of diesel and gas vehicles from 2040 to curb rising levels of nitrogen oxide. The government said the move, which will include hybrid vehicles, was needed because of the impact that poor air quality has on human health. The government was urged to introduce taxes for vehicles to enter clean air zones but the government sees the option as a last resort.

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<p>The island of Java has seen massive flooding as a result of deforestation. A mangrove forest that once surrounded the village Mangunharjo was clear-cut to facilitate shrimp and fish farms. The mangroves’ decline exposed Mangunharjo to massive erosion. In less than a decade, it wiped away the fishponds and almost sank the village. Locals have taken to replanting mangroves to curb the effects of erosion, and have seen improvement. The efforts have reclaimed 200 meters of land. Mangroves are crucial in the fight against climate change.

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<p>Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Oe upheld the European Union’s right to apply carbon taxes to flights to and from Switzerland. Under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), all airlines within the European Economic Area (EEA) are subject to certain carbon allowances and purchasing schemes. Lufthansa-owned Swiss Air brought a case to the European Court of Justice claiming unfair and unequal treatment through the application of carbon taxes and permits to its flights. Swiss Air is seeking recovery of over 600,000 carbon permits, worth millions of euros.

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<p>The World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) unanimously rejected New York-based Renco Group Inc.’s lawsuit against Peru for neglecting environmental cleanup around a smelter in La Oroya. The group filed the lawsuit in 2011 for $800 million, claiming that Peru did not clean the soil around La Oroya as was promised in their original purchasing agreement. The company additionally accused Peru of not taking responsibility for prior pollution claims tied to the smelter site.

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<p>Morocco has suspended the import of waste products to be burned for energy, mainly arriving from Europe. Mustapha Khalfi, Morocco’s Minister of Communication, stated "We have decided to suspend all imports of trash and to not use the shipment already imported pending the results of an investigation." The protests by environmentalists against the practice arose after it was revealed that the cement firm Lafarge Maroc imported 2,500 tons of Italian garbage to fuel production.

<p>Draft regulations released by the United Kingdom's Department of Energy and Climate Change surprised observers by allowing hydraulic fracturing activities in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and under protected groundwater sources. The regulations, presented to Parliament on July 16, contradict statements made in January, when Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told legislators that a fracking ban in SSSIs and national parks had been agreed to.

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<p>The five nation-members of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States) agreed to prohibit their commercial fishing fleets from accessing the central Arctic Ocean. The accord, signed in Oslo on July 16, is a preemptive move designed to prevent degradation to fish stocks expected to migrate into the area as rising temperatures keep more of the region ice-free. The Arctic Council has also asked other nations with large fishing fleets, such as China, Vietnam, and much of the European Union, to agree to keep the area off-limits.

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<p>In a continuation of the international conflict regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines brought an action against China for damaging the region's ecology, in part by dredging the seafloor and constructing artificial islands. Arguing in front of a tribunal of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Philippines alleged that China has encroached on its exclusive economic zone, allowed endangered species to be harvested, and destroyed reefs.

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<p>Last week, the State Council, China's cabinet, announced a set of support guidelines aimed at augmenting the country's new-energy vehicle market, which has performed far below the government's expectations. Battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell cars will all be eligible under the plan, set to be phased in over the next two years.

<p>The United Kingdom's government announced last week that it would cap subsidies for renewable energy projects at £200 million ($340 million) a year, a move that frustrated green energy advocates and small businesses in the industry. The decision will affect the funding of large-scale, low-carbon installations from wind and solar farms to biomass-burning power plants.

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<p>The <em>Guardian</em> reported that plans by the World Bank to relax the conditions on which it lends up to $50 billion per year to developing countries have been condemned as potentially "disastrous" for the environment and likely to weaken protection of indigenous peoples and the poor.

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<p>Developing countries' energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will be 127 percent higher than those of OECD nations by 2040 under policies currently in place, according the Energy Information Administrations' biennial International Energy Outlook. Energy-related carbon emissions from nations like India and China are projected to grow 46 percent over a 2010 baseline, as these countries continue to experience a stronger rate of economic growth and rely heavily on fossil fuels to power development.

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<p>A British court has thrown out a case brought against Anglo American South Africa, a subdivision of the UK mining multinational, saying it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Over 2,000 miners filed suit against the company after contracting the lung disease silicosis, a disease with no known cure that causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and a high susceptibility to tuberculosis. Anglo American switched its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999, but maintains around $15 billion worth of assets in its South African unit.

<p>A British court has thrown out a case brought against Anglo American South Africa, a subdivision of the UK mining multinational, saying it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Over 2,000 miners filed suit against the company after contracting the lung disease silicosis, a disease with no known cure that causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and a high susceptibility to tuberculosis. Anglo American switched its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999, but maintains around $15 billion worth of assets in its South African unit.

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<p>The European Investment Bank said that it will stop financing most coal-fired power plants to help the European Union meet climate targets and reduce pollution.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

<p>United Nations conservation delegates agreed last Thursday to penalize seven nations for lax wildlife measures, suspending the nations' ability to legally trade tens of thousands of species. The sanctions, which will go into effect October 1, will take place under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and will prevent the trade of 35,000 species.

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<p>Some 97 percent of Greenland's ice sheet is melting, according to NASA satellite data, an amount that is "unprecedented." Normally, about half of Greenland's ice shows signs of melting during the summer, but between July 8 and 12 of this year the melt extended across the entire land mass. "For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations," said NASA researchers.

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<p>A British judge ordered fines and penalties totaling a record-breaking $2.5 million against a Spanish fishing company, its British subsidiary, and two skippers for fishing illegally in UK waters. The company was accused of "flagrant, repeated and long-term abuse of the regulations" in endangering two vulnerable species, ling and hake, and damaging the livelihoods of local fishermen by putting cheaper fish on the market.

<p>A British judge ordered fines and penalties totaling a record-breaking $2.5 million against a Spanish fishing company, its British subsidiary, and two skippers for fishing illegally in UK waters. The company was accused of "flagrant, repeated and long-term abuse of the regulations" in endangering two vulnerable species, ling and hake, and damaging the livelihoods of local fishermen by putting cheaper fish on the market.

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<p>The Caribbean Community (Caricom) called for an end to the "dangerous environmental gamble" of radioactive waste shipments, warning of an impending transfer from Britain to Japan through the Caribbean. Spokesman Leonard Robertson said that British authorities informed regional officials that a ship would soon pass on the way to the Panama Canal.

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<p>Steel industry body Eurofer said last week that steelmakers had begun legal action to overturn the EU's treatment of the industry in the carbon market. Eurofer said that the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which allows <span>the most efficient 10% of factories to get free pollution permits after 2013</span>, sets a benchmark at which no steelwork in the world could operate. The emissions benchmark is part of an effort to reduce the windfall profits received by some companies after some industries received free permits to help compete with non-EU rivals.

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<p>Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the release of a new oil sands monitoring plan last week, saying he hoped to speed up approval of a pipeline designed to transport crude to the Gulf Coast. Kent said that the oil sands industry is willing to pay the costs of the program, a $50 million tab annually that, he said, was a small price to pay for an industry estimated to generate $80 billion next year. However, the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said that it was "premature" to say that the industry would pick up the costs.