International Update Volume all, Issue 22
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<p>Last Wednesday, New Zealand released its first national climate adaptation plan to prepare for the impacts of climate change (<a href="https://apnews.com/article/new-zealand-climate-and-environment-c1aacc52…;). In announcing the plan, Climate Minister James Shaw stated, “We have already seen what can unfold.

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<p style="text-align: left;" align="center">On August 4, Chilean lawmakers voted unanimously to overhaul the country’s water code, a leftover from Augusto Pinochet’s 1980s regime.

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<p>On July 14, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan failed to reach agreement on the regulation of water flow from Ethiopia’s $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile (<a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-egypt-dam/egypt-sudan-ethiop…;). The dam would double Ethiopia’s current power capacity, positioning the country as a leading power exporter in Africa.

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<p>On July 31, German prosecutors announced they had filed charges against former Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler, who is being investigated over his role in Volkswagen's emissions test cheating scandal. According to the public prosecutor's office in Munich, Stadler and three other defendants are being charged with fraud, false certification, and criminal advertising practices.

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<p>On August 1, the Australian government announced that it was dropping actions against hundreds of farmers for breaching the 2003 Native Vegetation Act that has since been repealed. According to energy and environment minister Matt Kean and agriculture minister Adam Marshall, the actions were dropped to "deliver fairness" to farmers by ensuring that those engaged in activity that is now legal are not punished under historic laws.

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<p>Indonesia's environment ministry has deployed a team to investigate the cause of a leaking oil well in the Java Sea. The well has pumped an estimated 3,000 barrels of oil per day into the sea and the northern Java coast since the spill began. According to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the country's biggest green nongovernmental organization, up to 80% of neighboring fishing communities have incurred some degree of economic loss as a result of the spill.

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<p>On August 9, Brazil's Environment Ministry announced that the country has cut its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in 2017 to levels below its 2020 emission goals under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. More specifically, the country reduced deforestation emissions by 610 million tons of carbon dioxide in the Amazon rainforest and 170 million tons of carbon dioxide in the Cerrado savanna compared to its targets of 564 million tons and 104 million tons, respectively.

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<p>Shanxi province, a major coal mining hub in China, plans to curb industrial manufacturing output voluntarily over the next three winters. The province seeks to lower its sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 20 percent by 2020 from 2015 levels, which goes beyond the national requirement of cutting emissions by 15 percent, and match national targets on reducing hazardous particles in its 11 cities.

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<p>Madagascar's government is proposing to pay illegal loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles of rosewood in an effort to clear the way for the wood to be exported legally and eliminate all stockpiles of the wood to make it easier to keep tabs on any new logging. The illicit stockpiles are the product of a wave of illegal logging in the country's national parks during a political crisis surrounding a 2009 coup d'état.

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<p>German politicians and car manufacturers agreed to overhaul the engine software on 5.3 million diesel cars to cut pollution. This decision comes on the heels of two decisions by Britain and France to eventually ban diesel and gasoline vehicles in the near future. German manufacturers have taken heat after the admission by Volkswagen that it cheated U.S. diesel emissions tests two years ago. The auto industry is Germany's biggest exporter and provides 800,000 jobs.

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<p>A heat wave nicknamed "Lucifer" has engulfed southern and eastern Europe with temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The worst affected areas were Italy and the Balkans. European weather hub Meteoalarm issued its highest grade "red" warnings for 10 countries. Wine growers in Italy have started gathering the grape harvest weeks earlier than usual due to the extreme heat. Italian authorities have issued weather risk warnings for 26 cities, including tourist hubs Venice and Rome, where many of the fountains have been turned off due to a lengthy drought.

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<p>Three new frog species have been discovered in the montane forests and Andean grasslands of Peru’s Pui Pui Protected Forest. Rudolf von May, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of a paper describing the three new species, announced that there are many more species discoveries to be made in the region. Few biological surveys have been conducted in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in the decades since it was established in 1985.

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<p>On August 3, seaweed farmers from Indonesia sued the Thailand company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) for more than $152 million. The lawsuit was launched in Sydney's Federal Court and would cover damages from the worst Australian oil spill, which occured in 2009 when an explosion at PTTEP's Montara drilling rig spilled approximately 30,000 barrels of oil into the Timor Sea over the course of 74 days. Lawyers arguing the case say that the spill reached as far as Nusa Tenggara Timur in Indonesia, a distance of 124 miles.

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<p>On August 3, seaweed farmers from Indonesia sued the Thailand company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) for more than $152 million. The lawsuit was launched in Sydney's Federal Court and would cover damages from the worst Australian oil spill, which occured in 2009 when an explosion at PTTEP's Montara drilling rig spilled approximately 30,000 barrels of oil into the Timor Sea over the course of 74 days. Lawyers arguing the case say that the spill reached as far as Nusa Tenggara Timur in Indonesia, a distance of 124 miles.

<p>On August 3, seaweed farmers from Indonesia sued the Thailand company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) for more than $152 million. The lawsuit was launched in Sydney's Federal Court and would cover damages from the worst Australian oil spill, which occured in 2009 when an explosion at PTTEP's Montara drilling rig spilled approximately 30,000 barrels of oil into the Timor Sea over the course of 74 days. Lawyers arguing the case say that the spill reached as far as Nusa Tenggara Timur in Indonesia, a distance of 124 miles.

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<p>On August 3, seaweed farmers from Indonesia sued the Thailand company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) for more than $152 million. The lawsuit was launched in Sydney's Federal Court and would cover damages from the worst Australian oil spill, which occured in 2009 when an explosion at PTTEP's Montara drilling rig spilled approximately 30,000 barrels of oil into the Timor Sea over the course of 74 days. Lawyers arguing the case say that the spill reached as far as Nusa Tenggara Timur in Indonesia, a distance of 124 miles.

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<p>On July 28, India's upper house of parliment passed a bill that, if enacted, would give state governments $895 million per year towards conservation and protecting wildlife and forests. While the Minister of State of Environment Anil Madhav Dave stated that it is a good bill that would help concentrate reforestation efforts, analysts and activists are saying that this law ignores the importance of indigenous people in conserving land and disregards their rights.

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<p>A human rights body from the Philippines set a deadline of 45 days for 47 oil, mining, and cement companies to respond to its complaint that the companies' carbon emissions caused human rights violations. This action stems from a petition that was filed by environmental and human rights groups led by Greenpeace. The petition asked for companies to be held accountable for violating the rights to life, water, food, adequate housing, and sanitation for Filipinos, and cited specific companies including Chevron and BHP Billiton.

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<p>The Federal Court of Australia overturned mining conglomerate Adani's federal environmental permit for the controversial Carmichael coal mine planned for central Queensland. The ruling is the latest development in a series of legal and political challenges to what would be Australia's largest coal mine. The court found that Environment Minister Greg Hunt failed to properly consider agency advice regarding two endangered species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake, when issuing Adani's permit.

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<p>Four years after a critical United Nations report, the Nigerian government has established a fund to oversee $1 billion worth of cleanup and restoration in the Ogoniland oilfields of the Niger Delta. According to President Muhammadu Buhari, the new fund will be overseen by representatives of the Ogoni people, the United Nations, the Nigerian government, and oil companies responsible for the contamination.

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<p>Namibia and several other African countries have denounced bans on the transportation of wildlife trophies that various airlines instituted following international outrage sparked by a recent, high-profile lion kill. Namibian Minister of the Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said that the bans will actually hurt conservation efforts in her country. There are over 80 conservation organizations in Namibia that depend on funding from trophy hunts. Shifeta cautioned that diverting resources from these groups could cause more harm to local wildlife than the hunts themselves.

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<p>According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), energy taxes in most of the world are much lower than they should be to reflect the detrimental environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel use. In a new book released last week, the IMF laid out what it sees as appropriate taxes on coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel for 156 countries. The publication takes into account the fuels’ overall costs, including carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, congestion, and traffic accidents.

<p>A recent Freedom of Information request by Responding to Climate Change revealed that the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has significantly cut its climate and diplomacy budget over the past three years. Figures show that between 2011-12 and 2013-14, spending on activity related to climate change, the low carbon economy, and energy security fell by 28%, while the budget for FCO’s climate change and energy department, special representative for climate change, and overseas missions was cut by 39%.

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<p>The Australian government has approved plans for a giant coal mine in Queensland. According to the government, the mine could generate as much as $300 billion, with a resource value of $60 billion per year over 60 years. In response to environmental concerns, Environment Minister Greg Hunt emphasized that the mine was approved under very strict terms, including 36 federal and 190 state conditions and offsets of about 30,000 hectares for destroyed habitats.

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<p>Asia's confidence in nuclear power continued to falter as Taiwan said that a plant may have been leaking radioactive water for three years, and as the Fukushima site faces additional complications. In Taiwan, the government's watchdog released a report warning that the First Nuclear Power Plant, located near densely populated Taipei, has been leaking toxic water from the storage pools of two reactors.

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<p>Protestors in the Philippines destroyed a trial plot of "Golden Rice," a strain developed to combat vitamin A deficiency. The crop was a few weeks away from being submitted to authorities for safety evaluation, but a group of roughly 400 local farmers and protestors attacked the field and uprooted all the plants. The rice, which has been given extra genes that turn on the plant's ability to produce beta carotene, first entered development 20 years ago with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.

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<p>As the United Nations body responsible for world heritage sites expressed concern that Australia did not inform it of plans to create one of the world's largest coalports adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, environment minister Mark Butler deferred the decision, citing new reports that may influence whether the project is approved. Butler was due to decide by last Friday whether to allow the dredging of 3 million cubic meters of seabed to double Abbot Point port's coal capacity, but the minister pushed the deadline back to November 8, after the election.

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<p>Some nations are depleting their groundwater reserves faster than they can be renewed, according to Canadian researchers writing in the journal <em>Nature</em>. Globally, the groundwater "footprint"--the above ground area that relies on underground water--is about 3.5 times larger than the aquifers themselves. The research shows that as many as 1.7 billion people, mostly in Asia, live in areas with groundwater reserves that are under threat after overuse.

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<p>China's system of bureaucracy may be fueling its problems with access to clean, safe water, according to researchers writing in the journal <em>Science</em>. What the researchers call "stovepipe bureaucracy," in which agencies communicate with their own teams but not each other, limits China's ability to ensure sustainable access to water. The report described a web of agencies with contradictory missions and actions that promote one policy while going against another. Many problems arise when agencies fail to coordinate, according to a researcher.

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<p>United Nations incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are causing an increase in production of a harmful gas, according to the <em>New York Times</em>. An incentive scheme that gives one carbon credit per ton of carbon eliminated but gives 11,000 credits for destroying one ton of byproduct from a coolant used in manufacturing has caused plants in the developing world to increase production of coolant. The waste byproduct of the coolant gas has a huge impact on climate change, and the credits for eliminating byproduct sell for tens of millions of dollars a year.

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<p>China is likely to cap energy consumption as part of a low-carbon plan to be issued later this year, and experts believe that officials have agreed on its level. However, the cap, which would make it easier for trading schemes to succeed and help the country reduce emissions, may be less tough than expected. According to Reuters, officials seem to have settled on a 4.1 billion ton coal equivalent total energy cap, which is 25 percent higher than scholars involved in the discussion proposed last year.

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<p>A long-awaited UN report said that restoration of the Ogoniland region could be the "most wide-ranging and long-term oil cleanup" ever taken, possibly taking as long as 30 years. The report, which follows a two-year investigation, has drawn fire as it is partially funded by Shell, the oil giant that has accepted liability for the 2008 and 2009 spills that impacted the region. The report found that 10 communities were seriously threatened by pollution, and one community has said that it will seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

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<p>The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) World Heritage Committee expressed "extreme concern" at the Queensland government's backing of Curtis Island multi-billion dollar liquid natural gas processing facilities, which require dredging around the island and dramatically increasing shipping traffic in the local port.