International Update Volume all, Issue 24
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<p>Last Tuesday, Canada and Germany signed an agreement under which Canada will start exporting wind-generated hydrogen to Germany by 2025. The agreement, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau coined the "Canada-Germany hydrogen alliance," will help Germany decrease its reliance on fossil fuels—a step that has become only more urgent as Russia weaponizes energy exports in its war in Ukraine.

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<p>Last Tuesday, Canada and Germany signed an agreement under which Canada will start exporting wind-generated hydrogen to Germany by 2025. The agreement, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau coined the "Canada-Germany hydrogen alliance," will help Germany decrease its reliance on fossil fuels—a step that has become only more urgent as Russia weaponizes energy exports in its war in Ukraine.

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<p>Throughout the last three decades under the Convention on Biological Diversity, various plans have been agreed upon to protect nature and species globally. However, historically targets have not been met (<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58306288">BBC</a&gt;). Now governments are looking forward to the next decade.</p>

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<p>On August 5, the European Commission declared its intention to introduce new legislation to quell the use of fossil fuels in the aviation sector, initiating a public consultation on the matter. The creation of these measures comes as part of the European Green Deal, which has committed the European Union (EU) to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

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<p>On August 22, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro conceded that the record number of fires raging in the Amazon may be due to farmers illegally setting fires, but told foreign powers not to interfere with Brazil’s sovereignty. Government figures indicate that fires in the Amazon have risen 83% compared to the same period last year. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concern over the fires on Twitter, calling them an “international crisis” that should be discussed at the upcoming G7 summit.

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<p>South Africa has received permission from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to nearly double the number of black rhinos that can be killed as trophies. The money raised from selling hunting rights will support conservation funds for the critically endangered species. Since 2003, South Africa has sold hunting rights for five black rhinos a year. The latest decision increases the quota to 0.5% of the population, which translates to nine black rhinos at today’s levels. The move has received support from some African states and opposition from others.

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<p>On August 22, a Cambodian court found Spanish environmental activist Alejandro-Gonzalez Davidson not guilty of incitement, the default charge for activists in Cambodia. Gonzalez-Davidson was charged with acting as an accomplice to three Cambodians who were arrested for protesting sand dredging in the coastal province of Koh Kong. The practice of extracting sand for export to countries like Singapore for reclamation and construction can have a major impact on marine environments, from destroying mangrove forests to decimating fish populations.

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<p>Bosnian authorities have ordered the Balkans' leading metallurgical coke producer to halt operations to prevent major environmental damage. The company has been accused of discharging toxic liquid waste into a nearby river, and has not renewed an environmental permit that expired in January 2017 despite sanctions being imposed. The regional prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into whether the company is guilty of negligence.

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<p>Starting September 1, halogen light bulbs will be banned across Europe in an effort to reduce emissions and energy bills by switching to light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs consume one-fifth of the energy of halogen bulbs, which means the phase-out of halogen bulbs will prevent more than 15 million tons of carbon emissions a year. The phase-out will occur gradually, allowing remaining stocks of halogen bulbs to be sold and exempting capsules, linear, and low-voltage incandescents used in oven lights.

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<p>Australia's outgoing Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, removed requirements from the National Energy Guarantee plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to insufficient parliamentary support. The requirements would have mandated that greenhouse gas emissions from the country's power industry be reduced by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Opponents of the requirements argued that reducing emissions would put the country at an economic disadvantage after the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.

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<p>Chile, the world's top copper-producing nation, is embarking on a fact-finding mission with the intention of restarting cobalt production after more than 50 years. Metals like lithium and copper are becoming a thing of the past as cobalt is a key component in the new breed of rechargeable batteries. The demand for cobalt is set to increase 34% until 2026 as electric cars gain a bigger share of the global car market. The cobalt market is currently dominated by the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has more than half of global production.

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<p>Chinese People's Liberation Army troops were deployed to Macau to assist with the clean up efforts after Typhoon Hato. Nearby Hong Kong shut down and closed financial markets ahead of Hato, yet Macau’s authorities failed to raise a sufficiently high typhoon warning. Hong Kong’s weather observatory said there were indications another storm could hit southern China in the next few days. For the full story see http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-asia-storm-macau-idUKKCN1B5066</p&gt;

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<p>No stranger to flooding, South Asia is struggling with one of the worst monsoons in recent history. Across India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, the death toll has risen above 1200. International aid agencies say things are worse this year, with thousands of villages cut off and people deprived of food and clean water for days. Farming has also collapsed due to flooding and a rise in unemployment is expected, according to a disaster management official in India. In Nepal, crops on 10,583 hectares have been washed away while another 600,587 hectares of farmland have been partially damaged.

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<p>Following interception of multiple shipments of illegal timber on their way to the United States, a report produced by Peruvian agencies and verified by the U.S. government found that 90% of the sampled timber was illegally harvested. U.S. officials and conservationists are hoping Peru’s new government will address the inadequate implementation and enforcement of conservation laws, issues found to be major contributors to the statistic. According to a U.S.

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<p>Sarawak, a state on the Malaysian side of Borneo, has assigned 2.2 million acres of rainforest the status of national park, natural reserve, and wildlife sanctuary. Chief Minister Adenan Satem pledged to protect tropical forests last year and has since ensured that all of the state’s orangutan habitats are contained by the new protected areas. Thirty-one additional totally protected areas (TPAs) are being created and will be managed by a new Department of National Parks and Wildlife that will open by January 2017.

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<p>Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to decide on the $5.4 billion Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, balancing the demands of Native American groups and the need for growth. Whispering Pines Indian Band is in favor of the expansion, as they will receive economic support from the company following years of negotiations. But located closer to the pipeline’s end is, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation is against the expansion, contending that it will lead to oil spills on their land and into Canada’s waters.

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<p>The conservative Law and Justice party in Poland, which is poised to win the national parliamentary election in October, hopes to keep the United Nations climate deal in Paris non-binding. Officials in Poland hope that this will allow the state to renegotiate current European Union (EU) emissions laws. Much of the electricity generated in Poland comes from coal. While EU leaders negotiated last October to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels, this pledge has yet to be translated into binding law.

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<p><span>A new report from U.S.-based environmental group Forest Trends has found that land concessions for large-scale agricultural plantations, mainly producing rubber, sugar, pulp, and paper, are removing key forest coverage in Cambodia. The authors found that by the end of 2013, 2.6 million hectares (14%) of Cambodia's land had been allocated for commercial agriculture. Weak regulatory enforcement has provided logging companies with opportunities to conduct operations outside the borders of officially granted economic land concession areas.

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<p>Lawmakers and administration officials in Indonesia aim to revise the 1990 Conservation Law by 2016 so that wildlife crimes will receive stronger sentences. In an effort to combat the illegal wildlife trade, the law would address new kinds of crimes, such as transactions made over the Internet, and would allow for the arrest of perpetrators whether or not wildlife could be seized as evidence. In addition, Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry plans to build judicial capacity by hosting a series of trainings on environmental issues.

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<p>The Spanish government has given oil group Repsol the go-ahead to begin drilling in the Canary Islands. Repsol, which has long sought approval to tap what may be Spain’s most significant oil source, has been held up by environmental concerns and government delays for over a decade. Now, the industry ministry has granted the company a three-year license to drill in several sites off the coast of the archipelago. While the Spanish government states that its decision was backed by rigorous scientific research, the drilling project has been met with strong opposition.

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<p>The United States, Taiwan, and Clean Air Asia—an alliance representing organizations in China, India, and Indonesia—have signed a deal to curb city air pollution. The new deal, called the Cities Clean Air Partnership (CCAP), is the first major clean air partnership program designed to clean up cities in the Asia-Pacific region. The program will include sharing technologies, instituting a certification and scoring system to encourage clean air actions, and offering financial incentives to high-performing cities.

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<p>Last week, Chilean lawmakers approved an initiative to ban trawling, a method of fishing that involves pulling a net through the water behind boats. The draft agreement, which would prohibit trawling within Chile’s exclusive economic zone and territorial sea, pointed to the damage the use of trawl nets can do to marine ecosystems.

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<p>A new computer model capable of predicting arsenic risks found that almost 20 million people in China live in areas under threat of water contamination. The model found that 14.7 million people live with a risk of contamination levels higher than the World Health Organization's recommended daily limit of 10 micrograms per liter, while 6 million people are at risk for levels five times higher than that. "In areas of high population density, the risk of high arsenic contamination is much more [than the average levels throughout China]," said a researcher.

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<p>Earlier this month, Fukushima's operator TEPCO announced that radioactive water was still leaking over underground barriers. The prime minister promised "firm measures," but a nuclear expert stated last week that he believes the leaks are even worse than stated by plant and government officials. Mycle Schneider, a consultant on nuclear issues, told the BBC that water is leaking all over the site and that there are no accurate figures for radiation.

<p>New UK rules on biomass upset both industry and environmental campaigners last week, as regulations failed to reassure companies of continuing financial support and simultaneously worried green groups that they would open the door to the use of biomass linked to deforestation in other countries. The proposals put strict limits on how the government would support biomass, setting it at a disadvantage to other forms of generation as some new plants will be excluded from new contracts.

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<p>The leaders of a new United Nations fund tasked with channeling billions of dollars meant to assist developing nations with climate change met for the first time in Geneva last week. Once in place, the Green Climate Fund will manage money promised by developed countries, which is currently at around $10 billion dollars a year and will rise to $100 billion in 2020. Funds will help countries deal with floods, droughts, heatwaves, and rising sea levels.

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<p>A court in Argentina convicted two people of illegally spraying chemicals near residential areas in the first case of its kind in the country. The case was widely followed in Argentina, where agrochemical use is widespread and the economy is heavily dependent on farming. The court in Cordoba found two farmers guilty of violating regulations that ban the use of farming chemicals near homes after a campaign by local residents who said the use of the chemicals had harmed their health.

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<p>Approval of a significant increase in fishing quota for an Australian super trawler was called into question last week after a record of proceedings showed that a proponent of the fishing venture was allowed to outline the plan.

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<p>A march of 12,000 demonstrators against a chemical plant in the port city of Dalian caused China to shut down a plant that generates 2 billion yuan in local taxes every year. Calls to relocate the plant, which was called a "time bomb" by one protestor, mounted after a tropical storm caused a wave to breach a dike built to protect the plant from floodwaters. The plant produces paraxylene, a highly toxic chemical used in fabric manufacturing, and residents expressed concern that future flooding may cause a spill.

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<p>Wind was cheaper than hydropower and natural gas in a government-organized auction in Brazil last week and is becoming the cheapest source of energy in the country. Wind farm developers agreed to sell power to utilities at an average price of 99.58 reais ($62.91) per megawatt hour, below the overall auction average of 102.07 reais. The costs promised by the wind-farm owners were 24% lower than developers agreed to in a similar auction a year ago.

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<p>Coral reef ecologists have determined that the cause of the last decade's 90% decline in the Caribbean's most abundant reef builder may be human waste. Elkhorn coral, named after its resemblance to antlers, has suffered serious losses to white pox, a disease that kills the coral's tissues and causes disease in human beings. For years scientists could only speculate that the diseases were related, but recent analysis has indicated that the same disease present in human waste is responsible for the coral's decline.