International Update Volume all, Issue 25
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<p>Australia, one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita, passed landmark legislation through its parliament last week, committing the nation to curbing carbon emissions 43% (from 2005 levels) by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050 (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/sep/08/australian-parli…;).

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<p>A motion for a moratorium on deep-sea mining received overwhelming support earlier this week at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in Marseille, France (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/conservation-body-calls-gl…;).

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<p>The captain of the MV <em>Wakashio</em>, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, was arrested in Mauritius on August 18 on the charge of endangering safe navigation.

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<p>Germany will phase out the use of the controversial weed killer glyphosate by the end of 2023 due to its negative impacts on insect pollinator populations. Biologists are concerned about plummeting populations of insects vital for ecosystem health and pollinating crops. Some experts suspect glyphosate may also cause cancer in humans. Bayer, the company that sells glyphosate, opposed the ban, stating that the weed killer can be used safely. Farm groups and the German Chemical Industry Association have also lobbied for the continued use of glyphosate.

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<p>On September 5, New Zealand announced plans to enforce greater protections on its waterways in response to pollution from farming and tourism. The new measures include restrictions on farming intensification, conversion of lands for dairy farming, and the use of synthetic nitrogen pesticides. A surge in tourism and the farming industry has taken a toll on New Zealand’s once pristine waters. Experts say New Zealand’s rivers and lakes are now some of the most polluted among OECD countries.

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<p>Thousands of people are missing after the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian, the worst hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. The United Nations estimates 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water, and shelter. On the evening of September 5, the death toll stood at 30, although officials expect the final toll to be much higher. International relief efforts by the U.N. World Food Programme, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Netherlands, and Jamaica are currently underway to provide relief supplies.

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<p>The Indonesian government has removed three songbird species from its newly updated list of protected species. The white-rumped shama, Javan pied starling, and straw-headed bulbul will no longer be protected from captive breeding and trading by private owners. According to Indra Eksploitasia, the director of biodiversity conservation in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the decision to remove the songbirds from the protected list was based on a socioeconomic impact study carried out by the ministry.

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<p>Beginning this week, the Philippines government will impose restrictions on the development of land for nickel mining. The new restrictions will limit nickel mining to a production area ranging from 50 to 100 hectares at any one time, depending on the size of production and whether there is a processing plant. Miners will also be required to establish a 20-meter buffer zone inward from the mining tenement boundary and near rivers and streams,where metals extraction will be prohibited.

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<p>An environmental group in Australia has taken legal action against the Queensland government for its use of baited hooks in the Great Barrier Reef under its shark control program. The group is arguing that the program, which allows 173 legal drum lines to operate within the Great Barrier Reef, is inconsistent with the Great Barrier Marine Park's main objective to provide for long-term protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef region. The case is scheduled to be heard in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in January 2019.

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<p>France plans to pass legislation this year to phase out all oil and gas exploration and production on its mainland and overseas territories by 2040, becoming the first country to do so. France has previously stated its goal to discontinue the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by the same year, and President Macron wants to make France carbon-neutral by 2050. The decision is, however, largely symbolic because France produces only about&nbsp;one percent of its consumption. The country will continue to import and refine oil.

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<p>New research indicates that the conversion of land, often to farms and ranches to produce food for people, has a bigger impact on the climate than anticipated. Only about 20 percent of the carbon dioxide that has been added to the atmosphere comes from clearing forests. But land used in the clearing is responsible for about 40 percent of the warming of the planet, according to a study published by Environmental Research Letters.

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<p>Thousands of people in northwest Ethiopia marched to Abay River and Lake Tana as part of the “Save Lake Tana” movement to remove invasive water hyacinth by hand. The free-floating, water-thirsty perennial is swallowing the northeast shores of Lake Tana, impacting both aquatic habitat health and local fishermen. Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile and the largest lake in Ethiopia, and is used for transport, tourism, hydroelectric power generation, ecological conservation and fishery operations.

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<p>Scientists will start drilling off Japan this month to seek the hottest place where life can survive deep below the seabed. The drilling under the Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean will be part of a project by 900 experts to map carbon underground, hoping for clues to everything from the origin of life on earth to the formation of oil and gas.

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<p>China has accused more than 20 car makers of breaking rules on green car subsidies, according to a state media report, widening a scandal over a $4.5 billion annual payout program. On September 8, China's Ministry of Finance punished at least five companies, accusing them of cheating its program to subsidize electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, thus receiving roughly 1 billion yuan ($150 million U.S.) in illegal subsidies.

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<p>Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing a surge of interest in irrigation among small-scale farmers as climate change brings more erratic weather and as rising populations in countries from Nigeria to Kenya mean growing demand for a reliable harvest, agriculture and water experts say. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that more than a million hectares of small farms are now irrigated in the region. In Tanzania, the area of small farms with access to irrigation has risen from just 33,500 hectares in 2010 to about 150,000 today, institute figures show.

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<p>The governments of Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda signed the Zanzibar Declaration at the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, this week. The declaration aims to curb illegal trade in timber in Eastern and Southern Africa countries and to encourage member states to promote cooperation among their national forest agencies in information and intelligence sharing. Additionally, the declaration requests that member states implement bans on log exports and create monitoring and reporting systems for their timber industries.

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<p>China's agricultural ministry plans to launch a nationwide investigation of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops after an official financial newspaper reported that illegal GMO soybeans have been discovered in the Heilongjiang province. Although China is the world's top buyer of GMO soybeans, domestic cultivation is prohibited. The ministry revised regulations earlier this year to tighten supervision of biotech products under development, and port authorities have cracked down on the illegal sale of GMO varieties to food companies.

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<p>The Canadian Supreme Court ruled to allow a group of Ecuadorians to attempt to collect billions of dollars in environmental damages in a Canadian court. Ecuador has been embroiled in a 13-year legal battle with the company over the contamination of a rainforest in Ecuador, where Texaco operated. Chevron, which bought Texaco, has yet to pay the $9.5 billion judgment, arguing that the pollution was caused by the Ecuadorian national oil company and that the judgment was a product of corruption.

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<p>Chile is set to become the first country in South America—and the second in Latin America after Mexico—to institute a carbon tax. The tax, which will go before the Chilean House of Representatives this week, would impose a $5 tax per ton of carbon dioxide starting in 2017. The measure is part of a broader package intended to reduce air pollution that also includes taxes on particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. The Chilean government hopes that the financial burden of using fossil fuels will encourage greater investment in renewable energy.

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<p>Last Friday, China announced that it will offer tax breaks on purchases of electric cars. Starting September 1, buyers of any of 17 models of approved vehicles will not have to pay sales tax. The tax break is the latest in a series of measures designed to promote all-electric and heavily electrified hybrid cars. Last year, China renewed a program through which buyers can receive subsidies of up to 60,000 yuan (US $9,767) for the purchase of all-electric cars, and last month the country ordered government officials to use more energy efficient cars.

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<p>A government-appointed review panel has recommended that Australia drastically cut back its Renewable Energy Target (RET) program. The review reported that the program’s costs are “not justifiable” and recommended either closing the program to new investment or modifying it so that renewable power would make up just 50% of any future growth in electricity demand.

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<p>The European Union abandoned its efforts to expand rules for aviation emissions in exchange for cooperation in setting up a global scheme, easing ongoing fears of trade wars. Tension has mounted as the EU moved closer to rules that would charge airline companies operating in member states for all emissions worldwide, and the threat of trade conflicts loomed as Chinese and Indian officials threatened lawsuits and boycotts. China suspended a sale worth billions of dollars of Airbus jetliners, and airlines warned of retaliatory measures including airspace restrictions.

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<p>The European Union abandoned its efforts to expand rules for aviation emissions in exchange for cooperation in setting up a global scheme, easing ongoing fears of trade wars. Tension has mounted as the EU moved closer to rules that would charge airline companies operating in member states for all emissions worldwide, and the threat of trade conflicts loomed as Chinese and Indian officials threatened lawsuits and boycotts. China suspended a sale worth billions of dollars of Airbus jetliners, and airlines warned of retaliatory measures including airspace restrictions.

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<p>Compensation talks will begin this week between Royal Dutch Shell lawyers and 15,000 Nigerian villagers who say oil spills destroyed their livelihoods. The villagers sought millions of dollars in payment in London for two spills that polluted the Bodo fishing communities of the Niger Delta. Shell accepts responsibility for the spills but it disagrees with the plaintiffs about the volume spilled and the number of people who lost their livelihoods. Talks broke down in 2012 before the lawsuit, but will resume this week in Port Harcourt, the main city in the Delta.

<p>Compensation talks will begin this week between Royal Dutch Shell lawyers and 15,000 Nigerian villagers who say oil spills destroyed their livelihoods. The villagers sought millions of dollars in payment in London for two spills that polluted the Bodo fishing communities of the Niger Delta. Shell accepts responsibility for the spills but it disagrees with the plaintiffs about the volume spilled and the number of people who lost their livelihoods. Talks broke down in 2012 before the lawsuit, but will resume this week in Port Harcourt, the main city in the Delta.

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<p>China has suspended refinery projects for its two largest oil companies for failing to meet pollution targets, according to China Central Television. The Ministry of Environmental Protection will continue the suspension until China National Petroleum Corporation and the China Petrochemical Corporation meet their pollution targets, as part of a wider crackdown on pollution in China.

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<p>The European Union threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese solar panels after launching an investigation into alleged dumping into the European market. The EU probe, which follows accusations by Germany, Italy, and other EU member states, will cover $26 billion worth of photovoltaic cells and panels to determine whether Chinese manufacturers sold units below cost in Europe, which accounts for three quarters of the global market.

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<p>The European Union threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese solar panels after launching an investigation into alleged dumping into the European market. The EU probe, which follows accusations by Germany, Italy, and other EU member states, will cover $26 billion worth of photovoltaic cells and panels to determine whether Chinese manufacturers sold units below cost in Europe, which accounts for three quarters of the global market.

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<p>Canada's much-anticipated plan for phasing out old coal-fired power plants was announced on Wednesday, but the government was criticized by environmental groups for releasing regulations that would be much less effective than earlier proposals. Under the new rules, units commissioned before 1975 will cease operations after 50 years or by the end of 2019, whichever is earlier. Units commissioned before 1986 will cease after 50 years or 2029, whichever is earlier. Both are softer requirements than the original 45 year limits given under draft rules released last year.

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<p>A sharp rise in illegal logging threatens Liberia's forests, a new report by Global Witness warns. The report says that logging companies have been granted more than 60 percent of the country's forests in the past six years, and that private contracts that bypass existing regulations are common. Logging has led to heavy deforestation since timber was used to fund the nation's long civil war. The nation has some of the largest areas of rainforest in the region, but nearly a quarter has been signed to logging companies using secret permits.

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<p>France may cancel permits for oil and natural gas exploration in October due to the nation's new hydraulic fracturing ban. Companies that have been granted a permit to explore shale hydrocarbons will have until September 13 to inform the government if they're planning to use hydraulic fracturing in the course of their operations. The ban, the world's first, could lead to fines or imprisonment for those found using the technique, though some industry representatives have said that the method is the only one available to extract certain hydrocarbons.

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<p>Germany generated more than 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources for the first time in the first half of 2011, according to a report by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries. Solar power increased a total of 76 percent, while the share of wind power increased to 7.5 percent of usage, biomass 5.6 percent, and hydroelectric 3.3 percent. Energy use remained stable, but the share of renewable sources rose from 18.3 to 20.8 percent, continuing toward the nation's goal of 35 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

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<p>Central government subsidies for clean energy projects rose to 2.36 billion rupees in the fiscal year that ended March 31, an increase of 63 percent over the previous year. So far this financial year, the government has provided 1 billion rupees of subsidies. Assistance included higher rates for clean power and lower interest rates.