International Update Volume all, Issue 26
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<p>Last week, the European Parliament voted to phase out certain subsidies that encourage production and use of wood energy––the largest source of renewable energy in Europe (<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/15/world/europe/europe-wood-energy-defo… York Times</a>).

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<p>The Central Jakarta District Court ruled that Indonesian President Joko Widodo, along with the ministers of Health, Environment, and Home Affairs and three governors, neglected citizens’ rights to clean air in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia (<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/16/world/asia/jakarta-pollution-court-d… York Times</a>).

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<p>In the 1980s, banana plantations in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America sprayed a powerful pesticide called Nemagon, sterilizing workers on a mass scale. Victims are now suing Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Occidental Chemical in France to recover $805 million in unpaid damages awarded to them by courts in Nicaragua. The case follows decades of suits in the United States and countries in Central America. In the past, Dow and Shell have declined to pay the damages, and U.S. courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the companies.

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<p>On September 20, the German government agreed on a $60 billion package of measures to combat climate change. Germany aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The new measures include a national emissions trading system that will set prices for carbon dioxide emissions. Other plans include raising the climate charge on airline fares and reducing the tax on train tickets. The new plan arrives amidst a surge of public support for addressing climate change.

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<p>On September 19, Malaysia announced it will push Southeast Asian nations to find a long-term solution for regional smog haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia. Malaysian Environmental Minister Yeo Bee Yin told reporters, “We hope there will be a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level so that we can cooperate to seek a long-term solution to address this problem.” Malaysia is also considering a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires.

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<p>ClientEarth, an environmental campaign group, has filed a second complaint with a court in Sweden to block construction of a gas pipeline through Swedish waters. The group is arguing that Sweden's Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation failed to consider the project's impact on wildlife in the Baltic Sea when it approved the pipeline in June. Construction of the pipeline involves detonating World War II bombs on the sea floor along the project's 510-kilometer route in Sweden.

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<p>On September 13 at its biennial meeting in Brazil, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) passed a declaration to safeguard marine mammals in perpetuity. The non-binding Florianopolis Declaration, which was proposed by Brazil and no longer recognizes whaling as a necessary economic activity, was supported by 40 countries and rejected by 27 pro-whaling states. The 89 member countries of the IWC also voted to renew quotas for limited hunts for indigenous communities in Alaska, Russia, Greenland, and the Caribbean on account of their cultural and subsistence needs.

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<p>China's transport and environment ministries are drafting a plan to replace heavy-duty diesel trucks with vehicles that burn cleaner fuel. The proposals being considered include replacing vehicles with more modern trucks using a higher grade of diesel called National Five and using electric trucks or ones that run on liquefied natural gas. The plan is expected to take effect in 2020 and be implemented in the country's smoggiest northern regions.

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<p>President Michelle Bachelet officially created a 286,000-square mile marine reserve around Easter Island. The intent is to protect the dozens of species native only to the area. The Rapa Nui Rahui Marine Protected Area restricts commercial fishing and underwater mining, while allowing local artisanal fishermen to continue with their craft. Seventy-three percent of voters on the island chose to approve the park. According to environmental organizations backing the designation, at least 142 fish species in the protected area occur nowhere else.

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<p>Hebei, China’s smoggiest province, said it would ensure it meets its targets to replace coal with natural gas. On its official website the local government said that it would ensure as many as 1.8 million households completed the switch to gas from coal for fuel and heating by the end of October. As part of a central government push to fight smog this winter, Hebei plans to reduce fine particulate matter by 15 percent from October 2017 to March 2018, but some major cities will be forced to make even deeper cuts.

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<p>GM chief executive, Mary Barra, believes that China's push toward green vehicles will need government backing to win over consumers. China is pushing hard to develop its own green car market. Car manufacturers, however, worry that targets for electric and hybrid cars may be tough to meet with government plans to roll back subsidies that have supported the market's growth. GM plans to introduce at least 10 new electric vehicles for the China market by 2020 and open a battery plant this year.

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<p>Companies and politicians engaging in environmental destruction and illegal land-grabbing could now be held accountable under international law. The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently announced it would start addressing crimes linked to environmental harms, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the “unlawful dispossession of land.” Some believe that this ruling may permit the ICC to prosecute climate change cases, as deforestation, increased carbon dioxide emissions, and illegal land-grabs are closely linked in many parts of the world.

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<p>The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is an international arbitration procedure inserted into thousands of international treaties as a means to resolve disputes between countries and the foreign corporations operating within them. The system is written into thousands of trade and investment treaties, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But according to a BuzzFeed News investigation, under typical ISDS provisions, only companies are permitted to bring suit against the countries in which they work; countries cannot sue corporations.

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<p>After months of protests, the D.C. Circuit temporarily enjoined further construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota while it considers whether to order a longer delay. This follows a September 9 U.S. district court ruling that allowed construction of the pipeline to continue, denying a petition brought by the Standing Rock Sioux. Despite the district court's ruling, DOI, DOJ, and the U.S.

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<p>The French Farm and Environment ministries announced that they would use the European Union’s opt-out scheme to ensure France’s ability to prohibit the production of genetically modified (GM) crops. In March 2015, the EU agreed on an opt-out scheme that permits EU countries to exclude themselves from requests for GM cultivation. The only GM crop currently grown in Europe is Monsanto maize, produced in Spain and Portugal. Other crops are being reviewed for approval by the EU.

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<p>The French Farm and Environment ministries announced that they would use the European Union’s opt-out scheme to ensure France’s ability to prohibit the production of genetically modified (GM) crops. In March 2015, the EU agreed on an opt-out scheme that permits EU countries to exclude themselves from requests for GM cultivation. The only GM crop currently grown in Europe is Monsanto maize, produced in Spain and Portugal. Other crops are being reviewed for approval by the EU.

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<p>Norway announced that it will pay Brazil’s Amazon Fund $1 billion USD by the end of the year. This payment fulfills a pledge that Norway made to Brazil in 2008 to compensate deforestation reduction. Norway made another $1 billion USD pledge to Indonesia in 2008, but Indonesia’s efforts have fallen short. Brazil’s accomplishments were commended by the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, as well as by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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<p>Norway announced that it will pay Brazil’s Amazon Fund $1 billion USD by the end of the year. This payment fulfills a pledge that Norway made to Brazil in 2008 to compensate deforestation reduction. Norway made another $1 billion USD pledge to Indonesia in 2008, but Indonesia’s efforts have fallen short. Brazil’s accomplishments were commended by the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, as well as by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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<p>Norway announced that it will pay Brazil’s Amazon Fund $1 billion USD by the end of the year. This payment fulfills a pledge that Norway made to Brazil in 2008 to compensate deforestation reduction. Norway made another $1 billion USD pledge to Indonesia in 2008, but Indonesia’s efforts have fallen short. Brazil’s accomplishments were commended by the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, as well as by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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<p>The Supreme Court of Indonesia upheld the Environment Ministry’s charges of $26M in fines and reparations against palm oil company PT Kallista Alam. PT Kallista Alam had disputed the three-year-old charges for cutting and burning forested areas of the Tripa peat swamp region in Aceh Province. In addition to monetary punishment, the Attorney General’s office filed criminal charges against PT Kallista Alam.

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<p>The government of India is preparing a rule that would mandate companies building fossil fuel-based plants to also set up renewable capacity. The rule is intended to accelerate the growth of India's renewable energy capacity, a commitment of Prime Minster Narendra Modi's administration. "A generator will have an obligation to bundle his supplies with a certain share of renewable energy," said Power Minister Piyush Goyal last Thursday.

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<p>Zambia has lifted a ban on trophy hunting, which had been in place since early 2013, for all species other than big cats, meaning elephants will be among the species that may now&nbsp;be hunted. According to a statement by Jean Kapata, Zambia’s Tourism and Art's Minister, a main factor in the decision to lift the ban was the fact that it had resulted in a loss of revenue to the Zambia Wildlife Authority.

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<p>After the Australian Parliament appeared poised to dramatically scale back the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) to source 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, a compromise more favorable to supporters of renewable energy now appears likely following intense lobbying in Canberra. A review of the RET, headed by businessman Dick Warburton, argued that the RET be closed to new projects or dramatically scaled back. But those options have been largely dismissed by both renewable energy and government supporters.

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<p>Hydroelectric projects in forested national parks may be fronts for illegal logging operations, according to Vietnam Net. Around 20,000 hectares of forest have been cleared for 160 hydro projects in the last few years, with roughly 125 hectares cleared per project. However, many of the projects are not economically viable, and the primary purpose appears to be gaining access to logging resources.

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<p>A federal judge ordered dam construction activities in the Teles Pires river to be suspended due to faults in the environmental licensing process and the project's impacts on three local tribes.

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<p>Germany's energy industry association proposed an overhaul of government renewable energy policy to take place after upcoming elections. The proposal would remove the feed-in tariff system and ensure that only renewable energy at an early stage of development would be eligible for premiums over market price, meaning the higher prices would be paid for a much shorter period of time. The industry group has warned that high energy prices, due in large part to the cost of green energy incentives, threaten German industry's competitiveness.

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<p>An independent committee warned the United Kingdom last week that plans for a surge in new gas investment would violate the Climate Change Act, reigniting a fight about the nation's energy future. David Cameron's strong backing of gas-fired power plants may damage the UK's ability to meet its climate change targets, as the government fights over whether to favor gas over renewable energy.

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<p>A Brazilian court upheld a ruling banning Transocean from operating in the country after a 3,600 barrel oil spill in November 2011. Regulator ANP tried to prevent the ban, which prosecutors sought in order to ensure payment of the $20 billion in damages assessed against Transocean, but the Superior Court of Justice upheld the ruling. The ban is the latest setback for state oil giant Petrobras, which has cited a lack of rigs as the reason it has failed to meet targets over the last decade.

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<p>The president of France, Francois Hollande, called for greater cuts in carbon dioxide in the European Union beyond the 20 percent by 2020 targets. Hollande recommended a 40 percent reduction by 2030 and 60 percent reduction by 2040 as he sought to put the environment back at the top of the international agenda. "<span>We have an ambitious strategy," said Hollande, adding that he planned on defending the targets to the EU.

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<p>The European Union rejected a study that called bioenergy's climate benefits into question, saying that it failed to properly compare carbon savings to those of diesel and gasoline burned by cars. The report, by the <span>Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency, said that biofuel and bioenergy targets are based on a "serious accounting error" and should be revised downward</span>.

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<p>A National University of Singapore researcher said that pristine forests with the least disturbance sustain the highest biodiversity and are crucial to many tropical species. The study analyzed 28 tropical forests and found that regenerating and degraded forests had substantially lower levels of biodiversity than in forests untouched by humans. "There's no substitute for primary forests," the researcher said.

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<p>China has increased requirements for its energy saving vehicle subsidy in an effort to curb fuel consumption and roll back stimulus measures. The government has been subsidizing fuel saving cars since June 2010, with additional subsidies for hybrid and electric cars in certain cities. However, the Ministry of Finance announced that cars would only be eligible for the 3,000 Yuan subsidy if they consume <span>6.3 liters of gas or less per 100 kilometers</span>, compared to the previous 6.9 liter standard.