International Update Volume all, Issue 29
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<p>AllRise, an environmental litigation group, submitted a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling for Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro to be held criminally accountable for his actions in the Amazon (<a href="https://apnews.com/article/climate-change-business-europe-glasgow-crime… News</a>).

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<p>The International Finance Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRSF), which is responsible for setting accounting rules used in over 140 countries, has released a consultation paper to gauge interest in creating a global standard for sustainability reporting (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-accounts-climatechange/global-accoun…;).

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<p>An Australian farmer has launched a lawsuit against Bayer AG’s agricultural chemicals unit Monsanto after being diagnosed with cancer he says was caused by its weedkiller Roundup. New South Wales farmer Ross Wild was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cites his long-term exposure to Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate as the cause. His lawsuit is the second such in Australia and the first from a farmer. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller. As of July 11, Bayer faced lawsuits from over 18,400 U.S. plaintiffs who say glyphosate caused cancer.

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<p>Between August and September, fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture destroyed over 3,212 acres of forest in Ankarafantsika National Park in northwestern Madagascar. Madagascar’s environment minister Alexandre Georget told reporters that the country needs help from the international community, especially in securing fire-fighting aircraft. “Every year, around 120,000 hectares [297,000 acres] of forest disappear, mostly as a result of slash-and-burn farming. If the destruction continues at this rate, Madagascar will be completely deforested in 40 years,” said Georget.

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<p>Since early September, 130 tons of oil sludge have polluted Brazil’s northeastern beaches. According to a report by Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, the oil came from a boat from Venezuela navigating close to the coast. Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles supported this claim, stating the oil “very probably comes from Venezuela.” The oil has now reached 61 municipalities in nine Brazilian states, contaminating 130 beaches. Authorities say the oil has already killed ten turtles, and environmental experts fear the oil will continue to damage coral and marine life.

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<p>On October 11, the Shanxi government announced plans to establish "no-coal zones" in Datong, a major coal-producing city in the province, to curb pollution. The "no-coal zones," in which the storage, sale, and direct combustion of all kinds of coal will be prohibited, will cover 39 square miles of the city. As a result, households in Datong will switch to cleaner gas heating this winter.

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<p>The Cabinet of Ghana has decided to switch all government institutions to solar power in an effort to reduce energy consumption costs. Feasibility studies are already underway for the Jubilee House, the seat of Government, and Parliament House to make the switch. The decision was announced by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia at the opening of the Fourth Ghana Renewable Energy Fair in Accra.

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<p>On October 10, the European Parliament's Environment and Public Health Committee approved a draft proposal to ban single-use plastic products from the EU market beginning in 2021. Products under the proposal include those made of oxo-degradable plastics, fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene, single-use cutlery, and drinking straws. The plan also introduces collection and recycling targets for fishing gear containing plastic, which represents 27% of waste found on Europe's beaches.

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<p>Zambian villagers have won the right to sue mining company Vedanta Resources in the English courts. London’s Court of Appeal threw out the company’s attempt to block the Zambians’ legal action over pollution allegations. The villagers allege that their land has been destroyed by water pollution caused by the Nchanga Copper Mine, which is owned by Vedanta. Vedanta said it would seek the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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<p>To help lower energy costs, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened gas producers with export restrictions unless they plug domestic shortages. Despite having one of the world’s largest coal and natural gas reserves, as well as ideal conditions for clean power generation, Australia has the highest power prices in the world. Political indecisiveness and climate policy missteps have left the country’s power system in limbo, which has doubled electricity prices and increased the risk of blackouts.

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<p>Three indigenous defendants accused of instigating project delays and causing financial losses during protests at the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in western Panama have been acquitted of all charges. According to an opposition group leader, the company provided no concrete proof that he or any of the other 60-plus protestors trespassed on its property or impeded the work of its personnel. The dam is fully operational and its reservoir has flooded the land of three Ngäbe-Bugle communities.

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<p>The members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), comprising states, government agencies, NGOs, and academic institutions from around the world, approved two resolutions that give legitimacy to "rights of nature." Motion 89 declares a healthy environment to be a right for all humans and “all living beings,” and Motion 78 encourages increasing the attention given to environmental crimes and crimes against nature. IUCN's action is part of a larger trend to recognize these rights in individual countries and internationally.

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<p>The European Union Industry Committee voted in favor of reforming the EU’s carbon market. The EU’s emissions trading system, a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions, covers 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Companies either buy emissions allowances or are given them free of charge; fines are imposed if a company exceeds its emissions allowance.

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<p>The Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress, the decisionmaking body of a semi-autonomous region in Panama, voted down an agreement that would have allowed the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam to start operation. Members of the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress argue that their former leadership lacked the authority to negotiate the agreement. The Panamanian government is currently holding meetings to formalize the rejection of the dam and intends to reinitiate negotiations on the stalled project.

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<p>The High Court of Justice in the Pakistani city of Lahore mandated the creation of a climate council that will require the Pakistani government to meet its environmental commitments. The case that prompted the rule was brought by a farmer named Asghar Leghari who claimed that Pakistan had violated his fundamental rights due to lack of action on climate change.

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<p>Scotland announced on October 8, 2015, that it is extending the ban on shale gas imposed in January to include a moratorium on underground coal gasification (UCG). UCG is a process where gas is extracted through the injection of oxidants into underground coal deposits, followed by heating them to temperatures that permit the gases to escape. Scotland is planning to delve into an in-depth investigation of both shale gas fracking and UCG.

<p>Monday October 5, 2015, marked the start of a mandated, five-pence (US $0.08)&nbsp;charge for plastic bags in England. Customers are required to pay for plastic bags for groceries, clothing, and other types of retail. The fee is intended to reduce waste and pollution. The government estimates that, prior to this charge, approximately 7.6 billion plastic bags are handed out over the course of a year—nearly 140 bags per person. There are exemptions to the fee, however. Stores with fewer than 250 full-time employees are not required to enforce the charge.

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<p>On October 14, 2014, Italy became the first European country to require advanced biofuels in cars and trucks, passing a law that will require all fuel suppliers to include 0.6% advanced biofuels in gasoline and diesel by 2018, rising to 1% by 2022. Advanced biofuels are made from waste materials and are thus seen as less likely to contribute to land being taken out of production for food to in order to produce the feedstocks. This issue has been a major point of concern about traditional [first generation] biofuels, hindering the industry’s growth.

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<p>The government of Indonesia, currently the world’s top exporter of thermal coal, has launched an effort to tighten regulation and enforcement of the industry. The country’s coal industry, which tripled production in the last decade, has been plagued by corruption, illegal mining and exports, and conflicts with local and indigenous communities, and has caused severe environmental and health impacts.

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<p>A recently released Greenpeace report, Amazon's Silent Crisis: Night Terrors, documents illegal logging in protected public forest areas of the Brazilian Amazon. The report also identifies mechanisms by which loggers launder illegal timber and access markets in countries with laws prohibiting the import of illegally harvested timber, including the United States and the EU. Using GPS, Greenpeace activists tracked trucks used to transport illegal timber at night, a tactic that was complemented by the use of satellite imagery to identify areas of illegal logging.

<p>In the United Kingdom, anti-shale groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are using property law to attempt to stop hydraulic drilling, a process that they believe pollutes water and increases greenhouse gas emissions. Citing trespass laws, anti-fracking campaigners argue that it is illegal for companies to drill under a person's property unless the landowner gives consent, and so far they have succeeded in pushing production back several years.

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<p>Shanghai is considering imposing a traffic congestion charge in order to fight pollution. Singapore and London already charge motorists more for driving into the city center at peak hours, and Shanghai is poised to become the first city in China to adopt similar road pricing. Cities throughout China—the world’s biggest carbon emitter—are working on pollution control; last week Beijing announced rules to reduce the number of government and private vehicles on the roads and close schools when pollution is at its worst.

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<p>On Wednesday, the European Commission halted a plan to cap the production of food for fuel. Though the Commission had initially encouraged the production of biofuels, seeing them as a means to reduce carbon emissions and cut Europe’s dependence on imported oil, concerns that using food for fuel would inflate global food prices caused EU lawmakers to propose a cap on biofuel growth. On Wednesday, however, the Commission again changed direction when it failed to give the go-ahead for the creation of a plan to implement the cap.

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<p>Indigenous groups began an occupation of the work site of the future Belo Monte electric dam in Brazil last week, attempting for the second time to halt construction on a project that they say threatens their way of life. Around 100 Indians, fishermen, and activists formed a group known as Xingu Alive Forever and said that they plan to "definitively dam the Xingu River." Some 40,000 people depend on the river for their livelihoods, and the occupation follows years of legal challenges. Over the summer, around 300 people successfully occupied the dam site for 21 days.

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<p>Germany's environment minister announced a plan last week to implement a cap on wind and biomass energy generation support, similar to limitations imposed on the photovoltaic sector. While the minister raised the nation's renewables target to 40 percent of total power by 2020, he said that he planned on implementing regulations similar to the 52,000 megawatt cap on solar support; once that limit is reached by wind and biomass, there will be no price guarantees.

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<p>Nigerian villagers took Royal Dutch Shell to court last week in a pollution case that campaigners say will open the door for more compensation claims against international companies. Villagers from the heavily polluted Niger Delta region, along with Friends of the Earth, accused Shell of polluting their land and waterways in three oil spills from 2004 to 2007. The case marks the first time a Dutch company has been sued in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary.

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<p>Nigerian villagers took Royal Dutch Shell to court last week in a pollution case that campaigners say will open the door for more compensation claims against international companies. Villagers from the heavily polluted Niger Delta region, along with Friends of the Earth, accused Shell of polluting their land and waterways in three oil spills from 2004 to 2007. The case marks the first time a Dutch company has been sued in the Netherlands for the actions of a foreign subsidiary.

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<blockquote><p>EU officials proposed last week to toughen environmental standards in its expensive farm subsidy policies as part of major changes to the 58 billion euro system.

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<p>A team of visiting nuclear experts warned Japan against becoming "over-conservative" in the future as the country works to clean up as much as 2,400 square kilometers of land affected by the Fukushima disaster. A group of 12 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency will present its final report on its nine-day mission to the Japanese government next month, but the team has already voiced its opinions on certain remediation methods.

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<p>United Nations carbon credits hit an all-time low of 7.13 euros a ton on Friday as a result of the glut in emissions permits. The debt crisis and slowing economic growth, combined with the EU's continued issuance of new offsets at a record rate, has led to a "<span>crisis of confidence</span>," according to one trader. Producers of greenhouse gases buy certified emissions reductions (CERs) to meet Kyoto Protocol emissions caps, which help pay for projects in the developing world, but the weak economy has led to an over-supply of offsets.