International Update Volume all, Issue 30

<p>The U.K. government released its Net Zero Strategy this week, less than two weeks prior to COP26.

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<p>On October 15, European Union (EU) leaders agreed that they should move to increase their climate emissions reduction goal but have yet to commit to a specific target. Currently, the EU has pledged to achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050, with an interim goal of cutting emissions by 40% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030.

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<p>On October 12, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Izu Peninsula, Japan, sweeping across the northern region of the country and causing widespread flooding (<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/15/asia/japan-typhoon-hagibis-aftermath-int…;). The death toll hit 74 as of October 15, according to the national Japanese broadcaster NHK.

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<p>The Australian government has proposed a A$3.9 billion fund for water infrastructure and drought-related projects in an effort to buffer farming communities from future droughts. The fund is designed to surpass immediate relief and aid the agriculture sector long-term with water infrastructure, projects, and research. If approved, the fund would provide A$100 million a year to farming communities to invest in projects.

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<p>On October 23, Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced a plan to tax industrial emitters and fuels in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. The fuel surcharge is expected to raise about 2.3 billion Canadian dollars in revenue next year, much of which will be sent out as benefits to individuals. The tax on large industrial emitters will begin in January, and the fuel tax will take effect in April.

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<p>On October 26, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a ban prohibiting ships from using fuels with a sulfur content above 0.5 percent beginning in 2020, unless they are equipped with scrubbers to clean up the sulfur emissions. Ships that violate the ban will face fines or risk of impoundment by IMO member states.

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<p>Though deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon is at an all-time low, development that didn’t occur in the Amazon shifted over to the Cerrado, a highly biodiverse tropical savannah and the second-largest ecoregion in Brazil. According to INPE (Brazil’s national space agency), data shows that between 2013 and 2015 close to 4.7 million acres of the Cerrado were destroyed.

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<p>Longer dry seasons due to climate change affecting the growth of bamboo shoots are forcing the greater bamboo lemur to subsist on the less nutritious woody trunk of the plant for longer periods of time. A 2014 assessment found that numbers of the animal are down 80 percent in just the last three decades, attributing the decline to deforestation and habitat destruction for farming, logging and mining. An examination of the fossil record revealed that greater bamboo lemurs once inhabited a lot more of Madagascar.

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<p>France rejected the EU Commission's five-year extension to the license for weed-killer glyphosate. France seeks an extension that does not exceed four years. The five-year extension was a compromise after a ten-year extension was previously rejected. Europe has been split over the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto Co’s top-selling weed-killer Roundup, after the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency concluded in March 2015 it was a substance that probably causes cancer.

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<p>The Chinese State Council announced plans to increase agricultural production while simultaneously promoting more environmentally friendly agricultural techniques within the next five years. The plans include stimulating sustainable agriculture to protect water resources and arable lands, improving agricultural technology, in part by involving the information industry, and upgrading fisheries and plantation structures.

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<p>One hundred and seventy countries recently passed the Kigali Amendment, a legally binding Amendment to the Montreal Protocol that will phase out hydrofluorocarbon gases (HFCs), low-cost refrigerants frequently used in air conditioners and refrigerators. HFCs are “super greenhouse gases” that are 1,000 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide; scientists estimate that they would contribute to almost a full degree Fahrenheit of atmospheric warming, despite being only a small percentage of total greenhouse gases.

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<p>Last week, the German cabinet approved a deal to move the responsibility for nuclear waste disposal and storage from utilities to the state. The deal will require the four utilities operating Germany’s nuclear plants to pay 23.3 billion Euros (US $25.32 billion) to cover interim storage, transport, and final disposal of radioactive wastes; any additional costs will be covered by the state.

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<p>Oslo announced its plan to ban cars from the central city by 2019 in order to reduce pollution. Norway’s capital city is set to be the first European capital city to have a comprehensive and permanent ban on cars. Oslo recently elected a new city council comprised of members of the Green Party, the Labor Party, and the Socialist Left. A lead negotiator for the Green Party explained that a car-free city will be better for pedestrians and cyclists. The city plans to build more than 37 miles of bike lanes between now and 2019.

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<p>Cuba launched a long-term plan to protect shark populations around its shores. The plan will create protected fishing areas and will require fishers to keep track of and limit their shark catches. Cuba worked on this plan with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). This plan comes at a time when shark populations have been declining rapidly due to accidental catches, overfishing, and demand for shark fins. Cuba has already banned shark fishing just for fins. Cuban waters host close to 20% of the world’s 500 species of sharks.

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<p>Japan told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a private statement that it plans to take a comprehensive exception to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ's) jurisdiction over whaling practices. The statement was made last August by Motohide Toshikawa, Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, and was recently disclosed in Australian political circles.

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<p>On Friday, October 24, European Union leaders agreed upon a binding target to reduce emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, scaling up its previous commitment to reduce emissions to 20% of 1990 levels by 2020. EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in an interview that the move was intended to challenge other big economies ahead of climate talks in Lima in December, and ultimately Paris in 2015.

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<p>A law amended by the Indonesian government in September makes it more difficult for palm oil companies to conserve carbon-dense, high-biodiversity areas within their forest concessions, according to a report published on October 21, 2014, by Indonesian environmental group Greenomics. The report examined efforts that Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, is taking to eliminate the deforestation of high carbon stock and high conservation value forests.

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<p>The Brazilian government announced on Tuesday, October 21, the designation of a new federal reserve in the Amazon rainforest encompassing an area the size of Delaware. The new Alto Maues Reserve will confer federal protection from deforestation to 668,000 hectares of pristine forest, most of which has been untouched by human presence, according to the Brazilian Environment Ministry. The area contains hundreds of species of animals and 13 primate species, several of which are considered threatened with extinction.

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<p>A fuel tax in Spain could end up costing the Spanish government billions of euros. In 2003, Spain implemented a “health cent” tax on the sale of hydrocarbons in order to generate revenue to help finance healthcare spending. Last Thursday, Advocate General Nils Wahl, an adviser to the European Court of Justice, said that this tax is illegal because it does not comply with the regulations the EU sets on the levy of additional indirect taxes.

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<p>Sesa Sterlite, a mining company controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal, may restart some of its iron ore mining operations in India as early as next month after a two year shutdown. Excavation had been banned in the southern state of Karnataka in 2011 due to environmental degradation, but, according to two officials who asked not to be named, Sesa has now met the requirements for a permit to mine in the state.

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<p>Last Thursday, the Canadian Ministry of the Environment admitted in a report that Canada is likely to fall short of its target for greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord and committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. A year ago, the government forecasted emissions of greenhouse gases to be at 720 megatons by 2020; now, however, Canada estimates that that number will be 734 megatons, a reduction of only 0.4 percent.

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<p>The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change confirmed that oil companies have been fined for spills in the North Sea just seven times since 2000, despite over 4,000 recorded spills in the same period. Total fines from 2000 to 2007 came to around $119,000 dollars, and no company had to pay more than $32,000. The lowest fine came when Venture North Sea Oil and Knutsen OAS Shipping were fined $3,200 each for spilling 20 tons of crude oil into the sea.

<p>The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change confirmed that oil companies have been fined for spills in the North Sea just seven times since 2000, despite over 4,000 recorded spills in the same period. Total fines from 2000 to 2007 came to around $119,000 dollars, and no company had to pay more than $32,000. The lowest fine came when Venture North Sea Oil and Knutsen OAS Shipping were fined $3,200 each for spilling 20 tons of crude oil into the sea.

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<p>China will approve several new nuclear reactors to be built in coastal regions before 2015, the government said on Wednesday. The move ends a moratorium imposed last year after Fukushima and is meant to spur private investment in energy and reduce reliance on oil and coal. The government hopes to generate 30% of China's power from renewable sources as well as from nuclear energy by the end of 2015, up from an earlier target of 15% from renewables plus 5% from nuclear by 2020.

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<p>Government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are working with foreign logging firms to support illegal deforestation, according to a report by Global Witness. Many of the country's artisanal logging permits, meant for small-scale tree felling by Congolese citizens, are being awarded to foreign firms, in direct violation of Congolese law.

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<p>Canada's government and energy industry have launched an effort to reverse proposed European Union (EU) fuel quality standards that would rank Canadian oil sands as one of the earth's most carbon-intensive crude sources. The proposed Fuel Quality Directive would give oil sands a default greenhouse gas value of 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, while conventional fuel is given a value of 87.5 grams. Canada, which has been touting oil sands as a secure and stable energy supply, believes that the directive is discriminatory.

<blockquote><p>The Scottish government plans to increase tidal energy support while decreasing subsidies for biomass and wind power plants. Tidal energy projects will now receive five Renewable Obligation Certificates, awarded to utilities for renewable energy generation, for every megawatt hour produced through 2013, compared with the three certificates offered previously.

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<p>Barclay's said last week that the European Union's plan to extend the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive to cover spot carbon deals will probably encourage trading after thefts and fraud have turned traders away. While some carbon traders are not enthusiastic, "industry didn’t come up with anything better" for problems with the market, said Louis Redshaw, head of carbon, coal, dry freight, and iron ore for Barclays Capital.