International Update Volume all, Issue 35

<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>During a three-day hearing at London’s High Court, Friends of the Earth challenged the United Kingdom’s (U.K.'s) financing of a liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique. In July 2020, the U.K. government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), approved $1.15 billion of funding through loans and guarantees for the $20 billion project.

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<p>Last Thursday, the European Commission announced that it will be taking Greece and Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice for continuing to violate air pollution limits, despite multiple previous warnings.

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<p>European Union leaders will push for a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at an upcoming summit December 12-13, according to a draft statement released December 2.

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<p>On December 5, the Peruvian government unanimously passed a law prohibiting the manufacturing, importation, distribution, and consumption of single-use plastic bags. All single-use plastic bags, along with straws and other plastic products that cannot be recycled, will be phased out over the next three years. Peru joins more than 60 other countries that have imposed bans or taxes on single-use plastics.

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<p>On December 5, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, announced a new $69.28 million green investment fund that is aimed at boosting private-sector participation in efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The fund will likely target electric vehicles, manufacturing, farming practices, and energy-efficient commercial buildings.

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<p>On December 6, a Dutch court ruled that the culling of hundreds of red deer in a wetland reserve north of Amsterdam could proceed. The 13,540-acre reserve, known as the Oostvaardersplassen, was created for wild birds but is also home to deer, horses, and cattle. Regional authorities hope to reduce the number of large grazing animals in the reserve to encourage more varied vegetation to grow. For the full story, see https://www.apnews.com/2011f9410cca49959d1303bd08f65203.</p&gt;

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<p>Annually, Norway makes payments to Brazil as part of a long-term program to curb loss of the Amazon rainforest to slow global warming. The main causes of forest loss are logging and making way for farms. Last year, Norway paid around $40 million to Brazil, a reduction of about 60% in the period from 2009 to 2016: the more deforestation, the less Brazil gets paid. Officials say that initial figures are showing that deforestation is slowing which would result in an increase in payment.

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<p>The Nigerian government announced its plans to restore nearly 10 million acres of degraded lands. It is now one of 26 countries in Africa that have committed to restoring collectively more than 200 million acres of land as part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative. The restoration of degraded forests and other landscapes was found to have the most climate mitigation potential of 20 natural climate strategies examined for a recent study.

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<p>At the "One Planet" summit, two years after the Paris Agreement, there will be a focus on how public and private financial institutions can mobilize more money to address climate change. This focus is a result of the United States pulling out of the Agreement, leaving a $2 billion funding gap in the Green Climate Fund. Funding is not on track, with developing countries noting that the richer countries have not met funding goals that would allow them to switch from fossil fuels.

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<p>As countries around the world begin to implement their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, there is a demonstrable rift between liberal and conservative governments. As of Friday, Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and 10 provinces were set to agree on a national price for carbon. The plan allows provinces to implement either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market; those provinces not willing to choose will have a carbon tax imposed by the national government.

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<p>As countries around the world begin to implement their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, there is a demonstrable rift between liberal and conservative governments. As of Friday, Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and 10 provinces were set to agree on a national price for carbon. The plan allows provinces to implement either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market; those provinces not willing to choose will have a carbon tax imposed by the national government.

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<p>Last week, subsidies for renewable energy lost favor in both the Netherlands and Italy. Despite an announcement two weeks ago by the Dutch government on increasing subsidies for renewable energy projects (including solar, wind, and geothermal), the Ministry of Economic Affairs published an “Energy Agenda” last week saying renewable energy subsidies would be phased out as renewables become more economically competitive. However, the government intends to work with power companies to make it easier for individuals to invest in renewables.

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<p>Last week, subsidies for renewable energy lost favor in both the Netherlands and Italy. Despite an announcement two weeks ago by the Dutch government on increasing subsidies for renewable energy projects (including solar, wind, and geothermal), the Ministry of Economic Affairs published an “Energy Agenda” last week saying renewable energy subsidies would be phased out as renewables become more economically competitive. However, the government intends to work with power companies to make it easier for individuals to invest in renewables.

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<p>Last week, both South Korea and the European Union noted they would be taking legal action in responses to “dieselgate,” the nickname given to the scandal on Volkswagen vehicles' nitrous oxide emissions. Last year, it was discovered that Volkswagen had intentionally misreported the amount of nitrous oxides that their cars emit outside of the laboratory. South Korea intends to file criminal charges against Volkswagen executives in the South Korean unit for falsely advertising their vehicles' emissions.

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<p>Last week, both South Korea and the European Union noted they would be taking legal action in responses to “dieselgate,” the nickname given to the scandal on Volkswagen vehicles' nitrous oxide emissions. Last year, it was discovered that Volkswagen had intentionally misreported the amount of nitrous oxides that their cars emit outside of the laboratory. South Korea intends to file criminal charges against Volkswagen executives in the South Korean unit for falsely advertising their vehicles' emissions.

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<p>Last week, Indonesia passed a ban preventing the conversion of peatlands into plantations, particularly palm oil plantations. Peat soils sequester huge amounts of carbon. When they are drained and burned, they release significant quantities of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. In Indonesia, the decomposition and burning of peatlands contribute to almost half of Indonesia’s total carbon emissions.

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<p>The European Commission is taking Poland to court due to Poland’s inability to tackle poor air quality. Poland is Europe’s most polluted country, with pollution levels more than double those in France. More than 40,000 Poles die each year due to air pollution. Poland uses coal and, on occasion, garbage to heat the country’s homes. South Poland, near the ski resort towns, feels the effects stronger than the rest of the country due to local neglect of environmental rules.

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<p>The European Commission is taking Poland to court due to Poland’s inability to tackle poor air quality. Poland is Europe’s most polluted country, with pollution levels more than double those in France. More than 40,000 Poles die each year due to air pollution. Poland uses coal and, on occasion, garbage to heat the country’s homes. South Poland, near the ski resort towns, feels the effects stronger than the rest of the country due to local neglect of environmental rules.

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<p>The European Commission is taking Poland to court due to Poland’s inability to tackle poor air quality. Poland is Europe’s most polluted country, with pollution levels more than double those in France. More than 40,000 Poles die each year due to air pollution. Poland uses coal and, on occasion, garbage to heat the country’s homes. South Poland, near the ski resort towns, feels the effects stronger than the rest of the country due to local neglect of environmental rules.

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<p>The European Commission is taking Poland to court due to Poland’s inability to tackle poor air quality. Poland is Europe’s most polluted country, with pollution levels more than double those in France. More than 40,000 Poles die each year due to air pollution. Poland uses coal and, on occasion, garbage to heat the country’s homes. South Poland, near the ski resort towns, feels the effects stronger than the rest of the country due to local neglect of environmental rules.

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<p>The European Commission is taking Poland to court due to Poland’s inability to tackle poor air quality. Poland is Europe’s most polluted country, with pollution levels more than double those in France. More than 40,000 Poles die each year due to air pollution. Poland uses coal and, on occasion, garbage to heat the country’s homes. South Poland, near the ski resort towns, feels the effects stronger than the rest of the country due to local neglect of environmental rules.

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<p>Starting in January 2016, China will introduce tough emissions controls for ships entering three key port areas in order to reduce sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide results in acid rain, which causes respiratory challenges and sometimes premature death. If the controls are implemented strictly, they will ensure that oil suppliers augment the use of cleaner marine fuel. The rule will affect ships entering the port areas of Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta, and the Bohai Bay rim.

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<p>Concurrent with the official COP21 negotiations in Paris, leaders of indigenous nations from North and South America were in Paris demanding justice for violations of the rights of the earth. In 2010, in Bolivia, the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth gave rise to the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature as an alternative to the COP meetings. This year, the tribunal reviewed several cases that dealt with Ecuador’s oil exploitation, particularly in Yasuni National Park.

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<p>Concurrent with the official COP21 negotiations in Paris, leaders of indigenous nations from North and South America were in Paris demanding justice for violations of the rights of the earth. In 2010, in Bolivia, the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth gave rise to the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature as an alternative to the COP meetings. This year, the tribunal reviewed several cases that dealt with Ecuador’s oil exploitation, particularly in Yasuni National Park.

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<p>The European Union's Juncker Commission named job creation, debt reduction, and increasing industrial competitiveness as top priorities while threatening to abandon support for major environmental legislation in a recently leaked draft workplan. There has already been opposition to scaling back air quality legislation that would establish national emission limits for six toxic air pollutants, but lack of executive support means plans for a massive waste reduction program are more uncertain.

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<p>The provincial government of Aceh, Indonesia, has adopted a new spatial plan, Qanun 19/2014, that critics worry will have severe consequences for the important Leuser Ecosystem and natural disaster mitigation. The plan makes no mention of the specially protected Leuser Ecosystem, despite the fact that the provincial government gained authority over the area's management in 2006. The plan also ignores rules prohibiting development on slopes graded steeper than 40%, which are intended to protect soils and prevent destructive landslides.

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<p>The Supreme Court of Yukon recently ruled against the territorial government for its attempt to override a negotiated land use plan for the Peel watershed region. Elections in 2011 gave the Yukon Party a majority government in the territory, which officials viewed as a mandate to revisit the plan negotiated with indigenous leaders. The government's new plan would have protected only 29% of the watershed from mining while the original plan prevented new development in 80% of the region.

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<p>A bill to end the moratorium on genetically modified “terminator” seeds could pass Brazil’s national Congress as early as Tuesday, December 17, spurring unease among farmers and environmentalists. These “suicide seeds” cause crops to die off after one harvest without producing offspring, increasing farmers’ dependence on seed and chemical companies as they are forced to buy new seeds for each planting.

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<p>Last Thursday, Paris was put on an air pollution alert as the city's worst smog levels since 2007 were recorded. According to Airparif, an organization that monitors the air quality in Paris, the pollution index reached the highest of five levels for fine particulates, causing the government to ask people to refrain from using wood fireplaces and driving diesel vehicles that lack proper filters. As the severe smog was brought on by a cold spell that trapped diesel fumes in the atmosphere, the pollution alert may reopen the debate over taxes on diesel fuel.

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<p>According to one marine scientist, mining constitutes a greater threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef than agriculture. Last Tuesday, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt authorized dredging and dumping associated with four coal terminals on the Great Barrier Reef coast, as well as the building of a liquid natural gas refinery and pipeline.

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<p>Chinese companies are involved in over 300 hydroelectric projects in 70 countries, according to a new report analyzing China's role in new mega-dams worldwide. "The Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Corporation is now the largest hydropower company in the world," reads the report by International Rivers, which adds that the China Export-Import Bank is a major funder of large dams. Since 2008, the number of dams with Chinese involvement has grown by 300 percent, with many projects allegedly lacking stringent environmental or social policies.

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<p>Norway will contribute $180 million in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) funding to Brazil, even as the nations disagree over who should monitor carbon savings. Payments from Norway now total $670 million, out of $1 billion pledged by 2015, and Brazil's rate of deforestation has fallen nearly 70 percent from historic levels as it reduced the rate of loss by 27 percent from 2011 to 2012. However, the nations' disagreement over who should measure the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees is hampering efforts at forest protection.

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<p>Norway will contribute $180 million in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) funding to Brazil, even as the nations disagree over who should monitor carbon savings. Payments from Norway now total $670 million, out of $1 billion pledged by 2015, and Brazil's rate of deforestation has fallen nearly 70 percent from historic levels as it reduced the rate of loss by 27 percent from 2011 to 2012. However, the nations' disagreement over who should measure the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees is hampering efforts at forest protection.

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<p>Large man-made reservoirs can increase the intensity of rainfall and may damage flood defenses, according to a study to be published in the journal <em>Hydrology</em>. Scientists studying data from 50 rain gauges in Chile found that rainfall patterns were much higher around bodies of water than in similar areas without them.

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<p>Air pollution in Beijing hit levels hazardous to human health a majority of days in the past few weeks, and severe smog led to hundreds of flight cancellations and road closures last week. In some cases, traffic jams stretched as long as 30 miles and drivers were given emergency food and water handouts as they waited for visibility to return. Stores sold out of face masks and air purifiers, and bloggers posted photographs of the thick haze over the city blaming the Chinese government for failing to inform the public of the threat posed by air pollution. The U.S.

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<p>Brazilian Amazon deforestation fell to the lowest level ever reported, but progress may be shortlived as the Senate voted to ease rules for farmer forest preservation. The bill, an update to a 1965 law that severely restricted the amount of land farmers can clear, revises the 55 million hectares that farmers would have to restore to 24 million hectares. And while the Senate revised a lower house measure that would have provided amnesty for illegal deforestation before 2008, farmers will not have to pay billions of dollars in fines.

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<p>The United Nations carbon market will likely continue even in the absence of a second round of emissions targets, according to Bloomberg. The Clean Development Mechanism, the second largest offset market in the world, can continue to generate credits even if wealthy countries fail to extend the Kyoto Protocol. The mechanism, worth $1.5 billion last year according to the World Bank, can be used for compliance in the European Union's scheme, and it will "cruise through" talks, said Alex Sarac, legal director at DLA Piper LLP.