International Update Volume all, Issue 36
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>For three consecutive weekends in late November and early December, environmentalists constructed roadblocks in Serbia to protest foreign mining plans and two laws that they say assist the mining companies. Critics said the referendum law would make protesting projects more difficult and the expropriation law would allow for quicker acquisition of private land by the state.

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<p>On December 17, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law filed a petition under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement for the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement.

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<p><span style="mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman';">On December 6, over half a million protesters marched outside the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, demanding that world leaders take action (</span><a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50744784"><span style="mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman';">BBC</span></a><span style="mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman';">).

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<p>The Tanzanian government has signed an agreement with two Egyptian companies to construct a hydroelectric dam along the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve. The reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its animal populations and variety of wildlife habitats. Conservationists say the project would destroy the reserve, which is a tourist draw and source of revenue for the country. The dam is expected to produce 5,920 gigawatts of power annually.

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<p>On December 13, a European Union (EU) court partly overturned the European Commission's 2016 regulatory amendment that raised the limits on nitrogen oxide emissions from cars and vans, in a complaint brought by city authorities from Paris, Brussels, and Madrid. The General Court determined that the part of the amendment that increased nitrogen oxide limits exceeded the Commission's authority and broke EU human rights and other laws.

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<p>On December 12, the Argentine Congress passed a bill that establishes two new marine protected areas—the Yaganese Marine National Park and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park—covering a total area of about 37,000 square miles. The parks are home to a diversity of marine creatures, including the South American sea lion, rare cold-water corals, and vulnerable and threatened species, like the black-browed albatross and the South American fur seal. The designation of these two parks increases Argentina's total area of protected ocean to approximately 8 percent.

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<p>The Netherlands launched an attempt to fund an offshore wind farm without subsidies. Only companies that require no support can participate. Companies can hand in bids for two slots available in the North Sea, each representing a 350 megawatt (MW) project, by Dec. 21. German success at limiting subsidies prompted the Dutch to go a step further and test this model.

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<p>Hungary will modify rules on the construction of small solar power plants and subsidize loans to landowners as part of its efforts to promote renewable energy. The country’s sole nuclear power plant currently provides over half of Hungary’s electricity while 29% of its electricity is imported. The new rules would relax regulations on the use of farmland. The state would purchase all electricity generated at the new solar plants with a long-term goal of minimizing Hungary’s need to import electricity in the next two decades.

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<p>Smog warnings across northern China forced officials to order factories to reduce output, order construction sites to slow work, and enforce limits on the use of diesel-fueled vehicles. The city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province had the highest concentration of hazardous breathable particles. China has launched a major effort to clean the north’s notoriously toxic air during the winter, when smog blankets colder regions as people start to increase the use of heating. Beijing was the only city among 28 being monitored where air quality hadn’t become bad enough to trigger the order.

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<p>Last week, the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU was within its right to apply carbon taxes to flights between Switzerland and member states, even though flights to and from other countries outside the bloc are exempt. Lufthansa-owned Swiss International Air Lines brought the case to court, arguing that its treatment under the EU's Emission Trading System infringed on the principle of equal treatment under EU law by treating Switzerland differently from other third countries.

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<p>In recent weeks, the European Union has voted in favor of including shipping in its carbon emissions trading system (ETS). The proposal will be addressed in a plenary vote and by the EU’s lawmaking bodies in February, despite concerns from the shipping industry that such a unilateral move by the EU would distort world trade. The proposal follows a 2015 study by the European Parliament that estimates that international aviation and maritime transport will together contribute to 40% of global carbon emissions in 2050.

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<p>Earlier this month the Chinese State Council vowed to introduce an environment tax by 2020. The tax would tackle “chronic and intractable pollution” by raising the operational costs of polluting industries, encouraging them to install cleaner technologies. Although China has had a pollutant discharge fee since 1979, the system has been exploited by local governments, among others.

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<p>Already party to the Paris Agreement and UN sustainable development goals for the reduction of hydrofluorocarbons, Myanmar is moving forward in revising its national environmental policy, which could be implemented as early as 2017. The new policy will address climate change, pollution, and waste from the expansion of industry, as well as environmental harm caused by natural resource exploitation.

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<p>On December 12, 195 countries reached a historic deal to address the global challenge of climate change. The accord was reached after nearly two weeks of debate and years of preparation. Ahead of the Paris talks, 186 countries submitted plans to cut carbon emissions through either 2025 or 2030.&nbsp;The agreement commits countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of not surpassing a 2-degree rise in global temperature, and an aspirational goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5C.

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<p>On December 18, a Dutch appeals court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell can be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria by its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC). Shell was ordered by judges in The Hague to provide the court with documents that clarify details about the oil spill, particularly its causes and whether those in charge were aware of them. This decision overturned a finding by a lower Dutch court in 2013 that Shell’s parent company could not be held liable for oil pollution by its Nigerian subsidiary.

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<p>On December 18, a Dutch appeals court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell can be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria by its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC). Shell was ordered by judges in The Hague to provide the court with documents that clarify details about the oil spill, particularly its causes and whether those in charge were aware of them. This decision overturned a finding by a lower Dutch court in 2013 that Shell’s parent company could not be held liable for oil pollution by its Nigerian subsidiary.

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<p>The government of the Philippines stated that it plans to challenge a ban on GMO imports that was ordered by the country’s top court. The announcement comes after the court’s ban rattled global soybean markets. The Supreme Court struck down a 2002 regulation that permitted GMO imports and instituted a temporary ban until new regulations are formed. The Philippines imports approximately 2.2 million tons of soybeans each year, largely from the United States, the vast majority of which is genetically modified.

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<p>China plans tougher pollution limits and heavier penalties in a revision of its air pollution law, state-run news agency Xinhua said, as the government battles to reduce smog that takes hundreds of thousands of lives each year. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is considering a draft that would impose fines of up to 1 million yuan ($160,000) or even shut down factories that exceed emission limits, Xinhua reported last Monday.

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<p>Ecuador halted environmental cooperation deals with Germany worth some 43 million euros to the Latin American country after German lawmakers tried to visit an Amazon rainforest recently opened for oil production, the foreign minister said December 19. President Rafael Correa in 2007 asked wealthy countries to donate $3.6 billion to help protect the environmentally sensitive rainforest known as Yasuni in exchange for promises not to drill for the oil beneath it. In 2013, he scrapped the plan and authorized drilling after the proposal brought in a fraction of what he had sought.

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<p>Danish wind company Vestas&nbsp;won a contract&nbsp;to provide 365 turbines for a 310 megawatt wind power project in Kenya.&nbsp;The <a href="http://ltwp.co.ke/the-project/project-profile">Lake Turkana Wind Power </a>project will be the largest of its kind in Africa, and is expected to generate 15-20% of Kenya’s electricity needs when completed. According to project developers, the site is a&nbsp;unique location&nbsp;that is favorable for wind.

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<p>Last Wednesday, EU policymakers revealed a draft law designed to fight air pollution. The new law would institute revised legal limits on how much each nation can emit of a list of major pollutants and would establish measures to ensure that member states comply with existing limits. The legislation would also put new restrictions on emissions from medium-sized power plants, which in the past have escaped the limits imposed on larger plants.

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<p>Despite conservationists' concerns, last Friday Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, approved mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s China First coalmine. The mine, planned for Queensland’s Galilee Basin, will have the capacity to produce 40 million tons of coal per year, triggering an estimated 85.6 million tons of CO2 when the coal is burned. Approval for the project came with 49 conditions.

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<p>More than 50 European and U.S. scientists have written to the president of the European Commission to urge him to go forward with a law that would label tar sands oil as 25 percent more polluting than other forms of oil. The law, which has been in limbo since it was approved by EU member states in 2009, has faced significant criticism from oil companies such as Total and BP. Canada—the world’s biggest producer of oil from tar sands—has headed the opposition to the law.

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<p>More than 50 European and U.S. scientists have written to the president of the European Commission to urge him to go forward with a law that would label tar sands oil as 25 percent more polluting than other forms of oil. The law, which has been in limbo since it was approved by EU member states in 2009, has faced significant criticism from oil companies such as Total and BP. Canada—the world’s biggest producer of oil from tar sands—has headed the opposition to the law.

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<p>A car boom in India and China has caused outdoor air pollution, along with obesity, to become the world's fastest growing causes of death, according to a study published by Lancet. A record 3.2 million people died from air pollution in 2010, compared with 800,000 in 2000, ranking it for the first time in the top ten list of killer diseases. Most of the air pollution in Asia that killed 2.1 million people prematurely in 2010 was from cars and trucks, with construction and industry being major causes as well.

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<p>A car boom in India and China has caused outdoor air pollution, along with obesity, to become the world's fastest growing causes of death, according to a study published by Lancet. A record 3.2 million people died from air pollution in 2010, compared with 800,000 in 2000, ranking it for the first time in the top ten list of killer diseases. Most of the air pollution in Asia that killed 2.1 million people prematurely in 2010 was from cars and trucks, with construction and industry being major causes as well.

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<p>Coal will catch up to oil as the world's leading energy source by 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Economic and population growth in developing countries is largely fueling the push, which will significantly increase carbon emissions.

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<p>Coal will catch up to oil as the world's leading energy source by 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Economic and population growth in developing countries is largely fueling the push, which will significantly increase carbon emissions.

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<p>Coal will catch up to oil as the world's leading energy source by 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Economic and population growth in developing countries is largely fueling the push, which will significantly increase carbon emissions.

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<p>The Amazon rainforest may be more susceptible to drought than previously believed, according to a new study. The impacts of a 2005 drought persisted significantly longer than scientists had previously believed, raising questions about the forest's ability to cope with climate change. The research is based on satellite data and analysis of rainfall observations, measuring characteristics of the forest including water content in leaves and the overall structure of the canopy, to look at the response of the rainforest to the 2005 drought, the worst on record at the time.

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<p>Brazilian federal prosecutors have filed a civil suit against Chevron and Transocean seeking $10.6 billion from Chevron and aiming to suspend both companies from operating in the country. The suit is in response to a leak in November at Chevron's Fade site, which, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office, demonstrated a lack of planning and environmental management by the companies. Chevron responded that the spill was halted in four days with minimal damage to the environment.

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<p>A long awaited energy policy paper from Martin Ferguson, Australia's Minister for Resources and Energy, said that an emissions standard for new power plants, a campaign promise that Prime Minister Julia Gillard said would end the building of "dirty" power plants, had become redundant in the face of the nation's carbon market. The Labor Party's proposed regulations would have required newly built power plants to emit less than .86 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour and be carbon capture and storage ready.

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<p>Canada is still legally obligated to cut emissions despite its pullout of Kyoto, the United Nations climate chief said Tuesday. "Whether or not Canada is a party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the [U.N. framework on climate change] convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort," said chief Christiana Figueres.