International Update Volume all, Issue 6
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Uganda recently withdrew from a two-year extension of the International Coffee Organisation’s (ISO's) 2007 International Coffee Agreement (ICA).

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<p>On February 13, 22-year-old Indian climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested at her home in Bengaluru. Ravi is the co-founder of the Bengaluru chapter of Fridays for Future, an organization created by Greta Thunberg to promote youth climate activism. Delhi authorities have accused Ravi of sedition and criminal conspiracy (<a href="https://time.com/5939627/disha-ravi-india-toolkit-arrest/">Time</a&gt;).</p>

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<p>Locust swarms across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania, and Uganda have now entered South Sudan, threatening crops and livelihoods of 25 million people. The locust outbreak in Kenya is the worst the country has faced in 70 years, while Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst swarms in 25 years.

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<p>Locust swarms across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania, and Uganda have now entered South Sudan, threatening crops and livelihoods of 25 million people. The locust outbreak in Kenya is the worst the country has faced in 70 years, while Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst swarms in 25 years.

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<p>On February 20, Spain announced a $53 billion public investment plan to tackle climate change and become carbon-neutral by 2050. The government intends to establish a calendar of capacity auctions to work toward a target of producing 74% of the country's electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The proposal is expected to cut Spain's reliance on imported energy to 59% from 74% over 10 years.

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<p>The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has published a report suggesting that a decline in biodiversity poses a growing threat to food security. According to the UN study, the plants, animals, and microorganisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline as a result of changes in land and water use and management, pollution, and climate change, among other drivers. The report highlights a number of "biodiversity friendly practices" that countries are beginning to adopt, but suggests that changes are not happening quickly enough.

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<p>Nearly a decade after Indonesia and Norway signed an agreement to preserve Indonesia's rainforests, Indonesia is ready to receive funding from Norway for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation in 2017.

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<p>Nearly a decade after Indonesia and Norway signed an agreement to preserve Indonesia's rainforests, Indonesia is ready to receive funding from Norway for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation in 2017.

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<p>Germany’s highest federal administrative court delayed its pending ruling on a diesel ban to February 27. The ruling on whether major cities will be allowed to ban high-polluting diesel cars poses substantial financial implications, impacting the resale value of up to 15 million vehicles and causing automakers to pay for expensive vehicle modifications. In recent proceedings, lawyers considered whether the government would need to introduce a new car-labelling scheme to enable the enforcement of any potential future bans.

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<p>Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy agreed to what may be the first debt swap for a marine protection area. As a result of this agreement, 210,000 sq. km (81,000 sq. mi) of ocean are protected in exchange for paying off some of the nation’s debt. To minimize further damage to marine resources, the reserves limit tourism and fishing activities in Seychelles. The nation will direct future national debt payments into a new trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT).

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<p>South Africa’s Finance Minister announced plans to implement a carbon tax on businesses and companies with high emissions. The carbon tax is expected to take effect January 2019, allowing businesses almost a year to transition toward lower emissions to comply with the law. Currently, the draft Carbon Tax Bill is being considered by Parliament; if accepted as is, it will tax businesses with excessive emissions a rate of R120 (US $10.35) per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent.

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<p>The Chinese government continues to pursue its goal of reducing the country’s coal-power capacity. Last week the government announced considerations for what would be its third “major shift in policy” to move the country toward renewable energy: limiting the amount of coal that can be mined. In April 2016, the government capped the number of days a mine can operate in an attempt to reduce the supply of coal.

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<p>Last week a Brazilian judge issued a 180-day suspension to Belo Sun, the mining company that had planned an open-pit gold mine, which would be Brazil’s largest. The judge found that the company had improperly purchased the land from several owners and had yet to obtain an environmental permit. Further, the company is not permitted to develop the mine until pre-existing land rights issues in the area have been solved. The residents of the area are concerned about the environmental impact of the toxic waste impoundment dam that would accompany the mine.

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<p>Vietnam’s Communist Party Inspection Commission announced the names of 11 government and industry officials who will be held responsible for the environmental disaster at the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel steel mill last year. It was discovered that the mill had committed more than 50 violations, including using an outdated production process, which led to a “toxic leak” that polluted 200 kilometers of coastline, killed over 100 tons of fish, and left many in the affected area without employment.

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<p>A plan to build a subway tunnel under Singapore's largest patch of primary rainforest has drawn sharp protests from environmental groups and activists who say it could irreversibly damage the habitats of hundreds of plant and animal species. They are appealing to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to re-route the 50 km (31 mile) Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, rather than through it.

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<p>A growing number of pollinator species worldwide are&nbsp;being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening&nbsp;millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies, according to&nbsp;the first global assessment by the&nbsp;Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released February 26.

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<p>A growing number of pollinator species worldwide are&nbsp;being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening&nbsp;millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies, according to&nbsp;the first global assessment by the&nbsp;Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released February 26.

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<p>A growing number of pollinator species worldwide are&nbsp;being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening&nbsp;millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies, according to&nbsp;the first global assessment by the&nbsp;Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released February 26.

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<p>On February 24, the United States won a ruling against India at the World Trade Organization after challenging rules on the origin of solar cells and solar modules used in India's national solar power program. In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative's office called the ruling a significant victory that would hasten the spread of solar energy across the world and support clean-energy jobs in the United States.

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<p>The European Commission has issued rules banning the sale of stovetops, ovens, and cooking hoods that do not meet new energy efficiency requirements. The new rules are expected to save customers who replace inefficient appliances about $57 per year. Industry groups were consulted throughout the rulemaking process and welcomed the changes, but critics have attacked the broader policy, known as ecodesign.

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<p>Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an agricultural program to provide soil testing for the country's farmers in an effort to increase productivity and reduce wasteful overuse of fertilizers. The program, which will be available to about 140 million of India's 235 million farmers, will provide agricultural workers with cards containing farm-specific data, which will then be used by government fertilizer suppliers to ensure that the correct type and amount of fertilizer is being used on the land.

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<p>Dozens of Indonesian government entities signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on February 17 aimed at stemming corruption and coordinating better management of the country's fisheries and forests. The document, entitled the "National Movement to Save Indonesia's Natural Resources," was signed by the Corruption Eradication Commission, the Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, 34 regional fisheries agencies, and 24 regional forestry agencies.

<p>The European Commission announced last Thursday that it intends to take the United Kingdom to court for failing to reduce high levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution. Although other EU countries have also exceeded EU NO2&nbsp;limits, the United Kingdom, according to EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik, stands out for its persistent breach of the air quality directive; despite 15 years of warnings and several extensions, it has failed to comply with EU standards.

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<p>Last Friday, Beijing raised its four-tiered air pollution alert system to “orange” for the first time, as smog levels became hazardous. Friday’s alert responded to criticism the Beijing government faced for failing to act against high pollution levels the previous weekend, when levels of PM2.5 topped 500 micrograms per cubic meter—far above the 300 micrograms per cubic meter deemed hazardous by EPA. The alert is part of a monitoring plan introduced in October to rate the seriousness of air pollution.

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<p>Scientists fear that a plan to cut a canal across Nicaragua could cause serious damage to the environment. Last June, the Nicaraguan government signed a bill that would allow Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND) to build a canal linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. According to the Nicaraguan government, the canal would have significant economic benefits, potentially tripling economic growth while it is being built. Scientists Axel Meyer and Jorge A.

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<p>The European Union agreed to its first law regulating safety in offshore oil and gas on Thursday, including criteria for awarding licenses and penalties for breaching safety standards. British politicians welcomed the law, saying it would force other states to enact the same laws Britain has had in place for years. But some environmental campaigners said that the law was not robust enough.

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<p>European Union member states approved a plan to register solar panels from China as both parties move closer to punitive tariffs. Though EU officials are aware that Europe needs China and the solar market to recover its economy, they have accused China of "stonewalling" and have criticized the lack of clarity from Chinese leadership. The measure would also allow the EU to retroactively place duties on China and its companies if they are found to have sold panels below cost.

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<p>European Union member states approved a plan to register solar panels from China as both parties move closer to punitive tariffs. Though EU officials are aware that Europe needs China and the solar market to recover its economy, they have accused China of "stonewalling" and have criticized the lack of clarity from Chinese leadership. The measure would also allow the EU to retroactively place duties on China and its companies if they are found to have sold panels below cost.

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<p>China plans to spend $850 billion on water improvement projects over the next decade, but efforts may do little to reverse damage caused by years of pollution and overuse. While the funding is necessary to fight the sewer discharge, chemical spills, and algae from fertilizer runoff caused by decades of rapid expansion, the nation's record of water cleanup indicates that the final amount needed may be much higher.

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<p>A European Union committee of technical experts failed to agree to a proposal to label oil sands fuel as more polluting than other fuel sources. The committee, which met last week, was tasked with determining whether oil sands should be labeled as "dirty" under the Fuel Quality Directive, which <span>is designed to cut the carbon intensity of transport fuels by 6 percent by 2020</span>. Such a label would make oil sands more costly to import, a measure Canada has called unjustified and discriminatory.

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<p>A European Union committee of technical experts failed to agree to a proposal to label oil sands fuel as more polluting than other fuel sources. The committee, which met last week, was tasked with determining whether oil sands should be labeled as "dirty" under the Fuel Quality Directive, which <span>is designed to cut the carbon intensity of transport fuels by 6 percent by 2020</span>. Such a label would make oil sands more costly to import, a measure Canada has called unjustified and discriminatory.

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<p>Forest fires have contributed to a large reduction in India's forest cover since 2009, with the heaviest losses occurring in Andrha Pradesh. The state reported a maximum forest cover loss of 281 square kilometer and a decrease across all states and territories totaling 867 square kilometers. Some of the damage is due to logging, and the state center in Andrha Pradesh blamed the Naxals, a militant Communist group, for felling trees. However, much of the damage is due to widespread fires.

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<p>The World Bank launched the Global Partnership for Oceans, a coalition of governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other groups, to protect oceans. The partnership aims to raise $1.5 billion in five years, and proposed targets for the Global Partnership for Oceans include rebuilding at least half of the world's fishing stocks. "The facts don't lie . . . we are not doing enough, we are not accomplishing enough, and the oceans continue to get sick and die," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

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<p>The government of Australia tried for a third time last week to charge for carbon emissions, releasing a new fixed-price plan to start in 2012. Prime Minister Julia Girrard said that carbon polluters would pay a fixed price starting in July 2012, then move to a market-based system within the next five years. The move faces opposition from conservative parties, who describe it as a "great big new tax." In addition, crucial details, such as the starting price, have yet to be agreed with the Greens.

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<p>Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has fallen under heavy criticism from environmentalists and tribal rights activists after granting clearance to the Korean giant Pohang Iron and Steel Company to build a $12 billion steel plant in Orissa. The 12 million ton capacity plant was approved in 2007, but faced project-stalling opposition from tribal populations in possession of the necessary lands and from environmental groups concerned about the effects of the plant.

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<p>South Africa will spend 1.2 billion rand to clean up the acidic water that threatens to spill out of gold mines near Johannesburg. The network of abandoned mines that surrounds and underlies Johannesburg stretches for miles, and the mix of chemicals filling the flooded tunnels will affect the country for years, according to a report released by the Department of Water Affairs. Water flooding the tunnels has reacted with billion-year-old rocks to produce heavy metals, sulfuric acid, and radiation.