International Update Volume all, Issue 7
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The European Commission proposed a law at the end of February that would hold companies in the European Union (EU) accountable for environmental and human rights violations throughout their supply chains. The Corporate Due Diligence law will be discussed and modified by the EU Parliament and 27 Member governments over the next year.

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<p>On February 25, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the New Zealand government would be collaborating with conservation groups—the World Wild Life Fund and MAUI63—and major fishing companies—Moana New Zealand and Sanford Limited—on a new initiative to protect the critically endangered Maui dolphin.

<p>On February 27, Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled against an $18 billion proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport, stating policymakers had failed to consider the U.K.’s climate change commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement when designing the project (<a href="https://apnews.com/d38ba261a3bdb8af6f890f111f3744f5">AP News</a>, <a href="

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<p>On March 1, Pakistan announced plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations (UN) that accuses India of "eco-terrorism" over air strikes that damaged pine trees. According to Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan's climate change minister, Indian jets bombed a "forest reserve" on February 26 near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot and caused significant environmental damage. Pakistan is undertaking an environmental impact assessment that will be the basis for its complaint at the UN and other forums.

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<p>On March 1, Pakistan announced plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations (UN) that accuses India of "eco-terrorism" over air strikes that damaged pine trees. According to Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan's climate change minister, Indian jets bombed a "forest reserve" on February 26 near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot and caused significant environmental damage. Pakistan is undertaking an environmental impact assessment that will be the basis for its complaint at the UN and other forums.

<p>On March 1, Australian officials announced that a large Hong Kong-flagged ship, which was chartered by the Bintan Mining Company to carry bauxite for aluminum production, has run aground next to a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Solomon Islands and has been leaking oil since February 5. Australian experts estimate that more than 80 tons of oil has leaked into the sea and shoreline in ecologically sensitive area and more than 660 tons of oil remain aboard the ship. Both Australia and New Zealand have sent experts to help monitor the spill.

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<p>On February 28, South Korea's energy ministry announced plans to suspend operations at four of its older coal-fired power plants from March to June in an effort to reduce air pollution. The ministry also plans to cap electricity output from other plants when air pollution levels are high and expand the use of low-sulfur coal. Coal power accounts for roughly 40% of South Korea's electricity.

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<p>Brazil’s Supreme Court reaffirmed the Quilombo people’s rights over their territories, ending a lengthy multi-generational fight for their land entitlement. Historically, Quilombo communities faced tremendous difficulties to secure land titles, and were forced to compete with powerful agribusiness interests in developing and using the land. The Quilombos’ rights to traditional lands are guaranteed under the 1988 Brazilian constitution; following the Supreme Court decision, the Cachoeira Porteira Quilombo community received an official land entitlement.

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<p>To bring pollution levels down in and around New Dehli, India approved a two-year plan targeting agricultural mechanization to reduce crop residue burning. Burned crop stubble is a significant source of pollution in New Delhi, accounting for one-quarter of the capital’s air pollution last November. This plan may respond to some of the criticisms the New Delhi government received regarding the city’s air quality; Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described New Delhi as a “gas chamber.” Last November, United Airlines suspended flights to New Delhi because of the pollution.

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<p>A year after the Supreme Court decision to uphold a freedom-of-information order, the Indonesian government continues to stall on releasing data on plantations operating in the country. The government’s rationale for not complying with the order is its obligation to generate revenue from the release of this data; the lack of a payment mechanism is the obstacle in releasing the information to the public. Lack of public access to this information contributes to the increasing number of land conflicts in plantation areas in recent years.

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<p>The Albanian village of Zharreza has been feeling the impacts of hydraulic fracturing since 2010. Over 80% of the town's homes have been damaged by earthquakes caused by disposing of fracking waste water in injection wells; 10% are no longer habitable. Last week the country’s Deputy Prime Minister announced that all villagers in Albania whose homes have been damaged by fracking will be fully compensated, though the fracking company, Bankers Petroleum, said they would only pay the compensation if their disposal activities are causally linked to the tremors.

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<p>HSBC, the world’s sixth-largest bank and one of the biggest financers of the palm oil industry, recently revised its Agricultural Commodities Policy to include a “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” (NDPE) policy for its financing of palm oil projects. The change comes in response to a Greenpeace investigation, which linked HSBC to Indonesian palm oil plantations that engage in deforestation, and subsequent campaign, which included thousands of HSBC customers urging the bank to changes its policies.

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<p>Last week, <a href="https://elr.info/international/international-update/china-continues-its… announced</a> its intent to limit coal production during the warmer months as part of the country’s efforts to tackle air pollution. Now, in order to cut smog during the colder months, Beijing has ordered steel producers, aluminum producers, and pesticides manufacturers to cut their production partially or completely in the winter.

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<p>Germany, France, and Britain pressed the European Union for more ambitious greenhouse gas targets at a meeting of environment ministers last Friday, clashing with the EU executive and several eastern and central European states. The big states led criticism of a draft text that said the bloc does not need to revise upward its targets until the next decade as it tries to decide how to share the burden of meeting those among its 28 member countries. So far, the EU has agreed to cut emissions by at least 40% by 1990 levels by 2030 and to a first global stock-take in 2023.

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<p>Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau persuaded the country's 10 provinces last Thursday to accept the concept of putting a price on carbon but agreed the specific details could be worked out later. The compromise deal was unveiled at the end of a tough day's talks with the provinces, many of which had signaled their opposition to the idea of Ottawa imposing a single price across the country. Instead, the two sides agreed that mechanisms for pricing carbon would take into account each province's specific circumstances.

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<p>A draft Polish law that would impose a raft of exacting demands on windfarm developers is nothing less than a bid to sabotage the country’s renewable energy prospects, according to Europe’s wind industry. Under the proposal, developers would need to apply for a license to operate a wind turbine every two years. If they wanted to repair or modernize a turbine, they would first need to get permission from an inspector’s office, then pay a significant fee and reapply for another permit.

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<p>Chilean lawmakers have proposed a bill that would protect 80 percent of the country's glaciers by prohibiting commercial activity on them within Chile's national parks. The proposal comes after government officials and Congress agreed to work together to pass the legislation. Large mining projects, particularly copper mines, would be affected by the law. Chile is the world's largest exporter of copper. Though permits already issued would not be revoked, current operations could be required to take additional mitigation measures.

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<p>China's State Forestry Administration has announced a year-long moratorium on the importation of ivory carvings, a move authorities claim will allow them to evaluate the ban's effectiveness on curbing elephant poaching in Africa. Conservation organizations are less enthusiastic, saying the moratorium will do little to decrease demand for ivory within China. The country's legal domestic trade will not be affected, and critics worry the Chinese government will use the year-long ban to argue that moratoriums do not decrease poaching activities.

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<p>Colombia has proposed creating the world's largest protected area in an effort to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change. President Juan Manuel Santos plans to propose the project at the UN climate negotiations in Paris at the end of 2015, suggesting the country will seek credit for the forests the area would preserve.

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<p>The government of New South Wales has cleared the way for the state’s forests to be used to generate electricity. Burning native vegetation to produce power had previously been banned, but new regulations would allow trees destined for pulp and paper production—as well as invasive native species and offcuts of sawlogs—to be burned in power stations.

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<p>After six years of testing, last month Polski Koks, Europe’s leading coke exporter, launched a new type of coal pellet intended to cut Poland’s emissions. Currently, coal-fired power stations generate 90% of Poland’s electricity. The new coal-based carbon pellets, called VARMO pellets, include nonpolluting biofuel components such as glycerine and other plant materials and could help Poland reduce its carbon emissions. According to Gerard Galeczka, Director of New Projects at Polski Koks, the VARMO pellets should have significant benefits for air quality.

<p>The U.K. Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs is discussing rules that would prevent farmers from contributing to floods. Experts hold farmers partially responsible for the severe flooding in Somerset and other areas, citing certain farming practices. Scientists are particularly concerned about the production of maize, as farm vehicles compact the soil of maize fields, causing significant runoff. To combat this problem, Exeter University’s Professor Richard Brazier recommends banning the cultivation of maize on steep fields.

<p>The United Kingdom Supreme Court may force the United Kingdom to take urgent measures to rapidly reduce air pollution in British cities as the government admitted that air quality laws will be breached in 15 regions until 2020. The case, which will be heard by five law lords, concerns claims by ClientEarth that the government has a legal duty to comply with EU time scales and that its plans to reduce pollution are inadequate.

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<p>The United Kingdom Supreme Court may force the United Kingdom to take urgent measures to rapidly reduce air pollution in British cities as the government admitted that air quality laws will be breached in 15 regions until 2020. The case, which will be heard by five law lords, concerns claims by ClientEarth that the government has a legal duty to comply with EU time scales and that its plans to reduce pollution are inadequate.

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<p>China announced that it would not institute a carbon tax this year, backing away from previous statements. Though the government is moving forward with carbon trading pilot programs in seven major cities, the head of research at the Ministry of Finance said that the carbon tax is "still in internal discussions" as there is "obvious opposition." Though he said the nation eventually expects to introduce a levy of $.80 to $1.61 per ton of carbon, the announcement revises a previous five year plan.

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<p>The European Union implemented measures to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering Europe, a boon to efforts to fight deforestation as the EU accounts for 35 percent of the world's primary timber market. Though the law was passed in October 2010, it is only just coming into force due to measures required by member states and private companies.

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<p>European Union politicians supported a proposal last week to withhold carbon permits from the emissions trading scheme to increase prices. EU parliament's industry committee passed a proposal that would let the Commission take measures that "may include withholding of the necessary amount of allowances" from the 2013-2020 market. Analysts have said that the Commission overestimated the number of required permits for the 2008-2012 period, resulting in a price-depressing surplus of 500 million to 1.4 billion permits.

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<p>Chinese authorities have announced plans to force major cities to monitor fine particulate matter emissions, acknowledging that the move is partially in response to online activism. "A stirring campaign on the country's social network websites since last autumn seemed to have gained a satisfying response from the country's policymaker," said the Xinhua news agency. The plan involves stricter pollution monitoring in 27 provincial capitals, the Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin megacities, and three major industrial belts.

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<p>The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre proposed a plan last week that would result in 430,000 hectares of forest reserves being managed by Aborigines instead of the Parks and Wildlife Service. Any agreement would have to pass through Tasmanian parliament, and Premier Lara Geddings has stated that she is concerned that a deal would derail the agreement to end nearly all logging in public native forests.

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<p>A Brazilian court lifted an order stopping construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on Thursday. The plant, which will be the world's third largest hydroelectric dam, is to be built in the Amazon rainforest, but a federal judge ordered construction suspended in February on the grounds that certain necessary environmental provisions had not yet been met. The dam has been met with heavy criticism due to its possible effects on wildlife and its potential impact on indigenous people around the Xingu river.

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<p>China's new five-year plan for 2011-2015 will include key measures to reverse damage caused by 30 years of environmental degradation, including putting carbon emission reduction at the top of its agenda. "<span>The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development</span>," wrote <span>environment minister Zhou Shengxian</span> in an essay last week.

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<p>Several of the largest energy companies in Europe announced that they would support greater greenhouse gas emission cuts on Friday. The firms included <span>Britain's Scottish &amp; Southern Energy, Denmark's Dong Energy, and Dutch firm Eneco</span>, and they issued a statement in advance of <span>EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard's</span> strategy paper expected on Tuesday. The current carbon dioxide target is 20 percent below 1990 levels, but the firms suggested the EU should enact a 25 percent cut target.