International Update Volume all, Issue 8
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>At the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity last week, negotiators from 164 countries began discussions about the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Later in 2022, the convention’s biannual meeting will take place in Kunming, China.

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<p>Eight teenagers from across Australia have jointly filed a class action lawsuit to stop the expansion of Whitehaven’s Coal Vickery coal mine in Gunnedah.

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<p>On March 2, Australian officials announced that there were no longer any active bushfires in the state of New South Wales for the first time in 240 days.

<p>The High Court has ruled unlawful aspects of the UK government's national planning policy concerning fracking. The court found that the government failed to take into account scientific developments that called into question whether gas was considered a low-carbon fuel source before adopting the planning policy. The ruling suggests that gas from fracking might not be considered a low-carbon fuel source, which could hamper attempts to expand fracking around the country.

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<p>Western Australia's environment authority is proposing new guidelines to offset their carbon emissions in an effort to help curb climate change. Under the guidelines, fertilizer plants, power plants, and liquefied natural gas export sites that generate more than 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide would be required to buy credits to offset their emissions in order to pass the authority's assessment process. The guidelines are not binding, but the authority's assessments are considered by the state government when approving major projects.

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<p>On March 7, the European Court of Justice's General Court ruled that the European Food Safety Agency must disclose details of studies on the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of glyphosate. Concerns about the weedkiller's safety were highlighted in 2015 when an agency of the World Health Organization concluded that it probably causes cancer. The court found that it was in the public's interest to access the information not only for knowing what is or could be released into the environment, but also for understanding the impact of those emissions.

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<p>The Nature Conservancy and the state government of Quintana Roo announced the creation of a Coastal Management Trust, the world’s first insurance policy for a coral reef. The policy aims to protect the Mesoamerican Reef, a 600-mile-long coral reef second only to the Great Barrier Reef in size. The reef is insured under a parametric policy that applies when certain conditions occur; in this case, if a Category 4 or 5 hurricane hits a 37-mi (60 km) stretch of the coast. When the policy is triggered, an immediate payout to repair and restore coral reefs occurs.

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<p>A new report released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that 20 REDD+ projects in Mai-Ndome, a province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, do not address two primary goals of the strategy: forest conservation and economic development. In the report, RRI claims that the REDD+ projects are sidelining local communities and infringing on their rights to control what happens to their forest homes.

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<p>To achieve its Paris Agreement commitments to increase its natural gas use to 50% by 2020, Hong Kong utility CLP Power is pursuing a liquefied natural gas project. Hong Kong is in the process of making a deal with Royal Dutch Shell to supply the city with fuel. CLP Power is building a new gas-fired generation unit and plans to start operations by 2020. Currently, CLP Power is finalizing the environmental impact assessment study and plans to submit it to the Hong Kong government soon.

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<p>Last week, Ibama, Brazil’s federal environmental agency, launched Sinaflor, a database to track timber from the Amazon rainforest throughout the supply chain. The system requires individual trees to be electronically tagged and tracked as the timber moves from source to sale and allows regulators to crosscheck the database with satellite mapping. Any timber not in the system will be deemed illegal. The new system was developed as a result of the 2012 forest code, and addresses problems of fraud and human error that were points of criticism for the older system.

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<p><a href="https://elr.info/international/international-update/indonesian green-groups-go-court-over-freedom-information">Two months ago</a> Forest Watch Indonesia took a freedom of information request to that coutnry's Supreme Court in order to better monitor for illegal activity.

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<p>Though having no elephants, Europe is responsible for exporting the most raw and carved ivory to the world. Despite bans on international ivory trade since 1990, European vendors had received an exemption to export ivory “harvested” before the international regulations went into place. However, falsified records allowed illegally collected ivory into the market; 2016 was another record year of ivory seizures across the continent.

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<p>In February, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ruled that Suriname is responsible for multiple violations against the Kaliña&nbsp;and Lokono indigenous peoples of Suriname. There are approximately 20,344 indigenous individuals in Suriname, comprising 3.8% of the population. A formal complaint was filed in January 2007 regarding the Lower Marowijne, Suriname’s most important estuary and home to many bird species and the leatherback sea turtle.

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<p>Kansai Electric Power was ordered by a Japanese court to halt operations at its Takahama nuclear reactors Nos. 3 and 4, the first time that an operating Japanese nuclear plant has been ordered to stop. Kansai Electric stated that it will quickly appeal the injunction, but it could be months or years before a final decision is made. The order comes in the middle of efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo to restore atomic power after the Fukushima crisis of 2011; the decision could challenge the recent progress getting reactors back online.

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<p>On March 7, 2016, the Philippines approved a set of rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which came as a relief to farmers and importers but to the dismay of environmental activists. The rules will now be forwarded to the Department of Agriculture with an expectation that they will take effect by April 2016, and are intended to improve transparency in the approval process for GMO permits.

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<p>Australia has announced a ban on the importation of African lion trophies in an effort to stop "canned hunting" of the big cats. Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the ban, which goes into effect immediately, at the Global March for Lions held in Melbourne. Hunt decried the inhumane conditions involved in the practice, which can involve drugging or baiting the animals.

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<p>The German government has announced changes to its renewable energy subsidy program for buildings in an effort to meet carbon emission reduction goals. Though renewable sources generated nearly 28% of Germany's electrical use in 2014, they only accounted for about 10% of the energy used to heat buildings. The recent reforms are designed to help the country meet its goal of 14% generation from renewables for that category by 2020. Changes to the program include financial support for companies that invest in renewable heating sources and stringent energy efficiency criteria.

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<p>Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans to issue a new 5-year rebuilding plan to deal with the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. The new plan would be unveiled this summer and replace the current one, set to expire next March. Abe said that the government would continue to take the lead on water decontamination and decommissioning of the plant. The Prime Minister also confirmed controversial plans to create permanent storage facilities for irradiated trash in several abandoned towns near the site.

<p>A report commissioned by groups including the National Trust and the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust called for the UK to designate “frack-free zones” in an effort to protect the country’s wildlife and avoid water pollution. According to the study, over 500 sites notable for their importance to wildlife are located in areas under license to fracking companies, and 2,500 more could be at risk.

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<p>Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he may take over management of the escalating fires on the island of Sumatra if local officials in Riau province do not increase their efforts to stop the burning. According to the World Resources Institute, Sumatra had 3,101 fire “hot spots” from February 20-March 11—a number that far exceeds the fire alerts from June 13-30, 2013, the peak of the previous haze crisis.

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<p>Last week, three senior Australian economists criticized the Abbott government's policies on climate change. Economist Ross Garnaut and former Treasury secretary Ken Henry attacked the government’s “direct action” policy, whereby companies and farmers would be paid to reduce emissions, arguing that it would cost close to $4 or $5 billion—rather than the $1.5 billion the government predicted. Former Reserve Bank governor and current chairman of the Climate Change Authority Bernie Fraser followed suit on Wednesday with an address to the National Press Club.

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<p>Japan announced that it successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate, a world first. The gas field, off Japan's central coast, could provide an alternative energy source for a nation that imports all of its fuel needs. The supply of methane gas could be enormous, but extraction raises environmental concerns as the geology containing it is unstable in some places. Production tests will continue for the next few weeks, but government officials have said they plan to establish technologies for practical use within the next five years.

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<p>The European Union failed to reach a decision on whether to ban three pesticides linked to the decline of honey bee populations. Sources indicated that 13 governments voted in favor of a two-year moratorium, first proposed in January, while nine countries voted against and five countries abstained.

<p>Energy company EDF dropped a $7.6 million lawsuit against a group of 21 activists who occupied a gas-fired power plant, claiming that they had reached a "fair and reasonable solution." Supporters of the demonstrators, who EDF claimed caused millions of dollars in production delays, called the result a "humiliating climbdown" and an "unmitigated defeat" for EDF.

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<p>The United States, Japan, and the European Union (EU) have challenged China's export restrictions on rare earth materials, requesting dispute settlement consultations from the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the first WTO case filed jointly by the parties, they argue that China is driving up the prices of rare earth, crucial to the development of renewable energy technologies, by limiting exports.

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<p>The United States, Japan, and the European Union (EU) have challenged China's export restrictions on rare earth materials, requesting dispute settlement consultations from the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the first WTO case filed jointly by the parties, they argue that China is driving up the prices of rare earth, crucial to the development of renewable energy technologies, by limiting exports.

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<p>The United States, Japan, and the European Union (EU) have challenged China's export restrictions on rare earth materials, requesting dispute settlement consultations from the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the first WTO case filed jointly by the parties, they argue that China is driving up the prices of rare earth, crucial to the development of renewable energy technologies, by limiting exports.

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<p>United Nations negotiators in Rome have agreed to a set of proposed voluntary global guidelines for the governance of land tenure rights and access to land, fisheries, and forest rights. "Once approved, the guidelines will be voluntary, but because they have been drawn up in such a comprehensive and inclusive process, and because there is this shared perception that a framework like this is sorely needed, we all anticipate that they will set the bar for policymakers," said Yaya Olaniran, chairman of the United Nations Committee for World Food Security.

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<p>Urban air pollution may become the largest environmental cause of death, overtaking dirty water and poor sanitation, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report indicates that, by 2050, exposure to particulate matter may cause up the 3.6 million premature deaths per year. In addition, wealthy countries with aging populations will suffer due to ground-level ozone, as older people are more susceptible.

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<p>Sierra Club Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have asked the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of two approvals by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that would allow the shipment of radioactive materials. Michael Binder, head of the commission, said that opposition to the approvals, which would allow Bruce Power Inc. to ship 16 steam generators through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, is "not any more about safety" and is a ploy by anti-nuclear activists to prey on people's fears.

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<p>Norway announced plans last Friday to open a new <span>zone for oil and gas activity</span> in the Barents Sea, part of a deal struck by <span>Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg</span> and coalition partners to give the oil industry greater access to environmentally sensitive areas.

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<p>Critics of a new multi-billion dollar development in Barangaroo, a Sydney suburb, will file a new claim to stop construction after a last-minute law change exempting Barangaroo projects from site remediation planning laws thwarted their previous case. Justice Peter Biscoe in the Land and Environment Court allowed the work to proceed only after Planning Minister Tony Kelly changed the applicable law just days before a decision was due.