International Update Volume all, Issue 9
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<p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>On March 18, a South African court ruled that unsafe levels of air pollution in the Mpumalanga province violate residents’ constitutional rights to “an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing” (<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/24/south-african-court-urges-action-de… Rights Watch</a>).

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<p>Officials in the Chinese city of Tangshan have announced they will be intensifying enforcement efforts to reduce local air pollution after two weeks of especially heavy smog across northern China.

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<p style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; color: black;">Recent social isolation and travel restriction measures imposed by countries including China and Italy have led to a significant decline in air pollution. Lockdown measures affecting 35 million people in China began in January.

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<p style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; color: black;">Recent social isolation and travel restriction measures imposed by countries including China and Italy have led to a significant decline in air pollution. Lockdown measures affecting 35 million people in China began in January.

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<p style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; color: black;">Recent social isolation and travel restriction measures imposed by countries including China and Italy have led to a significant decline in air pollution. Lockdown measures affecting 35 million people in China began in January.

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<p style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; color: black;">Recent social isolation and travel restriction measures imposed by countries including China and Italy have led to a significant decline in air pollution. Lockdown measures affecting 35 million people in China began in January.

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<p>On March 21, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy has failed to bring 44 of its 102 landfills into compliance. The court noted that Italy's erratic treatment of its landfills, such as adopting a site-conditioning plan to authorize continued operations only to decide later to close the landfill, exacerbated the problem because it was impossible to unambiguously define whether landfills were to be closed or to continue to operate.

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<p>The Supreme People's Court, China's supreme court, is planning to establish a national environmental fund this year. The fund, which would use money collected in fines from polluting firms to help pay for environmental restoration, is being established in response to proposals from delegates of China's parliament. The court is currently engaging in discussions with other government departments to draft rules that clarify how the fund should be used.

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<p>On March 21, the Mexican government announced that it would use buoys to mark the reserve of the vaquita porpoise in an effort to save the world's most endangered marine mammal. The Environment Department plans to provide social programs and jobs for fishing communities in the upper Gulf of California, where the species resides, and to encourage tourism, fish farms, and better fishing practices. With only roughly 10 vaquitas remaining, some environmental groups stress that more urgent measures are needed to save the species from extinction.

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<p>The Eighth World Water Forum, which took place in Brazil from March 18-22, comprised several parallel processes that affirmed the respective roles of judges, local and regional authorities, parliamentarians, and young people in the governance of water resources. The "Political Process" included a ministerial program, a local and regional authorities program, a mock "water court" involving judges and prosecutors, and a parliamentarians’ process.

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<p>Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, the KPK, has vowed to include environmental damages in its calculations of state losses incurred through corruption--a move that could translate to heavier sentences and fines for crimes in the natural resources sector. The announcement comes in connection with its ongoing prosecution of Nur Alam, the suspended governor of the province of Southeast Sulawesi who faces 18 years in prison for allegedly abusing his authority to grant mining licenses from 2009 to 2014.

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<p>All drink containers in England, whether plastic, glass or metal, will be covered by a deposit return scheme, the government has announced. The forthcoming scheme is intended to cut litter by returning a small cash sum to consumers who return their bottles and cans. Similar schemes operate in 38 countries, and campaigners have worked for a decade for its introduction in England. Fees vary depending on the size of the bottle or can, and many use “reverse vending machines” to automate the return.

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<p>A court in Japan ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and the government are liable for negligence in a case involving compensation for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, ruled in favor of 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes as radiation spread from the meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This marked the first time a court has recognized that the government was liable for the disaster.

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<p>In the wake of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, many countries are moving forward with plans to cut carbon emissions. One country, Germany, is preparing research that purports to show huge support among businesses for a transition towards a low-carbon economy. The German government plans to reveal this report, along with a plan to have a fixed carbon price, at the G20 Summit in July 2017. Germany believes that a carbon price is essential to both the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN goal of sustainable development.

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<p>During a rare congress of the Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) underway in a Sumatran village, Indonesian forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar outlined initiatives to bolster indigenous rights. However, the announcement was met with much skepticism as it fell short of the campaign promises made by President Joko Widodo, which included pledges to fight for a law on indigenous rights,&nbsp;create a national mechanism for resolving land conflicts, end the criminalization of indigenous persons and more.

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<p>Beginning in April, the Panama Canal will set new restrictions on ships because of the falling water levels of nearby lakes that filter into the waterway. The Panama Canal Authority (APC) is hopeful that the impact on operations will be minimal. Beginning on April 18, ships must have a maximum depth of 39 feet. Ships loaded after March 21 will be required to comply with these restrictions. These measures have been described as "temporary and preventative." They are connected to impacts on the local climate from El Nino.

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<p>European Union member states agreed on a plan to end the overfishing of cod, herring, and sprat in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, April 22. The multi-year deal attempts to ensure that the species are managed sustainably and to take into account the interdependence of the three types of fish. Under the current plan, only cod are subject to management, which threatens the livelihood of all three species: sprats and herrings eat the eggs of cod, and cod eat sprats and herrings.

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<p>On March 26, the Lebanese government approved a plan to rectify the garbage crisis that has fuelled protests throughout the past seven months. The crisis has raised concerns about public health and the viability of the Lebanese government. The plan supports the creation of two landfills near Beirut, and a third one south of Beirut to house the trash that has been piling up since July. The crisis began when a landfill south of Beirut was closed last summer without any plan for its reinstatement.

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<p>Chile's Environmental Court ruled in favor of the Barrick Gold Corporation on March 23 in a case emblematic of the country's political debate over glacier protection. Local farmers and environmental organizations claimed the company's Pascua-Lama gold and silver mining project is harming three glaciers and their associated watersheds.

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<p>The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced that it will consider revising the boundaries of Virunga National Park in an effort to accommodate oil exploration in the area. The government announced the possible change following the voluntary halting of exploratory activities within the park by Soco International last year. The British company ceased operations in Virunga after completing seismic surveys, the results of which will be turned over to DRC officials. Changes to the borders would have to be approved by UNESCO, as the park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994.

<p>The European Commission announced it will take legal action against the United Kingdom for violating emission limits for nitrogen dioxide (NOx) at a coal-fired power plant in Wales. The Aberthaw plant, located in the Vale of Glamorgan, is permitted to emit over twice the NOx allowed under the EU's large combustion plant directive. That directive was passed seven years ago and is scheduled to be replaced by even stricter standards in 2016.

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<p>Australia's federal Department of Environment gave its approval for Chinese mining firm Shenhua's Watermark coal mine in New South Wales' Liverpool Plains. The approval means the mine will likely get all government permits necessary for mining to commence, but politicians and local residents opposed to the mine's development have vowed to continue fighting to halt the project. The Liverpool Plains region is one of Australia's most agriculturally productive, which has farmers concerned about the effects mining may have on the region's aquifers.

<p>British Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would terminate tax exemptions under the Climate Change Levy for renewable energy use beginning August 1, 2015. Since 2001, industrial users of energy derived from renewable sources have not paid taxes on that electricity. Osborne called the exemption "outdated" and claimed U.K. citizens were subsidizing too much foreign energy production.

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<p>Russian President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that will ban drift net fishing off of Russia's eastern coast. Environmentalists have long opposed the practice for its unsustainability and massive amounts of bycatch. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2016, will align Russia with most of the international community. The U.N. adopted a resolution calling for all countries to ban drift net fishing back in 1991.

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<p>Starting April 1, Myanmar will ban the export of raw timber logs in an effort to put conservation above profit. The country has some of Asia’s most significant expanses of forests, but these forests have been decimated by the former military junta’s policies; between 1990 and 2010, forest cover shrank from 58% of total land area to 47%. In addition to the ban, the new reformist government, which took over in 2011, plans to reduce the amount of teak it allows to be removed from forests by 80%.

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<p>EU leaders plan to set an October deadline for agreeing to the bloc’s 2030 climate goals. The 28-member bloc has already nearly met its 2020 target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels, and in January the European Commission outlined a proposal to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030.

<p>U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne froze a tax on carbon emissions from electricity generation in an effort to cut consumer energy bills. Gas bills in U.K. households rose by 41% from 2007 to 2013, putting pressure on the government to reduce energy costs. According to Osborne, the freeze could save U.K. businesses as much as four billion pounds (US $6.6 billion) by April 2019, while families could save an average of 15 pounds (US $24) per year.

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<p>The number of dead pigs found in rivers supplying water to Shanghai has risen rapidly to more than 16,000. While authorities have said that tests indicate the city's water is safe, officials have given no explanation on the dumping of carcasses. Some tests have indicated that some of the animals may have had porcine circovirus, a disease affecting pigs but not humans. The government in Shanghai said that 10,570 carcasses had been pulled from the Huangpu river, while 5,528 have been found in upstream tributaries in the Jiaxing area of Zhejiang province.

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<p>A draft European Commission paper calls for fewer summits and more incentives through carbon pricing to speed up efforts to fight climate change, according to Reuters. Recent annual meetings have been criticized for dragging on for weeks but achieving little. December's Doha summit failed to achieve anything that would have an immediate impact on greenhouse gas levels, instead laying out steps toward a global deal to be agreed to in 2015 and entered into effect in 2020.

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<p>The world can only achieve global prosperity by combining economic and environmental goals, according to scientists writing for the journal <em>Nature</em>. They say world leaders should set goals around an end to food and water shortages, universal clean energy, healthy and productive ecosystems, and thriving livelihoods. The article argues that it is no longer enough to pursue the millennium development goals, agreed to in 2000 but running out in 2015, to alleviate poverty.

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<p>Chevron's oil license is at risk in Brazil after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against executives for an oil leak near Rio de Janeiro last year. Federal Prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira charged 17 Chevron and Transocean executives with environmental crimes and called for prison sentences of up to 31 years, adding to an earlier civil lawsuit seeking over $11 billion in damages.

<p>The United Kingdom Supreme Court rejected on Friday the government's appeal of a ruling deeming its changes to the solar tariff scheme "legally flawed." The ruling ends months of uncertainty for the industry, and determines that solar installations completed between December and early March will receive the original 43 per kilowatt hour (kwh) rate for 25 years, rather than the new 21 per kwh rate proposed by the government.

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<p>India asked its airlines to boycott the European Union's climate scheme last week, joining China in refusing to comply with the EU's carbon charge plan. "<span>Though the European Union has directed Indian carriers to submit emissions details of their aircraft by March 31, 2012, no Indian carrier is submitting them in view of the position of the government</span>," said Ajit Singh, India's civil aviation minister.

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<p>India asked its airlines to boycott the European Union's climate scheme last week, joining China in refusing to comply with the EU's carbon charge plan. "<span>Though the European Union has directed Indian carriers to submit emissions details of their aircraft by March 31, 2012, no Indian carrier is submitting them in view of the position of the government</span>," said Ajit Singh, India's civil aviation minister.

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<p>The European Union (EU) plans to include maritime transport in emissions trading, in addition to possibly imposing charges on carbon dioxide discharges from ships. Global maritime transport is the source of almost three percent of carbon dioxide discharges, and the International Maritime Organization has failed to agree on measures to curb emissions from ships for more than a decade. Yvon Slingenberg, head of the emissions trading unit at the European Commission, said that the EU will create a "parallel track" to use its own tools to limit maritime pollution.

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<p>Environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced the launch of a "very small" emissions trading scheme last week as an effort to reduce air pollution. Ramesh maintained that the scheme was not "because of the global negotiations on climate change," but is instead aimed at reducing public health problems as a result of air pollution. Valsa Nair Singh, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board, said that the initiative will be carried out by placing air quality analyzers on factory premises as well as inside chimney stacks.

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<p>Kenya opened the continent's first climate exchange platform last week, which is expected to increase foreign investor interest in the region by as much as $1 billion, according to Reuters. <span>Tsuma Charo, chief executive officer at Africa Carbon Exchange</span>, said that <span>17 projects are awaiting registration</span>, and three have received approval. Earlier this month, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) registered its first project, a degraded forest replanted by a community looking to raise revenue for local peoples.