The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events

  1. On 2 June 2017, the Norwegian city of Oslo has won the European Green Capital Award for 2019. These prestigious titles was awarded by the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, at an awards ceremony in Essen, Germany,

  2. On January 1, 2019, the currently applicable Packaging Ordinance (VerpackV) in Germany will be completely replaced by the entry into force of the Packaging Act (VerpackG). New commitments and the 'Stiftung Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister' ('Foundation Central Office Packaging Register') are added. Above all, it has the task of establishing and maintaining a public register of manufacturers and distributors of packaging.

  3. The "Urgenda Climate Case 2015" against the Dutch government was the first in the world where citizens blamed their government for not contributing enough to dangerous climate change. On June 24, 2015, the District Court of The Hague ruled that the government must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). The ruling called for the government to take more effective action against climate change immediately. After the Dutch government appealed the verdict in September 2015, the opposition was rejected by the Hague Civil Court on 9 October 2018. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs does not rule out a revision. However, emitting 25 percent less greenhouse gases can be achieved according to the Ministry 2020.

  4. Moss of the Year 2018 is the common apple-moss (Bartramia pomifornmis).

  5. Medicinal Plant of the Year 2018 is the white horehound or common horehound (Marrubium vulgare).

  6. Fish of the Year 2018 is the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

  7. Bird of the Year 2018 is the Sturnus vulgaris (Common Starling, European Starling, Starling).

  8. Butterfly of the Year 2018 is the large tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros).

  9. Tree of the Year 2018 is the Castanea sativa or sweet chestnut.

  10. Fungus of the Year 2018 is the Agaricus campestris or Field mushroom.

  11. In 2018 the Association for the Preservation of Old and Endangered Domestic Breeds (GEH) is presenting the Altwürttemberger horse as the ‘Endangered Domestic Breeds of the Year’.

  12. The European Common Frog (Rana temporaria) was nominated to the Amphibian of the Year 2018 by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde e.V. (DGHT).

  13. The European Green Capital Award 2018 has gone to the Dutch city of Nijmegen. The award, which recognise the efforts and commitments made by municipal authorities to improving the urban environment, was presented by Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General of DG Environment at the European Commission, on 22 June 2016 at a ceremony in Ljubljana.

  14. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been chosen for the Medicinal Herb of the Year 2018 by the NHV Theophrastus.

  15. Perennial Herb of the Year 2018 is the daylily (Hemerocallis).

  16. The number of wolves in Germany has grown, according to data released on 22 November 2017 by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Documentation and Counseling Center of the Federation of the Wolf (DBBW). The researchers found 60 packs are now living across the country, which is 13 more than a year ago.

  17. Order of theCourt of Justice of the European Union in Case C-441/17 R: Poland must immediately cease its active forest management operations in the Białowieża Forest, except in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary to ensure public safety. If Poland is found to have infringed this order, the Court will order it to pay to the Commission a penalty payment of at least €100 000 per day.

  18. COP 23 in Bonn is the first UN Climate Change Conference to receive official certification for eco-friendly performance. On 17 November 2017 Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks and Ovais Sarmad, UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary were presented with the EMAS certificate. The certificate verifies the event management's successful and environmentally-friendly organisation of the conference. Event managers were already aiming for the consistent prevention of environmental burdens when planning began eleven months ago, and their work was documented in the environmental statement required under EMAS. All goals and measures were documented in the environmental statement, then assessed on-site over several days by environmental verifiers and subsequently validated. Such measures included waste avoidance and strict waste separation, climate-friendly catering, excellent local public transport, climate-neutral shuttle services and environmentally sound and reusable materials also for the temporary structures. Energy supply and water consumption are also among the areas to be reviewed in the follow-up. After the conference, data on consumption, collected data and the goals and measures of the original environmental statement will be evaluated and examined again by the environmental verifier. This will include a precise calculation of the unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions caused, for example, by the arrival and departure of the participants. These emissions will be offset with certified emission reduction (CERs) credits from particularly ambitious international climate action projects. The IHK (The Chamber of Commerce and Industry) of Duisburg, which is responsible for Bonn, also handed over the registration certificate for the official EMAS database.

  19. On 16 November 2017, about 795,000 litre of cruide oil gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline in Marshall County, South Dakota. The pipeline company, TransCanada, said in a statement that the South Dakota leak was detected around 6 a.m. local time on Thursday. The pipeline was shut down, and the cause of the leak was under investigation.

  20. On 17 November 2017, at the Clean Air Forum taking place in Paris the Commission and the EU Environment Agency launched a new Air Quality Index which allows citizens to monitor air quality in real time. The Commission also published an Air Quality Atlas, a tool developed by the Commission's Joint Research Centre that maps the origins of fine particulate matter, such as dust, smoke, soot, pollen and soil particles, in EU cities. The new European Air Quality Index has a user-friendly interactive map that shows the local air quality situation, based on five key pollutants that harm people's health and the environment: particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2). The Air Quality Atlas provides information on the geographical and sectorial sources of air pollution for the 150 biggest cities in Europe. It shows that pollutant emissions in cities originate mainly different human activities; and that transport, agriculture, industry and residential heating and responsible for the largest part.

  21. On 14 November 2017, the UN Climate Change Secretariat honoured two international climate projects that are supported by the Federal Environment Ministry. Both projects received the ‘Momentum for Change’ Climate Solutions Award. One award recognises the work of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), which helps people prepare for the consequences of climate change. The second award-winning project is Rewetting the peat bogs of Russia, PeatRus for short, which offers great potential for affordable and natural solutions for climate action. The 'Momentum for Change' Award is an initiative of the UN Climate Change Secretariat. It honours especially innovative lighthouse projects that make a contribution to climate action and also address major economic, social and ecologic challenges.

  22. The twenty-third session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) and the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 13), and the second meeting of the parties for the Paris Agreement (CMA2) was held in Bonn, Germany from 6-18 November 2017. Germany was the technical host of the COP, which was presided over by Fiji.

  23. A new great ape species—the Tapanuli orangutan—was officially announced by an international team of scientists 0n 2 November 2017. With 800 or fewer individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the rarest of all great apes. Previously, two species of orangutans were known—the Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan. This new third species lives in North Sumatra, but is genetically and behaviorally distinct from the two other species. An international team of scientists described the new species in Current Biology. The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is distinguished from other orangutan populations based on morphological and genomic evidence. The new species is endemic to 475 square miles of upland forest in the Batang Toru Ecosystem of Sumatra and is believed to have been isolated from other orangutan populations for 10,000-20,000 years. The Tapanuli orangutan was first discovered in 1997 during an orangutan survey in the region. Over the next decade, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), together with other non-governmental organizations, universities, and Indonesian authorities, focused on learning more about the population. By 2006, a research station was established to study the orangutans’ behavior and genetics. A breakthrough came in 2013 when researchers examined the skull of a male orangutan killed in human-wildlife conflict. When compared to orangutans from other populations, the skull from Batang Taru showed noticeably different characteristics. This discovery prompted the largest genomic study of wild orangutans to date. As a result, the data collected clearly identified three distinct evolutionary lineages among all orangutans. The discovery of a new species of great ape in the 21st century is a cause for celebration. But it is also a call to action. Like all orangutans, the Tapanuli is under serious threat. Human encroachment—in this case from mining and a plans for a hydroelectric dam—as well as hunting put these orangutans in immediate peril.

  24. A fifth of European fern and lycopod species, a group of vascular plants that underpins healthy ecosystems, are threatened with extinction and declining, as a result of urbanisation and expanding infrastructure, according to a new report published on 27 October 2017 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

  25. The Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP12) in Manila, the Philippines, which concluded on 28 October 2017, achieved ground-breaking successes in species conservation. Over thirty new animal and subspecies were added to the CMS Appendices and will thus receive protection under the international convention. These include endangered species such as the giraffe, leopard, lion and chimpanzee. The African wild ass, which is critically endangered and of which there are approximately only 200 remaining in the dry regions of North East Africa, will be afforded complete protection. Through a joint Africa-wide initiative led by CMS and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), concrete steps will be taken to protect the leopard, lion, wild dog and cheetah. Shark species in sharp decline such as the angelshark and the whale shark will receive greater protection in future. Other important decisions taken at the conference include: The establishment of a compliance review mechanism for the convention. In addition to the Parties and the Secretariat, NGOs can also submit potential breaches to be reviewed. Measures for the prevention and reduction of underwater noise - whales and dolphins will benefit in particular from these. New activities to combat the illegal taking or killing of birds.

  26. At 11:27 CEST on 13 October 2017, the most recent satellite to join Europe's Copernicus Earth observation programme, Sentinel-5P took off on board a Rockot launch vehicle from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia.Weighing in at around 820 kilograms, the Sentinel-5P satellite will observe trace gases in Earth’s atmosphere from an altitude of 824 kilometres. The TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument) spectrometer will deliver important information on air pollution, the condition of the atmosphere and climatic changes on a daily basis. With a swath width of 2600 kilometres, almost 1000 high-resolution spectral channels and high spatial resolution, Sentinel-5P will define new technical standards in the continuous mapping of our entire planet: TROPOMI measures in the ultraviolet, visible, near and short infrared wavelength ranges and is able to monitor a wide variety of air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur oxides, methane and carbon monoxide. The trace gas data will be used in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service to provide information on regional air pollution as well. The mission is also intended to provide other information, for instance by monitoring volcanic ash as part of flight safety or by issuing warnings of excessive UV radiation. Another significant feature of the Sentinel-5P mission is that it will continue the time series initiated by the GOME, SCIAMACHY, GOME-2 and MIPAS measuring instruments, updating the existing long-term climate datasets for incorporation into the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

  27. On 27 September 2017 six ordinances on the protection of the marine environment in the North and Baltic Seas were promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette. This ensures legal protection under national legislation of the marine protected areas Doggerbank, Borkum Riffgrund and Sylter Außenriff- Östliche Deutsche Bucht in the North Sea and Fehmarnbelt, Kadetrinne and Pommersche Bucht - Rönnebank in the Baltic Sea. The sites are located in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the North and Baltic Seas, which makes them a responsibility of the federal government. The EEZ is the area just beyond the 12 nautical mile-wide territorial sea. The new protected areas cover approximately 30 per cent of the German EEZ. The six marine areas have been part of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas since 2007. This made it mandatory for Germany to protect these areas through necessary measures. The European Commission had already initiated an infringement procedure in this matter, which is now likely to be without cause since the German government placed the marine areas in its responsibility under protection. The infringement procedure was also directed at the federal Länder, who have the obligation to also include land-based Natura 2000 sites in their legal protection scheme. According to the new provisions, it is no longer permitted to introduce dredging waste into the sea in the marine protected areas, to operate aquacultures or to build up artificial islands. Anyone wanting to generate energy in these areas, exploit natural resources or lay submarine cables has to prove with an impact assessment that the project will not have considerable adverse effects on the marine environment.

  28. The Federal Cabinet adopted a Copernicus strategy for Germany on 13 September 2017.

  29. The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) will enter into force on 8 September 2017, marking a landmark step towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species, which can cause havoc for local ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to substantial economic loss. Under the Convention’s terms, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments. Her Excellency Mrs. Päivi Luostarinen Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Finland to IMO, handed over the country’s instrument of acceptance to the Ballast Water Management Convention to IMO Secretary-General Lim on 8 September 2016. The accession brings the combined tonnage of contracting States to the treaty to 35.1441%, with 52 contracting Parties. The convention stipulates that it will enter into force 12 months after ratification by a minimum of 30 States, representing 35% of world merchant shipping tonnage.

  30. The maps show the development of nitrate pollution in rivers. The evaluations are part of the Nitrate Reports 2008, 2012 and 2016 on the EU Nitrates Directive (91/676 / EEC). The 2016 report also includes the development of phosphorus exposure for the first time. In addition to the identification of the trend and the quality class, the information per measuring point can also be queried.

  31. On 8 September 2017, the Republic of Kazakhstan announced plans to bring wild tigers back to their historical range in the Ili-Balkhash region and signed a memorandum with WWF to implement a joint tiger reintroduction plan. Kazakhstan will be the first country in Central Asia to implement such a paramount and large-scale program. In the last 100 years, global wild tiger populations have declined by 96%, from 100,000 to as few as 3,890 in 2016. Kazakhstan’s program will require the restoration of an immense riparian forest that is part of the wild tiger’s historical range. The government of Kazakhstan will designate a new nature reserve in southwestern Ili-Balkhash, which will restore the riparian forest habitat bordering Lake Balkhash. This reserve will protect existing wildlife, reintroduce tiger prey species, and safeguard this vital ecosystem.

  32. On 29 August 2017 the Commission adopted a proposal for fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2018. This year's proposal also includes a ban on Baltic Eel fisheries, not traditionally a part of the annual allowable catch proposals. The European Eel stock has been at a historically low level since the late 1990s. It is today listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2007 the EU adopted measures to allow this stock to recover. However, ICES advice published in May 2017 indicates that these measures have not been sufficient and the stock is still in a critical state. The Commission therefore proposes to ban all marine eel fisheries in the EU waters of the Baltic Sea for 2018. This ban would apply to commercial and recreational fishing. This also means that all eels caught accidentally will have to be released immediately. In addition, the Commission is planning to evaluate the Regulation on the recovery of the European eel.