The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2008 and 2008 Deselect

  1. The world's first cargo ship, the Auriga Leader, partly propelled by solar power took to the seas in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions when automakers ship off their exports.

  2. After eleven months of legislative work, the European Parliament gave its backing to the EU's climate change package which aims to ensure that the EU will achieve its climate targets by 2020: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and a 20% share for renewables in the EU energy mix.

  3. On 17 December 2008 the Federal Cabinet adopted the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change. This creates a framework for adapting to the impacts of climate change in Germany. It primarily describes the contribution of the Federation, thus acting as a guide for other actors. The strategy lays the foundation for a medium-term, step-by-step process undertaken in cooperation with the federal Länder and other civil groups and aimed at assessing the risks of climate change, identifying the possible need for action, defining appropriate goals and developing and implementing options for adaptation measures.

  4. Europe's rich patchwork of protected flora and fauna grew further with a major extension of Natura 2000. The additions include 769 new sites and a total area of 95,522 km². Most of the new sites are in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, and include areas in the Black Sea (Bulgaria and Romania) and the Steppic (Romania) bio-geographical regions. Natura 2000 now includes around 25,000 sites, covering almost 20% of the EU’s landmass, making it the largest interconnected network of protected areas in the world.

  5. A meeting of representatives of EU governments has endorsed a European Commission proposal to phase out old-style incandescent light bulbs by 2012 in favour of energy-efficient light bulbs.

  6. The sixth International Polar Day focusing on research Above The Polar Regions. This includes polar meteorology, atmospheric sciences, astronomy, and polar observations from space.

  7. The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and the engineering company Wärtsilä Ship Design Germany (formerly Schiffko GmbH) presented the technical design of the European Research Icebreaker Aurora Borealis in Berlin. Aurora Borealis will be a unique vessel – a combination of a heavy icebreaker, a scientific drilling ship and a multi-purpose research platform that can operate year-round in all polar waters.

  8. The European Commission, the Council Presidency and representatives of the European Parliament agreed on the basic elements of a European CO2 strategy for passenger cars on 1 December. According to this strategy, the limit value of 120g CO2 per kilometre will become binding for the entire fleet of new vehicles in four stages from 2012 to 2015. The long-term target of 95g/km for the year 2020 will be legally binding. Massive fines of up to 95 euro per gram will be charged if these limit values are exceeded.

  9. The Blue Angel is going to increasingly focus on climate protection: From the beginning of next year, the world’s oldest and most well-known eco-label will also be awarded to particularly energy-efficient and climate-friendly products and services and thus provide consumers with better purchase orientation. Germany's Federal Environment Ministry, the Federal Environmental Agency and the Environmental Label Jury present the new climate protection label on the occasion of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Blue Angel in Berlin on November 19, 2008.

  10. Greenpeace Africa opened its first office in Johannesburg, a second office will be opened on 24 November in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo and a third in Dakar, Senegal, early next year.

  11. The coalition agreement of 2005 entered into by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and the Christian Socialist Party (CSU) stipulates that the government-owned areas along the former inner-German border be preserved for sustainable nature conservation. In a first step, 3,863 hectares of especially valuable ecological areas in the former border strip will be transferred free of charge from the Federal Government to the federal state of Thuringia. The green belt is supposed to be preserved as a nationally important habitat network, also in memory of the division of Germany. A comprehensive assessment conducted in 2001 proves that the green belt, which is some 1,400 kilometres long, represents a habitat network of particular importance to the Federal Republic of Germany.

  12. Greenfreeze technology has been around since 1992 and is installed in over 300 million refrigerators worldwide. But it wasn’t allowed into the United States until September 2008 when the Environmental Protection Agency gave Ben & Jerry’s the go-ahead to test 2,000 Greenfreeze units. On 29 October General Electric announced its intention to manufacture and sell a GreenFreeze-style refrigerator in the United States.

  13. The establishment of an International Renewable Energy Agency can now begin: at a conference in Madrid 51 states laid the foundations and agreed on the text of the Statute.The IRENA Statute will be signed at an official ceremony on 26 January 2009 in Bonn. In mid 2009 the seat and Director-General for the start-up phase will be designated and the organisation will gradually be established. IRENA will support industrialised and developing countries in expanding renewable energies.

  14. The week of 20-24 October 2008 was declared by the Ministers responsible for forests in Europe to be the first European Forest Week. The week is being jointly organized by the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, in close collaboration with the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, France. During the week, forest-related events will be organized throughout Europe by the public and private sectors as well as by civil societies.

  15. The foundation Gemeinsames Rücknahmesystem Batterien celebrated its 10 Year anniversary. It was established in May 1998 by leading battery manufacturers and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI). The foundation is financed by contributions from its users. These manufacturers and importers pay disposal contributions to the foundation for the services rendered, through a trustee and in accordance with the quantity and type of batteries sold in Germany.

  16. An important agreement was signed between the four founding institutions of the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) to endorse global implementation of the standard through the FairWild Foundation. ISSC-MAP is a standard that promotes appropriate management of wild plant populations used in medicines and cosmetics to ensure they are not over-exploited. Under the new agreement, the FairWild Foundation will help develop an industry labelling system so products harvested using the sustainable ISSC-MAP criteria can be readily recognised and certified. Use of the standard will be promoted throughout the herbal products industry. ISSC-MAP was developed by a partnership including the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), the IUCN SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group (MPSG), WWF-Germany, and TRAFFIC, plus industry associations, companies, certifiers and community-based NGOs. The announcement was made at the World Conservation Congress, currently underway in Barcelona.

  17. The German North Sea saithe trawl fishery has successfully completed the assessment to the MSC’s environmental standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries. It is the first fishery in Germany to receive the MSC eco-label.

  18. The International Polar Year 2007/08 was launched in March 2007, and will continue through early 2009. During this time, a regular sequence of International Polar Days will raise awareness and provide information about particular and timely aspects of the polar regions. September 24th, 2008 marked the sixth quarterly International Polar Day, this time focusing on people.

  19. Germany's Federal Office for Radioactive Protection (BfS) is to take over the Asse nuclear storage facility in the state of Lower Saxony. The site will now be treated according to nuclear laws and not mining laws as was the case so far. In future, the facility will be under the jurisdiction of the federal environment ministry instead of the research ministry.

  20. The first sustainable disco opened in Rotterdam on the 4th of September 2008. The flagship is a energy generating dance floor. The floor is made up of modules that move slightly in the vertical plane when a person is dancing on the surface. This movement is registered by advanced mechatronics, and converted into electricity. The savings on water consumption, for example, are achieved with a rainwater flush system for toilets.

  21. Registration of pollutant emissions by German corporations has made a successful start via the new European (E-PRTR). A new data collection software system known as BUBE-Online (Betriebliche Umweltdatenberichterstattung-Online) will make it easy for industrial corporations to report their emissions data via the Internet to the appropriate federal state authorities. The PRTR data will be forwarded upon review to the EU Commission via the Federal Environment Agency.

  22. The Federal Environment Ministry has launched the Internet database "Legal sources on the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES LEGAL)". It allows interested parties from the political sector, administrations, associations, companies and the scientific sector to research fundamental legal aspects concerning the promotion of and grid access for electricity from renewables from the EU Member States. The provisions for wind and solar energy, geothermal energy, biomass and hydropower are listed in detail. This database, unique in Europe, can be used free of charge.

  23. A team from Greenpeace dropped three ton boulders near the Sylt Outer reef off the coast of Germany in order to discourage bottom trawling. The area is near the North Frisian Islands near Schleswig Holstein and the South coast of Denmark.

  24. OneGeology is an international initiative of the geological surveys of the world and a flagship project of the 'International Year of Planet Earth'. Its aim is to create dynamic geological map data of the world available via the web. A fully operational edition was launched at the International Geological Congress (IGC) in Oslo, in August 2008.

  25. Geneva, 15 July 2008, the CITES Standing Committee has approved, the one-off sale of 108 tonnes of legal ivory stockpiles from four southern African countries to Japan and China. This decision paves the way for the automatic start of the subsequent nine year moratorium on trade in ivory.

  26. Marburg has become the first municipality in Germany to impose a requirement for solar construction throughout its area. 20 June 2008, the City Council approved a Solar Code. According to the code, any building owner who builds or renovates a building, fixes its roof or replaces its heating system, muss install a certain number of solar collectors on the roof in the process. The primary purpose of these devices is to heat water for household use and to heat the rooms.

  27. The International Polar Year 2007/08 was launched in March 2007, and will continue through early 2009. During this time, a regular sequence of International Polar Days will raise awareness and provide information about particular and timely aspects of the polar regions. The IPY Day on June 18th will focus on Land and Life: the plants and animals of polar lands and the changing permafrost and hydrologic systems.

  28. Starting in 2010, one European city will be selected as the European Green Capital of the year. The award will be given to a city that has a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards, is permanently committed to ambitious action, further environmental improvement and sustainable development, and can act as a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices in all other European cities. All EU cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants can apply for the European Green Capital Award. Entries will be assessed on the basis of ten environmental criteria. The jury is composed of representatives from the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), the Union of Capitals of the European Union and the Committee of the Regions.

  29. In late April and early May 2008 a bee mortality occurred in parts of South-West Germany, which affected approximately 11,000 colonies of bees. After this became known, an intensive search for the causes of these incidences was started. Soon, maize seeds which had been treated with the insecticidal substance clothianidin were suspected as a possible cause. In the meantime, a clothianidin poisoning has been confirmed by the Julius Kühn-Institute. It is assumed that the detected clothianidin originates from treated maize seeds where the active substance did not adhere well enough to the grains. This minor dressing quality led to a strong abrasion. In the Upper Rhine Valley pneumatic seeding machines with vacuum systems were employed, which, due to their construction, release abrasion dust into the air. This way the abrasion dusts could settle on blooming plants.

  30. The International Polar Year 2007/08 was launched in March 2007, and will continue through early 2009. During this time, a regular sequence of International Polar Days will raise awareness and provide information about particular and timely aspects of the polar regions. March 12th, 2008 was the third International Polar Day - Changing Earth; Past and Present.

  31. On 26 February 2008 the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, receiving inaugural shipments of 100 million seeds that originated in over 100 countries. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections from around the globe. If seeds are lost, e.g. as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.

  32. Construction of Masdar City has now officially commenced with a formal ground-breaking ceremony on February 9, 2008. The City will be constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. Masdar is a planned city in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, the city will rely entirely on solar energy, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. The initiative is headed by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (ADFEC). The city will cost $US22 billion to build and be home to 50,000 people. The car-free city is intended to cover six square kilometers, with no point further than 200 m from a public transport link. Masdar will be the site of a university, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The project is supported by the global conservation charity World Wide Fund for Nature and the sustainability group BioRegional.

  33. In a ruling on 16 January 2008, the Criminal Court of Paris condemned the world's fourth largest oil group Total SA to a fine of €375,000 – the maximum allowable penalty for maritime pollution – claiming "ecological prejudice" caused by the sinking of the Erika. The case represents the first time that a French court has handed down a conviction for environmental damage and the landmark ruling could establish a legal precedent for suing companies or persons over major ecological disasters.

  34. After the pilot phase, the second trading period in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) started on 1 January 2008, during which tighter national emissions budgets are valid throughout Europe. For Germany this now means a total of 453 million emissions allowances per year for the industrial and energy sectors. A certain percentage of allowances will no longer be allocated free of charge, due to be sold or auctioned instead (40 million per year).