The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2012 and 2012 Deselect

  1. On 19 December 2012, Federal Minister of Economics Rösler and Federal Environment Minister Altmaier presented the first monitoring report “Energy of the Future” for the reporting year 2011.

  2. Stricter regulations have come into effect on a number of chemicals, in accordance with the European REACH Regulation. The chemicals concerned include water- and oil-repellent substances as well as four perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCA). The ECHA commission has identified 54 additional chemicals as Substances of Very High Concern.

  3. 2012 the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the commissioning of Polarstern, the ice-breaking research and supply ship of the German polar research.

  4. On 27 November 2012 for the first time the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a Report on the status of the global permafrost regions. In it an international team of experts clearly explains how climate change is impacting the permanently frozen soils in the Arctic, Siberia and in the high mountain regions, which potential hazards emanate from the thawing ground and the far-reaching consequences countries with permafrost must consider. The researchers also call upon politicians and climate scientists to include the knowledge about the change in the permafrost regions to a greater extent in the international climate debate.

  5. The Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency presented the Federal Ecodesign Awards for the first time on 22 November 2012. A total of fourteen prize winners were recognized in the three award categories: Product, Concept and Young Talent. Projects ranged from a neighbour-to-neighbour carsharing scheme and innovative hybrid technology to carbon-neutral housing and junk data reduction on the Internet.

  6. Members of the European Parliament voted on 22 November 2012 to close a loophole in the current ban on shark finning, which will make it easier to catch out perpetrators of this cruel practice. "1a. Without prejudice to paragraph 1, and in order to facilitate on board storage, shark fins may be partially sliced through and folded against the carcass, but shall not be removed from the carcass before landing."

  7. Nearly 25 000 km2 of invaluable natural expanse have been added to the Natura 2000 network. This network of protected sites is the EU's primary tool in the fight to conserve Europe’s rich biodiversity. The Commission has now formally approved the inclusion in the network of a further 235 sites, proposed by Member States for recognition as "Sites of Community Importance". Member States will have six years to put the necessary measures in place to protect these sites. The latest update concerns 20 Member States and covers all nine of the network's bio-geographical regions – the Alpine, Atlantic, Black Sea, Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Steppic regions. Natura 2000 now covers 768 000 km2 (17.9 %) of the EU landmass and more than 217 000 km2 (approx. 4 %) of its seas.

  8. The first-ever Global Frackdown Day was on 22 September 2012.

  9. On 14 August 2012 a Brazilian court ordered an immediate halt to construction of a controversial hydroelectric dam project in the Amazon. The court says local indigenous people have not been properly consulted.

  10. On 12 August 2012, the European Commission announced deductions from 2012 fishing quotas of those Member States that had exceeded their quotas in 2011. This year, for the first time, deductions were increased by 50% for Member States that had repeatedly (in 2009, 2010 and 2011) overfished the same stock.

  11. Authorities in eastern China dropped plans for a waste water discharge project on 28 July 2012, after thousands of protesters angry about pollution took to the streets. The planned pipeline would have emptied waste water from a Japanese-owned paper factory into the sea near Qidong.

  12. In a statement on the chances and limits of using bioenergy, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has come to the conclusion that in quantitative terms, bioenergy plays a minor role in the transition to renewable, sustainable energy sources in Germany at the present time and probably in the future. Bioenergy requires more surface area, is associated with higher greenhouse gas emissions and is more harmful to the environment than other renewable sources such as photovoltaic, solar thermal energy and wind energy. In addition, energy crops potentially compete with food crops. The report recommends finding strategies for saving energy and increasing energy efficiency.

  13. A team of scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences has just completed an airborne measurement campaign that allowed for the first time to measure large-scale methane emissions from the extensive Arctic permafrost landscapes. The study area extended from Barrow, the northernmost settlement on the American mainland, across the entire North Slope of Alaska, to the Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The airborne measurements (Airborne Measurement of Methane -- AIRMETH) at a flight level of only 30 to 50 meters above ground addresses two major questions: How much methane is emitted from permafrost areas into the atmosphere? Do well known geological point sources, i.e. the leakage of gas along geologic faults, contribute significantly to the total amount or does the microbially produced methane from the upper soil layers dominate?

  14. On 23 July 2012, the Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Company published its final report. This Investigation Committee was established on May 24, 2011 by a cabinet decision.

  15. The European Commission has approved funding for 202 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, environmental policy, climate change and information and communication on environmental issues. They represent a total investment of some €516.5 million, of which the EU will provide €268.4 million. LIFE+ is the European financial instrument for the environment and has a total budget of €2.143 billion for the period 2007-2013. The Commission launches one call for LIFE+ project proposals per year.

  16. On 19 July 2012, the European Commission proposed new measures to regulate fishing for deep sea species in the North-East Atlantic. The new regulation would result in a ban of deep-water trawling and gill netting below 1000m depth in the entire North-East Atlantic and for certain fisheries below 500m. It will apply to EU waters and vessels flying EU Member States' flags in NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) high seas waters.

  17. On 16 July 2012, the largest anti-nuclear protest in Tokyo to date was held. Organizers put the number of attendees at 170,000-200,000; this makes the demonstration the largest in 50 years. Over 7.8 million signatures have been collected for a petition demanding a phase-out for nuclear power.

  18. The scientific data brought together by BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council show that common farmland birds continue to decline in the EU: 300 million farmland birds have been lost since 1980. The news was released, on the eve of a major civil society debate organised by the European Commission and the new Cypriot Presidency of the EU on 13 July 2012. The Farmland Bird Indicator (FBI) combines the aggregate population trends of 37 species classified as farmland birds. 22 of these species are decreasing and only 6 are increasing, with a further 6 being stable and 3 having uncertain trends. Overall, the indicator shows a decline of 52% since 1980. This equates to a loss of more than 300 million birds breeding in farmland over the last three decades- despite the efforts of many nature-friendly farmers and conservation organisations.

  19. On 12 July 2012, the European Commission put forward proposals to implement targets that will further considerably reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars and light commercial vehicles (vans) by 2020. The proposals will cut average emissions from new cars to 95 grams of CO2 per km (g CO2/km) in 2020 from 135.7g in 2011 and a mandatory target of 130g in 2015. Emissions from vans will be reduced to 147g CO2/km in 2020 from 181.4g in 2010 (the latest year for which figures are available) and a mandatory target of 175g in 2017.

  20. On 3 July the European Commission outlined the way forward for the EU's constructive engagement in the Arctic. The Communication contains a series of measures to support the effective stewardship of the Arctic. They include: Support of Arctic research under the Commission’s proposed 80 billion EUR Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme); Stepping up of actions to combat climate change; Use of EU’s funding opportunities to maximise sustainable development in the Arctic for the benefit of local and indigenous communities; Promotion and development of environmentally friendly technologies that could be used by extractive industries in the Arctic. In total, the Communication contains 28 action points.

  21. Federal Ministery of Economics and Technology Federal Ministery for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear have agreed on key elements of legislation to accelerate offshore wind energy expansion. Major aspects of their agreement include a liability regime and a system change towards a separate offshore grid development plan governing the connection of offshore wind farms to the grid. Based on the proposals developed by the working group on the acceleration of offshore grid connection, both ministries agreed on introducing a multiannual offshore grid development plan. This plan will officially stipulate the time of completion, the location and capacity of future grid connection points to allow for better coordination with the onshore grid expansion process. It is envisaged to link the offshore grid development plan with a liability regime for delays during construction and disruptions in the operation of offshore grid connection lines.

  22. A carbon tax in Australia was introduced on 1 July 2012.

  23. From 1 July 2012, French shops and offices will have to switch off their lights at 1am to save electricity. The government hopes to save 170 million euros per year by introducing a new set of eco-friendly measures to cut energy consumption. Shops in city centers in France will be required to switch off their lights from 1am to 6am.

  24. On 29 June 2012 the 15 coastal states around the North-East Atlantic and the European Union agreed to establish the Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas Marine Protected Area on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores, at a size of 180,000km².

  25. On 29 June 2012, the Bay South Garden, a section of the waterfront gardens in the new Downtown Marina Bay official opened. It is the largest of the three gardens that make up Gardens By The Bay, Singapore's new green oasis in the city.

  26. On 28 June 2012, the Mediation Committee of the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat reached an agreement on a highly controversial bill on carbon capture and storage.

  27. On 27 June 2012, Gabon burned its burned its government-held stockpile of ivory to mark the country's commitment to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

  28. On 28 June 2012, Swiss Federal Council decided to built a second road tunnel through the Gotthard.

  29. On 26 June 2012, the German government and federal states agreed on cuts to the country's solar feed-in tariff (FIT). Under the compromise, one-off cuts in incentives of 20 to 30 percent from April are to remain and incentives will be capped for installed capacity of 52 gigawatts. Solar power will still have to be fed into the grid, but at market prices. In addition, medium-sized plants of 10-40 kilowatts will receive compensation of 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

  30. On 23 June 2012, a highly endangered Sumatran rhinoceros gave birth to a calf in Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park on the island of Sumatra. It is only the fifth known birth in captivity for the species in 123 years.

  31. On 20 June 2012, the National Platform for Electromobility presented its third report on electromobility in Germany.

  32. USA forest service, Rwanda, a Brazilian coalition and indigenous groups from Mesoamerica have committed to restoring a total of more than 18 million hectares of their forest landscape. The commitments are made by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (15 Million hectares), the Government of Rwanda (2 million hectares), and the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Forest Restoration Pact—a coalition of government agencies, NGOs and private sector partners (over 1 million hectares) and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.

  33. The people of Munich voted against the construction of a third runway in a referendum held on 17 June 2012.

  34. On 16 June 2012, Global Environment Facility CEO and Chairperson Monique Barbut joined other high-level dignitaries to mark the official launch of the Green Industry Platform, an initiative to mobilize action for the "Green Industry Agenda," which aims to promote green manufacturing and create green industries. In an address at the event, she expressed concern that the work accomplished by international institutions, organizations and countries does not suffice in an era where stronger ties between private and public sectors must be established for the successful development of sustainable environment initiatives. Spearheaded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the "Green Industry Platform" is a global high-level multi-stakeholder partnership intended to act as a forum for catalyzing, mobilizing and mainstreaming action on green industry around the world. It serves as a channel which brings together governmental, business and civil society leaders.

  35. On 14 June 2012, Environment Minister Tony Burke released the Government's final network of marine reserves which - once proclaimed under national environmental law - will increase the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60, expanding the national network to cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters. The new marine reserves take the overall size of the Commonwealth marine reserves network to 3.1 million square kilometres, by far the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world.

  36. On 12 June 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.

  37. On 6 June 2012, the European Commission presented a Communication on its renewable energy policy, outlining options for the period beyond 2020. It confirms the market integration of renewables and the need for their growth in the decades after 2020. The Communication also calls for a more coordinated European approach in the establishment and reform of support schemes and an increased use of renewable energy trading among Member States.

  38. Increasing alarm for the fate of the two rarest rhinoceros species, and growing concern over the increased illegal hunting of rhinos and demand for rhino horn affecting all five species, has prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia to declare 5 June 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino. President Yudhoyono took this step at the request of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and other conservation organisations, because the future survival of both the Javan and Sumatran Rhinos depends on effective conservation action in Indonesia.

  39. In the run-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, the Federal Environment Ministry has launched an initiative Making it Happen to support interested countries on their road to sustainable development with the expertise of renowned business corporations. The companies will organise workshops for local businesses in the countries concerned, and advise the governments on how they can create incentives for more innovative and sustainable management and ensure greater consideration of social issues. Other companies from Germany and abroad are welcome to join the initiative.