The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2013 and 2013 Deselect

  1. The European Natura 2000 Award was launched on 16 December 2013. Europeans feel strongly about nature conservation, but few are familiar with Natura 2000. This new annual Award aims to remedy this lack of public awareness, showcasing the variety of Natura 2000 sites and recognising excellence in a wide range of activities. Five awards will be given out each year in different areas, covering communication, conservation actions, socio-economic benefits, reconciling interests/perceptions, and networking and cross-border cooperation. The winners of this inaugural Natura 2000 Award will be announced in May 2014 and their achievements will be recognised at a high level ceremony in Brussels.

  2. In a press release dated 16 December 2013, ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, announced that it had updated the candidate list of substances of very high concern (SVHC) with the addition of seven new substances.

  3. On 12 December 2013, the EU Council of Ministers rejected a compromise limit on the use of first-generation biofuels in Europe. The compromise by the Lithuanian government, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers would have increased the cap proposed by the Commission and axed mandatory reporting of indirect land use change (ILUC) effects.

  4. On 10 December 2013, the Federal Government approved the capital dredging program for the proposed Terminals 0, 2 and 3 at the Port of Abbot Point, the Adani T0 project at Abbot Point, the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island.

  5. On 10 December 2013, the European Parliament approved the plan to freeze the auctioning of a portion of the current glut of CO2 permits to boost their price and encourage firms to invest in low-carbon innovation. The measures, amended by the EP in July to set stricter conditions for the freeze, are intended to restore the incentive effect of the Emissions Trading System, which is designed to curb CO2 emissions.

  6. A milestone regional cooperation agreement was signed on 9 December 2013, at the World Bank Headquarters by senior Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian representatives. They agreement is to lay a water pipeline linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea.

  7. On 6 December 2013, Shanghai's concentration of tiny, harmful PM 2.5 particles was 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

  8. On 4 December 2013, Ministers and other national representatives made commitments at the International Forum on Polar Bear Conservation that will help polar bears persist across their Arctic range. The commitments were made at a forum in Russia supported by WWF. One key commitment made in the Forum Declaration is that the five states responsible for polar bear populations - Canada, Norway, Denmark and Greenland, Russia and the United States - will work on managing the polar bears’ home in ways that will take into account the Arctic’s shrinking ice, and increasing industrial interest.

  9. On 3 December 2013, the European Union decided to support a programme that will improve the protection of elephants, great apes and rhinos in Africa as well as other species such as marine turtles in the Caribbean and the Pacific. African, Caribbean and Pacific countries boast high levels of biodiversity and some of the rarest species of life on the planet, such as rhinos, great apes and marine turtles. The new ““Minimising the Illegal Killing of Elephants and other Endangered Species (MIKES)” project will improve the system of monitoring biodiversity and threats to it and extend coverage from elephants to other rare species. In order to fight illegal killing, it will, among other things, provide law enforcement training, technical support for setting up patrol systems, and concrete operational support where required. An emergency response mechanism will be created to allow MIKES to respond to sudden increases in the illegal killing and/or international trade in elephants and other species. MIKES is financed from the 10th European Development Fund with €12.3 million and will run in the period 2014-2018. It will be implemented by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in collaboration with 31 African elephant range States as well as in selected protected area sites in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

  10. Sea-level rise in this century is likely to be 70-120 centimeters by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions are not mitigated, a broad assessment of the most active scientific publishers on that topic has revealed. The 90 experts participating in the survey anticipate a median sea-level rise of 200-300 centimeters by the year 2300 for a scenario with unmitigated emissions. In contrast, for a scenario with strong emissions reductions, experts expect a sea-level rise of 40-60 centimeters by 2100 and 60-100 centimeters by 2300. The survey was conducted by a team of scientists from the USA and Germany.

  11. On 21 November 2013, Friends of the Earth, together with Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Action Aid, Jubilee South, and hundreds of climate activists walked out of the climate talks in Warsaw in protest against shameful inaction from developed countries.

  12. On 20 November 2013, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier announced at the UN climate conference in Warsaw that that Germany would be providing an additional 12 million euros for a programme that supports pioneer regions which have taken action against deforestation and thus avoided greenhouse gas emissions. Through that step, Germany is increasing its support for forest protection activities that demonstrably contribute to avoided emissions, bringing it to a total of 56 million euros.

  13. On 18 November 2013, TEPCO started the Unit 4 fuel removal operation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

  14. On 15 November 2013, tens of thousands of people protested in Italy's southern city of Naples against illegal dumping of toxic waste blamed on the local mafia.

  15. The Japanes cabinet approved a new greenhouse gas emissions target calling for reductions of 3.8 percent by 2020 from their 2005 levels, the government in Tokyo announced on 15 November 2013. The revision was made because an earlier goal of a 25 percent emissions cut from 1990 levels had become unrealistic, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo. The new target represents a 3 percent increase over 1990 emissions.

  16. On 14 November 2013, the United States destroyed its six-ton stock of confiscated elephant ivory. The destruction of this ivory, which took place at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Property Repository on Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado, was witnessed by representatives of African nations and other countries, dozens of leading conservationists and international media representatives. It is the latest in a series of actions by the Obama administration designed to crack down on international poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.

  17. The Permanent Representatives of the EU Member States agreed on 8 November 2013, on a temporary reduction in emissions trading allowances to be auctioned (so-called backloading). This paves the way for negotiations with the European Parliament and the EU Commission. Germany agreed and Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier welcomed the decision.

  18. The CO2 emission limit for new light commercial vehicles sold in the EU is to be reduced from 203 g/km today to 175 g/km after 2017 and 147 g/km by 2020, under draft legislation approved by the Environment Committee on 5 November 2013. The text, already informally agreed with EU ministers, also paves the way for achieving further reductions after 2020, and provides for the introduction of a new test protocol. The 147g/km by 2020 target represents maximum average emissions authorised for manufacturers registered in the EU of vans of up to 2.610 tonnes unladen and 3.5 tonnes laden. It will apply to manufacturers producing more than 1,000 vehicles per year, say MEPs.

  19. On 4 November 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal that requires Member States to reduce their use of lightweight plastic carrier bags. Member States can choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions.

  20. A meeting of the Commission for the Conservation on Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) closed on 1 November 2013 in Hobart, and again failed to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the vulnerable environment of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. The two proposals on which CCAMLR failed to agree were a joint US-New Zealand proposal to designate a Ross Sea MPA of 1.34 million km2, including a fully protected area of 1.25 million km2; and a proposal from Australia, France and the European Union that would designate a cluster of seven marine protected areas in East Antarctica, covering about 1.63 million km2.

  21. The Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum was held in Bishkek on October 22nd and 23rd, 2013. For the first time, the heads of state of all twelve distribution countries signed a global action plan for the conservation of the snow leopard.

  22. On 18 December 2013, the European adopted a Clean Air Programme for Europe. The package has a number of components. They include: A new Clean Air Programme for Europe, a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive with stricter national emission ceilings for the six main pollutants , and a proposal for a new Directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations. By 2030, and compared to business as usual, the clean air policy package is estimated to avoid 58 000 premature deaths, save 123 000 km2 of ecosystems from nitrogen pollution, save 56 000 km2 protected Natura 2000 areas from nitrogen pollution, and save 19 000 km2 forest ecosystems from acidification. The package is the culmination of a major review of air policy that began in early 2011.

  23. Researchers have provided new answers to two questions about Amazonian diversity: How many trees are there in the Amazon, and how many tree species occur there? On 18 October 2013, the study was published in Science Magazine. Over 120 experts on the Amazon have contributed data from 1,170 forestry surveys in all major forest types in the Amazon. They generated the first basin-wide estimates of the abundance, frequency and spatial distribution of thousands of Amazonian trees. Extrapolations from data compiled over a period of 10 years suggest that greater Amazonia, which includes the Amazon Basin and the Guiana Shield, harbors around 390 billion individual trees. "We think there are roughly 16,000 tree species in Amazonia, but the data also suggest that half of all the trees in the region belong to just 227 of those species! Thus, the most common species of trees in the Amazon now not only have a number, they also have a name. This is very valuable information for further research and policymaking," says Hans ter Steege, first author on the study and researcher at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in South Holland, Netherlands.

  24. Commercial ocean fertilization activities are subject to an international ban, although certain research activities will be permitted. This was the decision taken by the Parties to the London Protocol on 18 October 2013. The Conferences to the Party must now ensure prior to any ocean fertilization and other geo-engineering activities that research actually takes place and that negative impact on the environment can be ruled out. The 43 Contracting Parties also agreed to subject other marine geo-engineering measures besides ocean fertilization to state control. However, all of the new regulations can only enter into force when two-thirds of the Contracting Parties have ratified them.

  25. On 17 October 2013, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announcedthat it has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.

  26. On 10 October 2013, the Federal Republic of Germany signed the new UN Mercury Convention. At the signing ceremony, the Minamata Convention, which aims to limit mercury emissions, was signed by over 110 states including Brazil, China, South Africa, Mexico and the EU Member States. The convention aims to limit mercury emissions worldwide and thus protect humans and the environment from this highly dangerous and toxic substance. For instance, the Parties to the convention are forbidden from opening new mercury mines. The use of mercury in industry will also be dramatically restricted. Minimum standards are to be put in place for the storage and treatment of mercury containing waste. The convention also envisages a monitoring mechanism that will ensure requirements are fulfilled.

  27. On 9 October 2013, the European Parliament proposed that exploration and hydraulic fracturing extraction activities for non-conventional hydrocarbons should be subject to environmental impact studies, in adopting an amendment to existing EU legislation. MEPs also suggested measures to prevent conflicts of interest and to ensure that the public is informed and consulted.

  28. One of Europe's largest centers for water research is being established in Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt with a workforce that includes over 500 researchers: The Center for Advanced Water Research (CAWR). The cooperation agreement was signed by representatives of the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden, TUD) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) on 8 October 2013. Both partners see the benefits that will arise from the new Center in the channelling of existing resources, which will allow to address the global problems concerning integrated water resources management jointly.

  29. Many subalpine lakes may look beautiful and even pristine, but new evidence suggests they may also be contaminated with potentially hazardous plastics. Researchers say those tiny microplastics are likely finding their way into the food web through a wide range of freshwater invertebrates too. The findings, based on studies of Italy's Lake Garda and reported on 7 October 2013, in Current Biology, suggest that the problem of plastic pollution isn't limited to the ocean. The researchers chose Lake Garda as a starting point for investigating freshwater contamination with micro- and macroplastics because they expected it to be less polluted given its subalpine location. What they found was a surprise: the numbers of microplastic particles in sediment samples from Lake Garda were similar to those found in studies of marine beach sediments.

  30. On 7 October 2013, WWF filed a complaint alleging that British oil company Soco International PLC has breached international corporate social responsibility standards. WWF contends that, in the course of Soco’s oil exploration activities in and around Virunga National Park, the company has violated environmental and human rights provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

  31. On 3 October 2013, Ecuador's parliament approved drilling for oil in Yasuni National Park. The assembly, which passed the motion by a 108 to 25 margin, said the operation would be carried out by a state oil company. The parliament passed the motion by a 108 to 25 margin.

  32. On 30 September 2013, the European Union and Indonesia signed a historic trade agreement which will contribute to halting the trade in illegal timber. Under the agreement, only verified legal timber and timber products will be exported to the EU. Indonesia is the first Asian country to enter into such an agreement, and by far the largest Asian timber exporter to the EU.

  33. On 19 September 2013, a ceremony was organised at Venlo to celebrate the Permanent German-Dutch Boundary Water Commission's 50th anniversary. The Commission was founded by the border treaty of 1960. The first meeting was held in December 1963 in the Dutch city of Zwolle. Transboundary waters include the rivers Vechte, Rur and Grenzaa. While activities initially focused on water quantity management with the goal of ensuring proper water flow among other things, later the Commission also began to deal with the causes and control of water pollution. The Ems-Dollart Environment Protocol of 1996 led to further cooperation in the field of water and nature conservation in the Ems estuary. The protection of water bodies as ecosystems and the Commission's contribution to implementing the relevant European Directives, for instance the Water Framework Directive, have significantly gained in importance in recent years.

  34. On 19 September 2013, the Russian Coast Guard boarded the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and arrested the 25 activists on board following a protest against Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling operations. At the time of the boarding, the Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform at the three nautical mile limit, inside international waters.

  35. On 19 September 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the scrapping of the remaining Fukushima nuclear reactors that survived the 2011 tsunami. Abe's order to decommission No. 5 and No. 6 came as he visited the plant to inspect the on-going problem of radiation leaks.

  36. On 18 September 2018, Greenpeace activists staged a protest at an offshore oil drilling platform in the Russian Arctic, during which two protesters were arrested and the Russian Coast Guard fired warning shots across Greenpeace's ship, the environmental lobbying group said.

  37. On 15 September 2013, a polar bear the size of a double-decker bus marched through London along with up to 3,000 people for Greenpeace's Save the Arctic campaign. The polar bear, called Aurora, required 15 puppeteers and 20 volunteers to haul it through the streets of London. Protesters marched down Lambeth Palace Road towards Shell headquarters, on Belvedere Road, to call for a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

  38. Draft legal measures to cap traditional biofuel production and accelerate the switchover to a a new generation of products from other sources, such as seaweed and or certain types of waste, were approved by the Environment Committee on 11 September 2013.

  39. Fresh legislation is urgently needed to save the European eel stock, which scientists report has declined by at least 95% in the past thirty years, says Parliament in a resolution voted on 11 September 2013. The resolution was approved by 427 votes to 249, with 25 abstentions. MEPs urge the European Commission to table a draft law by March 2014, including sanctions against EU member states that are slow to provide the data needed to assess the stock. The European eel's decline is probably due, inter alia, to overfishing, pollution, obstacles to its migration up rivers or even changing ocean currents, as eel migrate from the ocean up rivers and back again. Attempts to reproduce eel in captivity have yet to achieve commercial success.

  40. On 9 September 2013 the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. The proposal seeks to address the problem of invasive alien species in a comprehensive manner so as to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as to minimize and mitigate the human health or economic impacts that these species can have. The proposal is for three types of interventions; prevention, early warning and rapid response, and management. A list of invasive alien species of Union concern will be drawn up with Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence.