The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2014 and 2014 Deselect

  1. Six companies in east China's Jiangsu Province were ordered to pay 160 million yuan (26 million U.S. dollars) for discharging waste chemical to rivers by a court on 30 December 2014. It is the highest fine of its kind in China ever imposed.

  2. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to make Paris a diesel-free city by 2020. The first step, she said on 28 December 2014, will be to ban the “most polluting” diesel delivery trucks and buses by July 2015.

  3. On 17 December 2014 Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would defer a decision to extend New York's existing ban on fracking to his environmental commissioner Joe Martens and health commissioner Howard Zucker. Cuomo made the announcement after Martens and Zucker presented findings of their environmental and health reviews on the controversial drilling technique on 17 December 2014. The report concluded that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil carried "significant public health risks" that required "long-term studies" before it could be called safe.

  4. The European Commission adopted on the 16 December 2014 its Work Programme for 2015. The Commission's 2015 Work Programme sets out: 23 new initiatives proposed by the Juncker Commission, following the Political Guidelines presented to the European Parliament; 80 existing proposals which the Commission proposes to withdraw or amend for political or technical reasons. The European Commission plans to scrap future sustainable policies such as waste reduction and air quality. The decision was taken despite 11 EU countries, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, urging the Commission not to withdraw either proposal and strong support from some industries and businesses for a revision of the EU’s waste targets. The Green 10 condemn in the strongest possible terms the Commission’s plans to withdraw and retable key proposals on waste management and to create confusion and uncertainty about the fate of the air package.

  5. On 15 December 2014 Europe’s largest battery storage project was officially opened by Amber Rudd, Minister at Department for Energy and Climate Change at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos collaborated to deploy the technology onto a UK Power Networks substation. The fully automated 6MW/10MWh Smarter Network Storage (SNS) project will assess the role of energy storage in cost effectively delivering the UK’s Carbon Plan, and save over £6 million on traditional network reinforcement methods.

  6. On 9 December 2014, the European Commission published its Decision establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for rinse-off cosmetics. The criteria catalogue states that “palm oil and palm kernel oil and their derivatives used in the product must be sourced from plantations that meet criteria for sustainable management that have been developed by multi-stakeholder organisations that have a broad- based membership including NGOs, industry and government.“ Other criteria relevant for the bio-based sector are the prohibition of micro-plastics in the cosmetics and the exclusion of certain plastics for the packaging.

  7. The Nasca Line action took place on the occasion of the climate conference in Lima, Peru. On 8 December 2014, Greenpeace activists placed a message, consisting of 45 cloth letters on the ground, next to the Hummingbird geoglyph. The letters spelled, "Time for change, the future is renewable - Greenpeace". They used yellow colored stones (carried in with them) to hold the letters in place, and used a GIS system to ensure everything is laid out in the right place. On 9 December 2014 the Peruvian Ministry of Culture accused the activists of having damaged the site.

  8. The chair of the steering committee of the National Platform for Electric Mobility (NPE), Professor Henning Kagermann, presented the NPE's 2014 progress report to Chancellor Merkel on 2 Dezember 2014. This report marks the conclusion of the NPE's market preparation phase (2010 to 2014) and describes the current situation. In the report, the NPE also makes proposals for the upcoming market start-up phase (2015 to 2017) which focus on how Germany can achieve its goals of becoming a leading supplier and lead market in the field of electric mobility by 2020.

  9. "(...)19. We support strong and effective action to address climate change. Consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its agreed outcomes, our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth, and certainty for business and investment. We will work together to adopt successfully a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015. We encourage parties that are ready to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions well in advance of COP21 (by the first quarter of 2015 for those parties ready to do so). We reaffirm our support for mobilising finance for adaptation and mitigation, such as the Green Climate Fund.(...)"

  10. More than 350 of the planet’s most important sites for nature are threatened with being lost forever according to a new report by BirdLife International. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are places of international significance for the conservation of the world’s birds and other nature, with over twelve thousand having been identified worldwide. IBAs are the largest and most comprehensive global network of important sites for nature conservation. Now, 356 of these – known as ‘IBAs in Danger’ – have been identified in 122 countries and territories as being in imminent danger of being lost. About half of these are legally protected, which highlights the importance of improving the management effectiveness of protected areas. The new report Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: a global network for conserving nature and benefiting people – was launched at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on 15 November 2014.

  11. On 12 November 2014, in Beijing, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made history by jointly announcing the United States’ and China’s respective targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change in the post-2020 period.

  12. The ‘self-organised’ European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) against TTIP and CETA is currently supported by over 290 organizations from across Europe. The official ECI was rejected by the EU Commission (EC) on 11th September 2014. On 10 November 2014, the ECI’s initiators submited a complaint against this decision in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The lawsuit is directed against EC’s weak and politically-motivated reasons for rejecting the Stop TTIP ECI. At the same time the initiators would like to ensure fair conditions for future citizens’ initiatives: if the EC’s rejection is endorsed then the ECI would be degraded to nothing more than a paper-tiger.

  13. On 7 November 2014, Kagoshima Gov. Yuichiro Ito gave final approval to restart two reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Station in southern Japan, the first to resume operations in the country under new safety rules imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

  14. Green Budget Europe (GBE), a Brussels-based non-profit expert platform on environmental fiscal reform, was formally established during a founding meeting on 4 November 2014 in Brussels. GBE is a Europe-wide expert platform bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to promote environmental fiscal reform (EFR) and the intelligent use of market-based instruments to achieve environmental goals while maximising economic and societal benefits. GBE was established in 2008 as a project of the NGO Green Budget Germany (or Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft – FÖS) after a meeting of EFR experts united in their vision of a pan-European organisation to promote environmental fiscal reform.

  15. On 4 November 2014, the small city of Denton, Texas voted by 59 % to ban hydraulic fracturing inside the city limits. The campaign in Denton captured national attention because no municipality in Texas had ever banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the city sits on the northern edge of the Barnett shale field, one of the country’s largest.

  16. On 2 November 2014 the Synthesis Report was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Copenhagen. The Synthesis Report, written under the leadership of IPCC Chair R.K. Pachauri, forms the capstone of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. The first three volumes, based on outlines approved by the IPCC’s 195 member governments in October 2009, were released over the past fourteen months: The Physical Science Basis in September 2013, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in March 2014 and Mitigation of Climate Change in April 2014. IPCC reports draw on the many years of work by the scientific community investigating climate change.

  17. The Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014, which gives legislative effect to the Emissions Reduction Fund, passed the Senate with amendments on 31October 2014. The Emissions Reduction Fund is the centrepiece of the Government’s plan to achieve Australia’s five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020. It builds on the Carbon Farming Initiative to create incentives for businesses and communities across the economy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  18. On 31 October 2014 the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed to agree to protect key areas in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica at its thirty-third meeting in Hobart, Australia following moves to block consensus by China and Russia. It is the fourth time in three years the Commission, made up of 24 nations and the EU, failed to reach the consensus necessary for the creation of a marine reserve that would protect these regions against overexploitation.

  19. Eastern Europe countries have categorically rejected the target put forward by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming, leaked documents show. On 2 November 2014, the IPCC said that fossil fuels must be entirely phased out by the end of the century to keep temperatures from rising as high as 5C above pre-industrial levels, a level that would have catastrophic impacts worldwide. On 28 October 2014, a few days before the IPCC synthesis report was published, EU environment and energy ministers meeting in Brussels were presented with a proposal by states including Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany to incorporate the IPCC target into EU policy. However, it was judged not to have “sufficient support” because of opposition from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Latvia who “categorically rejected” it, according to a internal briefing note seen by the Guardian.

  20. On 24 October, the European Council agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the European Union. The European Council endorsed a binding EU target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. An EU target of at least 27% is set for the share of renewable energy consumed in the EU in 2030. This target will be binding at EU level. An indicative target at the EU level of at least 27% is set for improving energy efficiency in 2030 compared to projections of future energy consumption based on the current criteria.

  21. On 23 October 2014 the International Snow Leopard Day was celebrated for the very first time. Snow leopards are among the most enigmatic of wild cats. With between 4,500 and 7,500 animals remaining in the wild today, they are also among the most threatened. Their long-term survival is far from assured, and despite being protected on Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) as well as in the Red Data Books in each of the twelve countries in which they occur, the species has been extirpated from some parts of its historic range. In 2013 on the initiative of the Kyrgyz government, representatives of the twelve Central Asian Snow Leopard Range States came together in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to endorse the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) to conserve snow leopards and the high-mountain ecosystems they live in. The Forum also called upon Range States to declare the year 2015 as the International Year of the Snow Leopard, and October 23 as an annually celebrated Snow Leopard Day.

  22. On 20 October 2014 the first SolaRoad cycle path was opened in the town of Krommenie in northern Holland. SolaRoad is a road surface that acts as a solar panel. This is the first road in the world that converts sunlight into electricity. SolaRoad was developed by TNO, the Province of North-Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic&Infra. The pilot road of just a hundred metres consists of concrete modules each of 2.5 by 3.5 metres. Solar cells are fitted in one travelling direction underneath a tempered glass top layer which is approximately 1-cm thick. In time, the solar power from the road will be used for practical applications in street lighting, traffic systems, electric cars (which drive on the surface) and households.

  23. The European Commission is urging Germany to correctly apply the requirements of the Habitats Directive in relation to the authorisation of a coal power plant in Hamburg/Moorburg. The project in question risks having a negative impact on a number of protected fish species including salmon, European river lamprey and sea lamprey, which pass the power plant when migrating from the North Sea to some 30 Natura 2000 sites on the Elbe, upstream of Hamburg. The species are harmed by the water abstraction process used to cool the power plant. When authorising the plant, Germany failed to carry out an appropriate assessment as required by the Directive, and notably failed to assess alternative cooling processes which could avoid the killing of the species concerned. The project was authorised on condition that an additional fish ladder should be built by a weir in Geesthacht, 30 km from the Hamburg power plant. The fish ladder, however, will not prevent the death of the protected species at the point of the water abstraction in Hamburg. Whilst the Commission does not intend to prevent the operation of the power plant, nature protection requirements must be respected in full. A reasoned opinion is therefore being sent. If Germany fails to comply with EU law in this area within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

  24. Drastic weather, rising seas and changing storm patterns could become “threat multipliers” for the United States, vastly complicating security challenges faced by American forces, the Pentagon said in a new report on the impact of climate change released on 13 October 2014. The report, described as a “climate change adaptation roadmap,” included a foreword from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in which he urged the nation’s military’s planners to grapple now with the implications of a warming planet, even as scientists are “converging toward consensus on future climate projections.” The plan was released as Hagel attended a conference in Peru with his counterparts from across North and South America.

  25. Om 12 October 2014 the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force.

  26. Treatment plants cannot completely keep microplastics out of wastewater by conventional means. This is one of the results of a pilot study commissioned by the regional water association of Oldenburg and Ostfriesland, Germany and the Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency. All plastic particles smaller than five millimetres are designated as microparticles. Microplastics have been included in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) as an indicator of the status of marine waters. Experts at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research examined wastewater and sewage sludge from twelve treatment plants in the region covered by the OOWV water board. “The study provides valuable findings about plastic residues that no one has obtained thus far. By applying state-of-the-art methods, it is now possible to specifically classify plastics, such as those used in toothpaste, cosmetics, fleece jackets and packaging, even in wastewater. For this reason the study is also relevant for legislators, manufacturers and industry,” explains OOWV Managing Director Karsten Specht. However, whether the majority of the microplastic particles found can actually be traced back to cosmetic products, for example, or whether they stem from abrasion of items of daily use, cannot be determined at the present time,” says microbiologist Dr. Gunnar Gerdts, who analysed the samples at the Alfred Wegener Institute on Helgoland.

  27. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2014 to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources. Moreover, and unlike fluorescent lamps, they do not contain mercury.

  28. On 30 September 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways. The bill would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016 in an effort to reduce litter on streets and beaches.

  29. On 29 September 2014 the Council adopted a regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (PE-CONS 70/14, 13266/14 ADD 1). The regulation lays down rules to prevent, minimise and mitigate the adverse impacts of the introduction and spread, both intentional and unintentional, of invasive alien species on biodiversity and the related ecosystem services, as well as other adverse impact on human health or the economy.

  30. On 25 September 2014, President Obama signed a proclamation to designate the largest marine reserve in the world that is completely off limits to commercial resource extraction including commercial fishing. The proclamation expands the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world, to six times its current size, resulting in 370,000 square nautical miles (490,000 square miles) of protected area around these tropical islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument was proclaimed a national monument on January 6, 2009 by U.S. President George W. Bus

  31. On 24 September 2014, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the 2014 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award. The Jury recognises BILL McKIBBEN (USA) “for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change”. Bill McKibben is one of the world’s leading environmentalists. He has been an influential author and educator for 30 years, and his 1989 book The End of Nature was one of the first - ever books written to inform a general audience about climate change. Over the last ten years he initiated and built the first planet - wide, grassroots climate change movement. With the organisation at its core, this movement has spread awareness and mobilised political support for urgent action to mitigate the climate crisis that is already unfolding.

  32. Many new initiatives to protect tropical forests have been presented at the UN Climate Summit. The New York Declaration aims to stop deforestation in developing countries by 2030 and establish supply chains that do not require deforestation at all. The declaration was initiated by Germany, the United Kingdom and Norway, the three largest donors in the field of forest protection as a contribution to climate action in developing countries. The German Government is supporting the implementation of the New York Declaration with a new financial commitment to protecting tropical forests. Germany has agreed, together with the United Kingdom and Norway, to finance forest protection programmes in up to 20 developing countries in the future if these programmes are accompanied by measurable emission reductions and the avoidance of deforestation. On the sidelines of the Climate Summit, Germany and Norway established a new forest-protection partnership with Peru. Together with Peru's President Ollanta Humala and Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Hendricks signed a corresponding Letter of Intent, in which Peru agrees to reduce its CO2 emissions from deforestation quickly and decisively. By 2021, Peru intends to be climate neutral in terms of land use and forestry. The rights of indigenous forest dwellers are also to be significantly expanded.

  33. Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, announced its decision to divest from fossil fuels at a press conference in New York City on September 22, 2014, one day before world leaders convene at the UN Climate Summit. The Fund has begun a two-step process to divest from investments in fossil fuels, first focusing on limiting its exposure to coal and tar sands, with a goal to reduce these investments to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. The Fund is also analyzing in detail its remaining fossil fuel exposure and will develop a plan for further divestment as quickly as is prudent over the next few years.

  34. On 21 September 2014, the People’s Climate March (PCM) took place in locations all around the world. From Manhattan to Melbourne, more than half a million people took to the streets in a unified global move to demand ambitious commitments from world leaders in tackling the climate crisis. By end of day estimates, the flagship march in New York City drew more then 300,000 people just two days before world leaders converge in New York for an emergency UN Climate Summit. Notable participants in the march also included: UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Former Vice President Al Gore, Leonardo di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton and Sting.

  35. The 65th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ended on 18 September 2014 with a landmark decision to impose better controls over any future whale hunts conducted for the purposes of so-called scientific research. In March 2014, the International Court of Justice determined that Japan’s hunts were not for purposes of science, and established criteria that the IWC is now seeking to incorporate. By March 2015, Japan plans to present its new whaling proposal to the IWC’s Scientific Committee. The committee then will have the opportunity to review the merits of what Japan puts forward, to test its compliance with the ICJ criteria, and to make recommendations to the commission.

  36. ON 18 September 2014, Ban Ki-moon received a six million signature petition from Greenpeace calling for long term protection of the Arctis. "I receive this as a common commitment toward our common future, protecting our environment, not only in the Arctic, but all over the world," said the UN Secretary General.

  37. On 17 September 2014, the WBGU's new special report 'Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement' was presented to Federal Environment Minister Dr. Barbara Hendricks and State Secretary Dr. Georg Schütte (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) on the occasion of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit in New York. In its report, the WBGU recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: on the one hand, the planned Paris Agreement should codify the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions and thus serve as a guide; on the other, civil-society initiatives that take on responsibility and make their own contributions towards a low-carbon economy and low-carbon lifestyles should be supported.

  38. From 14 September 2014, international trade in specimens of five shark species and all manta ray species, including their meat, gills and fins, will need to be accompanied by permits and certificates confirming that they have been harvested sustainably and legally. New controls adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will apply to the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena), porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) and manta rays (Manta spp.) as they are now included in CITES Appendix II.

  39. IWC65 took place in Portoroz, Slovenia, from 15-18 September 2014.

  40. New analysis and maps released on 4 September 2014, revealed the alarming speed at which the world’s largest expanses of forest wilderness are being degraded. More than 104 million hectares—an area three times the size of Germany—of the world’s remaining Intact Forest Landscapes were degraded from 2000 to 2013. The Greenpeace GIS Laboratory, University of Maryland and Transparent World, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute and WWF-Russia, used satellite technology and advanced techniques to conduct a global analysis to determine the location and extent of the world’s last remaining large undisturbed forests, called Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs).