The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2011 and 2011 Deselect

  1. On 25 November 2011, the European Red List of Vascular Plants was published by the European Commission. This first assessment of Europe’s Vascular Plants has assessed 1,826 species. The assessment comprises three groups: plants included in European and international policy instruments, selected priority crop wild relatives, and aquatic plant species present in Europe. The assessment shows us that at least 467 species are threatened. The publication was prepared by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

  2., a new internet portal, was launched on 25 July 2011. The platform collects knowledge on climate change and serves as a guide to the German research landscape in the area of climate, the results of climate change, and adjusting to climate change. The project was initiated by the Climate Service Center (CSC) in Hamburg, which is part of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht. The Klimanavigator (or the climate navigator) is a joint portal for over thirty institutions in the German research landscape. They have united to better communicate their results to users in politics, business, administration, and society as a whole. The Klimanavigator helps to collect knowledge about climate protection and how we can adjust to its changes.

  3. Car fleet renewal schemes introduced in the US, France and Germany fell short of their potential to deliver on environmental and safety objectives, according to a new report published by the International Transport Forum at the OECD and the FIA Foundation on 11 July 2011. The focus of the 70-page study are three of the largest car fleet renewal schemes introduced primarily to stimulate consumer spending on cars in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. The study investigates the impact on CO2 and NOx emissions of 2.8 million transactions in which old cars were traded for new vehicles under car fleet renewal schemes in France, Germany and the United States. The report assesses the value for money of the different schemes and identifies critical design elements for ensuring success in meeting the environmental and safety objectives. The report was prepared by the Dutch research and consultancy organisation TNO together with experts at the International Transport Forum and the OECD Environment Directorate. The safety impact analysis was prepared by the Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV).

  4. Between 1998 and 2008, at least 1,060 new species have been discovered in the forests, wetlands and waters of New Guinea. The newly described species include 580 invertebrates, 218 plants, 134 amphibians, 71 fishes, 43 reptiles, 12 mammals and 2 birds. New Guinea covers less than 0.5% of the Earth’s landmass, but is home to 6–8% of the world’s species. This report shows that New Guinea’s forests and rivers are among the richest and most biodiverse in the world.

  5. How high is the risk for societies worldwide to become victims of natural hazards and climate change? Earthquakes, floods, droughts, storms: disasters seem to occur unexpectedly and with unimaginable force. But why do some countries better succeed than others to cope with extreme natural events? The WorldRiskReport 2011 helps to evaluate the vulnerability of societies to natural hazards. Using world maps to visualize, it shows on the one hand where the probability of a natural hazard to occur is particularly high; on the other hand it is shown in which countries the population can cope with these events especially good or bad. The central element of the WorldRiskReport, the concept of the WorldRiskIndex, was developed by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn/Germany, in cooperation with the Alliance Development Works and its partners. Alliance Development Works also is editor of the report. The German version of the "WeltRisikoBericht" was released on 15 June 2011 in Germany.

  6. The E-PRTR, launched in 2009 to improve access to environmental information, contains already data reported by individual industrial facilities (point sources) and, as of 26 May 2011, information on emissions from road transport, shipping, aviation, heating of buildings, agriculture and small businesses (diffuse sources). Diffuse sources of pollution are widespread and/or concentrated in highly populated areas. A large number of many tiny emissions from houses and vehicles represent collectively a large, diffuse source of pollution, in particular in cities. The new, comprehensive set of 32 maps allows Europeans to see on a scale of 5 km by 5 km where pollutants are released. They include details of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulphur oxides (SOX), carbon monoxide (CO), ammonia (NH3) and particulate matter (PM10).

  7. Close to 80 percent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century. This could lead to cumulative greenhouse gas savings that could contribute towards a goal of holding the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. But it has to be backed by an appropriate policy framework and the development of system integration. These are the findings of a special report realised by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Over 120 researchers from all over the world have worked on this Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) for the last two years. On the 11th Session of Working Group III, 5-8 May 2011 in Abu Dhabi, government representatives by 194 nations have approved the report.

  8. The first chapter of WWF’s Living Forests Report, released on 27 April 2011, examines the drivers of deforestation and identifies the opportunities to shift from business as usual to a new model of sustainability, which can benefit government, business and communities. Based on a new global analysis showing that more than 230 million hectares of forest will disappear by 2050 if no action is taken, the report proposes that policymakers and businesses unite around a goal of zero net deforestation and forest degradation (ZNDD) by 2020 as a groundbreaking global benchmark to avoid dangerous climate change and curb biodiversity loss. During the 2011 International Year of Forests, WWF’s Living Forests Report is part of a year‑long conversation with partners, policymakers, and business about how to protect, conserve, sustainably use, and govern the world’s forests in the 21st century.

  9. A study on the status of marine fish in the Mediterranean Sea released on 19 April 2011 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature says almost half of the species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean and at least 12 species of bony fish are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, marine habitat degradation and pollution. This is the first comprehensive regional IUCN Red List assessment of the native marine fish species for an entire sea. The report also highlights the substantial lack of information on the conservation status of nearly one third of these Mediterranean marine fish (which were assessed as Data Deficient), a significant proportion of which are considered endemic to the region.

  10. The coastline in Arctic regions reacts to climate change with increased erosion and retreats by half a metre per year on average. This means substantial changes for Arctic ecosystems near the coast and the population living there. A consortium of more than thirty scientists from ten countries was involved in preparing the 170-page status report entitled “State of the Arctic Coast 2010”. The study was initiated and coordinated by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the international joint project Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ), the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) working group of the Arctic Council. The scientists jointly investigated over 100,000 kilometres and thus a fourth of all Arctic coasts and their results was published on 18 April 2011.The changes are particularly dramatic in the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort Seas, where coastal erosion rates reach more than 8 metres a year in some cases.

  11. On 2 March 2011, coordinated by the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS), the Aphekom project released the results of 3 years of work on air pollution and its impact on health conducted by 60 scientists in 12 countries across Europe. Using traditional health impact assessment methods, Aphekom (Improving Knowledge and Communication for Decision Making on Air Pollution and Health in Europe) has showed that a decrease to WHO’s annual air-quality guideline on PM 2.5 fine particles (10 micrograms/cubic metre) in 25 large European cities could add up to 22 months of life expectancy for persons 30 years of age and older, depending on the city and its average level of PM 2.5.

  12. As of 21 February 2011 the website of the German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) at the Federal Environment Agency has a new outfit- a modern look, easier to navigate, and more services. Site visitors can now already access their topic of choice from the homepage.

  13. A new comprehensive analysis finds that 75 percent of the world's coral reefs are currently threatened by local and global pressures. For the first time, the analysis includes threats from climate change, including warming seas and rising ocean acidification. "Reefs at Risk Revisited" is being released by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, the International Coral Reef Action Network, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center, along with a network of more than 25 organizations. Local pressures - especially overfishing and destructive fishing - are causing many reefs to be degraded. Global pressures are leading to coral bleaching from rising sea temperatures and increasing ocean acidification from carbon dioxide pollution. According to the new analysis, if left unchecked, more than 90 percent of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050. For the first time, the report identifies the 27 nations most socially and economically vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss. Among these, the nine most vulnerable countries are: Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji, and Indonesia. The report is an update of "Reefs at Risk," released by WRI in 1998.

  14. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) presents the brochure entitled Umwelt und Landwirtschaft [Environment and Agriculture], published in the Environmental Data (Daten zur Umwelt) series, with an overview of key facts and figures to enable a sound discussion about conservation in agriculture, and to present what has been achieved as well as where problems exist. Graphs, maps and tables serve to illustrate existing interrelationships.

  15. Alternative fuels have the potential to gradually replace fossil energy sources and make transport sustainable by 2050, according to a report presented to the European Commission on 25 January 2011 by the stakeholder expert group on future transport fuels. The EU will need an oil-free and largely CO2-free energy supply for transport by 2050 due to the need to reduce its impact on the environment and concerns about the security of energy supply. The expert group has for the first time developed a comprehensive approach covering the whole transport sector. Expected demand from all transport modes could be met through a combination of electricity (batteries or hydrogen/fuel cells) and biofuels as main options, synthetic fuels (increasingly from renewable resources) as a bridging option, methane (natural gas and biomethane) as complementary fuel, and LPG as supplement.

  16. On 17 January 2011 Greenpeace UK released a new report with partners from Platform and Oil Change International about oil investment and increasingly risky sources of oil. The report "Reserves Replacement Ratio in a Marginal Oil World: Adequate Indicator or Subprime Statistic?" examines current practices of reporting on oil reserves to be derived from tar sands, deep water drilling and Arctic crude. The international oil industry has entered an era in which maintaining production numbers involves unprecedented risk, escalating costs and tighter margins. Adequate profits from equity production will increasingly depend on a high demand and high oil price environment which is not only far from assured but is also counter to the interests of climate protection.

  17. On 11 January 2010 the U.S. National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released its final report and recommendations in Washington, DC.

  18. Energy production from plants could provide up to twenty percent of the world's energy demand in 2050, half of it from biomass plantations alone – but only at the price of a substantial expansion of land used for cultivation, to the expense of nature. This is the finding of a study carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), “which for the first time determines the potential and the risks of energy production from biomass plantations in a complex biogeochemical computer simulation,“ lead author Tim Beringer says. Human land use could increase by ten to thirty percent, depending on the scenario, and irrigation water demand could double.

  19. In 2011, there was a massive increase in the use of renewable energy worldwide. Global invest­ment in the sector rose by about 17 per cent over 2010 levels, reaching a record high of 257 billion US dollars. This was announced on 11 Jun e 2012 by the REN21 policy network in its annual Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). Renewable energy now supplies 16.7 per cent of final energy consumption and about 20.3 per cent of global electricity con­sump­tion worldwide. Total investment in the sector was 40 billion US dollars higher than invest­ment in fossil energy generation capa­city. The number of countries that have adopted targets for the expansion of re­new­able energy has risen again, reaching 118. More than half of them are developing countries. Growth in the re­new­able energy sector mainly took place in China, the U.S., and Germany, as well as Spain, Italy, India, and Japan.