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. "First Contact in the Greater Mekong" reports that 1068 species were discovered or newly identified by science between 1997 and 2007.

  5. 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.

  6. Butterflies are a well-known and popular group of insects that can play a valuable role as early warning indicators of environmental change. They have short life-cycles and respond rapidly to change. Butterflies have also declined rapidly in recent decades and are declining more rapidly than other well-known groups such as plants and birds (which often depend on their caterpillars for food). This Atlas is an early attempt to investigate the possible effects of climate change on the majority of European butterflies by modelling the impact of various future climate scenarios. The results are important because butterflies are one of the few groups of insects for which such comprehensive data are available at a European level. As insects comprise over two-thirds of all known species, the results are valuable to help understand the possible impacts of climate change on biodiversity as a whole.

  7. 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.

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

  9. On December 4, 2008, the Antarctic cruise vessel MV Ushuaia grounded at the entrance of Wilhelmina Bay near Two diesel tanks were damaged and spilled marine gasoil into the sea. The size of the spill was initially estimated with 50x300 meters.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 14) and the 4th session of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4), took place from 1 December to 12 December in the Polish city of Poznan in 2008. COP 14 represented an important intermediate stage in the international negotiation process for a new post-2012 climate agreement, marking a transition from sharing the respective positions to concrete negotiations on the content of a new agreement. In this sense Poznan acted as a working conference in which key elements of a new climate regime were discussed and where the Parties could sum up their negotiating positions. The discussions on content focused primarily on the necessary national greenhouse gas reduction targets and on financial support for climate action in developing countries. The nature of the conference meant that no decisions were taken at that stage, but Parties agreed to submit their national reduction targets or measures for 2020 by mid-February 2009.

  13. At least 150 long-finned pilot whales have died in a mass stranding off Tasmania's west coast. The stranded whales were discovered on Saturday and members of the local community and government officials worked to rescue them, but the whales had been badly injured by the rocks.

  14. The Climate Change Act became law in the UK on 26 November 2008. "The target for 2050 (1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. (2) “The 1990 baseline” means the aggregate amount of— (a) net UK emissions of carbon dioxide for that year, and (b) net UK emissions of each of the other targeted greenhouse gases for the year that is the base year for that gas."

  15. Last Saturday 64 long-finned pilot whales were stranded at Anthony's Beach on Tasmania's north-west coast. Eleven of those whales were rescued and returned to sea.

  16. For the first time it is now possible to get a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, their impacts and consequences for the environment and society. More than 11,000 alien species have been documented by DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe), a unique three year research project with more than 100 European scientists, funded by the European Union that provides new knowledge on biological invasions in Europe. Biological invasions by alien species often result in a significant loss in the economic value, biological diversity and function of invaded ecosystems.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Climate 2008 / Klima 2008 is being organized by the Research and Transfer Centre "Applications of Life Sciences" of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. The Centres undertakes fundamental research on life sciences issues as well as on aspects of climate, energy and sustainable development.

  21. The Living Planet Report is WWF's periodic update on the state of the world's ecosystems. This Report uses complementary measures to explore the changing state of global biodiversity and of human consumption. The Living Planet Index reflects the state of the planet’s ecosystems while the Ecological Footprint shows the extent and type of human demand being placed on these systems. The Living Planet Index of global biodiversity has declined by nearly 30 per cent over just the past 35 years. Humanity’s demand on the planet’s living resources, its Ecological Footprint, now exceeds the planet’s regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent.

  22. 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.

  23. ECHA has included 15 substances in the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) for authorisation. The list was published on ECHA website on 28 October 2008. From 28 October 2008, EU & EEA suppliers of articles which contain substances on the Candidate List in a concentration above 0.1% (w/w) must provide sufficient information, available to them, to their customers and on request to consumers within 45 days of the receipt of this request. This information must ensure safe use of the article and, as a minimum, include the name of the substance.

  24. UNESCO is publishing the first-ever world map of shared aquifers to coincide with the submission to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 October of a draft Convention on Transboundary Aquifers. Almost 96% of the planet’s freshwater resources are to be found in underground aquifers, most of which straddle national boundaries.

  25. 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.

  26. The US-based Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland presents a Top Ten List of the world's worst pollution problems 2008: Artisanal Gold Mining; Contaminated Surface Water; Groundwater Contamination; Indoor Air Pollution, Metals Smelting and Processing; Industrial Mining Activities; Radioactive Waste and Uranium Mining; Untreated Sewage, Urban Air Quality, Used Lead Acid Battery Recycling

  27. 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.

  28. The German research vessel Polarstern has returned on October 17th to Bremerhaven from the Arctic Sea. It has cruised as the first research vessel ever both the Northeast and the Northwest Passages and thereby circled the North Pole. On board were 47 researchers from 12 nations. Because of the small ice cover, the expedition members were able to research hitherto uncharted waters.

  29. 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.

  30. Smoke was detected Friday at a Japanese nuclear power complex. The smoke was found at a solid waste facility at the Tokaimura plant northeast of Tokyo in a room where metal waste is burned. There was no release of radioactivity.

  31. 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.

  32. The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UNECE Aarhus Convention, adopted in May 2003 in Kiev entered into force on 8 October 2009. The Protocol will help identify the biggest polluters in communities across Europe, including those spewing greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

  33. The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have joined hands to declare 2009 the Year of the Gorilla (YoG). Three of the four gorilla species are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The main threats to gorillas are hunting for food and traditional medicine, destruction of habitat through logging, mining and production of charcoal, the effects of armed conflicts and diseases like Ebola.

  34. 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.

  35. The 2008 Red List was released on 6 October 2008, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The study shows at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction.

  36. National Strategy for Sustainable Use and Protection of the Sea adopted by the Federal Cabinet on 1 October 2008. National Marine Strategyis an important building block developed by the federal government to ensure Germany is equipped with an integrated marine policy for the future.

  37. The report presents past and projected climate change and impacts in Europe by means of about 40 indicators and identifies sectors and regions most vulnerable with a high need for adaptation. The report covers the following indicator categories: atmosphere and climate, cryosphere, marine biodiversity and ecosystems, water quantity (including river floods and droughts), freshwater quality and biodiversity, terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity, soil, agriculture and forestry, human health. Furthermore the report shows the need for adaptation actions at EU, national and regional level and the need for enhanced monitoring, data collection and exchange and reducing uncertainties in projections. The report is a joined effort of the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC-IES) and the World Health Organisation Europe (WHO).

  38. Annual mean growth rate of atmospheric CO2 was 2.2 ppm per year in 2007 (up from 1.8 ppm in 2006), and above the 2.0 ppm average for the period 2000-2007. The average annual mean growth rate for the previous 20 years was about 1.5 ppm per year. This increase brought the atmospheric CO2 concentration to 383 ppm in 2007, 37% above the concentration at the start of the industrial revolution (about 280 ppm in 1750). The present concentration is the highest during the last 650,000 years and probably during the last 20 million years. [ppm = parts per million].