The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2011 and 2011 Deselect

  1. On 16 December 2011, the Maltese-registered cargo ship TK Bremen ran aground off Erdeven beach in southern Brittany, on the north-west coat of France. The public authorities said in a statement a kilometre-long strip of fuel was headed towards the beach.

  2. Octylphenol will become the first chemical to be taken up on the European ‘Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern for Authorisation’ because of its endocrine disruptive effect.Scientific studies have proven that octylphenol acts as an endocrine disruptor in fish. Even at low concentrations it impairs development and reproduction. Octylphenol, or 4-tert-Octylphenol, is used to manufacture paints, adhesives, and tyres. Effective immediately, octylphenol is classified as a ”substance of very high concern for authorisation“ which should be replaced, as stipulated by the EU REACH Directive. The EU states have thereby voted unanimously to approve UBA’s proposal.

  3. The cities of Stuttgart, Arnsberg and Wuppertal and the WOGENO housing cooperative in Munich are this year’s winners of the Blue Compass contest (Blauer Kompass 2011). The prize is awarded for the best ideas in adapting to climate change in Germany. It is being awarded for the first time in 2011 by the German Federal Ministry for Environment (BMU) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and represents one measure to implement the Federal Government’s Adaptation to Climate Change action plan. Participants included 59 municipalities, businesses and associations. All contest entries and other examples of adaptation measures are stored in a Federal Environment Agency database which is available to the public at

  4. Seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) and the 7th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 7) took place from 28 November to 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa. After two weeks of difficult negotiations, the longest UN climate summit in history ended with the international community agreeing take up negotiations on a legally binding climate agreement that includes all states the following year. On this basis the Conference of the Parties (COP) was able to agree on a second commitment period under Kyoto Protocol to follow on from the first commitment period which expires at the end of 2012.

  5. 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).

  6. The Hula Painted frog - the first amphibian to be declared extinct - is rediscovered after almost 70 years. In 1996, an international commission evaluated the status of the Hula Painted Frog (Latonia nigriventer), an amphibian from northern Israel. The situation seems to be obvious: The habitat of the species is almost completely destroyed by intensified agriculture, and since 1955 no living individual has been observed. The species is thus declared as extinct, the first such case among amphibians worldwide. On 4 June 2013 a team researchers reported in the scientific journal Nature Communications on the rediscovery of the Hula Frog in November 2011. After intensive nature conservation efforts in its original habitat - near the borders to Syria and Lebanon -several specimens have now again been observed in the wild. Now for the first time an in-depth scientific analysis of this enigmatic amphibian became possible - and yielded the next surprise: the Hula Frog differs strongly from its living relatives, the painted frogs from northern Africa and western Africa. Instead the Hula Frogs is related to a genus of fossil giant frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe during the past 10 million years.

  7. On 7 November 2011, Chevron had an oil spill when unexpectedly high pressure in the oil pool caused a spill and seepage through weak ocean bed rock. Estimates of the amount of oil entering the ocean vary depending on the source of the reporting, but a conservative estimate is at least 3000 barrels escaped.

  8. With around 3 litres per square metre (l/m²) in November 2011, the mean rainfall total for Germany remained unprecedentedly below the target of 66 l/m². Since records began in 1881, there has never been such a dry November and it would appear that there has also been no other comparable month. This month’s figure was even less than the lowest rainfall ever recorded of 3.65 l/m², measured in April 1893. Some stations did not record one single drop of rain throughout the whole month. The only areas that saw appreciable amounts of precipitation were the Saarland and northern and central Germany. Schleswig saw the most rain, registering 18 l/m². The continuing drought caused many river levels to fall to record lows and snow in the Bavarian Alps was scarce. At the same time, there was a greater risk of forest fires.

  9. On 20 October 2011 the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) announced the deadline for applications to receive free emission allowances for the 2013-2020 third trading period in electronic issue of the Federal Gazette. Sweeping harmonisation of the European emissions trading system will occur in the third trading period of 2013-2020. In addition to the common cap on greenhouse gas emissions, the same rules governing the allocation of free emission allowances will be in place for the first time in all EU Member States.

  10. On 13 October 2011, the Rainbow Warrior III was christened and handed over to Greenpeace at a special launch ceremony at the Fassmer Shipyard in Berne, near Bremen, Germany.

  11. On 7 October 2011 Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen and the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Adnan Z. Amin inaugurated the IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre (IITC) in Bonn. The IITC is supported by the German government and aims to develop scientific scenarios for promoting renewable energies throughout the world. It will work closely with the IRENA headquarters in Abu Dhabi to advance the global transition to resource-efficient technologies.

  12. In the central Arctic the proportion of old, thick sea ice has declined significantly. Instead, the ice cover now largely consists of thin, one-year-old floes. This is one of the results that scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association brought back from the 26th Arctic expedition of the research vessel Polarstern.

  13. The Year 2011 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Forests (IYF). On this occasion the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, in close cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), hosted the International Bonn Forest Days focussing on the central IYF-topic “Forests for People”. Different associations, organisations, companies and international partners presented in a big theme show, took place from 6th to 9th October 2011, the wide diversity of services from forests.

  14. On 5 October 2011, the Liberian-flagged container ship Rena, grounded north of New Zealand, some twenty kilometres off the coast of Tauranga. The ship was carrying 1,368 containers, eight of which contained hazardous materials, as well as 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel.

  15. Jointly organised by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, and with support from Finland and Austria, the conference “Contributions of Forests to a Green Economy”, took place from 4–7 October 2011, in Bonn. The conference is a country-led initiative (CLI) in support of the work of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and is one of Germany’s activities to celebrate the “International Year of Forests”. The conference was organized in close collaboration with the UNFF Secretariat and FAO.

  16. Leading climate research organizations from eight European nations have agreed to join forces on research in four key topics related to climate change. On 4 October 2011 the European Climate Research Alliance (ECRA), a loose coalition launched at the European Parliament in Brussels, will focus on research on Arctic climate variability, hydrological cycles in the Mediterranean region, links between climate change and extreme weather, and sea-level rise.

  17. On 29 September 2011 the European Commission asked Germany to comply with EU water legislation. The Commission is concerned with Germany's interpretation of the key notion of water services. The Water Framework Directive is Europe's key tool for protecting its waters. It establishes a framework for action in the field of water policy. One of the measures to achieve its objectives is the obligation to adopt a cost recovery policy for water services that includes the environmental and resource costs of water use, taking into account the "polluter-pays" principle. Germany is of the opinion that cost recovery should apply only to the supply of drinking water and the disposal and treatment of wastewater. The Commission however sees water services as a wider notion that also includes water abstraction for the cooling of industrial installations and for irrigation in agriculture; the restriction of surface waters for navigation purposes, flood protection or hydro power production; and wells drilled for agricultural, industrial or private consumption. According to the Commission, Germany's exclusion of these activities from water services hinders the full and correct application of the Water Framework Directive.

  18. The global uptake of carbon by land plants may be up to 45 per cent more than previously thought. This is the conclusion of an international team of scientists, based on the variability of heavy oxygen atoms in the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere driven by the El Niño effect. As the oxygen atoms in carbon dioxide were converted faster than expected during the El Niño years, current estimates for the uptake of carbon by plants are probably too low. These should be corrected upwards, say the researchers in the scientific journal NATURE published online on 28 September 2011 . Instead of 120 petagrams of carbon, the annual global vegetation uptake probably lies between 150 and 175 petagrams of carbon. This value is a kind of gross national product for land plants and indicates how productive the biosphere of the Earth is. The reworking of this so-called global primary productivity would have significant consequences for the coupled carbon cycle-climate model used in climate research to predict future climate change.

  19. In 2011, World Ecological Debt Day or Earth Overshoot Day falled on 27 September 2011. Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by U.K.-based new economics foundation, marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.

  20. Aviation will become part of the EU's emissions trading system (EU ETS) from 2012. On 26 September 2011 the European Commission published the benchmark values which will be used to allocate greenhouse gas emission allowances free of charge to more than 900 aircraft operators.

  21. Wangari Maathai died on 25 September 2011, in Nairobi, Kenia. She was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. In 1977 she founded 'The Green Belt Movement', the most important and successful reforestation project in Africa. In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award and she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work as an environmentalist and women’s rights activist.

  22. On 23 September 2011 the Federal Council rejected the German Parliament’s proposal for an Act on the Demonstration and Implementation of Technologies for Carbon Capture, Transport and Permanent Storage of C02 (CCS Act).

  23. NASA's new Aquarius instrument has produced its first global map of the salinity of the ocean surface. Aquarius, which is aboard the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas) observatory, is making NASA's first space observations of ocean surface salinity variations -- a key component of Earth's climate. The map is a composite of the data since Aquarius became operational on Aug. 25. The mission was launched June 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

  24. In New York European Development Commissioner Piebalgs participated in the launch of the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) initiative on 21 September 2011. This event took place in the context of an UN-sponsored meeting to address land degradation and desertification. The ELD initiative will be a comprehensive assessment of land degradation that looks both at the costs of failing to prevent further land degradation and at the economic benefits of addressing it through sustainable land management policies.

  25. On 20 September 2011, EU Commissioner Piebalgs was appointed as a member of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for all, together with leaders from business, government, international organisation and civil society. He attended the launch of the UN High Level Group in New York, in presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The High-level Group will work to develop a global agenda to achieve the objective of Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 and to provide clear actions to take at the global and regional level. 2012 will be a crucial year in putting Sustainable Energy at the top of the development agenda with the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and the RIO+ 20 summit in June next year.

  26. On 20 September 2011, the European Commission set out a roadmap aimed at transforming Europe's economy into a sustainable one by 2050. The Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe outlines how we can achieve the resource efficient growth which is essential for our future wellbeing and prosperity. The roadmap identifies the economic sectors that consume the most resources, and suggests tools and indicators to help guide action in Europe and internationally. It is an agenda for competitiveness and growth based on using fewer resources when we produce and consume goods and creating business and job opportunities from activities such as recycling, better product design, materials substitution and eco-engineering. The Europe 2020 Flagship initiative on resource-efficiency called for a Roadmap to define medium and long-term objectives on resource efficiency and means for achieving them. This Roadmap builds on and complements other initiatives under the flagship, such as the Roadmap for a low-carbon economy the White paper on transport adopted in spring 2011 and the Energy Roadmap expected for later this year. The Resource Efficiency Roadmap also builds upon the 2005 Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources and the EU's sustainable development strategy.

  27. On the 16th of September, 2011 Frauhofer IWES held the opening of its test centre for smart grids and electromobility (SysTec). In its test centre for smart grids and electromobility, Fraunhofer IWES is developing and testing new equipment and operation strategies for smart low and medium voltage grids. In addition, investigations regarding grid integration and grid connection of electric vehicles and their power generated from renewable energy sources as well as photovoltaic systems, wind energy plants, storage and hybrid systems are carried out under realistic conditions here.

  28. In an opinion report published on 15 September 2011, the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency have argued that the EU's biofuels policy was based on a "serious accounting error" and should be changed.

  29. Researchers in Australia have discovered that dolphin colonies living around Melbourne are a species unlike any other in the world, they revealed on 15 September 2011. The dolphins that frolic in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes, numbering around 150, were originally thought to be one of the two recognised bottlenose species. But Monash University PhD researcher Kate Charlton-Robb found they were different by comparing skulls, DNA and physical traits with specimens dating back to the early 1900s. She has named them Tursiops australis, although they will commonly be known as the Burrunan dolphin, an Aboriginal name meaning large sea fish of the porpoise kind.

  30. On 12 September 2011, an explosion occurred at a nuclear waste processing center in the Marcoule nuclear facility in southern France. The Nuclear Safety Authority said no radioactive leaks have been detected in the blast at 12:37 p.m. (1037 GMT, 6:37 a.m. EDT) at an oven in the Centraco nuclear site.

  31. A new historic Arctic sea ice minimum has been reached on 8 September, 2011.

  32. Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen are the leading cities in Europe for combating air pollution according to a ranking of 17 European cities, with Rome, Madrid and London all gaining F grades for their lack of effort to improve air quality. The city ranking was released on 7 Septmebr 2011 by a coalition of green NGOs to highlight what has been done to improve air quality in western European cities. These cities are meant to follow European limits on the levels of a number of harmful pollutants in our air. Berlin took top spot in the ranking for its efforts to improve air quality. The green groups praised Berlin’s broad strategy to tackle high emitters of dangerous pollutants and reduce car use in the city.

  33. On 7 September 2011, the EU and USA signed in Washington A historic statement pledging bilateral cooperation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, known as IUU fishing. This statement is the first of its kind in the longstanding partnership between the EU and the US on fisheries management.

  34. At the International Consumer Electronics Fair (IFA) in Berlin, the Blue Angel eco-label initiative and the Philips company introduced the first television sets that meet the criteria of the eco-label. The Blue Angel-labelled Philips 55PFL6606 and 46PFL6606 consume surprisingly little electricity, are free of mercury, are made of low-emissions materials and are built to be recyclable. It is the first time the Blue Angel has been awarded to an entertainment electronics product. “Energy-efficient televisions are playing their part as products that are easy on the environment and climate. With the Blue Angel consumers have a clear guideline at their disposal when making purchases“, said Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency, and continued: “The Philips company commitment is a timely impetus for product-related climate protection in Germany.“

  35. Starting 1 September 2011 standard light bulbs of more than 40 watts may no longer be marketed.

  36. On the invitation of Federal Environment Ministery of Germany and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ministers and high-level representatives of industry and civil society attended the conference "Bonn Challenge on forests, climate change and biodiversity" on 1-2 September 2011, to discuss the global restoration of forests. The conference set itself the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of lost and degraded forests by 2020 with globally concerted action. For the first time, the Bonn Challenge links the decisions on forests made under the Framework Convention on Climate Change with those of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which adopted the goal of restoring 15 percent of destroyed or degraded ecosystems by 2020.

  37. On 31 August 2011, the Federal Cabinet adopted the Adaptation Action Plan to support the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change.

  38. Germany’s Federal Network Agency has decided not to keep any nuclear power stations operational as back-up in case of electricity shortfalls this winter. The president of the authority, Matthias Kurth, announced the decision on 31 August 2011, in Berlin, promising that other types of power stations would be able to provide extra electricity.

  39. Scientists on a WWF-backed expedition in an unexplored part of Brazil have discovered a new species of monkey. It’s still being studied, but is thought to be a previously unknown kind of titi monkey. The discovery of this and other ‘new’ species highlights the importance of protecting these remote areas of the Amazon. The unknown monkey species was discovered during a 20-day expedition to one of the last unexplored parts of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state in December 2010. This long-tailed, ginger-tinged little primate is believed to be a titi monkey, from the Callicebus genus, but has features on its head and tail never seen before in other titi monkey species in the area.

  40. On 25 August 2011, the sixth annual Wadden Sea Day took place in Wilhelmshaven. Over 80 participants from the three Wadden Sea countries, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, attended the scientific conference on “Fish in the Wadden Sea – Exploring an Unknown World”. With this year’s topic a very important issue for the Wadden Sea was addressed, which often does not get enough attention. The conference aimed at providing insights in recent research and assessment of monitoring data, identifying research priorities for trilateral projects, and discussing with scientists and managers how trilateral targets on fish could be met.