The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events between 2013 and 2013 Deselect

  1. On 30 December 2014, severals cars in huge crude oil freight train exploded near the eastern North Dakota town of Casselton, after a collision with another train. The incident came just weeks after North Dakota's top oil regulator estimated that 90 percent of the state's oil would be carried by train in 2014, up from 60 percent in 2013. The oil train spilled 400,000 gallons of crude, U.S. investigators said on 13 January 2014, in a preliminary report on the accident.

  2. On 20 December 2013, the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as World Wildlife Day, to celebrate and raise awareness of the world's wild fauna and flora. In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being, and recognized the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species' survival.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. On 5 December 2013, the Council of the EU adopted the new Directive laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. The directive takes into account the latest scientific findings and aims for comprehensive radiation protection. The Euratom directives on the protection of the health of the general population and workers, patients, outside workers, on informing the general public in case of radiological emergencies and on the control of high-activity radioactive sources have been repealed. Member states have to transpose the directive into national law within the next four years.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. An international summit on the conservation of the African elephant took place in Botswana's capital Gaborone from 2 to 4 December 2013.Germany initiated the summit and also participated in the conference as its main financial sponsor. The conference was organised by the government of Botswana and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Representatives from 30 countries reached agreement on 14 concrete measures. Wildlife crime is to be classified as a serious crime in all participating countries. International cooperation on law enforcement will be stepped up in line with this. In the African countries, the local population will be given a more active role in elephant conservation. In the Asian target markets, educational campaigns will aim to reduce the demand for ivory.

  14. On 24 May 2013, a restriction on the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family was adopted by the European Commission. These pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) were identified as being harmful to Europe’s honeybee population. This restriction will enter into force as from 1 December 2013 and will be reviewed, at the latest, within two years. It targets pesticides used in the treatment of plants and cereals that are attractive to bees and pollinators.

  15. The number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico reached an all-time low in 2013, according to data collected by the WWF-Telcel Alliance and Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP). Surveys of forested area used by hibernating monarchs showed that just 1.65 acres of forest were inhabited by monarchs during December of 2013, a 44% drop from the same time the previous year. The findings represent the lowest area since surveys began in 1993.

  16. Scientists from University of Toronto’s Department of Chemistry have discovered a novel chemical lurking in the atmosphere that appears to be a long-lived greenhouse gas (LLGHG). The chemical – perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) – is the most radiatively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate. PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents. It does not occur naturally, that is, it is produced by humans. There are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere. The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and was published online at Geophysical Research Letters on November 27, 2013.

  17. On 26 November 2013, the International Union of Conversation (IUCN) published the latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species. A total of 71,576 species have now been assessed, of which 21,286 are threatened with extinction according to the international organisation. The update highlights serious declines in the population of the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), a close relative of the giraffe, unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The species is now Endangered, only one step away from the highest risk of extinction, with numbers dwindling across its range. Poaching and habitat loss, as well as the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners, are the principal threats to its survival. According to the update, almost 200 species of bird are now Critically Endangered, facing the highest risk of extinction.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased by 2.1% in 2012, with a total of 9.7±0.5 GtC emitted to the atmosphere. These emissions were the highest in human history and 58% higher than in 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol reference year). In 2012, coal burning was responsible for 43% of the total emissions, oil 33%, gas 18%, cement 5.3%, and gas flaring 0.6%. Emissions are projected to increase by 2.1% in 2013, to a record high of 9.9±0.5 GtC (36 billion tonnes of CO2), 61% above emissions in 1990.

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. On 20 November 2013, the Council and European Parliament signed into law the Decision on a 7th EU Environment Action Programme, which will guide EU policy action on environment and climate policy for the next seven years.

  26. 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.

  27. The 19th Conference of the Parties to the Climate Framework Convention and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol was held on 11 - 23 November 2013 in Warsaw, Poland. The conference set a pathway to a new climate agreement, which is scheduled to be agreed in 2015 in Paris and enter into force by 2020. It will be the first universal agreement which establishes binding goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which apply to every country in the world. Countries must put their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the new treaty on the table ahead of the Paris conference. Some important technical decisions were reached in Warsaw to enact the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in the Member States. After years of struggle an agreement on a transparent procedure in forest preservation was finally reached. The REDD+ mechanism to protect forests can now be enacted at national level after this breakthrough. The mechanism creates financial incentives to preserve forests.

  28. On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan—known as Yolanda in the Philippines—made landfall in the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that have resulted in flooding, landslides, and widespread damage.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. According to NOAA scientists, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for November 2013 was the highest for November since record keeping began in 1880.

  34. 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.

  35. Avenue of the Year 2013 is a lime tree avenue in North Rhine-Westphalia between Augustdorf und Schlangen-Oesterholz (Teutoburg Forest).

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. On 17 October 2013, the European Commission took Germany to Court over a loophole in its legislation on access to justice in environmental matters. Under EU legislation, Member States must ensure a legal review procedure for decisions taken in the context of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Industrial Emissions Directive. The Commission is concerned at apparent gaps in German legislation in this area, which may be restricting citizens' access to justice. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice.