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 23 December 2014, a pipeline leak with oil emulsion seepage took place during pipeline testing at the 242nd km of the Tikhoretsk-Tuapse-2 oil pipeline under construction in the area of Grechesky Village, Tuapse Region. The total amount of leakage is estimated at 8.4 cubic meters. The pipeline wall was damaged by a landslide. Some of the seeped oil emulsion got into the Tuapse River. As a result of unfavorable weather conditions – abundant precipitation and high wind – some of the oil emulsion ended up in the sea. On water surface in the Tuapse Bay, oil slicks were detected.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. On 12 December 2015 a High Court in London referred a review of the animal testing ban put forward by by the European Federation for Cosmetics Ingredients Manufacturers (EFfCI) to the European Court of Justice. The EFfCI wants companies to be able to sell cosmetics in the EU that have been newly tested on animals, as long as the tests were conducted on animals in countries outside the EU.

  8. 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.

  9. On 9 December 2014, an oil tanker sank and dumped hundreds of liters of furnace oil into the Sundarbans delta after a collision with another vessel. The oil has spread over 350-square-kilometer area straddling Bangladesh and India.

  10. 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.

  11. A pipeline, which carries oil between Eilat and Ashkelon, was breached on 3 December 2014, during construction work in Be'er Ora, near Eilat. The official, Guy Samet, said there is a seven-kilometer (4.3 mile) long river of oil flowing through the Evrona Nature Reserve in southern Israel, some 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) north of Eilat.

  12. 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.

  13. The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol took place from 1 to 14 December in Lima, Peru. The final document contains elements of a draft negotiating text for an agreement to be adopted in Paris at the end of 2015 and enter into force in 2020. The decision envisages a complete draft by the end of May 2015. The COP 20 decision in Lima invites all Parties to present their own intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). Those ready to do so should indicate within the first quarter of 2015 the extent to which they can reduce their emissions. Targets should be transparent, comparable and verifiable. In addition, Parties may provide voluntary information on measures for adapting to climate change. ight to the end, the issue of how to differentiate the climate commitments of the Parties remained contentious. At present the Kyoto Protocol only distinguishes between developing and developed countries. However, the EU and many other developed countries have advocated that in future the level of commitment should be based more on the individual economic capabilities of each state. The question of the legal form of the new agreement remained unresolved in Lima. COP 20 made good progress on climate finance. Over 10 billion dollars have now been pledged to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), thus creating the financial base the GCF needs to support developing countries in climate action and adaptation measures.

  14. "(...)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.(...)"

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. The German Federal Environment Agency hosted the 2nd European Resources Forum on November 10-11, 2014, in Berlin, Germany. The aim of the European Resources Forum (ERF) is to provide a European platform for discussion of the issue of sustainable resource use by focusing on the political and scientific debate on this subject.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. The Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals was held in Quito, Ecuador from 4 to 9 November 2014. An important issue up for discussion was the fight against the poisoning of migratory birds. The Parties adopted a resolution in favour of banning the use of lead shot within the next three years. The Action Plan for Migratory African-Eurasian Landbirds was also adopted. In addition the conference decided to establish an international task force on the illegal killing, taking and trading of migratory birds in the Mediterranean region. Winners of the conference include the polar bear, which will be better protected in future by the international community, and bird species such as the blue roller, the great bustard, the semipalmated sandpiper and the red knot. In light of severe declines in their populations due to overfishing and bycatch, a number of shark and ray species have also been listed in the CMS Appendices. Various species such as the sawfish, the silky shark, the hammerhead shark and the mantas have now been listed. Germany furthered its conservation efforts with the launch of the Central Asian Mammal Initiative which serves to protect large mammals native to Central Asia such as the Saiga antelope, the Mongolian Gazelle and the Khulan Equus hemionus. The Central Asian Mammal Initiative protects the natural habitats of Central Asia such as steppes, mountains and deserts. Along with this resolution a Programme of Work was developed for the protection of the migratory paths of large mammals in Central Asia.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. World Cities Day was established on 27 December 2013 by the General Assembly in it’s resolution A/RES/68/239, in which the General Assembly “decides to designate 31 October, beginning in 2014, as World Cities Day, invites States, the United Nations system, in particular UN-Habitat, relevant international organizations, civil society and all relevant stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of the Day […]“ The general theme of World Cities Day is Better City, Better Life. The first World Cities Day on 31 October 2014 was hosted by Shanghai Municipality, in the People’s Republic of China.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. Due to the environmental disaster’s unprecedented scope, assessing the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a challenge. One unsolved puzzle is the location of 2 million barrels of submerged oil thought to be trapped in the deep ocean. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara and from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and University of California, Irvine have been able to describe the path the oil followed to create a footprint on the deep ocean floor. The findings appeared on 27 October 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For this study, the scientists used data from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The United States government estimates the Macondo well’s total discharge — from the spill in April 2010 until the well was capped that July — to be 5 million barrels. By analyzing data from more than 3,000 samples collected at 534 locations over 12 expeditions, they identified a 1,250-square-mile patch of the deep sea floor upon which 2 to 16 percent of the discharged oil was deposited. The fallout of oil to the sea floor created thin deposits most intensive to the southwest of the Macondo well. The oil was most concentrated within the top half inch of the sea floor and was patchy even at the scale of a few feet.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as water bottles, dental composites and resins used to line metal food and beverage containers, and also is used in thermal paper cash register receipts. Now, research conducted at the University of Missouri is providing the first data that BPA from thermal paper used in cash register receipts accounts for high levels of BPA in humans. Subjects studied showed a rapid increase of BPA in their blood after using a skin care product and then touching a store receipt with BPA. “BPA first was developed by a biochemist and tested as an artificial estrogen supplement,” said Frederick vom Saal, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “As an endocrine disrupting chemical, BPA has been demonstrated to alter signaling mechanisms involving estrogen and other hormones. Store and fast food receipts, airline tickets, ATM receipts and other thermal papers all use massive amounts of BPA on the surface of the paper as a print developer. The problem is, we as consumers have hand sanitizers, hand creams, soaps and sunscreens on our hands that drastically alter the absorption rate of the BPA found on these receipts.” In the study, researchers tested human subjects who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then held thermal paper receipts. As an added step, subjects who had handled the thermal paper then ate French fries with their hands. The result was that BPA was absorbed very rapidly, vom Saal said. The study, “Holding thermal receipt paper and eating food after using hand sanitizer results in high blood bioactive and urine total levels of bisphenol A (BPA)” was published online in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE on October 22 2014.

  32. 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.

  33. Avenue of the Year 2014 is a lime tree avenue in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania between Bisdorf and Batevitz.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.