1. On Saturday 11th April 2015, Maltese citizens lost the opportunity to put an end to the controversial spring hunting of birds in their country during a national referendum. A decision that will have consequences for bird conservation across Europe and beyond.

  2. Permafrost in the Arctic and in subarctic regions will most likely continually release substantial quantities of greenhouse gases over the coming decades: that’s the verdict of an international research team, which recently compiled and analysed the latest permafrost studies. As such, they have determined that the recurring thesis that there will be a sudden and widespread release of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane is highly unlikely. The study was released on 9 April 2015, under the following title : “Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback“ in Nature.

  3. On 1 April 2015, the German Federal Cabinet introduced a set of stringent fracking regulations. The legislative package contains bans to protect drinking water, health and nature in certain regions and also far-reaching restrictions on fracking in shale, clay, marl and coal seam rocks. In addition, the package contains supplementary, stricter regulations on conventional natural gas and crude oil extraction.

  4. On 1 April 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown issued mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history. Brown's executive order will require the state water board to implement reductions in cities and towns to cut water use by 25 percent.

  5. The city of Zurich has emerged as the winner of the ‘Sootfree Cities’ ranking which graded the efforts of 23 major European cities to improve air quality. The Swiss city finished first thanks to a policy mix which includes a strong commitment to reduce pollution from vehicles, the promotion of cleaner forms of transport and low levels of air pollution. Both in Zurich and in the runner-up city, Copenhagen, the number of cars has been substantially reduced and there are restrictions on highly-polluting vehicles such as diesel cars, trucks and construction machines. At the same time, cleaner forms of transport, such as public transport, cycling and walking have been greatly expanded. Vienna and Stockholm finish in third and fourth place, while the winner of the previous edition of the ranking, Berlin, comes in at number five. At the other end of the ranking, Lisbon and Luxembourg finish in the last bottom two places for tackling air pollution in only a half-hearted manner.

  6. The adverse health effects caused by fine particles have been known for some time. In addition, ultrafine particles appear to play a significant role in cardiac function – even if an individual is exposed to these for only a few minutes, as scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München have now been able to show. The results of the study have been published in the journal Particle & Fibre Toxicology.

  7. The European Commission is taking Germany to Court over its failure to 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 near 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 to assess alternative cooling processes which could avoid the killing of the protected species concerned.

  8. The 2nd illegal wildlife trade conference took place in Kasane, Botswana, on 25 March 2015. 32 countries took part in the conference, signing up to the Kasane Statement which pledged new action combatting the illegal wildlife trade. This includes a commitment to change legislation relating to financial crimes associated with wildlife crime – including money laundering – to ensure tougher penalties. These countries also promised to take action on sustainable livelihoods, giving communities the opportunity to benefit from their local resources in a way that recognises their needs while also protecting the ecosystems around them. The Kasane Statement signatories also pledged to reduce demand through co-operation with the transport industry and private sector more broadly.

  9. On 23 March 2015, Paris authorities halved the number of cars on the road by banning all vehicles with licence plates ending in odd numbers and made public transport free. Commercial, electric or hybrid cars are all exempt, as are those carrying at least three people. The ban came after a strong prevalence of particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns, or PM10.

  10. On 20 March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the herbicide glyphosate ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’(Group 2A).

  11. On 17 March the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new 10-year global programme in support of country efforts to reduce the risk of disasters. Announced during a special breakfast session entitled 'the power of partnerships', held on the sidelines of the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Programme is intended to help countries achieve the goals of the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Called ‘5-10-50’, the programme will support countries and communities to deliver better risk-informed development, and targets 50 countries over 10 years, with a focus on five critical areas: risk awareness and early warning; risk-governance and mainstreaming; preparedness; resilient recovery; and local/urban risk reduction. Disasters have killed more than 1.3 million people and cost over US$2 trillion during the last two decades. UNDP’s new programme will help partners address capacity gaps, and is building on a decade of work and nearly US$2 billion of investments in DRR.

  12. During 2000 and 2012, an average of one football pitchof forest was illegally cleared every two minutes to supply the EU with beef, leather, palm oil and soy used for groceries, animal feed, leather shoes and biofuels, according to a study released on 17 March 2015. It finds that the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and the UK are by far the largest consumers of illegally sourced commodities flowing into the EU, which, as a whole, imports 25% of all soy, 18% of all palm oil, 15% of all beefand 31% of all leather in international trade stemmingfrom illegal tropical forest destruction.

  13. A person affected by climate change has made the unprecedented move to launch a claim against a European carbon major, demanding that the company contribute to urgently needed protective measures: Peruvian citizen Saúl Luciano Lliuya, demands payment for safety works from German utility RWE. Mr Luciano Lliuya’s property as well as large parts of his hometown Huaraz are prone to a so-called glacial lake outburst flood from Lake Palcacocha located upstream from the city. Germanwatch, a German environmental and development organisation, supports Mr Luciano Lliuya’s move against RWE upon his request. If the company’s response to his claim proves unsatisfactory, Mr Luciano Lliuya plans to sue RWE in a German court.

  14. The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held from 14 to 18 March 2015 in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.

  15. On 9 March 2015 the solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 successfully started its round the world trip.

  16. On 10 March 2015, the European Parliament gave its final approval to new EU rules for safer and more eco-friendly lorries (Directive 2013/0195), put forward by the Commission. These rules will allow manufacturers to develop more aerodynamic lorries which will reduce fuel consumption by 7-10%, cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and also enhance road safety.

  17. On 7 March 2015, the European Commission decided the withdrawal of 73 pending legislative proposals, with the adoption of the Commission's Work Programme for 2015 on 16 December 2014. The list of withdrawn proposals has now been published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

  18. German green power supply company Greenpeace Energy is taking legal action against the European Commission because it has approved State aid worth billions for the building of new nuclear plant Hinkley Point C in the UK. As soon as the Commission’s State aid approval is published in the EU’s Official Journal and the period prescribed for bringing an action begins,Greenpeace Energy will file a plea for annulment at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. An expert opinion commissioned by Greenpeace Energy from analysts Energy Brainpool shows that Hinkley Point C will lead to a shift in price levels in the European electricity market.

  19. On 2 March 2015, the Council of European Union gave final approval to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags. According to new rules, EU countries are permitted to introduce extra taxes on plastic bags or even ban single-use plastic bags on national level.

  20. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published 'The European environment – state and outlook 2015' report on 2 March 2015. SOER 2015 is an integrated assessment of Europe's environment. It also includes assessments and data at global, regional and country levels, as well as cross-country comparisons.

  21. For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, according to NOAA’s latest results. “It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.

  22. Under the Dome is a 2015 self-financed, Chinese documentary film by Chai Jing, a former China Central Television journalist, concerning air pollution in China. The film was released online on 28 February 2015. Under the Dome garnered more than 155 million hits in the first 24 hours. On 6 March 2015, the film was no longer available on popular Chinese mainland video sites.

  23. International Polar Bear Day is a holiday celebrated every February 27 to raise awareness about the conservation status of the polar bear. International Polar Bear Day is organized by Polar Bears International to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations.

  24. Santander just pledged to stop financing the paper company APRIL. Santander has agreed that APRIL will get no more money until it stops destroying the Indonesian rainforest. After receiving thousands of queries and complaints, the bank announced on 26 February 2015 'Banco Santander has decided to not renew the current funding to APRIL and will not be extending further funding at this stage. Any future loans will be conditional on APRIL implementing new sustainability measures which address its involvement with deforestation.'

  25. On 26 February 2015, the negotiating text for the Paris Climate Agreement was officially issued by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The text was agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Geneva earlier this month, and covers the substantive content of the new agreement including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building, and transparency of action and support.

  26. On February 25, 2015 Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles). This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait. The maximum extent is 1.10 million square kilometers (425,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles) and 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles) below the previous lowest maximum that occurred in 2011. This year’s maximum occurred 15 days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average date of March 12. The date of the maximum has varied considerably over the years, occurring as early as February 24 in 1996 and as late as April 2 in 2010.

  27. The Bureau of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed on Tuesday, in accordance with its procedures, to designate Vice Chair Ismail El Gizouli as Acting IPCC Chair. The designation of El Gizouli follows the decision by Rajendra K Pachauri, PhD, to step down as Chairman of the IPCC effective on 24 February 2015. The decision to name El Gizouli was taken at a Session of the Bureau ahead of the 41st Session of the IPCC, which is being held on 24 - 27 February 2015.

  28. On 24 February 2015, President Barack Obama fulfilled his promise to veto legislation that would remove the President’s responsibility to decide whether a pipeline that crosses an international border is or is not in the national interest and give that power to Congress. The bill sent to his desk by Congress, S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, authorizing the proposed TransCanada pipeline was pushed through the Republican-controlled Congress.In his brief veto letter to the Senate, President Obama said, "I am returning herewith without my approval S. 1, the "Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act." Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest. The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest -- including our security, safety, and environment -- it has earned my veto." (BARACK OBAMA)

  29. Urban Green Energy (UGE) announced on 24 February 2015, that it has fitted two turbines at the site capable of delivering 10,000kWh of electricity annually, equivalent to the power used by the commercial areas on the Eiffel tower’s first floor.

  30. In a recent study, scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), demonstrate for the first time that ocean acidification could have negative impacts on diatoms in the Southern Ocean. In laboratory tests they were able to observe that under changing light conditions, diatoms grow more slowly in acidic water. In so doing, Dr Clara Hoppe and her team have overturned the widely held assumption that sinking pH values would stimulate the growth of these unicellular algae. The original paper was published in nature geoscience under the following title : “Ocean Acidification decreases the light-use efficiency in an Antarctic diatom under dynamic but not constant light“ in the New Phytologist.

  31. Shell has shelved plans for a major new tar sands mine in Canada, the largest project yet to fall victim to low oil prices. On 23 February 2015, Shell announced , it is withdrawing its regulatory application for the proposed Pierre River Mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta to focus attention on its existing oil sands operations.

  32. Six scientists from the Arthropoda Department of the Museum Koenig in Bonn (Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig – Leibniz-Institute for Animal Biodiversity) in Bonn have described over 1,000 new species during the last ten years. Their new species come from all over the world and include mainly beetles, spiders, millipedes, flies, and butterflies. Many specimens have been collected during recent expeditions by the scientists themselves, whilst others come from the museum in Bonn and from other institutions. In these “treasure chests”, many species wait for decades until they are scientifically described.

  33. The application for Dogger Bank Creyke Beck offshore wind farm has been given development consent by the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Dogger Bank Creyke Beck is the first stage of Forewind’s offshore wind energy development of the Dogger Bank Zone (Zone 3, Round 3). The decision announced on 17 February 2015. Dogger Bank Creyke Beck, which has a total generating capacity of 2.4GW, comprises two separate 1.2GW offshore wind farms, each with up to 200 turbines installed across an area of around 500km2. The wind farms will be located 131 kilometres from the UK coast and will connect into the existing Creyke Beck substation near Cottingham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

  34. On 16 February 2015, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank launched two new financial instruments to drive investment in energy efficiency, efforts to preserve natural capital, and adaptation to climate change. The Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) is a financial instrument that combines EIB financing and European Commission funding under the LIFE Programme, the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) instrument is a joint agreement between the EIB and the European Commission which aims to address the limited access to adequate and affordable commercial financing for energy efficiency investments. The instrument targets projects which support the implementation of National Energy Efficiency Action Plans or other energy efficiency programmes of EU Member States.

  35. On 13-14 February 2015, thousands came together for the first ever Global Divestment Day to demand institutions and individuals divest from fossil fuels. Through 450 events in 60 countries, campaigners called for organizations that serve the public good such as governments, educational and religious institutions, to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies – and divest from direct ownership that includes fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years. As a result, 181 cities and universities committed to divest.

  36. On 20 May 2015, 100 environmental NGOs across Europe launched a joint online action to save European nature from Commission President Juncker’s deregulation agenda. An internet action called Nature Alert allow citizens across the 28 EU countries to participate in the European Commission public consultation.

  37. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is launching a pilot measure concerned with Microplastics in Marine Systems together with eleven other research funding organizations from nine European countries under the framework of the European Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans Joint Programming Initiative (JPI Oceans).

  38. The European Commission has adopted measures to control wildlife trade that come into force on 5th February 2015. The measure concerns the import of hunting trophies and is designed to ensure that any such imports are legal and sustainable. The species concerned are African lion, polar bear, African elephant, Southern white rhinoceros, hippopotamus and argali sheep. In the past, there was no systematic scrutiny by scientific authorities in the Member States to ensure that trophies from these species imported to the EU were the result of sustainable hunting. The new measures address these problems by introducing a requirement for an import permit guaranteeing that the origin of the trophy is legal and sustainable. The permit will only be delivered once the EU is convinced that the import meets criteria demonstrating that it is sustainable. If the criteria are not met, the import will be banned.

  39. On 4 February 2015, Ecuador's government put a state of emergency in place for the Galapagos Islands. Fears there are growing that fuel leaking from a stranded vessel may place the fragile UNESCO World Heritage Site ecosystem at risk. The state of emergency will apply for 180 days and includes the national park, the protected marine reserve and the archipelago, Ecuador's Environment Ministry wrote on its website. The ship, Floreana, carrying more than 1,400 tons of cargo, including food and hazardous materials as well as 38,850 liters (10,000 gallons) of fuel, ran aground off the island of San Cristobal on 28 January 2015.

  40. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22 a.m. PST (9:22 a.m. EST) on 31 January 2015 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. About 57 minutes after liftoff, SMAP separated from the rocket's second stage into an initial 411- by 425-mile (661- by 685-kilometer) orbit. The mission will help improve climate and weather forecasts and allow scientists to monitor droughts and better predict flooding caused by severe rainfall or snowmelt -- information that can save lives and property. In addition, since plant growth depends on the amount of water in the soil, SMAP data will allow nations to better forecast crop yields and assist in global famine early-warning systems.