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International Update Volume All, Issue All

BRAZIL SAYS VENEZUELA TO BLAME FOR MAJOR OIL SPILL ON BEACHES

Brazil

Since early September, 130 tons of oil sludge have polluted Brazil’s northeastern beaches. According to a report by Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, the oil came from a boat from Venezuela navigating close to the coast. Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles supported this claim, stating the oil “very probably comes from Venezuela.” The oil has now reached 61 municipalities in nine Brazilian states, contaminating 130 beaches. Authorities say the oil has already killed ten turtles, and environmental experts fear the oil will continue to damage coral and marine life.

MADAGASCAR CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL AID FOR FOREST FIRES

Madagascar

Between August and September, fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture destroyed over 3,212 acres of forest in Ankarafantsika National Park in northwestern Madagascar. Madagascar’s environment minister Alexandre Georget told reporters that the country needs help from the international community, especially in securing fire-fighting aircraft. “Every year, around 120,000 hectares [297,000 acres] of forest disappear, mostly as a result of slash-and-burn farming. If the destruction continues at this rate, Madagascar will be completely deforested in 40 years,” said Georget.

AUSTRALIAN FARMER LAUNCHES GLYPHOSATE LAWSUIT AGAINST BAYER

An Australian farmer has launched a lawsuit against Bayer AG’s agricultural chemicals unit Monsanto after being diagnosed with cancer he says was caused by its weedkiller Roundup. New South Wales farmer Ross Wild was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cites his long-term exposure to Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate as the cause. His lawsuit is the second such in Australia and the first from a farmer. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller. As of July 11, Bayer faced lawsuits from over 18,400 U.S. plaintiffs who say glyphosate caused cancer.

OCEAN CLEANUP DEVICE CATCHES PLASTIC FOR FIRST TIME

A huge floating device designed by Dutch scientists to clean up garbage in the Pacific Ocean successfully picked up plastic for the first time. The device is intended to trap the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an island of trash in the Pacific Ocean three times the size of France, without disturbing marine life. In a previous four-month trial, the cleaning system fell apart and failed to pick up plastic. The Ocean Cleanup project predicts that selling items made from plastic reclaimed from the ocean will eventually cover all operational costs.

INDONESIA DEFERS BILLS ON MINING AND LAND REFORM AMID PROTESTS

Indonesia

Indonesia’s outgoing parliament voted to postpone controversial bills on mining and land reform in the face of massive student protests. At least two students were killed in the protests outside the Indonesian parliament on September 30. Protestors criticized the bills for favoring business interests over the environment and land rights of indigenous communities. Despite the suspension, a new carry-over mechanism passed last week allows for bills left pending the previous term to be voted on by the next parliament.

BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES TO ALLOW MINING ON INDIGENOUS LAND

Brazil

On October 3, the Brazilian government announced plans to present a bill later this month that would allow building of mines on indigenous lands. The bill would also look to legalize independent mines that are currently operating illegally. This past July, the Ministry of Mines and Energy announced the creation of a working group to simplify the mining process. Critics of conservative President Jair Bolsonaro’s mining policies have stated that opening indigenous lands for mining, logging, and farming helped fuel this year’s Amazon fires.

LATIN AMERICAN PACT SETS TARGET OF 70% RENEWABLE ENERGY USE BY 2030

Nine Latin American countries have set a collective target of 70% renewable energy use by 2030, far surpassing the European Union’s current target of 32%. Colombia presented the plan at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York this past week. “It’s the most ambitious goal in terms of a global region,” Colombia’s Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suarez told reporters. Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Peru have agreed to the pledge. Brazil and Panama are still considering joining.

MAJOR IPCC REPORT WARNS OCEANS ARE IN DANGER

On September 25, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report detailing the effects of climate change on oceans, ice sheets, mountain snowpack, and permafrost. Written by 100 international experts and based on over 7,000 studies, the report finds that the oceans are becoming hotter, more acidic, and less oxygen-rich. Extreme flooding that was once rare could start occurring annually this century. The frequency of marine heat waves, which kill fish and coral reefs among other life forms, have doubled since the 1980s, and are expected to increase 20-50 times.

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS SUE EUROPE’S BIGGEST COAL PLANT

Poland

On September 26, the global environmental charity ClientEarth announced it will sue PGE GiEK over excessive emissions at the Bełchatów plant in Poland. The lawsuit demands that the plant operators stop burning lignite, a highly polluting form of coal, and eliminate carbon emissions by 2035. Poland derives approximately 80% of its energy from coal, and Polish President Andrzej Duda says there are no plans to stop using the country’s coal supply. The Bełchatów plant is Europe’s largest coal plant, with annual carbon dioxide emissions equal to that of New Zealand.

CENTRAL AMERICAN WORKERS SUE U.S CHEMICAL COMPANIES IN FRANCE

France

In the 1980s, banana plantations in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America sprayed a powerful pesticide called Nemagon, sterilizing workers on a mass scale. Victims are now suing Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Occidental Chemical in France to recover $805 million in unpaid damages awarded to them by courts in Nicaragua. The case follows decades of suits in the United States and countries in Central America. In the past, Dow and Shell have declined to pay the damages, and U.S. courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the companies.

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