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International Update Volume All, Issue All

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.

MALAYSIA PUSHES FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION TO REDUCE SMOG

Malaysia

On September 19, Malaysia announced it will push Southeast Asian nations to find a long-term solution for regional smog haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia. Malaysian Environmental Minister Yeo Bee Yin told reporters, “We hope there will be a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level so that we can cooperate to seek a long-term solution to address this problem.” Malaysia is also considering a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires.

GERMANY APPROVES $60 BILLION CLIMATE POLICY DEAL

Germany

On September 20, the German government agreed on a $60 billion package of measures to combat climate change. Germany aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The new measures include a national emissions trading system that will set prices for carbon dioxide emissions. Other plans include raising the climate charge on airline fares and reducing the tax on train tickets. The new plan arrives amidst a surge of public support for addressing climate change.

HURRICANE DORIAN DEVASTATES BAHAMAS: DEATH TOLL REACHES 30

Thousands of people are missing after the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian, the worst hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. The United Nations estimates 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water, and shelter. On the evening of September 5, the death toll stood at 30, although officials expect the final toll to be much higher. International relief efforts by the U.N. World Food Programme, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Netherlands, and Jamaica are currently underway to provide relief supplies.

GERMANY IMPOSES BAN ON GLYPHOSATE WEED KILLER

Germany

Germany will phase out the use of the controversial weed killer glyphosate by the end of 2023 due to its negative impacts on insect pollinator populations. Biologists are concerned about plummeting populations of insects vital for ecosystem health and pollinating crops. Some experts suspect glyphosate may also cause cancer in humans. Bayer, the company that sells glyphosate, opposed the ban, stating that the weed killer can be used safely. Farm groups and the German Chemical Industry Association have also lobbied for the continued use of glyphosate.

NEW ZEALAND ANNOUNCES PLAN TO PROTECT WATERWAYS

New Zealand

On September 5, New Zealand announced plans to enforce greater protections on its waterways in response to pollution from farming and tourism. The new measures include restrictions on farming intensification, conversion of lands for dairy farming, and the use of synthetic nitrogen pesticides. A surge in tourism and the farming industry has taken a toll on New Zealand’s once pristine waters. Experts say New Zealand’s rivers and lakes are now some of the most polluted among OECD countries.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST ACQUITTED IN CAMBODIA

Cambodia

On August 22, a Cambodian court found Spanish environmental activist Alejandro-Gonzalez Davidson not guilty of incitement, the default charge for activists in Cambodia. Gonzalez-Davidson was charged with acting as an accomplice to three Cambodians who were arrested for protesting sand dredging in the coastal province of Koh Kong. The practice of extracting sand for export to countries like Singapore for reclamation and construction can have a major impact on marine environments, from destroying mangrove forests to decimating fish populations.