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International Update Volume All, Issue All

Germany Shifts Away from Nuclear, Mongolia Announces New Plant


In the aftermath of Japan's nuclear crisis, Angela Merkel has begun a shift to move Germany away from nuclear power in efforts that will make the country much more reliant on Russian gas. Germany currently imports about 85 percent of its natural gas and is more reliant on Russia for its energy needs than the European Union as a whole. "So far the public debate in Germany has focused on the desire to exit nuclear energy with little thought being spared as to what is actually going to replace it," said Merkel.

Australian Disasters May Lead to Change in Climate Policies


Ross Garnaut, an architect of Australia's stalled climate change policy, has called for increased efforts to halt climate change in response to a recent spate of natural disasters linked to climate change. Garnaut said that recent disasters, like last month's devastating flooding and last week's Cyclone Yasi, were examples of extreme weather events likely to increase if global warming goes unchecked. "If we are seeing an intensification of extreme weather events now, you ain't seen nothing yet," said Garnaut.

China's Five-Year Plan to Focus on Environment


China's new five-year plan for 2011-2015 will include key measures to reverse damage caused by 30 years of environmental degradation, including putting carbon emission reduction at the top of its agenda. "The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development," wrote environment minister Zhou Shengxian in an essay last week.

Brazil Court Lifts Dam Ban


A Brazilian court lifted an order stopping construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on Thursday. The plant, which will be the world's third largest hydroelectric dam, is to be built in the Amazon rainforest, but a federal judge ordered construction suspended in February on the grounds that certain necessary environmental provisions had not yet been met. The dam has been met with heavy criticism due to its possible effects on wildlife and its potential impact on indigenous people around the Xingu river.

European Union Fights Carbon Offset Market Theft


The EU Commission will re-open carbon offset spot trading step-by-step as each registry proves its security, EU officials said, after a possibly concerted theft of carbon permits worth up to 30 million euros led to a week-long freeze last Wednesday. The theft, focusing on markets in the Czech Republic and Austria, led to an investigation that declared 14 of the EU's 27 registries "not up to scratch," according to the European Commission's climate action spokeswoman Maria Kokkonen.

Peru Dam Project May Destroy Millions of Acres of Jungle


A hydroelectric dam project in Peru could destroy almost 3.7 million acres of jungle over the next 20 years, according to a study by ProNaturaleza, a Peruvian conservation organization. The nation is set to construct five dams as part of an energy agreement with Brazil. "There will be a serious impact on the Amazon ecosystems," said engineer Jose Serra of the project, which includes plans to build the largest dam in Peru and the fifth largest dam in Latin America.

China Decreases Rare Earth Quota


On the heels of a government decision to slash its rare earth materials export quota by 35 percent in 2011, Chinese Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi announced that the nation would tighten controls on rare earth mining, limiting its exports to conserve resources and protect the environment. The new rules, which are expected to be issued as early as February, will limit pollutants allowed in waste water and emissions of radioactive elements and phosphorus.

India Aims to Increase Coal Production


India is set to build an advanced ultra-super critical coal-fired power plant in the next six years, according to the Business Standard, putting it in a position to significantly reduce pollution compared to its current thermal plants.

India Launches National Consultation for Air Pollutants


Environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced the launch of a "very small" emissions trading scheme last week as an effort to reduce air pollution. Ramesh maintained that the scheme was not "because of the global negotiations on climate change," but is instead aimed at reducing public health problems as a result of air pollution. Valsa Nair Singh, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board, said that the initiative will be carried out by placing air quality analyzers on factory premises as well as inside chimney stacks.

Asian States Launching Climate Plans, "Winning the Green Economy Race"


China is going to leave the rest of the world "in the dust" in terms of the development of a green economy, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christina Figueres said at a panel discussion in Switzerland last week. Last year the country boosted low carbon energy spending by 30 percent to reach over $50 billion, the largest figure of any country, and the development is set to continue. According to Bloomberg, China WindPower Group is slated to borrow as much as $240 million from the Asian Development Bank to develop more wind farms.