Wild mammals are making a comeback in Europe thanks to conservation efforts

Read the full story at Our World in Data.

By the first half of the 20th century, many of Europe’s mammals had been reduced to just a fraction of their historical levels. Millennia of hunting, exploitation, and habitat loss had forced them into decline. Many had been wiped out completely.

But most mammal populations have seen a dramatic increase over the last 50 years. 

In 2013, a coalition of conservation organizations – including the Zoological Society of London; Birdlife International; and Rewilding Europe – published a report on how mammal populations across Europe had changed since 1960.3 They looked at the change in populations of 18 mammal species. The results are shown in the chart.

New tool to increase social acceptance of solar parks

Read the full story in pv magazine.

Thanks to a traceability tool, individuals, companies and local authorities who have signed an electricity supply contract with French energy provider Volterres can monitor in real time the source of their electricity supply, and in particular the share of electricity coming directly from renewable energy plants located nearby.

A new farming proposal to reduce carbon emissions involves a lot of trust – and a lot of uncertainty

Shutterstock

by Ralph Sims, Massey University

After decades of avoiding inclusion in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), New Zealand’s primary production sector has begrudgingly acknowledged that reducing on-farm emissions of greenhouse gases is an imperative.

Charged by the government with developing a pricing mechanism and strategy as an acceptable alternative to joining the ETS in 2025 under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act, the sector finally released its proposal earlier this month.

Called He Waka Eke Noa, the partnership involves Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ, Sheep and Beef NZ, Horticulture NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research and the Federation of Māori Authorities.

Their recommendations have now been submitted to the government, which has until the end of this year to consider its options. However, numerous uncertainties surround the scheme, which will need to be addressed if it’s to work properly.

Farm emissions still rising

Since opposing a previous Labour government’s so-called “fart tax” in 2003, many farmers and their representative organisations have resisted inclusion in the ETS while also calling for government assistance to help cope with the impacts of climate change.

In 2015, Federated Farmers claimed voluntary levies had reduced emissions per unit of meat and milk produced by 1.3% a year since 1990 (achieving similar objectives to those of the loathed “fart tax”).

Regardless of these industry and government initiatives, however, annual agricultural emissions have risen 15%, from 34.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (emissions of all greenhouse gas added together) in 1990 to 39.4 million tonnes in 2020 (the latest available data) with no signs of decline.

He Waka Eke Noa recommends all agriculture and horticulture businesses above a certain size should be registered and encouraged to calculate their annual emissions. This will include both short-lived biogenic methane from ruminants and long-lived nitrous oxide from soils, as well as carbon dioxide from fertiliser manufacture (though fossil fuel emissions aren’t included).

A split-gas levy will then be charged, but at a much lower price per tonne than all other sectors are being charged under the ETS. The levy would increase each year, with its price determined by a “systems oversight board”.

Typically the annual levy, as proposed for a large dairy, sheep or beef farm, could exceed NZ$30,000, whereas it might be only $100 for an orchard, based on synthetic fertiliser use.

Fossil fuel inputs are excluded from the partnership, reducing incentives for improving efficiencies. Shutterstock

Doubts and uncertainties

In order to reduce their annual emissions and hence the levy paid, the intention is that farm businesses will have an incentive to use carbon mitigation technologies and introduce forest sinks on their property.

Fossil fuel energy inputs are already covered under the ETS so have been excluded. Unfortunately, this prohibits any incentives being applied for reducing diesel consumption by improving the efficiency of machinery, displacing coal and gas used for heating, or even generating renewable electricity from solar, wind, micro-hydro, crop residues or animal waste resources available on the farm.

He Waka Eke Noa analysis points to a reduction of agricultural emissions of just a few percent by 2030 from both the uptake of new technologies and farm forest sequestration.

Assumed total administration costs of around $120 million to $130 million will be necessary to achieve an annual emissions reduction of about two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 if successful. Such an annual reduction should be ongoing, although the levy prices charged are yet to be determined.

Therefore the overall cost measured in terms of dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide avoided, and the revenue to be obtained from the levy for investment in research and development, are not known.

There are numerous other uncertainties. What percentage of farm businesses will register, calculate their emissions and then dutifully pay the levy? What happens to those who don’t wish to take part? Who will monitor the accuracy of their annual submissions and using what methods?

It has been acknowledged that much trust in the farming community will be involved.

A 2003 protest in Auckland against the government’s proposed ‘fart tax’. Getty Images

Unanswered questions

Furthermore, what happens when no more suitable, low-grade land is available for forest sequestration? Planting trees can only be a short-term measure to buy time before having to reduce domestic carbon emissions more stringently.

Under the ETS, the minimum land area for registering a forest sink is one hectare, so the carbon uptake can be measured and monitored. How will numerous small areas of trees on thousands of farms be monitored, and future carbon loss from harvesting, storm damage or fire accounted for?

Areas of mature indigenous forest are in carbon balance so they cannot sequester more carbon. However, if the trees have been damaged by stock or pests whose removal allows some regrowth, how will this be measured in practice?

Perhaps the main question to ask is, given the relatively low prices likely to be applied per tonne of emissions, how many mitigation technologies will prove economic to implement?

For example, if the 2030 levy price on methane is $15 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, whereas the cost of mitigation strategies (such as using seaweed additives in cow feed) comes in at $20, then why would a dairy farmer bother?

‘Dead rats’ to swallow

Ultimately for a farm business it will be a balancing act between costs and achieving emission reduction goals. As the Climate Change Commissioner has said:

Agricultural emissions pricing needs to achieve emissions reductions – but if implemented poorly it also has the potential to create financial hardship for farmers as they transition to low emissions.

And in the words of the president of Federated Farmers:

Like all of these types of agreements with many parties involved, there’s always going to be a couple of dead rats you have to swallow.

So whether the ministers of climate change and agriculture will swallow a dead rat or two and accept these industry recommendations – with all their uncertainties and lack of high ambition – remains to be seen.

Or will the primary sector be made to join the ETS after all? If so, the fart tax might have been a better outcome for farmers in the first place.

Ralph Sims, Emeritus Professor, Energy and Climate Mitigation, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Canada to ban making, importing many single-use plastics from Dec

Read the full story at Reuters.

The government of Canada on Monday published final regulations to prohibit “harmful” single-use plastics, with a ban on manufacturing and importing most of these items to come into effect in December.

The ban will be on single-use plastics including checkout bags, cutlery, food-service ware made from or containing plastic that is hard to recycle, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws, the Canadian government said in a statement.

50 years of UN environmental diplomacy: What’s worked and the trends ahead

Negotiations over the years have aimed to protect forests, biodiversity and the climate. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

by Mihaela Papa, Tufts University

In 1972, acid rain was destroying trees. Birds were dying from DDT poisoning, and countries were contending with oil spills, contamination from nuclear weapons testing and the environmental harm of the Vietnam War. Air pollution was crossing borders and harming neighboring countries.

At Sweden’s urging, the United Nations brought together representatives from countries around the world to find solutions. That summit – the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm 50 years ago on June 5-16, 1972 – marked the first global effort to treat the environment as a worldwide policy issue and define the core principles for its management.

The Stockholm Conference was a turning point in how countries thought about the natural world and the resources that all nations share, like the air.

It led to the creation of the U.N. Environment Program to monitor the state of the environment and coordinate responses to the major environmental problems. It also raised questions that continue to challenge international negotiations to this day, such as who is responsible for cleaning up environmental damage, and how much poorer countries can be expected to do.

A conference hall filled with seated people and a person at the podium in the front.
The Stockholm Conference began on June 5, 1972. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

On the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, let’s look at where half a century of environmental diplomacy has led and the issues emerging for the coming decades.

The Stockholm Conference, 1972

From a diplomacy perspective, the Stockholm Conference was a major accomplishment.

It pushed the boundaries for a U.N. system that relied on the concept of state sovereignty and emphasized the importance of joint action for the common good. The conference gathered representatives from 113 countries, as well as from U.N. agencies, and created a tradition of including nonstate actors, such as environmental advocacy groups. It produced a declaration that included principles to guide global environmental management going forward.

A U.N. video captured scenes in and around the Stockholm Conference, including young protesters and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s speech.

The declaration explicitly acknowledged states’ “sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” An action plan strengthened the U.N.’s role in protecting the environment and established UNEP as the global authority for the environment.

The Stockholm Conference also put global inequality in the spotlight. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi questioned the urgency of prioritizing environmental protection when so many people lived in poverty. Other developing countries shared India’s concerns: Would this new environmental movement prevent impoverished people from using the environment and reinforce their deprivation? And would rich countries that contributed to the environmental damage provide funding and technical assistance?

The Earth Summit, 1992

Twenty years later, the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – in Rio de Janeiro provided an answer. It embraced sustainable development – development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That paved the way for political consensus in several ways.

A person in a costume of the Earth holds a child's hand on a beach in Rio. The photo is from 1992
U.N. conferences like the Earth Summit, held June 3-14, 1992, draw global attention to environmental problems. Antonio Ribeiro/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images, 1992

First, climate change was making it clear that human activities can permanently alter the planet, so the stakes were high for everyone. The imperative was to establish a new global partnership mobilizing states, key sectors of societies and people to protect and restore the health of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Second, economic development, environmental protection and social development were treated as interdependent.

Finally, while all countries were expected to pursue sustainable development, it was acknowledged that developed countries had more capacity to do so and that their societies placed greater pressures on the environment.

A young person a nuclear symbol on a contamination suit hugs another person wearing a gas mask in front of a dark illustration of Earth.
Young people at the Earth Summit in 1992 protested against nuclear power. Antonio Ribeiro/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images, 1992

The Earth Summit produced the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, laying the foundation for global climate negotiations that continue today; the Convention on Biological Diversity; nonbinding Forest Principles; and an overarching action plan to transition to sustainability.

Progress, but major challenges ahead

The increasing awareness of environmental challenges over the past 50 years has led to the spread of national environmental agencies and the growth of global environmental law.

The world has pulled together to stop the destruction of the ozone layer, phase out leaded gasoline and curb the pollutants from burning fossil fuels that create acid rain. In 2015, U.N. member countries adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with measurable targets and signed the Paris climate agreement. Countries in 2022 committed to develop a treaty to reduce pollution from plastics. Climate change and sustainable resource use have also become higher priorities in foreign policymaking, international organizations and corporate boardrooms.

But while environmental diplomacy has demonstrated that progress is possible, the challenges the world still faces are immense.

Greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing, and rising temperatures are fueling devastating wildfires, heat waves and other disasters. More than a million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, potentially leading toward the worst loss of life on the planet since the time of dinosaurs. And 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds World Health Organization guidelines for pollutants.

The next 50 years: Trends to watch

As environmental diplomacy heads into its next 50 years, climate change, biodiversity and effects on human health are high on the agenda. Here are a few newer trends that also bear watching.

The idea of a circular economy is gaining interest. People produce, consume and throw away billions of tons of materials every year, while recycling or reusing only a small percentage. Ongoing efforts to create a more circular economy, which eliminates waste and keeps materials in use, can help mitigate climate change and restore natural systems.

Advocacy for rights of nature and animal rights is becoming more prominent in environmental diplomacy.

Outer space is another theme, as it increasingly becomes a domain of human exploration and settlement ambitions with the growth of private space travel. Space junk is accumulating and threatening Earth’s orbital space, and Mars exploration raises new questions about protecting space ecosystems.

The 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference is an important opportunity to think about development rights and responsibilities for the future while using environmental diplomacy today to preserve and regenerate the Earth.

Mihaela Papa, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Sustainable Development and Global Governance, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A heat wave’s lamented victim: The mango, India’s king of fruits

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Blistering spring temperatures have devastated crops of the country’s most beloved fruit. “The soul of a farmer shudders at seeing these fruitless trees,” one grower said.

What does the European Commission Circular Economy Action Plan mean for the packaging sector?

Read the full story at Packaging Europe.

In a stark warning to the packaging industry, experts are predicting that the EU’s new Circular Economy Action Plan could lead to unprecedented disruption in the sector. Paul Foulkes-Arellano, founder of Circuthon Consulting, tells us more – and discusses how businesses can get ahead of the curve.

Mining companies back away from Brazil’s Indigenous areas

Read the full story in the Daily Collegian.

Some of the world’s biggest mining companies have withdrawn requests to research and extract minerals on Indigenous land in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and repudiated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to legalize mining activity in the areas.

Commission launches EPREL database to help consumers on energy efficient products

Read the full story from the European Commission.

A new EU-wide public database enabling consumers to compare the energy efficiency class and other data about different household products has been launched by the European Commission this week. With detailed information on well over 1 million products, the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) breaks new ground in helping EU consumers become more energy efficient. Building on the highly successful EU energy label, this innovative tool provides unprecedented market transparency free of charge at a time when consumers are looking to make savings on their energy consumption, and when the Commission is trying to boost energy efficiency across the EU.

British food and drink majors support new WRAP initiative to unify sector’s Scope 3 emissions reporting

Read the full story at edie.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco are among the businesses piloting a new methodology designed to help food and drink businesses across the value chain accurately measure and report their indirect (Scope 3) emissions.