Planet Watch
freeway

Humanity’s affluent 1% drive climate change

The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, “Confronting Carbon Inequality,” is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the “consumption emissions” of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tim Gore, head of climate policy at Oxfam and author of the report, said: “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments’ decades-long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon-intensive economic growth.” (Photo: malingering via The Source Metro)

Planet Watch
Innu

Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

The Innu Nation of Labrador announced that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community’s culture and way of life. “The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu,” said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, “stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent.” New York City is pinning many of its hopes to cut carbon emissions on imported Canadian hydropower, but environmentalist opponents point to the impact of planned hydro projects on indigenous lands. (Image: Innu Nation)

Planet Watch
GLAN

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. A similar legal action has been launched by a group of youth in Australia, seeking an injunction to stop approval of a license extension at Whitehaven Coal‘s Vickery mine in New South Wales, arguing that it would threaten the futures of young people all over the world by exacerbating climate change. (Photo: GLAN)

Africa
GERD

Trump wades into Egypt-Ethiopia fight over Nile

Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that is opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to Addis Ababa “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.” The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the Nile for nearly all of their water needs. (Photo: Water Power & Dam Construction)

Africa
South Sudan flood

Flooding, fighting threaten South Sudan ‘catastrophe’

President Salva Kiir declared a state of emergency in South Sudan’s central Jonglei and Pibor regions following flooding and communal violence. More than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes as water levels rose by 1.5 meters after heavy rains. The government has called on humanitarian agencies to provide immediate aid, but inter-communal unrest will complicate operations. The conflict between Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic militias has displaced 100,000 since the beginning of the year. They will miss the current planting season—deepening food insecurity. The Famine Early Warning System Network is anticipating an imminent “catastrophe” in Jonglei. (Photo: Elizabeth Stuart/UNHCR)

Planet Watch
Bicycles

Global mayors envision car-free ‘new normal’

The Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, representing cities on every continent, announced a proposal for a post-pandemic “new normal” that will de-emphasize cars and carve out more room on the streets for bicyclists. The C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery seeks to create conditions that will proactively prepare cities for future pandemics, while addressing systemic injustices and keeping global warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. The Agenda calls for substantial investments in affordable housing and public transportation, the permanent banning of cars from many thoroughfares, an end to public investment in and subsidies for fossil fuels, and an embrace of the “15-Minute City” paradigm now being pioneered by Paris. (Photo: JPC24M)

Planet Watch
Alaska

Ninth Circuit approves drilling within Alaska reserve

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat. (Photo: US Geological Survey via Flickr)

Planet Watch
kinder-morgan-protest

Canada high court dismisses case against pipeline

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, ending their years-long battle against construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline is a controversial project to carry crude oil between Alberta and British Columbia’s coast. The First Nations filed their appeal after a decision by the Federal Court of Appeals that upheld the pipeline’s legality. The Tsleil-Waututh asserted sovereignty over the land, and their “freestanding stewardship, harvesting and cultural rights in this area.” Both nations further claimed that the pipeline’s construction would obstruct access to water, game and agricultural resources. The British Columbia provincial government also expressed its opposition to the project. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court’s dismissal allows construction to go forward unhindered by further appeals. (Photo: Mark Klotz/Flickr via  EcoWatch)

Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

Planet Watch
Idlib displaced

UN: world refugees break record —again

An unprecedented one percent of the world’s population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or across borders, according to the latest annual report by the UN Refugee Agency. At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced, up from 70.8 million the year before. The rise was in part due to new displacements in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. It also reflected the inclusion for the first time of 3.6 million Venezuelans who have been displaced outside their country but who have not sought asylum. (Photo: UNHCR)

Planet Watch
NORILSK

Russia: state of emergency after Arctic oil spill

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the ecologically fragile region. The spill was caused by rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant run by Nornickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer. The Russian government has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The spill has caused large portions of the Ambarnaya River to turn a dark crimson, and is believed to be the second-largest in Russian history. An area of at least 350 square kilometers has been contaminated. (Photo: Russian Civil Defense via TASS)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)