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
ICC

ICC complaint filed over COVID-19

The Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE) has asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate individual world leaders and the World Health Organization (WHO) for alleged international crimes relating to their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group states that past disease outbreaks, including SARS, suggest that the director-general of the WHO should have notified nations well before the initial March 11 notification date. The complaint asserts that the response to the pandemic constitutes a “crime against humanity” under Article 7(k) of the Rome Statute. The complaint further states that the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes under Articles 12 and 13 when a member state of the ICC has been affected. Specifically the complaint cites Canada as an affected signatory to the Rome Statute. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

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)

Planet Watch
san francisco

San Francisco suit against oil companies remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a federal judge’s dismissal of a climate change lawsuit against oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, setting the stage for the case to be heard in a more favorable California state court. The two cities are seeking billions of dollars from the companies in a special “abatement fund,” alleging their practices knowingly led to problems the cities must now contend with, including rising seas and extreme weather. The case was dismissed by a district judge, who held that the courts lacked jurisdiction in the matter. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case back to the district judge, ordering him to give further consideration to whether his court has jurisdiction. If he again finds his court lacks jurisdiction, the case must go before state court. (Photo: World Population Review)

Planet Watch
warplane

Trump tears up arms control treaties

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure that allows the US and Russia to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others’ territories. Having last year withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the White House is now threatening to similarly abandon New START, the 2010 agreement that limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Planet Watch
iraq.pipeline

Yes, ‘peak oil’—but demand, not supply

After oil prices went negative for the first time ever last month, they are now starting to rise again as lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are gradually lifted. US crude is now back to nearly $30 a barrel. But this is less than half what the price was a year ago, and a third what it was a dozen years ago. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, is at the forefront of the cartel’s effort to squeeze supply to consumer nations, as part of its recent deal to curb output. Baghdad just announced a 30% cut of exports to Asia. But it remains to be seen if such measures will jack up prices and ease the economic pain that has led to a remobilization of anti-regime protests, despite pandemic fears. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)