The Paris agreement on climate change has now come into force, marking the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises. However, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. As the agreement came into force, a $1bn fund for cutting the climate change impact of oil and gas has been announced by 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies, aimed at keeping the firms in business and cutting the burning of coal.
A landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations. More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed. Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years. Evan Bloom from the US state department, the head of the US delegation to the meeting, told the Guardian he was “thrilled”.
The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels, in a move that campaigners predict will save millions of lives in the coming decades. At a meeting of the IMO’s environment protection committee this week shipping officials agreed to cap the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world at 0.5% by 2020, finally making good on a 2008 agreement to cap sulphur levels by 2020 or 2025. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have been linked to premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. The current limit on sulphur content for marine fuels is 3,500 times higher than for diesel in European road vehicles, and the shipping sector is by far the biggest emitter of SO2. The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, and according to one study reduce the number of premature deaths by 200,000 every year.
Drivers of polluting diesel vehicles could soon be charged to enter many city centres across Britain, after the government accepted that its current plans to tackle the nation’s air pollution crisis were so poor they broke the law. The legal defeat in the High Court is the second in 18 months and ends years of inadequate action and delays to tackle the problem which causes 50,000 early deaths every year. Ministers are now bound to implement new measures to cut toxic air quickly and the prime minister, Theresa May, indicated the government would this time respond positively: “There is more to do and we will do it.” More here.
The world’s whaling watchdog has voted to conduct stricter reviews of whales killed under an exemption to a 30-year-old moratorium which Japan’s critics say it abuses to hunt for meat. The resolution, opposed by Japan and fellow whalers Norway and Iceland, was adopted by 34 yes votes to 17 against, at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Submitted by Australia and New Zealand, the resolution seeks to “improve” the review process for scientific whaling programmes – which Japan alone conducts, netting more than 15,000 of the marine mammals since 1986. It is not legally binding on members of the commission, which has no policing or penalty function.
UK water companies are urging a national trading standards body to help stamp out “misleading” labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as flushable but clog up drains and litter oceans at huge environmental cost. They are calling on manufacturers of moist toilet tissues and other non-biodegradable cleaning cloths such as bathroom cleaning wipes – which are routinely flushed away by consumers in their toilets – to ensure that such products are prominently labelled as not flushable and are to be disposed of in a bin.
Greece appears on track to win access to a controversial EU programme that could earmark up to €1.75bn (£1.56bn) in free carbon allowances for the building of two massive coal-fired power plants. The 1100MW coal stations will cost an estimated €2.4bn, and emit around 7m tonnes of CO2 a year, casting doubt on their viability without a cash injection from an exemption under Europe’s carbon trading market. Bonkers? The Guardian explains more here. The amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is on track to fall by two-thirds this year, a decline which analysts said was so steep and fast it was unprecedented globally. Climate change thinktank Sandbag said the drop was due to a doubling in the price of a carbon tax and the lower price of gas. The group has written to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging him not to water down the carbon floor price in this month’s autumn statement, which the steel industry has been lobbying the government to do.
The poaching crisis wiping out Africa’s elephants is costing the continent’s economies millions in lost tourism revenue, according to a new study. Researchers looked at visitor and elephant data across 25 countries, and modelled financial losses from fewer visitors in protected areas due to the illegal wildlife trade, which has caused elephant numbers to plummet by more than 100,000 in the last decade. They concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. Around $9m of that is lost from tourists’ direct spending, such as staying at hotels and buying crafts, with the rest through indirect value in the economy such as farmers and other suppliers supporting the tourist industry.