International Climate News: Week of March 7th

MONDAY: The potentially devastating environmental impacts of the Russian invasion, and the Ontario government’s unnecessary delay in upholding sulphur dioxide reduction standards.

The city of Kyiv. Source: Modern Diplomacy, 2021

Monday 7th March, 2022:
RUSSIA: An open letter signed by over 900 international law, environmental, and peacebuilding experts has warned of the profound risks “not only to the sovereignty and human rights of the Ukrainian people but to the environment of Ukraine and the wider European region.” Said experts warn military operations near nuclear installations and other industrial facilities pose significant risk to the Ukrainian people and their environment if damaged. Ukraine has 15 active nuclear facilities; whilst targeting nuclear power plants is strictly prohibited under international law, Zaporizhzhia – the largest nuclear facility in Europe – has been taken over by Russian forces and was set ablaze following an attack.
The letter also addresses Russia’s ‘weaponization’ of its oil and gas resources, highlighting the “recurring intersections between fossil fuel resources and violent conflict.” This war is a brutal reminder of the desperate need to end the reliance upon fossil fuels.

CANADA: Ontario’s provincial government has given oil refineries two more years to reduce their sulphur dioxide emissions between 80% and 90%, depending on the refinery. Sulphur dioxide is a pollutant that affects the respiratory system, yet the initial deadline of 2026 was extended to 2028. Environmental charity Ecojustice has said the “government caved to industry pressure,” and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which sits in the shadow of a refinery, also wanted the timeline shortened. The Canadian Fuels Association argues the refineries simply needed more time to be able to comply with changing standards – but the reduction requirements should come as no surprise, Ontario began air quality improvement talks back in 2016.

Further reading:
U.S. Can Ensure Climate Security With Differentiated Natural Gas – Bloomberg Law
Deep-sea mining could begin next year. Here’s why ocean experts are calling for a moratorium. – Grist

TUESDAY: Marine conservationists success in the Philippines regarding plastic disposal, the next big UN environmental resolution, and Northern Ireland’s environmental oversight body changing hands post Brexit.

A man collects recyclable materials along Manila Bay, Philippines. Source: Guardian, 2022

Tuesday 8th March 2022:
PHILIPPINES: In 2021, a coalition of individuals led by the marine conservation group Oceana Philippines filed a petition against its government, accusing them of failing to address the “unabated production, use and disposal of plastic” since 2001. This group claims the country’s public waste body has not updated and enforced their list of environmentally destructive products, despite this being made a requirement twenty years ago. The result of this failing? The “unabated emission of millions of tons of plastic waste into every nook and cranny of the Philippine archipelago.” The Philippine Supreme Court has accepted this case on the basis that the constitutional right to a healthy environment has been breached.
This move is particularly interesting following last week’s resolution drafted by the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. It called for a treaty covering the “full lifecycle” of plastics from production to disposal. Only 9% of plastic is recycled; Inger Andersen, director of the UN Environment Programme, said this could be “the most important multilateral pact since the Paris climate accord in 2015.

NORTHERN IRELAND: A new legal framework for environmental accountability in Northern Ireland has been introduced: Environment (2021 Act) (Commencement and Saving Provision) Order (Northern Ireland) 2022. It places statutory duties upon the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to publish an Environmental Improvement Plan that includes Northern Ireland. Prior to Brexit, independent environmental oversight was undertaken by the European Commission. Now, the OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) will operate in this role.
Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the OEP, said: “We look forward to getting on with the job and are confident we can make a positive difference for Northern Ireland’s environment and its people.”

Further reading:
Can grazing and renewable energy co-exist? – KMA
EPA Extends the Phase-In for the Toxic Substances Control Act – National Law Review

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