Climate and environment updates

September 30, 2023 | 2:18pm
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Climate and environment updates
September 30, 2023

Britain's Conservative government announces new plans to "support drivers" and push back on "anti-car measures" as some opposition-led areas move to impose restrictions on the use of motor vehicles in the name of environmental protection.

"The clamp down on drivers is an attack on the day to day lives of most people across the UK who rely on cars to get to work or see their families," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says in a statement announcing the new plans.

"This week the UK government will set out a long-term plan to back drivers, slamming the brakes on anti-car measures across England. We are taking the necessary decision to back the motorists who keep our country moving." — AFP

September 19, 2023

Researchers say marine heatwaves may last longer and be more intense in deeper water, potentially threatening sensitive species as climate change makes the extreme events more frequent.

Oceans have absorbed 90% of the excess heat produced by the carbon pollution from human activity since the dawn of the industrial age. 

Marine heatwaves -- episodes of abnormally high water temperatures -- have become more frequent and intense. — AFP

September 4, 2023

The government says Hong Kong experienced its hottest summer on record this year, with the city seeing "record-breaking" temperatures.

"Together with the exceptionally hot weather in June and July, Hong Kong experienced the hottest summer on record from June to August 2023," it says in a press release. — AFP

September 1, 2023

The weather agency says Japan's summer this year was the country's hottest since records began in 1898.

"In the summer (June-August) of 2023, the average summer temperature in Japan was considerably higher in northern, eastern, and western Japan. Average temperatures in Japan are the highest for summer since 1898," the agency says.

"The average temperature anomaly in Japan, based on observations at 15 locations, was +1.76 degrees C, far exceeding that of 2010 (+1.08 degrees C), which was the highest since statistics began in 1898 and the highest for summer," it says in a statement.

"Warm air tended to cover northern Japan and warm air flowed in from the south, resulting in considerably higher average summer temperatures in northern, eastern, and western Japan," it adds. — AFP

August 8, 2023

European climate service Copernicus announces Tuesday that July 2023 easily broke the record for the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, beating the previous record which was July 2019 by 0.33 degrees Celsius.

Marred by heatwaves and wildfires around the globe, last month also saw average air temperatures 0.72 degrees hotter than recent July averages from 1991 - 2020. — AFP

July 29, 2023

The sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic has reached a new record high, according to preliminary data released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been tracking since the early 1980s.

"Based on our analysis, the record-high average sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic Ocean is 24.9 degrees C," or 76.8 Fahrenheit, observed Wednesday, Xungang Yin, a scientist at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, tells AFP.

The record is particularly startling as it comes early in the year -- usually, the North Atlantic reaches its peak high temperature in early September. — AFP

July 23, 2023

Melanie Floyd took her kids to the zoo in Phoenix in the morning, when temperatures in the heat wave roasting the city and much of the US southwest were still bearable.

Standing before a turtle exhibit, she downplayed this extreme weather event in a world grappling with climate change.

"As long as we have AC and as long as everyone is making smart choices," this stay-at-home mother aged 32 told AFP, "staying hydrated, going in the shade, staying cool, not overexerting themselves, I think it's tolerable."

At her home it is, indeed, nice and cool. She keeps the air conditioning between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23 and 26 degrees Celsius) so she can look after her kids, aged two and six, comfortably as they play with coloring books and crafts.

Outside, day after day for more than three weeks, the temperature in Phoenix is surpassing a hard-to-fathom 110F.

The heatwave affecting much of the southwest and southern United States — including the record temperatures in Phoenix — is igniting debate on how fast global warming is moving. — AFP

July 22, 2023

The International Seabed Authority's member nations agree on a two-year roadmap for the adoption of deep sea mining regulations, despite conservationists' calls for a moratorium on mineral extraction they say would avert marine threats.

The ISA, an intergovernmental body tasked with protecting the seabed, and its member states have spent the last decade trying to hash out a mining code for the possible exploitation of nickel, cobalt and copper in deep seabed areas that fall outside of national jurisdictions.

But an agreement has so far been elusive. — AFP

July 11, 2023

Critical negotiations concerning the future of deep sea mining and mineral extraction kicked off Monday in Jamaica, as conservationists aim to rein in a nascent industry that so far lacks meaningful guardrails.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) -- a little known intergovernmental body based in Kingston -- and its member states have spent the last decade trying to hash out a mining code for the possible exploitation of nickel, cobalt and copper in deep seabed areas that fall outside of national jurisdictions.

But an agreement has so far been elusive. — AFP

July 4, 2023

A UK court will consider contentious plans to extend a scheme obliging the most polluting vehicles to pay for using London's roads, as opponents engage in protests -- and even sabotage.

The High Court case comes fewer than two months before London Mayor Sadiq Khan's expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is set to take effect.

The scheme -- first introduced in 2019 and separate from the city's two-decades-old congestion charge -- requires more polluting vehicles to pay a £12.50 ($16) toll on days they are driven within inner London. 

Its extension to all of Greater London from August 29 has prompted a fierce backlash from many living in and around the newly encompassed areas, who face fines of up to £160 for each day they fail to pay. — AFP

July 3, 2023

Climate change threatens to deliver a "truly terrifying" dystopian future of hunger and suffering, the United Nations' human rights chief warns.

Volker Turk has slammed world leaders for only thinking of the short term while dealing with the climate crisis.

Turk told a UN Human Rights Council debate on the right to food that extreme weather events were wiping out crops, herds and ecosystems, making it impossible for communities to rebuild and support themselves.

"More than 828 million people faced hunger in 2021. And climate change is projected to place up to 80 million more people at risk of hunger by the middle of this century," says Turk.

"Our environment is burning. It's melting. It's flooding. It's depleting. It's drying. It's dying," he says, evoking a "dystopian future". — AFP

July 2, 2023

Nestle is stepping up its project to combat deforestation in Ivory Coast caused by the growth of cocoa farming, bringing cocoa trading companies directly on board.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer, at 40 percent of the global market.

The west African country had 16 million hectares of forest in the 1960s -- a figure which is now down to less than three million, mainly due to cocoa plantations.

Nestle, the Swiss food giant behind chocolate brands like KitKat and Smarties, launched a project in 2020 aimed at restoring and protecting the Cavally Forest in southwest Ivory Coast.

One of the last remaining dense forests in the country, Cavally is a biodiversity reserve covering more than 67,000 hectares, but is threatened by deforestation linked to the cocoa industry and illegal gold panning.

The Nestle project was a partnership with the Ivorian government and the Earthworm Foundation, an NGO that led the project's implementation. — AFP

June 29, 2023

Filipino and Japanese clean energy groups, environmental advocates, and communities are calling the attention of some of Japan’s biggest financial institutions to demand that they end their financial support to destructive fossil gas projects in a biodiversity hotspot in the Philippines. The financial firms include Mizuho, Osaka Gas, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC).

The advocates are urging the financial institutions to follow fellow firms that withdrew their support for fossil gas projects after learning the risks and impacts they may cause.

“These developments highlight the increasing momentum and the growing urgency in protecting VIP. We’ve made the case that fossil gas has no rightful place in VIP and anywhere else. We will persist in our efforts until VIP is no longer in peril,” says priest Edu Gariguez, Convenor of Protect VIP. 

June 27, 2023

The UK government's advisory body on tackling climate change has voiced concern at the slow pace of the transition to clean energy, warning time was running out to meet its goals.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) says it was "markedly less" confident than a year ago that the country could meet its goals to cut carbon use by 2030.

Growing sales of new electric cars and new renewable energy projects provided "glimmers" of hope, it says but adds that "the scale up of action overall is worryingly slow". — AFP

June 26, 2023

IFC and First Balfour, a leading engineering and construction company in the Philippines, have agreed to collaborate to ramp up efforts to decarbonize the transport sector, supporting the country’s climate goals.

Under the agreement, IFC will help First Balfour conduct assessments and viability studies to develop a robust electric vehicle (EV) system in the First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP), including charging infrastructure targeted to be powered completely by renewable energy.

June 23, 2023

Nayong Pilipino Pilipino Foundation (NPF) and AirAsia launch their groundbreaking tree planting event titled "Taking Off For A Greener Future in a bid to combat climate change and foster a more sustainable future.

The event, one of the initiatives under NPF's Sambayanihan, is graced by celebrity volunteers, such as Joj and Jai Agpangan, Andrei King, Althea Ablan, and Prince Clemente.

“We gather as a unified force with a noble mission that extends far beyond merely planting trees to sequester carbon dioxide from our environment but to give back to the Filipinos by helping us create a greener and more vibrant space, which will be the future Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park," Nayong Pilipino Foundation Executive Director Gertie Duran-Batocabe shares.

June 19, 2023

Environmental and green energy groups are bringing the call to end fossil gas financing in the Verde Island Passage to Wall Street.

Protect Verde Island Passage or Protect VIP)is set to meet with banks, pension funds, and other financial institutions in the United States to raise alarm over their funding of fossil companies like San Miguel Corporation and Shell. It said the funding is equivalent to "funding the destruction of a biodiversity hotspot in the Philippines and threatening the country’s climate ambitions and energy transition"

Gerry Arances, executive director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development and co-convenor of Protect VIP,  will meet with Wall Street institutions like Citibank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo to call on them to examine their role in funding fossil fuel projects in the VIP and the Philippines.

June 19, 2023

The world's first international treaty to protect the high seas is due to be adopted Monday at the United Nations, a historic environmental accord designed to protect remote ecosystems vital to mankind.

"It will be a huge accomplishment, one that we've already celebrated with the finalization of the text in March. But the adoption formalizes that, and really sets the pathway for the next steps," Liz Karan, of the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts, told AFP.

The landmark treaty will establish a legal framework to extend swathes of environmental protections to international waters, which make up more than 60 percent of the world's oceans. — AFP

June 16, 2023

Pressure to speed cuts in carbon pollution took a back seat at UN climate talks that ended late Thursday night, as emerging economies, including China, demanded that rich ones vastly scale up climate financing.

The stand-off over 10 days of technical negotiations in Bonn stymied progress across a raft of issues, including how to minimise the social costs of transitioning to clean energy, how to quantify countries' adaptation needs, and how to help economies already devastated by climate-amplified extreme weather.

This puts even more pressure on the COP28 climate summit in oil-rich United Arab Emirates in December. There, nearly 200 nations will review a "global stocktake" of how far off track the world is from achieving the Paris climate treaty goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. — AFP

June 13, 2023

Yuriy, a 56-year-old Ukrainian farmer, stands chest-deep in water in his village of Afanasiyivka, gazing around in bewilderment. 

A week ago, he was growing vegetables and fruit and grazing his cows. Now his land in the Mykolaiv region is deep under murky green water.

The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam has caused massive flooding in the regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv. 

The flooding was yet another crippling blow to farmers in the regions, who were already struggling to plant crops due to heavy shelling and the need to de-mine their land.

"What's underwater here could have fed several large families for a year," says Yuriy, watching drowned ducklings float past.

He places the blame squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin. — AFP

June 9, 2023

Smoke from Canadian wildfires shrouds US cities in a noxious haze again, delaying flights and disrupting outdoor events in what President Joe Biden called a "stark reminder" of climate change.

Thick skies and an acrid campfire smell hung over the capital Washington, with parts of the mid-Atlantic region reaching "Code Maroon," the highest category of the Air Quality Index (AQI), signaling hazardous conditions.

This exceeded some of the most polluted cities in the world in South Asia and China, leading many residents to wear masks to protect their health. Though improving, conditions aren't expected to return to normal until the weekend.

More than 111 million people in the United States were living under air quality alerts due to the fires, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.  — AFP

June 8, 2023

Smoke from Canadian wildfires shrouded New York in a record-breaking apocalyptic smog Wednesday as cities along the US East Coast issued air quality alerts and thousands evacuated their homes in Canada.

The Big Apple's mayor urged residents to stay indoors as the thick haze of pollution cast an eerie, yellowish glow over Manhattan's famous skyscrapers, delayed flights and forced the postponement of  sporting events.

More than 100 million people across America's northeast, and extending west to Chicago and south to Atlanta, were under pollution warnings after the smoke drifted hundreds of miles from Canada, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.

In Canada itself, the devastating wildfires have displaced more than 20,000 people and scorched about 3.8 million hectares of land. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this the worst wildfire season Canada has ever had. — AFP

June 7, 2023

The "cloud forest" of Monteverde, in the center of Costa Rica, will soon no longer be worthy of the name: climate change threatens this unique ecosystem, and its fauna and flora face an unclear future under a brilliant blue sky.

In the forest, what a visitor should hear is the constant drip of moisture falling from the trees. Instead, it is the sound of dead branches snapping underfoot that breaks the silence on the dry trails. 

The high-altitude forest is still clinging to life, and it delights walkers with an infinite variety of greens under an uncomfortably bright sun: the fog which reigned supreme here only a short time ago dissipates as the temperature rises, explained 24-year-old forest guide Andrey Castrillo.

"The forest should be cool," he said. "You should hear the drops falling all over the forest, but that only happens during the wettest and windiest days of the rainy season."

"Here there was no sun... We had about 30 days of sunshine a year. Now we have more than 130," he said. — AFP

June 2, 2023

Hacking at a bamboo plant with a machete, Avayi Vayayana peels back the shoot's stiff bark as he scans southern Taiwan's mountains, anxious for more of the money-making crop his Indigenous tribe increasingly struggles to find.

Generations of the Tsou tribe have lived off Alishan township's bamboo forests, which Vayayana says were planted by his forefathers and typically harvested in April and May.

But "the weather in the last few years has really been out of whack", the 62-year-old tribal chief tells AFP. 

"The rainfall has been delayed and the bamboo shoots' growth is noticeably affected."

In the Indigenous village T'fuya, the dark-brown cones of the island's native stone bamboo -- or phyllostachys lithophila -- have become harder to spot.

"The little young shoots will not sprout if there's no rain. After a while, they will die inside the ground," Vayayana says.

The February-to-April rains are crucial to the growth of bamboo shoots, but since late last year, there have not been any significant downpours. — AFP

June 1, 2023

Pacific Islands expressed dismay on Thursday at Australia's subsidies for fossil fuels, flagging climate concerns as a point of friction between the neighbouring nations.

Two Pacific ministers appeared in a joint livestream to condemn Australia's long and continuing enthusiasm for coal and gas projects.

Vanuatu's Climate Change Minister Ralph Regenvanu welcomed Australia's pledge last year to transition towards renewable energy but said it must stop funding climate-damaging projects.

"We are very disappointed to see that Australia continues to subsidise fossil fuel projects," Regenvanu told The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank.

"We need money in the renewable energy sector. That's where the future of our economies and our societies lies -- not in the fossil fuel industry." — AFP

May 29, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday warned that global plastics pollution was a "time bomb", as diplomats began five days of talks in Paris to make progress on a treaty to end plastic waste.

Representatives of 175 nations with divergent ambitions met at UNESCO headquarters for the second of five sessions with the aim of inking an historic agreement covering the entire plastics life cycle.

Macron urged nations negotiating a world treaty against plastic pollution to put an end to today's "globalised and unsustainable" production model.

"Plastic pollution is a time-bomb and at the same time already a scourge today," he said in a video message, in which he called for an end to a system where richer countries export plastic waste to poorer ones. — AFP

May 25, 2023

Negotiations on a global treaty to combat plastic pollution will resume Monday, with nations under pressure to stem the tide of trash amid calls from campaigners to limit industry influence on the talks.

Some 175 nations pledged last year to agree by 2024 a binding deal to end the pollution from largely fossil fuel-based plastics that is choking the environment and infiltrating the bodies of humans and animals.

The May 29-June 2 talks in Paris are tasked with agreeing the first outline for actions that could form the basis of a draft negotiating text. 

A global ban on single-use plastic items and "polluter pays" schemes are among the measures under discussion. — AFP

May 22, 2023

Wildfire smoke blanketing western Canada has triggered health warnings in several cities, but was also helping to cool blazes by blocking out a hot sun across hard-hit portions of the country Sunday.

The wildfires in Alberta province have displaced tens of thousands of people and scorched more than 941,000 hectares over several weeks.

"It is a mixed bag certainly with smoke," Christie Tucker of the Alberta Wildfire agency told a briefing.

"Many Albertans obviously can't get away from the smoke this weekend. It is thick in many parts of the province," she said. "But they would also have noticed that temperatures are cooler than they would have been if there was no smoke covering the sun."

Less heat, Tucker explained, "has meant that we've seen less growth of fires." Only five new flare-ups were reported since Friday. — AFP

May 21, 2023

Faced with mounting pressure over planet-heating pollution, Gulf Arab energy giants are turning to humble tech start-ups as they search for ways to remove emissions while keeping oil flowing.

Oil producers have for years touted capturing carbon before it goes into the atmosphere as a potential global warming solution, against criticism from climate experts who say it risks distracting from the urgent goal of slashing fossil fuel pollution.

With little investment and few projects in operation around the world so far, the technology is currently nowhere near the scale needed to make a difference to global emissions.

Now major players from Saudi Aramco to the United Arab Emirates' ADNOC say that is about to change, as the UAE hosts climate negotiations this year with a message of cutting emissions rather than fossil fuels.

"For the industry and for countries as well to achieve net-zero by 2050, I don't see us achieving this without embracing carbon capture," Musabbeh Al Kaabi, ADNOC's executive director of low-carbon solutions, told AFP. — AFP

May 18, 2023

Conflict-plagued countries in the Middle East are among the most vulnerable to climate change but are almost entirely excluded from meaningful financing to mitigate its effects, aid groups warn Thursday.

In a joint report focusing on Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Norwegian Red Cross demanded greater assistance, saying the combined effects of climate change and armed conflict create an alarming cocktail of humanitarian woes.

The Climate Funds Update database, which collates information from 27 UN, World Bank and other multilateral funds, listed only 19 single-country projects in Iraq, Syria and Yemen that have been approved for funding as of January 2022, the report says. — AFP

May 18, 2023

New Zealand's government unveils a "no frills" pre-election budget on Thursday, vowing to ease cost of living pressures while ramping up climate defences following deadly flash floods and a cyclone.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins promised to help New Zealanders cope with inflation, running hot at 6.7 percent in the year to March.

"When I became prime minister I said I would focus on the bread and butter issues Kiwi households are facing," Hipkins says.

"Today's budget does that by providing cost of living relief across key expenses families experience -- childcare, healthcare, transport and power bills."

Hipkins faces a general election in five months. — AFP

May 17, 2023

Concern over the future of Spain's Donana natural park, which is threatened by overfarming, has made water management a key issue ahead of local elections at the end of May.

Spain's water resources are becoming exhausted while its irrigation needs keep rising, "an unsustainable situation", said Felipe Fuentelsaz of WWF Spain.

The Donana National Park in the southern Andalusia region, home to one of Europe's largest wetlands, is in a "critical state", he added.

"For the past two years, it has barely rained. But farmers continue to draw enormous quantities of water from the groundwater table."

With its mix of dunes, forests and lagoons, the park once hosted huge colonies of migrating birds. Now it is mostly dry, and storks and flamingos are a rare sight.

A recent study by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) found 59 percent of the park's largest lagoons have dried up. — AFP

April 27, 2023

Cambodian leader Hun Sen on Thursday cancelled a law he created just two months ago to protect critically endangered Mekong dolphins as the mammals continue to die from illegal fishing activities.

The population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the river Mekong has dwindled from 200, when the first census was taken in 1997, to just 89 in 2020 largely due to illegal fishing and habitat loss.

Hun Sen issued a new decree in February creating protection zones in a 120-kilometre (75-mile) stretch of the Mekong, in which fishing is banned, following the death of three dolphins in a week.

Conservationists have also stepped up efforts to protect the mammals -- small, shy creatures with domed foreheads and short beaks that once swam through much of the river, all the way to the delta in Vietnam. — AFP

April 24, 2023

China has approved a major surge in coal power so far this year, prioritising energy supply over its pledge to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, Greenpeace said Monday.

The world's second-largest economy is also its biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases driving climate change, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), and China's emissions pledges are seen as essential to keeping global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius.

The jump in approvals for coal-fired power plants, however, has fuelled concerns that China will backtrack on its goals to peak emissions between 2026 and 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060. — AFP

April 24, 2023

Extreme weather events in Malawi and Pakistan have driven "very sharp" rises in malaria infections and deaths, a global health chief said ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25.

Cases in Pakistan last year, after devastating floods left a third of the country under water, rose four-fold to 1.6 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Malawi, Cyclone Freddy in March triggered six months' worth of rainfall in six days, causing cases there to spike too, Peter Sands, head of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told AFP in an interview.

"What we've seen in places like Pakistan and Malawi is real evidence of the impact that climate change is having on malaria," he said.

"So you have these extreme weather events, whether flooding in Pakistan, or the cyclone in Malawi, leaving lots of stagnant water around the place. — AFP

April 23, 2023

Thousands of protesters marched Saturday in southern France to denounce plans to build a new highway they say will pollute, add to global warming and threaten biodiversity.

The demonstration in the Tarn region against the proposed A69 motorway drew in 8,200 protesters according to organisers; 4,500 according to the local authority.

They marched under intermittent rain along the route of the proposed highway which would link the southern cities of Toulouse and Castres, carrying placards that read "Less energy, fewer cars and less tarmac" and other green messages.

Julien Bayou, a lawmaker from the Europe Ecology Greens party (EELV), said the planned highway was "anachronistic". — AFP

April 20, 2023

Health officials say about 2.4 million people in Thailand have sought hospital treatment for medical problems linked to air pollution since the start of the year, as toxic smog chokes parts of the country.

Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai were among the most polluted cities in the world on Thursday morning, according to air quality monitoring firm IQAir.

The poor air quality has seen 2.4 million people seek medical treatment since the start of the year, with 184,465 hospital admissions this week alone, Public Health Department permanent secretary Dr Opas Karnkawinpong says. — AFP

April 16, 2023

G7 environment and climate ministers pledged to end new plastic pollution in their countries by 2040, they said in a statement released Sunday after talks in northern Japan.

"We are committed to end plastic pollution, with the ambition to reduce additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040," it said.

Germany, France, Canada, Britain and the EU are already part of a multi-national coalition that made the same pledge last year.

But this is the first time the remaining Group of Seven members -- Japan, the United States and Italy -- have made the 2040 commitment. — AFP

April 16, 2023

Brazil and the United Arab Emirates have announced a series of deals on combating climate change and advancing biofuels Saturday as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid an official visit to the oil-rich country.

"It was a highly fruitful visit," Lula said in brief comments to Brazil's TV Globo after meeting UAE president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on his way home from a trip to China.

The countries said in a joint statement the leaders had discussed a range of subjects including trade, technology, defense, aviation and food security.

They also announced a series of deals, including one for the UAE-controlled Mataripe refinery in northeastern Brazil to invest up to $2.5 billion in a biodiesel project in the region, and another on cooperating against climate change. — AFP

April 15, 2023

G7 allies kick off two days of "difficult" climate talks in northern Japan on Saturday, facing pressure to show progress on key fossil fuel commitments in an example to other major economies including China.

Campaigners have warned climate and environment ministers from the group of developed countries against backsliding on pledges on the shift away from coal and gas at home and abroad.

But a leaked third draft of a statement to be issued at the meeting in Sapporo has relieved some experts, who had feared a more ringing endorsement of the need for overseas gas investments as proposed by Japan. — AFP

April 15, 2023

The World Bank must ensure that its ambitious climate agenda does not come at the expense of the pressing development needs of its African members, a senior bank official says.

"We want to make sure that the development agenda is not diluted in the climate agenda," Abdoul Salam Bello, a member of the bank's executive board, says in an interview.

Bello represents the interests of 23 African countries on the World Bank's executive board, including Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. — AFP

April 11, 2023

Germany will shut down its three remaining nuclear plants on Saturday, betting that it can fulfil its green ambitions without atomic power despite the energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war.

The cloud of white steam that has risen since 1989 over the river in Neckarwestheim, near Stuttgart, will soon be a distant memory, as will the Isar 2 complex in Bavaria and the Emsland plant in the north. — AFP

April 9, 2023

A 17-metre-long (56-foot-long) sperm whale died after washing up on a beach in Bali, a conservation official says, making it the third whale that beached itself on the Indonesian island in just a little over a week. 

The male sperm whale was found stranded on Yeh Leh beach in west Bali's Jembrana district on Saturday afternoon. 

"We are currently trying to pull the carcass to the shore to make it easier for the necropsy test and we will bury it after the test is concluded," Permana Yudiarso, a local marine and fisheries official, told AFP Sunday. 

This is the third whale that has beached itself in Bali, a popular destination for holidaymakers, in April alone. — AFP

April 3, 2023

From her century-old home, Susan Burns has watched the sun set over her cousin's field every day for 75 years. Now her cousin has agreed to have solar panels installed on the field, and an unhappy Burns finds herself in a fight.

Huge solar farms are being planned in this corner of Missouri, and as in other rural areas of the United States, residents sometimes are yanking the welcome mat. 

Foreseeing vast expanses of solar farms replacing cropland, Burns began raising the issue with other community members at the Baptist church across the road.

She fears much may be at stake: "(I) lose my view. I lose my health. I lose my safety."

A group has formed around Fulton to fight the solar installations, as has happened in rural areas across the country. And this emerging grassroots movement is slowing the transition to low-carbon electricity in the world's largest economy.  — AFP

March 30, 2023

Breakthrough climate laws passed by Australia on Thursday will target the nation's worst polluters, forcing coal mines and oil refineries to curb emissions by about five percent each year.

Experts said the laws signalled the end of Australia's bitter "climate wars" — a decade of political brawling that has repeatedly derailed attempts to tackle climate change.

"It's the first time greenhouse gas emissions reduction has been written into Australian law," University of New South Wales sustainability expert Tommy Wiedmann said.

"That's obviously a good thing. We have a climate policy now," he told AFP.

The laws apply to 215 major industrial facilities — each producing more than 100,000 ton of greenhouse gases a year — and form the backbone of Australia's pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The government thinks it can stop 200 million tons of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere over the next decade.

Aluminium smelters, coal mines, oil refineries and other large polluters will be forced to cut their emissions by 4.9% each year. — AFP

March 29, 2023

A panel of government advisors say Britain must do a lot more towards mitigating the worst effects of climate change after a "lost decade" of minimal planning.

Record-breaking heat and wildfires last year, and recurrent flooding, are a portent of worse to come even if the UK meets its goal of "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050, the experts say in a 340-page report.

The two-yearly report by the adaptation committee was focussed on England but drew UK-wide conclusions, as the Conservative government prepares to outline new steps to guarantee "energy security". — AFP

March 23, 2023

A controversial gold mine in Thailand has restarted operations, more than six years after the government forced it to close over health and environmental concerns.

The Chatree complex, which straddles three rural provinces in the kingdom's north, had been dogged by legal disputes and protests by villagers who said it poisoned crops and livestock.

The Thai government, at that point a military junta, ordered the open-cut mine to halt operations in May 2016 in a rare win for environmental campaigners.

The mine's Australian owner, Kingsgate Consolidated, launched arbitration proceedings seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation but, after negotiations, the government agreed last year to allow the reopening. — AFP

March 22, 2023

Overconsumption and climate change have led to water shortages "becoming endemic" around the world, creating an "imminent risk" of a global crisis, the United Nations warns in a report.

Some two billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 3.6 billion lack access to reliable sanitation services, the UN Water Forum and UNESCO said in a joint report, released hours before a rare conference on the issue opens in New York. — AFP

March 20, 2023

The United Nations was poised to release a capstone report Monday distilling nearly a decade of published science on the impacts and trajectory of global warming, and the tools available to prevent climate catastrophe.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 30-odd page "summary for policymakers" -- compressing 10,500 pages authored by more than 1,000 scientists -- is as dense as a black hole and will deliver a stark warning.

"We are nearing a point of no return," UN chief Antonio Guterres said last week as diplomats from 195 nations gathered in Interlaken, Switzerland, to hammer out the final wording, finalised on Sunday night by exhausted and sleep-deprived delegates two days behind schedule.

"For decades, the IPCC has put forward evidence on how people and planet are being rocked by climate destruction."

Since the last IPCC synthesis report in 2014, science has determined that devastating impacts are happening more quickly and at lower levels of warming than previously understood.

With Earth's average surface temperature 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels so far, the planet has seen a steady crescendo extreme weather, including tropical storms made worse by rising seas.

On current trends, the world is on track to warm by an additional 1.6 degrees. — AFP

March 15, 2023

Global corporations are not adapting fast enough to safeguard the environment or their own businesses from global warming and looming climate regulations, according to a report released Wednesday. 

Most companies are failing to provide a full picture of their carbon footprints and environmental impacts, slowing progress toward a net zero economy and exposing themselves to climate risk.   

Less than half of around 18,500 companies providing data did not disclose emissions related to their supply chains, despite impending efforts to mandate such disclosures, according to the report from environmental disclosure non-profit CDP.

"From 2024, European companies –- and global companies with significant revenues in the European Union -– will need to disclose their supply chain impacts and their Scope 3 emissions," the executive director of CDP Europe, Maxfield Weiss, told AFP.

"It's clear that many companies are not prepared." -- AFP

March 9, 2023

Latin America is poised to become a major renewable energy producer, with nearly a billion solar panels' worth of large-scale clean-electricity projects slated to come online in the next seven years, a report finds.

In welcome good news for the climate-change race, researchers say Latin American countries had more than 319 gigawatts of utility-scale solar- and wind-power projects due to be launched by 2030 — equal to nearly 70% of the region's total current electrical capacity from all sources combined.

"Rich in wind and solar resources, Latin America has the potential to be a global leader for renewable energy," says the report by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM), a US-based non-profit that tracks clean-energy development.

The new projects -- which include planned installations and those already under construction -- would expand Latin America's current utility-scale solar- and wind-power capacity by more than 460% , it found. — AFP

March 6, 2023

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo says the country welcomes the adoption of the first international treaty on conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond jurisdiction.

He says this again proves the “importance of multilateralism in finding common ground amid competing interests.”

“This internationally legally binding agreement will provide holistic and equitable management of human activities impacting ocean life beyond national boundaries to safeguard global ocean health & contribute to climate resilience ,increased food security for millions of people,” Manalo adds.

March 5, 2023

The European Commission on Sunday hailed the first international treaty to protect the high seas agreed by UN member states as a "historic moment".

"A historic moment for our Ocean... We take a crucial step forward to preserve the marine life and biodiversity that are essential for us and the generations to come," said EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. — AFP

March 5, 2023

Politicians have reacted angrily after climate activists smeared a black liquid on a monument near Germany's lower parliamentary chamber on which the articles of the country's constitution are inscribed.

The group behind the action near the Bundestag in Berlin, Letzte Generation (Last Generation), has carried out several similar actions to draw attention to the climate crisis. 

They posted a video online of people dressed in fluorescent orange safety jackets spraying the liquid on some of the 19, three-meter high glass panels on which articles of the constitution are inscribed.

They also put up posters bearing the slogan "Oil or constitutional rights?".

The monument, called "Basic Law 49" in reference to West Germany's 1949 constitution, was created by Israeli artist Dani Karavan. — AFP

March 2, 2023

More than 100 countries have backed a plan by Vanuatu to enlist the UN's top court in tackling climate change, after what the nation's officials on Thursday described as a "herculean" diplomatic effort.

With rising sea levels threatening its future, Vanuatu has spearheaded a drive for the court to define what legal responsibility countries have for the changing climate and its impacts.

The 105 nations backing the move will co-sponsor a resolution at this year's UN General Assembly.

Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are among those on board, as well as Pacific nations like Kiribati and Marshall Islands, which also face rising sea levels.

But neither China nor the United States -- two of the world's biggest carbon dioxide emitters -- have pledged support.

Nor have larger developing nations, like Indonesia and India, that rely on coal. -- AFP

March 2, 2023

Global energy-related CO2 emissions climbed 0.9% last year to hit a new record, the International Energy Agency says, but rose less than expected given the global energy crisis thanks to renewables.

Nevertheless, the rise in energy-related CO2 emissions, which account for more than three quarters of the total, remains on an unsustainable growth trajectory, the IEA says in a new report. — AFP

February 27, 2023

China last year approved the largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015, according to a study published Monday, despite its vow to begin phasing down use of the fossil fuel in just three years.

The coal power capacity that China began building in 2022 was six times as much as that in the rest of the world combined, the report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) in Finland and the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) added. 

"China continues to be the glaring exception to the ongoing global decline in coal plant development," GEM research analyst Flora Champenois said.

"The speed at which projects progressed through permitting to construction in 2022 was extraordinary."

China is one of the world's biggest emitters of the greenhouse gases driving climate change, such as carbon dioxide (CO2). -- AFP

February 21, 2023

Actor and activist Jane Fonda has warned that humanity is "losing the ocean," as two weeks of negotiations begin at the United Nations on a treaty to protect the high seas.

"The ocean provides us with 50 percent of our oxygen, and it feeds billions of people -- and it's dying," the 85-year-old American icon tells AFP in an interview.

She is in New York to deliver a petition with more than 5.5 million signatures to Rena Lee, chair of the high-stakes talks which many hope will finally, after 15 years, result in a treaty aimed at protecting and preserving vast ocean areas.

The petition, which Fonda handed over Monday evening, calls for a "strong" treaty.

"I have children, I have grandchildren and I just want to spend every single possible moment that I can as long as I'm still alive, to not allow us to destroy the planet," Fonda tells AFP. — AFP

February 20, 2023

Major industrial and economic centres in China and the United States are among the most vulnerable regions in the world to the increasingly destructive power of climate change-driven weather extremes, according to a comprehensive analysis.

The new findings underscore the urgent need for governments to focus on decarbonisation and adaptation measures such as flood-proofing -- and show the economic fallout from climate change could be grave and widespread. 

Nine of the top 10 most at-risk regions are in China, with two of the country's largest sub-national economies -- Jiangsu and Shandong -- leading the global ranking by The Cross Dependency Initiative (XDI). 

After China, the US has the most high-risk states. Florida, number 10 in global rankings, is the US state most in jeopardy, followed by California and Texas.  — AFP

February 17, 2023

UN member states are meeting in New York from Monday with the aim of launching a long-berthed high-seas treaty, a crucial step toward the goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.

After more than 15 years of informal and formal talks, the meeting is the third time in less than a year that negotiators are gathering for what is due to be the last round.

Another two weeks of negotiations ended with no agreement in August last year, but advocates and officials have expressed cautious optimism ahead of the coming session.

"There are a lot of negotiations and discussions happening between delegations trying to find middle ground on some of the key sticky issues... at a level that we haven't seen before," Liz Karan, of the Pew Charitable Trusts non-profit, tells AFP.

"That gives me a lot of hope that the delegations are taking this upcoming meeting to be the final final." — AFP

February 16, 2023

Eleven pilot whales were saved on Saturday after they became stranded near the shore on Sri Lanka's west coast in the early hours, wildlife officials say.

A navy team aided the rescue effort alongside local fishermen who raised the alarm when they spotted the pod after midnight near the resort village of Kudawa.

"There were 14 of them and three were dead on coming ashore," wildlife officer Eranda Gamage tells AFP. 

"They had to be taken into the deeper seas to drop them there so that they would not come back to the shore. The navy took them in their boats and dropped them." — AFP

February 14, 2023

Sri Lanka will ban single-use plastics, the government says, in a move that follows a series of wild elephant and deer deaths from plastic poisoning.

Cabinet spokesman and media minister Bandula Gunawardana says the manufacture or sale of plastic cutlery, cocktail shakers and artificial flowers will be prohibited from June.

The move was recommended by a panel appointed 18 months ago to study the impact of plastic waste on the environment and wildlife. — AFP

February 13, 2023

The world's biggest and richest companies are failing to deliver on their climate pledges, according to an in-depth analysis that calls on governments to crack down on corporate greenwashing.

Under growing pressure from shareholders, governments and consumers, companies are racing to roll out strategies to reduce the carbon emissions of their operations, along with their products and services.

Twenty-four multinationals examined have all endorsed the Paris treaty target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and aligned themselves with UN-backed campaigns to ensure that business plays its part in decarbonising the global economy.

Staying under that critical temperature threshold will require slashing global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030, and reaching "net zero" -- with any residual emissions balanced by removals -- by mid-century, the UN's IPCC science advisory panel says. — AFP

February 10, 2023

Canada's government announces it would not permit mining of seabeds under its jurisdiction until a "rigorous regulatory structure" is put in place.

The interministerial statement was released as talks wrapped up in Vancouver of the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5), which began last Friday.

"Canada does not currently have a domestic legal framework that would permit seabed mining," says the statement by the ministers of Natural Resources and Fisheries and Oceans.

"In the absence of such a framework...  Canada will not authorize seabed mining in areas under its jurisdiction," the two add. — AFP

February 4, 2023

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire calls for "transparency" between the United States and Europe over the controversial granting of green subsidies and tax breaks.

Le Maire and his German counterpart Robert Habeck travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and discuss a landmark US spending bill that has Europe on edge.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funnels $370 billion into subsidies for America's energy transition -- including tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries. — AFP

February 1, 2023

Investment in cleaner energy is on the verge of overtaking spending on fossil fuels for the first time ever after exceeding $1 trillion last year, a report on Tuesday says.

Despite the milestone, spending on energy transition technology must immediately triple to meet the target of net-zero emissions by 2050 to combat climate change, according to research group BloombergNEF.

Investment in sectors such as renewables, nuclear, zero-emission vehicles or recycling projects totalled $1.1 trillion last year, matching spending on fossil fuels, the report found.

This is up 31% on the previous year, and marks the first time the investment total has been measured in trillions. — AFP

February 1, 2023

Researchers say planting more trees in urban areas to lower summertime temperatures could decrease deaths directly linked to hot weather and heatwaves by a third.

Modelling found that increasing tree cover to 30 percent would shave off 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) locally, on average, during hot summer months, they reported in The Lancet. 

Of the 6,700 premature deaths attributed to higher temperatures in 93 European cities during 2015, one third could have been prevented, according to the findings. — AFP 

January 31, 2023

Saudi Arabia plans to invest more than $266 billion to produce cleaner electricity and expand its power grid, the kingdom's energy minister says.

Speaking at a forum organised by Saudi oil giant Aramco, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman says the world's biggest crude exporter was also looking to become a global leader in hydrogen production.

"We are introducing over a trillion riyals ($266 billion) worth of investment by 2030 to address our plans to achieve cleaner forms of electricity within the kingdom as well as expanding and modernising the power transmission and distribution grid," he says.

"On the hydrogen front, we are determined to be the leading exporter as well as availing clean hydrogen for local usages in heavy industries to produce green products," he tells the seventh annual IKTVA forum in Dhahran in a speech.

The kingdom would also double down on carbon capture solutions. — AFP

January 25, 2023

Several western European cities were hit last year by high temperatures normally recorded in regions hundreds of kilometres south, a climate monitor has found. 

Last summer was the hottest on record in Europe, which was blanketed by heatwaves and droughts fuelling deadly wildfires on the continent.

Cities in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy that are normally spared scorching heat were about 1.4 degrees Celsius warmer than their summer temperatures averaged across the period 1990 to 2020, according to the Paris-based consultancy Callendar.  

That rise put them on a par with historic temperatures in cities over 425 kilometres (260 miles) to the south, the analysis showed. — AFP

January 24, 2023

Evidence is emerging that climate-related disasters are becoming a cause of human trafficking as criminal gangs exploit a growing number of uprooted people, the UN says.

The continuing war in Ukraine is also another risk factor for increased human trafficking, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says in a report.

"Climate change is increasing vulnerability to trafficking," the UNODC report says.

"While a systematic global analysis of the impact of climate change in trafficking in persons is missing, community level studies in different parts of the world point at weather induced disasters as root causes for trafficking in persons," it says.

The report is based on data from 141 countries collected from 2017 to 2020, and the analysis of 800 court cases. — AFP

January 22, 2023

Climate campaigners marked the Lunar New Year, also commonly referred to as Chinese New Year, today with a festive dragon dance performance at the Fil-Chinese Friendship Arch   in Binondo Manila. They called on the Chinese government to adopt New Year’s resolutions to address the climate crisis and enable the rapid, just and equitable transition to renewable energy.

Led by Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), the celebratory rally included Sanlakas, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and Oriang Women’s Movement. They urged China to adopt two New Year’s resolutions: One, stop financing all fossil fuel projects and two, support the transition to renewable energy systems in developing countries. 

“These are the two important actions for climate that China can make happen. It is time for a total shift away from public and commercial overseas energy financing of all fossil fuels - coal, gas and oil - and scale up sustainable, fair and non-debt creating financing for the rapid development of renewable energy systems in Asia,” said Lidy Nacpil, APMDD coordinator.

Similar actions were also held today in Bangladesh and Pakistan. (Press Release)

January 19, 2023

The first global assessment of CO2 removal warns that capping global warming at liveable levels will be impossible without massively scaling up the extraction of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The persistent failure to draw down greenhouse gas emissions -- nearly 60 billion tonnes a year of CO2 or its equivalent -- has forced once-marginal carbon dioxide removal (CDR) options toward centre stage in climate policy, investment and research.

Across methods ranging from tree planting to factory-sized machines that suck CO2 from the air and store it underground, CDR worldwide currently captures two billion tonnes of the gas each year, according to the State of Carbon Dioxide Report. — AFP

January 19, 2023

Chile's government has torpedoed a controversial billion-dollar mining project due to be built near a nature reserve that is home to a rare species of penguin.

Environmentalists had criticized the proposed open-pit mine and port project in the north of Chile close to the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve due to its potential ecological impact on a unique area known for its natural diversity.

The $2.5 billion project was unanimously rejected by left-wing President Gabriel Boric's cabinet.

"We are confident that a robust, traceable, evidence-based (decision) has been adopted here," says Maisa Rojas, the environment minister. — AFP

January 18, 2023

Ecuadoran Amazon activist Helena Gualinga has come to the meeting of global elites in the Swiss Alpine village of Davos with a clear message: companies must stop new fossil fuel projects.

Gualinga, 20, has become a spokesperson for her Kichwa Sarayuku indigenous community and its struggle against oil companies in the rainforest. 

This week, she joined fellow young climate activists Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda and Luisa Neubauer of Germany in launching a petition billed as a "cease and desist notice".

The petition demands that energy CEOs "immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites".

"We are from different parts of the world but we are fighting for the same purpose," Gualinga told AFP on Tuesday at the annual World Economic Forum.

"It is a call to say 'enough is enough' because we have said it many times. We need urgent action," she said. — AFP

January 17, 2023

Culture ministers from across Europe have launched an alliance to create more sustainable and climate-friendly buildings and urban landscapes, Switzerland says.

"In future, politicians, business and civil society will be working together to create better-designed cities, villages and landscapes," the Swiss government says, announcing the launch of the new "Davos Baukultur Alliance".

Baukultur is shorthand for the preservation and development of quality, sustainable and culturally relevant buildings and cities.

Swiss President Alain Berset had invited culture ministers from 31 European countries to a two-day meeting in Davos, ahead of the World Economic Forum that kicks off in the luxury ski resort on Monday. — AFP

January 14, 2023

The president of this year's COP28 climate talks, who heads a major oil company, on Saturday urges a focus on lower emissions to reduce global warming, warning that energy needs were set to accelerate.

Sultan Al Jaber, the United Arab Emirates' special envoy for climate change and CEO of oil giant ADNOC, says less-polluting fossil fuels would remain part of the energy mix, along with renewables and other solutions.

"As long as the world still uses hydrocarbons, we must ensure they are the least carbon intensive possible," Al Jaber tells the Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, two days after his unveiling as COP president. — AFP

January 13, 2023

The world's political and business elites will gather for the annual Davos summit next week to promote "cooperation in a fragmented world", with war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and global trade tensions high on the agenda.

For half a century, the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps has brought together executives and policymakers to sing the praises of globalization, but that process is seen as unwinding as new fault lines harden around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic, growing US-China hostility and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have led some politicians and experts to even speculate about "an end to the era of globalisation", which began in earnest in the decade after the first Davos meeting in 1971. — AFP

January 13, 2023

The past eight years were the hottest since records began, the United Nations confirms, despite the cooling influence of a drawn-out La Nina weather pattern.

Last year, as the world faced a cascade of unprecedented natural disasters made more likely and deadly by climate change, the average global temperature was about 1.15 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organization says.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA released similar 2022 global temperature figures on Thursday and Bill Nelson, head of the US space agency, described them as "alarming."

"Forest fires are intensifying, hurricanes are getting stronger, droughts are wreaking havoc, sea levels are rising," Nelson says.

"Extreme weather patterns threaten our well-being across this planet," he says. "And we need some bold action." — AFP

January 12, 2023

The sea has already swallowed the village graveyard in Togoru, Fiji, and long-time resident Lavenia McGoon is dreading the day it claims her house.

She piles old rubber car tyres under the coconut trees that line the beachfront, hoping this makeshift seawall will at least buy some time.

The 70-year-old believes climate change, and the creeping ocean, will inevitably force her family to leave.

"Nobody can stop it," she tells AFP, as the tide sweeps in and crabs scuttle over the headstones.

"Nobody can stop water."

Togoru is a small settlement on the south coast of Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu.

It is one of dozens of coastal villages in the Pacific archipelago now confronting the reality of climate change. 

McGoon, called "Big Nana" by locals, has spent almost 60 years here -- living on the shoreline in a basic wooden house without power or running water. 

"We used to have a plantation right in front," McGoon says, pointing towards the sea. — AFP

January 11, 2023

The last eight years were the warmest on record even with the cooling influence of a La Nina weather pattern since 2020, the European Union's climate monitoring service says.

Average temperatures across 2022 -- which saw a cascade of unprecedented natural disasters made more likely and deadly by climate change -- make it the fifth warmest year since records began in the 19th century, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Pakistan and northern India were scorched by a two-month spring heatwave with sustained temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), followed in Pakistan by flooding that covered a third of the country, affected 33 million people, and caused some $30 billion in damage and economic losses.

France, Britain, Spain and Italy set new average temperature records for 2022, with Europe as a whole enduring its second hottest year ever, Copernicus said in an annual report. — AFP

January 10, 2023

The European Union's climate monitoring service says the last eight years were the warmest on record even with the cooling influence of a La Nina weather pattern since 2020.

Average temperatures across 2022 -- which saw a cascade of unprecedented natural disasters made more likely and deadly by climate change -- make it the fifth warmest year since records began in the 19th century, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Pakistan and northern India were scorched by a two-month spring heatwave with sustained temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), followed in Pakistan by flooding that covered a third of the country, affected 33 million people, and caused some $30 billion in damage and economic losses. — AFP

January 9, 2023

Pakistan will ask Monday for billions in international support towards its recovery from the aftermath of last year's devastating floods and to help it better resist climate change.

To meet the huge needs, Pakistan and the United Nations will co-host an international conference in Geneva, urging countries, organisations and businesses to step up with financial and other support towards a long-term recovery and resilience plan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will kick off the one-day event, which will also feature speeches by a number of heads of state and government.

French President Emmanuel Macron, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will also address the conference via video link.

According to Pakistan's so-called Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework, which it will officially present during Monday's conference, $16.3 billion will be needed in all. — AFP

January 4, 2023

An Italian judge has ruled that three environmental activists who sprayed the Senate with washable paint, sparking anger from Italy's far-right government, must stand trial.

Laura, 26, Davide, 23, and Alessandro, 21, who belong to the Last Generation group and go by their first names, are accused of criminal damage and risk up to three years behind bars.

They were among five climate activists who on Monday used fire extinguishers to spray the front of the upper house of the Italian parliament in Rome with washable orange paint.

They claimed to be responding to the "willingness of political and economic elites to deliberately choose to condemn much of the global population to drought, famine, war and death," Laura said in a statement.

The group wants Italy to invest more in renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. — AFP

January 2, 2023

Cambodian premier Hun Sen on Monday ordered the creation of conservation zones on the Mekong river to protect critically endangered dolphins, after three were killed by fishing nets and lines last month.

The Irrawaddy dolphins, known for their bulging foreheads and short beaks, once swam through much of the mighty Mekong but in recent decades have been limited to a 190-km (118-mile) stretch from northeast Kratie province to the border with Laos.

Their population has been in steady decline since the first census was taken in 1997, dropping from 200 that year to around 90 currently due to habitat loss and destructive fishing practices.

Speaking at a ceremony in Kratie, Hun Sen ordered authorities to set up floating markers around designated protection zones, in which there will be an "absolute ban" on all fishing. 

"The Mekong river, which is home to near-extinct dolphins and fish species, must be well managed so that dolphins will not die from entanglement in gillnets," he said. Gillnets are nets strung across parts of the river to snare fish. — AFP

January 1, 2023

The administration of Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will continue to pursue measures and policies to ensure the availability of cheap and reliable energy through the promotion and utilization of renewable energy (RE) sources.

This was the promise made by the Department of Energy (DOE) in its yearend report which identified major plans for 2023 including updating the Philippine Energy Plan, pursuing contingency measures and activities to ensure energy supply during critical periods, and pushing for the continued development of alternative fuel and improving access to electricity. -- Philippine News Agency

December 27, 2022

13 Thai Eastern Sarus cranes are released over a rippling reservoir in northeast Thailand, the latest effort to revive the almost-extinct species in the kingdom.

More commonly known as Thai cranes, the birds nearly disappeared from the country roughly 50 years ago -- they were last spotted in the wild in 1968 -- before a collaboration between the Thai government, Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo and United Nations to save them.

A breeding programme, using fowl donated by Cambodia, began in 1989, with the first reintroduction in 2011.

Sarus cranes are classed by the ICNC as "vulnerable", with an estimated 15,000 remaining in the wild -- with the Thai sub-species having been thought to have disappeared from Thailand's wild wetlands.

But since 2011, more than 150 captively-bred birds -- which can grow to up to six feet (1.8 metres) and weigh almost seven kilograms (15 pounds) -- have been released in Buriram province.

"It is the only place where the Thai cranes are able to live and reproduce on their own," said Governor Chaiwat Chuntirapong. -- AFP

December 20, 2022

Countries reach a historic deal to reverse decades of environmental destruction threatening the world's species and ecosystems, in what the UN chief hailed as "a peace pact with nature."

After the marathon COP 15 biodiversity summit in Montreal ran into the small hours, chair Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu, declared the deal adopted and banged his gavel, sparking loud applause.

"We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, hailing the accord.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said the deal was a "foundation for global action on biodiversity, complementing the Paris Agreement for Climate." — AFP

December 19, 2022

Countries approved a historic deal to reverse decades of environmental destruction threatening the world's species and ecosystems at a marathon UN biodiversity summit early Monday.

The chair of the COP15 nature summit, Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu, declared the deal adopted at a late-night plenary session in Montreal and struck his gavel, sparking loud applause from assembled delegates.

In doing so he overruled an objection from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had refused to back the text, demanding greater funding for developing countries as part of the accord.

After four years of fraught negotiations, more than 190 other states rallied behind the Chinese-brokered accord aimed at saving the lands, oceans and species from pollution, degradation and the climate crisis.

The deal pledges to secure 30 percent of the planet as a protected zone by 2030 and to stump up $30 billion in yearly conservation aid for the developing world.

Environmentalists have compared the accord to the landmark plan to limit global warming to 1.5C under the Paris agreement, though some earlier warned that it did not go far enough. -- AFP

December 18, 2022

EU member states and parliamentarians on Sunday announced agreement for major reform to the bloc's carbon market, as part of its ambition to reduce emissions and invest in climate-friendly technologies.

The deal aims to accelerate emissions cuts, phase out free allowances to industries and targets fuel emissions from the building and road transport sectors, according to a European Parliament statement. -- AFP

December 18, 2022

Spooked by a historic drought, local authorities in China have renewed controversial plans to dam the country's biggest freshwater lake.

But environmentalists warn damming Poyang Lake, a winter stopover for over half a million birds, would threaten the fragile ecosystem and the endangered birds and other wildlife it supports.

China is currently chairing UN biodiversity talks in Montreal, billed as the "last best chance" to save the planet's species and their habitats from irreversible human destruction.

The Poyang dam, which is slowly recovering after shrinking to less than a third of its usual size, shows how fraught such efforts are in China.

Conservationist Zhang Daqian said that if realised, the 3,000-metre-long sluice gate across one of the lake's channels would cut it off from the river Yangtze, "leaving Poyang a dead lake". -- AFP

December 16, 2022

The world's environment ministers begin the final phase of crunch talks at a UN summit in Montreal aimed at sealing a historic "peace pact with nature." 

New international funding commitments from some wealthy donor countries could help lift the mood after negotiations appeared to be in trouble, though significant work is still needed to drag the deal across the finish line.

At stake is the future of the planet and whether humanity can roll back habitat destruction, pollution and the climate crisis, which are threatening an estimated million plant and animal species with extinction.

The thorny issue of how much money the rich nations will pay lower income countries to preserve their ecosystems is perhaps the biggest sticking point. — AFP

December 15, 2022

Hopes of sealing a historic "peace pact with nature" at a United Nations biodiversity summit will soon rest on the world's environment ministers, arriving in Montreal for the final phase of talks beginning Thursday.

Stark divisions remain to be bridged, foremost among them the subject of how much developed countries will pay the developing to help them save ecosystems, and whether there should be a new, dedicated fund for this purpose. 

At stake is the future of the planet and whether humanity can roll back habitat destruction, pollution and the climate crisis, which are threatening an estimated million species with extinction.

The draft agreement contains more than 20 targets, including a cornerstone pledge to protect 30 percent of the world's land and seas by 2030, eliminate harmful fishing and agriculture subsidies, tackle invasive species and reduce pesticides.

"I hope what we would have at the end of this... is a Paris moment," said Zakri Abdul Hamid, science advisor for the Campaign for Nature, referencing the landmark climate accord that agreed to hold long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. — AFP

December 13, 2022

The world had just eight days to seal a historic deal to stem the destruction of nature. 

But half way into the COP15 biodiversity talks, there has been no major progress either on increased funding for conservation in developing nations, or towards a pledge to protect 30 percent of the world's land and seas.

The general view is that negotiations will get tough on Thursday, when the environment ministers of the 196 members of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will take over from their delegates in Montreal. 

But the chances of ending on December 19 with agreement for an ambitious "peace pact with nature" -- 20 objectives to stop the destruction of water, forests and living things by the end of the decade -- will be undermined if the draft agreement remains as it is now.

Despite long hours put in by the 5,000 delegates since December 3, the text is far behind schedule, weighed down by dozens of points still under negotiation. — AFP

December 12, 2022

The US Department of Energy said Sunday it would announce a "major scientific breakthrough" this week, after media reported a federal laboratory had recently achieved a major milestone in nuclear fusion research.

The Financial Times reported Sunday that scientists in the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) had achieved a "net energy gain" from an experimental fusion reactor.

That would represent the first time that researchers have successfully produced more energy in a fusion reaction -- the same type that powers the Sun -- than was consumed during the process, a potentially major step in the pursuit of zero-carbon power.

Energy Department and LLNL spokespeople told AFP they could not comment or provide confirmation regarding the FT report, but said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm would "announce a major scientific breakthrough" on Tuesday.

The LLNL spokesperson added that their "analysis is still ongoing." — AFP

December 8, 2022

The UK government on Wednesday granted planning permission for a controversial new coal mine in the north of England, the first to be built in decades.

The project in Cumbria, northwestern England, has long faced outcry from environmental campaigners and the decision to grant permission was slammed by Greenpeace as "climate hypocrisy".

The government said Levelling Up minister Michael Gove "has decided to grant planning permission" for the project, which will seek to be net zero in its operations.

The minister said he was satisfied that "there is currently a UK and European market for the coal" and "it is highly likely that a global demand would remain". — AFP

December 7, 2022

High-stakes UN biodiversity talks open in Montreal Wednesday, in what is being billed as the "last best chance" to save the planet's species and ecosystems from irreversible human destruction.

Delegates from across the world gathered for the December 7-19 meeting to try to hammer out a new deal for nature: a 10-year framework aimed at saving the planet's forests, oceans and species before it's too late. 

"With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction," UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday at a ceremony ahead of talks.

Before he took the dais, a group of around half a dozen Indigenous protesters interrupted a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a sign of the passions inflamed by biodiversity loss among the most impacted communities.

The official opening of the meeting, known as COP15, follows several days of pre-negotiations that saw very little progress on key issues, sparking fears parties may walk away without a good deal. — AFP

December 6, 2022

Restoring islands devastated by invasive species and helping coastal "connectors" like seabirds boosts nature on land and at sea -- and may be a new way to increase resilience to climate change, researchers said Monday. 

A group of experts and scientists from across the world reviewed thousands of studies to build a picture of island health to map out new strategies for protecting their often unique and threatened species. 

They found that removing invasive species and restoring island ecosystems on land can also have significant benefits to underwater environments.

That is largely thanks to the role played by "connector species" such as seabirds, seals and land crabs, which transfer nutrients from oceans to islands and vice versa, said the paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The report comes as delegates for nearly 200 countries prepare to tease out a new blueprint to save nature from destruction wrought by humans, including key proposals for preserving 30 percent of land and sea, and bringing indigenous rights to the centre of conservation.  — AFP

December 2, 2022

At LanzaTech's lab in the Chicago suburbs, a beige liquid bubbles away in dozens of glass vats.

The concoction includes billions of hungry bacteria, specialized to feed on polluted air -- the first step in a recycling system that converts greenhouse gases into usable products.

Thanks to licensing agreements, LanzaTech's novel microorganisms are already being put to commercial use by three Chinese factories, converting waste emissions into ethanol.

That ethanol is then used as a chemical building block for consumer items such as plastic bottles, athletic wear and even dresses, via tie-ins with major brands such as Zara and L'Oreal.

"I wouldn't have thought that 14 years later, we would have a cocktail dress on the market that's made out of steel emissions," said microbiologist Michael Kopke, who joined LanzaTech a year after its founding. — AFP

November 30, 2022

Swiss forest ranger Francois Villard fears the tree will not withstand global warming and live to a ripe old age like its ancestors.

The Risoud Forest, covering the border between France and Switzerland some 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) up in the Jura mountains, is filled with spruce trees which are hundreds of years old.

Their wood is perfect for crafting acoustic guitars, violins and other string instruments, making it sought after by luthiers around the world. — AFP

November 29, 2022

Australia's Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of "in danger" World Heritage sites, according to UN experts who warned the fading wonder has been "significantly impacted" by climate change.

A UNESCO-tasked report said on Monday warming seas and agricultural pollution had put the reef at risk and that its resilience had been "substantially compromised".

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia's premier tourist drawcards and putting it on the in-danger list could substantially tarnish its allure for international visitors. 

UNESCO considered listing the reef after a damning report in 2021 but held off following intense lobbying from Australia's previous conservative government.

It first raised the alarm about the reef's deterioration in 2010.  -- AFP

November 28, 2022

A British start-up founded by two ex-students from France and Spain, crafting biodegradable packaging from marine plants, is aiming to seal royal approval this week when Prince William unveils his latest Earthshot prizes.

Notpla — whose mantra is "we make packaging disappear" — is competing with 14 other firms for five prestigious awards, to be dished out by the prince and a star-studded cast at a ceremony in US city Boston on Friday.

In its second year, the initiative to reward innovative efforts to combat climate change will then be broadcast on UK and US television on Sunday and Monday, respectively, as well as online.

The five winners will each receive a £1 million ($1.2 million) grant. 

The co-creator of Notpla, which rather than using environmentally damaging plastics makes various naturally degrading — and even edible — packaging from seaweed and other marine plants, says they have already felt the competition's benefits.

"Just being there is a massive boost to our visibility," French co-founder Pierre Paslier, 35, told AFP. — AFP

November 25, 2022

The Canadian government on Thursday unveiled a CAN$1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion) plan to help the country deal with the looming dangers of a warming world, such as floods, wildfires and extreme heat.

The so-called climate adaptation strategy will fund programs to help Canadians shield themselves from heat waves, protect coastlines from rising seas and safeguard infrastructure, including in the far north, which is facing the thaw of permafrost, officials said.

"Climate change is hitting all communities right across Canada," Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told a news conference from Prince Edward Island, a province hit hard by Hurricane Fiona in September.

The storm -- said to be the costliest to hit Canada's Atlantic coast -- was just a taste of what's to come, according to the government, which forecasts annual costs of natural disasters in Canada to rise to Can$15.4 billion by 2030.

"We are seeing in the last few years, not just in Canada but around the world, an increase in the frequency and severity of climate related events," said Blair, citing extreme weather events that killed hundreds and devastated communities across the country. — AFP

November 24, 2022

An environmental watchdog says fine particle air pollution led to 238,000 premature deaths in the European Union in 2020, a slight rise from the previous year.

Across the 27-nation bloc that year, "exposure to concentrations of fine particulate matter above the 2021 World Health Organization guideline level resulted in 238,000 premature deaths," the European Environment Agency says in a new report.

That was slightly more than those recorded in 2019 in the EU, despite a fall in emissions due to COVID-19 curbs. — AFP

November 23, 2022

Climate change will end up killing people by fuelling infectious diseases, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria says.

Executive director Peter Sands says that in 2022, the fund had witnessed the "escalating impact" of climate change on health.

While upsurges in malaria had hitherto been seen due to the increasing frequency and devastation of tropical storms, "with the flooding in Pakistan it was taken to a completely different scale", he says. — AFP

November 19, 2022

Australia hopes to host the 2026 COP summit, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says, seeking to overhaul his country's reputation for foot-dragging on climate change.

"It is a good opportunity, I believe, for Australia to show and to host what is a major global event," Albanese says during a visit to Bangkok.

Centre-left Albanese was swept to power this year on a wave of popular anger about the pro-fossil fuel stance of Australia's decade-old conservative government. — AFP 

November 18, 2022

Hong Kong's controversial shark fin trade may face its biggest shakeup in years if conservationists get their way in securing tighter regulations at an international wildlife conference in Panama.

The city is one of the world's largest markets for shark fin, which is viewed by many Chinese communities as a delicacy and often served as a soup at expensive banquets.

While domestic consumption has shrunk after years of activist campaigning, Hong Kong remains a vital trade hub for shark fins -- both legal and illegal -- headed for the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia.

"Last year, over 90 percent of shark fin imports in Hong Kong were re-exported, and a major market is mainland China," said Loby Hau, oceans sustainability assistant manager at WWF-Hong Kong. — AFP

November 17, 2022

Heavy rains behind deadly floods that killed over 600 people in Nigeria this year were about 80 times likelier because of human-caused climate change, scientists say in a report.

The floods that mainly struck Nigeria, but also hit Niger, Chad and neighbouring countries, displaced over 1.4 million people in total and swept away tens of thousands of homes and swathes of farmland, devastating a region already vulnerable to food insecurity.

In a study, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) found that exceptional rains which sparked flooding from June to October were around 80 times likelier because of "human-caused climate change". — AFP

November 14, 2022

Climate activists splashed a viscous liquid over a glass case housing a replica mummy at Barcelona's Egyptian Museum on Sunday in the latest attack targeting cultural exhibits in protest at inaction over global warming.

The two activists doused the case with red and brown gunge from Coca-Cola bottles, also splattering framed images on surrounding walls, according to footage published on the Publico news website.

They then glued their hands beside a nearby exhibit and held up a modified Coca-Cola banner scrawled with the words "climate justice". 

The US drinks giant is one of the official sponsors of the UN's COP27 climate summit in Egypt, a position widely denounced by environmentalists who say the company is behind much of the world's plastic pollution. — AFP

November 13, 2022

Solar panels glint in the sun on a Tunisian lagoon, part of a long-delayed drive to harness the North African country's vast renewable energy potential.

While industry insiders complain of red tape, fossil fuel prices that soared after Russia's February invasion of Ukraine created a powerful incentive for such investments across the Maghreb region.

"Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, each have an abundance of solar energy resources as well as ample wind energy resources," said Michael Tanchum, an expert on the sector. 

"Extreme price pressures on natural gas, especially in Europe, have changed the calculus for investments in renewable energy."

Omar Bey, of French-based renewables developer Qair, hopes the firm's 200-kilowatt floating solar station on a lake next to a Tunis industrial park can be a prototype for bigger projects nationwide.

"Tunisia doesn't have any choice but to go for renewables, given the situation around hydrocarbons and particularly gas," he said, adding that innovations like floating solar stations could help. 

Being on reservoirs or lakes helps cool the panels, making them more efficient, and "means we can use water instead of taking up land that can be used for other things like farming or homes," Bey said. — AFP

November 9, 2022

Climate protesters glue their hands to the transparent covers of Andy Warhol's famous "Campbell's Soup" screen prints at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

The protest by a group calling itself "Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies Australia" was the latest in a series of climate demonstrations targeting famous artworks around the world.

The two protesters also scrawled graffiti across the covers of the prints, which were removed for cleaning but were not damaged, according to the gallery.

"A protest has taken place at the National Gallery of Australia following similar incidents here and overseas," the organization says in a statement. 

"The National Gallery does not wish to promote these actions and has no further comment." — AFP

November 7, 2022

Despite Vietnam's solar boom and ambitious climate targets, the fast-growing economy is struggling to quit dirty energy -- leaving one of the world's biggest coal power programmes largely intact.

During the COP26 climate summit last year, the government boldly promised to end the construction of new coal plants and phase out the dirtiest of those already running, even as energy demands soar in the manufacturing powerhouse.

"But this is not actually what Vietnam is doing at a national level," Nandini Das, an energy research and policy analyst at Climate Analytics, tells AFP.

Vietnam pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but with coal and gas still a major part of its energy mix one year later, that commitment is on shaky ground, she says. 

The authoritarian communist state has also jailed four green activists this year, including anti-coal campaigner Nguy Thi Khanh, alarming environmentalists who argue it will be even harder for Vietnam to banish dirty energy without them. 

"With the climate leaders in prison I think there's grave doubt about the country's ability to achieve its goals," says Michael Sutton, director of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. — AFP

November 3, 2022

Smog in New Delhi hit "hazardous" levels on Thursday as smoke from thousands of crop fires in northern India combined with other pollutants to create a noxious grey cocktail enveloping the megacity.

Levels of the most dangerous particles — PM2.5, so tiny they can enter the bloodstream — were 588 per cubic metre early on Thursday morning, according to monitoring firm IQAir.

That is almost 40 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization. IQAir rated overall pollution levels as "hazardous".

"This is really the worst time to be out in Delhi. One never wakes up fresh with this pollution," policeman Hem Raj, 42, told AFP.

"The body feels tired and lethargic in the mornings... The eyes are always watery and throat scratchy after spending hours on the Delhi roads," he said.

Every winter, cooler air, smoke from farmers burning stubble, and emissions from vehicles and other sources combine to create a deadly smog reducing visibility in the city of 20 million people. — AFP

November 3, 2022

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has blamed deforestation and climate change for the devastating landslides in Bangsamoro during the onslaught of Tropical Storm Paeng.

He has urged local authorities to plant trees on denuded mountains.

"That's one thing that we need to do," Marcos told a briefing this week. 

"We have been hearing this over and over again, but we still continue cutting trees. That's what happens, landslides like that happen."  

Marcos has declared a state of calamity for six months in the worst-affected regions, freeing up funds for relief efforts. 

Scientists have warned that deadly and destructive storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change. — AFP

November 3, 2022

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warns, urging leaders to act fast to save the rest.

The warning followed a study of 18,600 glaciers at 50 World Heritage sites -- covering around 66,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) -- which found glaciers at a third of the sites were "condemned to disappear".

The study "shows these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures", UNESCO says.

The glaciers were losing 58 billion tonnes of ice every year, equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain, and were responsible for nearly five percent of observed global sea-level rise, the agency explains.

"Glaciers in a third of the 50 World Heritage sites are condemned to disappear by 2050, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases," UNESCO says. — AFP

November 2, 2022

Colombia's president decreed a national disaster Tuesday after record-breaking rainfalls killed more than 200 people in recent months.

Rain levels recorded in 2022 so far have been "the highest in the last 40 years," he told reporters in Bogota before departing for Venezuela for a meeting with his counterpart Nicolas Maduro.

Resultant flooding killed 266 people, Petro said, while crop losses aggravated rising food inflation.

He pointed to climate change and the cyclical La Nina weather system for the record rains. — AFP

October 31, 2022

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates say the world needs higher oil production on Monday, just days before the COP27 climate summit aimed at curbing global warming.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister says the neighbouring Gulf countries were increasing production capacity, while a senior UAE official says the world's growing population would need 30 percent more energy by 2050.

Both insist that oil remains a cornerstone of energy supply, but said they were working to lower emissions and increase production from renewable or less-polluting sources.

"We and the UAE are increasing our production capacity. We and the UAE are increasing our refining," Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman tells the ADIPEC oil conference in Abu Dhabi.

"We and the UAE are going to be the exemplary producer: hydrocarbon producer, but also achieve all the sustainability goals," he adds. — AFP

October 31, 2022

Two environmental activists glued themselves to an exhibition of a dinosaur skeleton at Berlin's Natural History Museum on Sunday to protest the German government's climate policies.

It was the latest such stunt by climate campaigners at a museum, after famous artworks were targeted in different ways across Europe.

In Berlin, two women wearing orange vests stuck themselves to metal poles supporting a dinosaur skeleton that was over 60 million years old, holding a banner that read: "What if the government doesn't have it under control?"

One of the women, Caris Connell, said she was scared of "forest fires, water shortages, famines, and war.

"Dinosaurs died out, because they could not withstand massive changes to the climate. That is also threatening us," added the 34-year-old. — AFP

October 27, 2022

The United States backs addressing the loss and damage suffered by developing countries due to global warming at upcoming international climate negotiations, US climate envoy John Kerry says.

The countries most vulnerable to climate change are also those that contribute the least to it, and they are demanding financial compensation specifically for what is known as loss and damage in Earth's climate crisis.

This issue is likely to be one of the hottest subjects of debate at UN climate talks known as COP27 opening November 6 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The 2015 Paris climate accord says signatories must try harder to address loss and damage, Kerry tells a news conference.

"Now we have to go the next level and get engaged in a serious dialogue about how the world is going to deal with loss and damage," Kerry says. — AFP

October 26, 2022

NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate, have identified more than 50 spots around the world emitting major levels of methane, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.

"Reining in methane emissions is key to limiting global warming," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release on Tuesday.

"This exciting new development will not only help researchers better pinpoint where methane leaks are coming from, but also provide insight on how they can be addressed -- quickly."

NASA said its Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) is designed to foster understanding of the effects of airborne dust on climate. — AFP

October 24, 2022

Generations of Rahim Buksh's ancestors have labored in the rice paddies and wheat fields surrounding Pakistan's hottest city, no strangers to intense summers or monsoon rains.

But this year Jacobabad lurched from record heatwaves in May to an unprecedented deluge of rain in August that drowned crops.

The floods forced tens of thousands of people to flee for makeshift camps and relatives' homes, leaving them doubting the future of farm work despite their deep connection to the land.

"We would move to the cities and take up manual labor work if somebody helped us to get out of here," said Buksh, whose mud-brick home was flooded, like much of the surrounding farmland.

Even before the destruction, Jacobabad and dozens of nearby villages were crippled by poor infrastructure.

Most of the district's million-plus population are itinerant farm workers, earning a daily wage tending crops for major landowners.

Poverty, debt and the unequal distribution of land have made their livelihoods precarious, but the rise of extreme weather events linked to climate change has deepened the insecurity. — AFP

October 24, 2022

Plastic recycling rates are declining even as production shoots up, according to a Greenpeace USA report out Monday that blasted industry claims of creating an efficient, circular economy as "fiction."

Titled "Circular Claims Fall Flat Again," the study found that of 51 million tons of plastic waste generated by US households in 2021, only 2.4 million tons were recycled, or around five percent.

After peaking in 2014 at 10 percent, the trend has been decreasing, especially since China stopped accepting the West's plastic waste in 2018. 

Virgin production -- of non-recycled plastic, that is -- meanwhile is rapidly rising as the petrochemical industry expands, lowering costs. — AFP

October 24, 2022

Eco-activists on Sunday splashed mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet painting in a German museum, days after Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" in London was hit by tomato soup.

Publishing a video of the action on Twitter, the environmental protest group Last Generation wrote: "If it takes a painting –- with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown at it -– to make society remember that the fossil fuel course is killing us all: Then we'll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!"

The work, "Les Meules" (Haystacks), hangs in the Museum Barberini in Potsdam and is part of billionaire Hasso Plattner's collection. It is on permanent loan to the museum.

The painting fetched $111 million at an auction in 2019 -- the highest sum paid for a Monet. — AFP

October 23, 2022

Months without rain have left farmers across the vast US Midwest, part of the country's essential "breadbasket," seeing crop yields in freefall, with some fields too damaged to harvest.

At the 4,000-acre (1,600-hectare) Tucker Farms in Venango, Nebraska, "we were only able to harvest... around 500" acres, most of it wheat, said Rachel Tucker.

Much of the rest had shriveled up under a relentlessly hot sun.

The drought has attracted grasshoppers, which threatened the flowers the Tuckers also grow -- until they brought in praying mantises to control the winged pests.

If the American West has been suffering through water shortages for years, the Midwest has not seen conditions this bad since 2012.

"It's even worse than 2012," said Tucker. "Much worse."

Her husband, whose grandfather farmed these same fields, says things have not been this bad since the so-called Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. — AFP

October 22, 2022

France's foreign minister voiced alarm Friday over a massive US climate spending package, saying it risked unfair competition, but said Europe did not want a green trade war.

Parts of President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which will pump $370 billion into green energy, "from our point of view impact the level playing field between the US and European actors," Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Her remarks echo German and French economic ministers who this week at a meeting in Berlin called for a strong response from the European Union against state support for US green businesses.

But asked if the tensions could fuel another trade rift along the lines of the long Boeing vs. Airbus showdown, Colonna said, "We are certainly not looking for any war." — AFP

October 20, 2022

Conflict, coups, dire poverty: Sudan is reeling from multiple crises, but environmental activist Nisreen Elsaim warns a bigger problem dwarfs them all -- climate change.

A determined climate campaigner for nearly a decade, both at home and on the world stage, she speaks passionately of the growing threat a heating planet poses to her northeast African nation.

"Climate change needs to be prioritised in Sudan," 27-year-old Elsaim said, speaking weeks before the COP27 climate conference starts in neighbouring Egypt.

Elsaim -- who joined the protests which toppled longtime president Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and now favours a return to civilian rule following a military coup in 2021 -- argues that urgent environmental action must go hand in hand with political change. — AFP

October 18, 2022

Two UK climate protesters scaled a major road bridge over the River Thames on Monday causing huge traffic delays, days after activists threw tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" masterpiece.

The Just Stop Oil protesters climbed more than 80 metres (260 feet) up one of the towers of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which is used by an estimated 160,000 vehicles a day and links up to one of Europe's busiest motorways.

One activist said he was protesting because government policies were accelerating the climate emergency.

The closure caused major delays for motorists for whom the bridge, known as the Dartford Crossing, is the only way to cross the Thames to the east of London.

"Two people climbed up onto high cables early this morning," Essex Police said on Twitter.

"The QEII bridge is closed to allow us to resolve the situation as safely as possible."  -- AFP

October 17, 2022

Two UK climate protesters scaled a major road bridge over the River Thames on Monday causing huge traffic delays, days after activists threw tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" masterpiece.

The Just Stop Oil protesters climbed more than 80 metres (260 feet) up one of the towers of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which is used by an estimated 160,000 vehicles a day and links up to one of Europe's busiest motorways.

One activist said he was protesting because government policies were accelerating the climate emergency.

The closure caused major delays for motorists for whom the bridge, known as the Dartford Crossing, is the only way to cross the Thames to the east of London.

"Two people climbed up onto high cables early this morning," Essex Police said on Twitter.

"The QEII bridge is closed to allow us to resolve the situation as safely as possible."  -- AFP

October 17, 2022

As the UN steps up calls to make the switch to renewable energy to fight the global climate emergency, Portugal is among the first European Union countries to abandon coal.

It will share the lessons it has learned so far at November's COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt. —  AFP

October 16, 2022

Steve Lang can see catastrophic erosion worsened by climate change happening in real time along one of the world's most scenic railroad lines, where the sea is swallowing homes, tracks and California's beautiful beaches.

"Every day I come here and watch this, and it makes me want to cry," the 68-year-old tells AFP on rail tracks he crosses to go surfing.

Powerful waves wash in from the Pacific over the rails where the "Pacific Surfliner" runs, ferrying sightseers through the stunning coastal landscapes of southern California.

Not long ago, the railway was cushioned by hundreds of feet (tens of meters) of golden sand. But violent southern swells have washed that sand away.

With the beach gone, there was nothing to protect the rails from the fury of Tropical Storm Kay as it lashed the coast in September, eating away at the land on which they stood.

The track, which carries 8.3 million passengers annually between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, is now closed for emergency work. -- AFP

October 13, 2022

Wild populations of monitored animal species have plummeted nearly 70 percent in the last 50 years, according to a landmark assessment released Thursday that highlights "devastating" losses to nature due to human activity.

Featuring data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, the WWF Living Planet Index shows accelerating falls across the globe.

In biodiversity-rich regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure for animal population loss is as high as 94 percent.

Globally, the report found that monitored animal populations had fallen 69 percent since 1970. — AFP

October 12, 2022

Australia's world-beating mining firms are flush with cash and desperate for staff but green-minded workers are shunning the high-paying sector, causing serious staff shortages, the government warns.

Australia's Resources Minister Madeleine King -- who oversees the more than US$200 billion-a-year industry -- says the mining sector was "stretched" and badly needs to reform and shake its sooty image.

"There is a major problem in attracting and retaining skilled workers," she tells business people in mineral-rich Western Australia.

"A big barrier to attracting these workers is the attitude many young Australians hold towards the resources industry." — AFP

October 11, 2022

About 500 pilot whales have died in mass strandings on New Zealand's remote Chatham Islands, the government said Tuesday after ruling out a rescue effort in the area's shark-filled waters.

Two "super pods" of the dolphin-related cetaceans beached on two islands in the remote chain and survivors were euthanised, according to the Department of Conservation.

On Friday, 250 beached pilot whales were found at Chatham Island, and then three days later another 240 were reported on Pitt Island, the government said.

The locations — far from the New Zealand mainland — made a rescue operation impossible, authorities said.

"Due to the risk of shark attack to both humans and the whales, the surviving whales were euthanised by our trained team to prevent further suffering," Dave Lundquist, a government technical marine advisor, told AFP. 

"This decision is never taken lightly, but in cases like this it is the kindest option."

The bodies will be left to decompose naturally on site. — AFP

October 6, 2022

A month before Egypt hosts the UN climate change conference, Cairo is finalising the list of world leaders coming as it weathers criticism over its human rights and environmental records.

Cairo voiced disappointment that King Charles III, a long-time champion of the environment, cancelled a plan to attend and speak at COP27 after Britain's Prime Minister Liss Truss reportedly objected.

"We hope this does not signal Britain stepping back from the global climate change movement" after it chaired last year's COP in Glasgow, a COP spokesman was quoted as saying by the Guardian daily.

Egypt will from November 6 host the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Critics have questioned the choice of venue, pointing to Egypt's mixed record on the environment and on civil rights, with thousands of dissidents in jail, including Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has been on a hunger strike for months. — AFP

October 5, 2022

Electricity generation from fossil fuels would have risen by four percent if not for boosts in wind, solar and hydropower as the world's energy demand grew in the first half of 2022, a study found.

Renewable energy sources are seen as crucial in global efforts to combat climate change, with huge falls in the unit costs of wind and solar helping to speed their move into the mainstream. 

But with global electricity demand continuing to grow, increases in renewables are so far acting to limit the amount that the world turns to fossil fuels to meet those extra needs. 

In its new analysis, energy think tank Ember compared data from the first six months of the year -- which included the Russian invasion of Ukraine -- and the beginnings of the international energy crisis. 

It found that global electricity demand grew by 389 terawatt hours (TWh) in the first half of 2022, while together wind, solar and hydro increased by 416 TWh. — AFP

October 4, 2022

Warning "no-one will escape" a worsening crisis, DR Congo leads calls on Monday for a surge in funding to brake global heating and fight its impacts at the start of pre-COP27 climate talks in Kinshasa. 

The haggle comes ahead of COP27 -- the UN's 27th summit-level gathering on climate change, which is due to take place in Egypt next month. 

At opening ceremonies in the DRC's parliament building, Congolese Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba calls on countries to respect financial pledges and endorse plans to help compensate climate-inflicted damage.

She adds that money to protect carbon-absorbing rain forests -- of which the DRC has vast tracts -- should be viewed not as aid but as an investment in humanity's future.

"Unless a global effort is made... no-one will escape," Bazaiba warns. "We all breathe the same air." — AFP

October 3, 2022

Environment ministers from about 50 countries will gather in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday for a "pre-COP27" climate summit, with rich nations likely to come under pressure to raise spending to combat climate change.

The talks in the DRC's capital, Kinshasa, are informal but meant to allow various countries and green groups to take stock of political positions ahead of COP27 -- the United Nations climate gathering of world leaders in Egypt next month.

An opening ceremony will take place in the Congolese parliament building in Kinshasa, followed by discussions on mitigating climate change, and providing funding for countries already damaged by global heating and severe weather events. 

Delegates from about 50 countries are expected to attend the talks, including United States climate envoy John Kerry. — AFP

October 2, 2022

King Charles III will not travel to next month's COP27 climate summit in Egypt after UK Prime Minister Liz Truss "objected" to the avid environmentalist attending, a report late Saturday said.

Britain's new monarch, who took the throne when his mother Queen Elizabeth II died last month, had intended to deliver a speech at the November 6-18 gathering, the Sunday Times reported.

But the plan has been axed after Truss — who was only appointed prime minister by the late queen two days before she died — opposed it during a personal audience with Charles at Buckingham Palace last month.

The report comes amid speculation Britain's new leader, already under fire over her economic plans which have sparked market turmoil, could controversially scale back the country's climate change commitments. — AFP

September 30, 2022

British wildlife groups and campaigners have hit out at government's plans to ditch legislation covering pesticide use, as part of a drive to remove EU laws after Brexit.

The government in London said it will scratch 570 environmental laws from the statute book, after they were rolled over from Britain's time in the European Union.

On Wednesday, popular wildlife television presenter Steve Backshall joined a chorus of opposition, warning that overturning laws on pesticides could have a deadly effect on bee populations and river pollution.

"In recent times increasing pesticide use has caused localised extinctions of bee populations and has make our rivers toxic, this is a time for our government to protect wildlife and people from pesticide harm," he adds.

"I would urge our new government to reconsider removing pesticide regulation," added Backshall, who s also heads insect conservation group Buglife. — AFP

September 27, 2022

A fundamentally flawed study claiming that scientific evidence of a climate crisis is lacking should be withdrawn from the peer-reviewed journal in which it was published, top climate scientists have told AFP.

Appearing earlier this year in The European Physical Journal Plus, published by Springer Nature journal, the study purports to review data on possible changes in the frequency or intensity of rainfall, cyclones, tornadoes, droughts and other extreme weather events.

It has been viewed thousands of times on social media and cited by some mainstream media, such as Sky News Australia.

"On the basis of observation data, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, in not evident," reads the summary of the 20-page study.

Four prominent climate scientists contacted by AFP all said the study -- of which they had been unaware -- grossly manipulates data, cherry picking some facts and ignoring others that would contradict their discredited assertions.  -- AFP

September 27, 2022

Governments around the world must scale up climate action "or face further legal action", an open letter from campaign groups warns, as battles over policies to cut emissions and protect the environment are increasingly fought in the courts.

From legal efforts to steer governments to do more to curb fossil fuel pollution, to court action over companies' misleading green claims, the number, scope and ambitions of climate litigation is expanding, say experts, with an increasing number of cases are being launched against governments. 

And that will continue if they do not use the upcoming United Nations COP meeting in Egypt to substantially enhance their climate action, according to an open letter signed by lawyers from more than 20 organisations around the world. — AFP

September 25, 2022

A United Nations watchdog has ruled that Australia violated the rights of indigenous people by failing to adequately protect them against the effects of climate change, ordering Canberra to pay compensation.

In a ground-breaking decision, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favour of indigenous Torres Islanders who had filed a complaint against Australia over its failure to adapt to climate change.

The Islanders had pointed to measures such as failure to upgrade seawalls on their islands or to cut greenhouse gas emissions. — AFP

September 25, 2022

Australia violated the rights of indigenous people by failing to adequately protect them against the effects of climate change, a United Nations watchdog has ruled, ordering Canberra to pay compensation.

In a ground-breaking decision, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favour of indigenous Torres Islanders who had filed a complaint against Australia over its failure to adapt to climate change.

The Islanders had pointed to measures such as failure to upgrade seawalls on their islands or to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Australia's failure to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home," the committee said in its decision issued on Friday.

Eight Australian nationals and six of their children -- all indigenous inhabitants of Boigu, Poruma, Warraber and Masig, four small, low-lying islands in Australia's Torres Strait region -- filed the complaint in 2019. -- AFP

September 22, 2022

The United Nations chief says it was time for "meaningful action" on the issue of compensation for damage wrought by the climate crisis, especially in developing countries.

Ahead of the forthcoming COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi -- the latter appearing by video link -- co-hosted a meeting of world leaders for "frank exchanges" on climate action.

"My messages were stark," Guterres tells reporters at the UN General Assembly following the meeting.

"On the climate emergency: The 1.5-degrees limit is on life support –- and it is fading fast," he says, referring to the Paris accord goal of limiting long-term warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. 

"You have all seen the appalling images from (flooding in) Pakistan. This is happening at just 1.2 degrees of global warming, and we are headed for over three degrees." — AFP

September 20, 2022

Australian mining giant Fortescue says it is putting aside US$6.2 billion to wean itself off fossil fuels by the end of the decade, hoping to gain a head start on competitors.

The Perth-headquartered company told investors that a goal of achieving zero emissions on mining iron ore operations by 2030 would come with a hefty price tag, but insisted it still made business sense.

"We must accelerate our transition to the post-fossil fuel era," says executive chairman Andrew Forrest, promising decarbonisation would lower costs and offer a better return for shareholders in the long term.

The company estimates that it can cut three million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year, and save almost a billion dollars on fuel and carbon credits. — AFP

September 20, 2022

A lack of international collaboration risks undermining efforts to decarbonise polluting sectors and could lead to decades of delay on the road towards net zero emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

At last November's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, 45 countries vowed to work together on the deployment of green tech across a variety of sectors including electricity, transport and agriculture. 

Against the backdrop of surging energy prices and the threat of a global food crisis, the IEA urges nations to use the coming COP27 meeting in Egypt to "accelerate progress towards net zero emissions by decades, cut energy costs and boost food security for billions of people worldwide".

Greater coordination between countries would make key green technologies cheaper for developing nations to deploy at scale, the IEA says. — AFP 

September 18, 2022

China has stepped up spending on coal in the face of extreme weather, a domestic energy crunch and rising global fuel prices -- raising concerns Beijing's policies may hinder the fight against climate change.

The country is the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases driving global warming, and President Xi Jinping has vowed to reduce coal use from 2026 as part of a broad set of climate promises.

Beijing has committed to peaking its carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

Overall carbon emissions in China have fallen for four consecutive quarters on the back of an economic slowdown, research reported by climate monitor Carbon Brief showed in early September.

But at the same time, slowing growth has led authorities to rely on smokestack industries in an effort to boost the economy. -- AFP

September 15, 2022

The UN chief makes an urgent appeal to world leaders to act on climate change and "lower the temperature" so as not to "drown" the world, after visiting flood-hit Pakistan.

"I have just returned from Pakistan, where I looked through a window into the future -- a future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells a news conference days before dozens of global leaders were due to arrive in New York for the UN General Assembly High-Level Week. 

"What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it." — AFP

September 13, 2022

Paris will start switching off the ornamental lights that grace city monuments hours earlier than usual, plunging the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks in the dark to cope with surging electricity costs, officials said Tuesday.

Most monuments operated by the city will now go unlit from 10:00 pm, (2000 GMT), a potential disappointment for the tens of millions of tourists to the romantic City of Lights.

The Eiffel Tower, usually bathed in a warm glow until 1:00 am, and which comes ablaze with dazzling white lights every hour, will now go dark after the last visitor leaves, at 11:45 pm.

But streets lights will remain on for security, as will the illuminations of the city's ornate bridges over the Seine river, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said at a press conference.

The "energy sobriety" plan aims to cut energy use by 10 percent, said Hidalgo, which could help soften the blow of rising costs by some 10 million euros ($10.2 million).

Hidalgo, a Socialist who played up her efforts to green Paris during a failed presidential run earlier this year, said she would also push the government to do the same for national monuments in the city, such as the Pantheon or the Arc de Triomphe. — AFP

September 10, 2022

The leaders of two dozen African countries urge wealthier nations to uphold their aid pledges so the continent can tackle climate change impacts for which it shares little blame.

They made the call after African leaders on Monday lashed out at industrialised nations for failing to show up to a summit in the Netherlands on helping African nations adapt to these changes.

We urge "developed countries to fulfil their pledges in relation to climate and development finance, and deliver on their commitments to double adaptation finance, in particular to Africa," the 24 leaders say in a statement as they wrapped up an international conference in Cairo.

The three-day forum came two months before Egypt hosts the crucial COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. — AFP

September 9, 2022

"There's nothing left here," sighs Javier Franch as he shakes the heavy rope of mussels he's just pulled to the surface in northeastern Spain. They are all dead. 

With the country hit by a long and brutal heatwave this summer, the water temperature in the Ebro Delta, the main mussels production area of the Spanish Mediterranean, is touching 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

And any grower who hasn't removed their molluscs in time will have lost everything. 

But that's not the worst of it: most of next year's crop has also died in one of the most intense marine heatwaves in the Spanish Mediterranean.

By the end of July, experts said the western Mediterranean was experiencing an "exceptional" marine heatwave, with persistently hotter-than-normal temperatures posing a threat to the entire marine ecosystem. — AFP

September 7, 2022

More frequent and intense heatwaves and wildfires driven by climate change are expected to worsen the quality of the air we breathe, harming human health and ecosystems, the UN warns.

A new report from the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) cautions that the interaction between pollution and climate change would impact hundreds of millions of people over the coming century, and urged action to rein in the harm.

The WMO's annual Air Quality and Climate Bulletin examined the impacts of large wildfires across Siberia and western North America in 2021, finding that they produced widespread increases in health hazards, with concentrations in eastern Siberia reaching "levels not observed before".

Tiny particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) are considered particularly harmful since they can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system.

"As the globe warms, wildfires and associated air pollution are expected to increase, even under a low emissions scenario," WMO chief Petteri Taalas says in a statement — AFP

September 5, 2022

Engineers breached Pakistan's biggest freshwater lake to drain water threatening nearby towns, officials said Monday, as heavy rain poured misery on millions affected by the country's worst floods in history.

Nearly a third of Pakistan is under water — an area the size of the United Kingdom — following months of record monsoon rains that have killed 1,300 people and washed away homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

Officials say the repair bill will top $10 billion for a country already in the grip of economic crisis, with hundreds of thousands homeless as the monsoon draws to an end and winter approaches.

"There is nowhere to shower or go to the bathroom," said Zebunnisa Bibi, sheltering near Fazilpur, in Punjab province, where 65 tents are now home to more than 500 people who fled their inundated villages for higher land. 

Similar tent camps have mushroomed across much of the south and west of Pakistan, where rain has nowhere to drain because rivers are already in full flow as a result of torrential downpours in the north.

Sindh province Information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon told AFP Monday that engineers had to cut a channel into Lake Manchar to drain water that was threatening the towns of Sehwan and Bhan Saeedabad, with a combined population of nearly half a million. — AFP

August 31, 2022

Group of 20 chair Indonesia warns environment officials from the world's leading economies Wednesday they must act together to combat a warming planet or risk plunging it into "uncharted territory".

The call came at a one-day meeting on the resort island of Bali, at the end of a month in which more than 1,000 people died in Pakistan from flooding blamed on climate change and a crippling drought exacerbated by a record heat wave spread across half of China.

In opening remarks, Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar tells delegates "global environmental problems require global solutions", otherwise the planet could end up in a situation "where no future will be sustainable".

"We cannot hide from the fact that the world is facing increasingly compounding challenges," she says, referencing energy price spikes and global food shortages. 

"We know that climate change could become an amplifier and multiplier of the crises. We cannot solve those global environmental problems on our own." — AFP

August 29, 2022

A huge relief operation was under way Monday and international aid began trickling in as Pakistan struggled to deal with monsoon flooding that has affected more than 33 million people.

Officials said 1,061 people have died since June when the seasonal rains began, but the final toll could be higher as hundreds of villages in the mountainous north have been cut off by flood-swollen rivers washing away roads and bridges.

The annual monsoon is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but it can also bring destruction.

Officials said this year's flooding has affected more than 33 million people -- one in seven Pakistanis -- destroying or badly damaging nearly a million homes.

Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman called it "the monster monsoon of the decade". -- AFP

August 27, 2022

UN member states edge closer to finalizing a treaty to protect the high seas following two weeks of negotiations, but several disputes still needed to be overcome to reach agreement.

After 15 years, including four prior formal sessions, negotiators have yet to reach a legally binding text to address the growing environmental and economic challenges involving international waters -- a zone which encompasses almost half the planet.

Many had hoped that this fifth session, which began on August 15 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, would be the last and yield a final text on "the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction," or BBNJ for short. — AFP

August 25, 2022

A crippling drought exacerbated by a record heat wave has spread out across half of China and reached the normally frigid Tibetan Plateau, according to official data released ahead of more searing temperatures on Thursday.

The world's second-largest economy has been hit by heatwaves, flash floods and droughts -- phenomena that scientists say are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

Southern China has recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago, the agriculture ministry said this week.

Experts have said the intensity, scope and duration of the heatwave could make it one of the worst recorded in global history. -- AFP

August 16, 2022

UN member states resume talks aimed at finally completing a treaty to protect the world's high seas, a vital yet fragile resource that covers nearly half the planet.

A host of NGOs and affected countries say the pact is urgently needed to improve environmental stewardship over the vast, yet largely unregulated area as it faces growing challenges.

But the COVID-19 pandemic slowed negotiations for two years, and a session in March that was supposed to have been conclusive made progress but ran out of time. — AFP

August 15, 2022

After four inconclusive sessions, UN member states resume talks aimed at finally completing a treaty to protect the world's high seas, a vital yet fragile resource that covers nearly half the planet.

A host of NGOs and affected countries say the pact is urgently needed to improve environmental stewardship over the vast, yet largely unregulated, area as it faces growing challenges.

But the Covid-19 pandemic slowed negotiations for two years, and a session in March that was supposed to have been conclusive made progress but ran out of time.

The new round of talks opening Monday is set to run through August 26 at United Nations headquarters in New York. — AFP

August 14, 2022

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed a long a forest track.

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region's forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters. -- AFP

August 5, 2022

The US Senate this weekend will begin debating a major health and climate investment bill, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says, expressing confidence that it will be passed.

The bill, a trimmed version of President Joe Biden's campaign promise, earmarks nearly $370 billion for clean energy projects and climate initiatives, as well as $64 billion to provide secure subsidies for medical coverage and reduce drug prices.

"I expect we will have some late nights and extended debates here on the floor," Schumer says. "But in the end, Democrats are going to make good on our word to pass the Inflation Reduction Act." — AFP

July 31, 2022

Little snow cover and glaciers melting at an alarming rate amid Europe's sweltering heatwaves have put some of the most classic Alpine hiking routes off-limits.

Usually at the height of summer, tourists flock to the Alps and seek out well-trodden paths up to some of Europe's most iconic peaks. 

But with warmer temperatures speeding up glacier melt and thawing permafrost -- which scientists say are driven by climate change -- routes that are usually safe this time of year now face hazards like falling rocks released from the ice.

"Currently in the Alps, there are warnings for around a dozen peaks, including emblematic ones like Matterhorn and Mount Blanc," Pierre Mathey, head of the Swiss mountain guide association, told AFP.

This is happening far earlier in the season than normal, he said.

"Usually we see such closures in August, but now they have started at the end of June and are continuing in July." -- AFP

July 28, 2022

Sea levels are increasing around Britain at a far faster rate than a century ago while the country is warming slightly more than the global average, leading meteorologists said Thursday.

The annual study — the State of the UK Climate 2021 — found recent decades have been "warmer, wetter and sunnier" than the 20th century.  

It comes hot on the heels of temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in England last week for the first time, setting a record at 40.3C.

"This year's report continues to show the impact of global temperature rises on the climate in the UK," the Met Office, the country's meteorological authority, said in a summary. 

It added the findings were "reaffirming that climate change is not just a problem for the future and that it is already influencing the conditions we experience here at home".  — AFP

July 26, 2022

A looming energy crisis has rekindled debate in Germany about the wisdom of shutting down the country's last three nuclear power plants, with even members of the ruling coalition saying an extension is no longer taboo.

The German government on Monday said it would await the outcome of a new "stress test" of the national electric grid before determining whether to stick with the long-promised nuclear phaseout by year's end.

The results are due in the coming weeks and could mark a pivotal moment for Europe's biggest economy, where households and businesses are bracing for a difficult winter.

The war in Ukraine has sent energy costs soaring and Russia has been squeezing gas deliveries to Europe, thwarting German efforts to fill stores before the cold weather arrives and raising the prospect of emergency energy-saving measures.

It is a dramatically different picture from earlier this year, when an initial stress test in March found that Germany's remaining nuclear power plants were not needed to ensure energy security. -- AFP

July 20, 2022

Greenpeace says China has ramped up approvals for new coal power plants this year with authorities trying to lower the risk of economically painful electricity shortages.

China is the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases driving global warming, and President Xi Jinping last year vowed to phase down coal use from 2026 as part of an ambitious set of national climate commitments.

But campaigners fear those targets are under threat with the government focused on economic challenges, even as the deadly impact of climate change is felt around the world. — AFP

July 20, 2022

China has ramped up approvals for new coal power plants this year, Greenpeace said Wednesday, with authorities trying to lower the risk of economically painful electricity shortages.

China is the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases driving global warming, and President Xi Jinping last year vowed to phase down coal use from 2026 as part of an ambitious set of national climate commitments.

But campaigners fear those targets are under threat with the government focused on economic challenges, even as the deadly impact of climate change is felt around the world.

In the first quarter of 2022, Chinese regulators gave the green light to coal plants with a total capacity of 8.63 gigawatts, according to research conducted by Greenpeace.

That is nearly half of the entire coal-fired capacity approved last year, the environmental campaigners said. — AFP

July 12, 2022

US-China rivalry and divisions over regional leadership threatened to overshadow a landmark summit of island leaders that got under way Tuesday in the Fijian capital, Suva.

This year's Pacific Islands Forum is the most important meeting in years, coming after a Covid-enforced hiatus and as low-lying tropical isles run out of time for climate action.

But instead of a singular focus on the threat posed by rising sea levels and ever-more-powerful storms, China's bid to play a bigger regional security role looks set to dominate the agenda.

The Solomon Islands in April signed a highly contentious security agreement with China, upsetting decades-old alliances with the West.

And on the eve of the summit, Beijing-allied leaders in the tiny nation of Kiribati announced the country would be renouncing membership of the forum altogether, fracturing a region that puts a high value on unity and consensus. -- AFP

July 3, 2022

In the 15 years since Adam Dailey began boating on Lake Mead, the shoreline has receded hundreds of meters, the result of more than two decades of punishing drought that is drying out the western United States.

Launch spots that lined the edge of the lake, located outside Las Vegas, have been abandoned, and a single ramp is now the only way to get a boat in the water.

"We used to have more. So everyone's fighting to use one ramp... and still trying to figure out how to get along," said Dailey.

"It's kind of sad, what's going on. But we still come out and try to enjoy it when we can."

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States, a huge man-made body of water formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the early 1930s.

Its 640-square-kilometer surface area stores water for tens of millions of people and countless acres of farmland in the southwest.

But it's shrinking at a terrifying rate and now stands at just one-quarter full.

The National Park Service (NPS), which manages access to the lake, has spent more than $40 million since 2010 trying to keep the water open to boaters.

It costs them $2-3 million dollars to reconfigure the boat launch ramp every time the water levels fall another four feet (120 centimeters).

"Declining water levels due to climate change and 20 years of ongoing drought have reshaped the park’s shorelines," the NPS says on its website.  ?— AFP

July 1, 2022

India imposes a ban on many single-use plastics in a bid to tackle waste choking rivers and poisoning wildlife, but experts say it faces severe headwinds from unprepared manufacturers and consumers unwilling to pay more.

The country generates around four million tonnes of plastic waste per year, about a third of which is not recycled and ends up in waterways and landfills that regularly catch fire and exacerbate air pollution.

Stray cows munching on plastic are a common sight in Indian cities and a recent study found traces in the dung of elephants in the northern forests of Uttarakhand state. — AFP

June 22, 2022

Egypt hopes to jump-start the action needed to face a warming world when it takes the presidency of major UN climate talks in November, but warns that countries need a "reality check" as progress stalls. 

Presiding over the inflection point when a decades-long United Nations climate process switches from negotiation to "implementation", Egypt has set a high bar for its leadership of this year's COP27 climate summit.

But the challenge of maintaining international momentum on climate change has been made even harder as the world faces a catalogue of challenges, with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and spiralling food, energy and economic crises. 

"Because of the geopolitical situation, climate change is being pushed back," said Ambassador Mohamed Nasr at a meeting in the German city of Bonn meant to lay the groundwork for the Egyptian conference.

"We are facing a big challenge."  — AFP

June 18, 2022

The indigenous people in South Cotabato are not bothered by the veto by Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo of the provincial board’s lifting of a province-wide open-pit mining ban.

Tamayo on June 3 vetoed the measure, but emphasized clearly that any such local ban cannot stop large-scale mining operations in South Cotabato with permits from the national government.

For South Cotabato’s Blaan and T’boli communities wishing since the early 1990s to have the copper and coal deposits in their ancestral lands extracted, it was a strong “policy statement” from Tamayo. — The STAR/John Unson

June 16, 2022

Australia's new center-left government submits new, more ambitious, emissions targets to the United Nations Thursday, seeking to end a decade of footdragging on climate change.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese raises the country's 2030 emissions reduction target to 43%, saying it "sets Australia up for a prosperous future, a future powered by cleaner, cheaper energy".

Australia's existing commitment, made under the Paris Agreement, called for a more modest 26-28 percent cut on 2005 emissions levels. — AFP

June 14, 2022

Microscopic air pollution caused mostly by burning fossil fuels shortens lives worldwide by more than two years, researchers reported Tuesday. 

Across South Asia, the average person would live five years longer if levels of fine particulate matter met World Health Organization standards, according to a report from the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute.

In the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, home to 300 million, crippling lung and heart disease caused by so-called PM2.5 pollution reduces life expectancy by eight years, and in the capital city of New Delhi by a decade.

PM2.5 pollution — 2.5 microns across or less, roughly the diameter of a human hair — penetrates deep into the lungs and enters the bloodstream. 

In 2013, the United Nations classified it as a cancer-causing agent.

The WHO says PM2.5 density in the air should not top 15 micrograms per cubic meter in any 24-hour period, or 5 mcg/m3 averaged across an entire year. — AFP

May 31, 2022

The tobacco industry is a far greater threat than many realize as it is one of the world's biggest polluters, from leaving mountains of waste to driving global warming, the WHO says.

The World Health Organization accuses the industry of causing widespread deforestation, diverting badly needed land and water in poor countries away from food production, spewing out plastic and chemical waste as well as emitting millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

In its report released on World No Tobacco Day, the UN agency called for the tobacco industry to be held to account and foot the bill for the cleanup. — AFP

May 18, 2022

Japanese giant Sony brings forward its deadline for reaching carbon neutrality by a decade on Wednesday, saying it is now targeting net-zero emissions across its business by 2040.

The electronics and entertainment firm says the decision was taken "as climate change risks become more apparent and serious worldwide, and the transition to a decarbonised society has become an urgent issue".

Climate campaigners praised the move, but raised doubts over an element of how Sony aims to reach the goal -- investing in new technology that removes carbon from the atmosphere or converts it into a less harmful compound. — AFP

May 4, 2022

The worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in decades is pushing 20 million people towards starvation, according to the UN, destroying an age-old way of life and leaving many children suffering from severe malnutrition as it rips families apart.

April is meant to be one of the wettest months of the year in this region. But the air in Hargududo is hot and dry and the earth dusty and barren.

Many of the animals belonging to the 200 semi-nomadic herder families in the village have perished. — AFP

April 25, 2022

Europe must act fast to secure supplies of crucial metals required for a green energy transition and its best bet is to recycle, a report said Monday.

The 27-nation EU aims to be "carbon neutral" by 2050 — reducing greenhouse gases to a level where the amount produced is balanced out by the amount removed from the atmosphere.

The bloc also wants to wean itself off dependence on Russian oil, coal and gas. — AFP

April 17, 2022

President Emmanuel Macron promised to put the environment at the heart of his government if he is re-elected next weekend, in a speech in southern France on Saturday designed to appeal to young and green-minded voters. 

Macron held a major rally in the port city of Marseille while his rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, visited a village west of Paris.

Polls show Macron stretching his lead over Le Pen, with a fresh survey on Saturday by Ipsos Sopra/Steria suggesting that Macron would triumph with 55.5 percent versus 44.5 percent for Le Pen.  

"I hear the anxiety that exists in a lot of our young people. I see young people, adolescents, who are fearful about the future of our planet," Macron told the rally. 

He acknowledged the "powerful message" sent in the first round of elections on April 10, when nearly eight million voters backed hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and his ecology-heavy programme.

"It's up to us to react and up to us to take action," Macron said.  — AFP

April 3, 2022

Britain could build up to seven new nuclear power plants by 2050, as well as boost offshore wind to diversify energy sources, a senior minister said Sunday.

"If we fast forward to 2050, there is a world where we have six or seven (nuclear) sites in the UK," Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told The Sunday Telegraph.

"That isn't going to happen in the next two years. But it's definitely something that we can aspire to."

Britain has set itself a target of carbon neutrality by 2050 and the government is expected to publish a delayed new energy security strategy next week.

This comes as many British people are struggling to pay energy bills amid a cost of living crisis.

Kwarteng said the strategy "looks at offshore wind, and particularly nuclear, as ways in which we can actually have electricity-generating capacity here in the UK". -- AFP

March 25, 2022

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is suffering a "mass bleaching event" as coral comes under heat stress from warmer seas, authorities say.

An aerial survey showed coral bleaching at multiple reefs, "confirming a mass bleaching event, the fourth since 2016," says a report by the Reef Authority, which manages the world's largest coral reef system. — AFP

March 15, 2022

A measure seeking to institutionalize and providing access to solar energy in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) housing projects was filed Tuesday before the Bangsamoro Parliament.

Bangsamoro Parliament Member Amir Mawallil said the measures will help address the increasing power charges aside from the BARMM’s efforts to comply with the national government initiatives to develop sustainable and renewable energy source.

Mawallil, author of Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Bill No. 178, said his measure seeks to provide accesses to solar power in socialized housing units in the Bangsamoro region.

“Under the measure, the Bangsamoro Government will install solar energy systems in these units that will provide secure, clean, and environment-friendly power services in urban and rural areas, especially in settlements for the disadvantaged, the homeless, survivors of conflicts and atrocities, former combatants, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),” Mawalil said.

According to him, the measures is very timely especially in the island provinces of BARMM which rely on the off grid electric power which is quite expensive. — The STAR/Roel Pareño

March 2, 2022

The United Nations is to launch formal negotiations for a global treaty to address the planet's "epidemic" of plastic trash, a moment that supporters describe as historic.

The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), convening in Nairobi, is poised to adopt a resolution creating an intergovernmental committee to negotiate and finalise a legally binding agreement by 2024.

"This is a day for the history books," says Norway's climate and environment minister, Espen Barth Eide, who chairs UNEA. — AFP

March 1, 2022

When China's President Xi Jinping issued his traditional Lunar New Year wishes from the country's coal heartland in January, the subtext was clear: Beijing is not ready to kick its coal addiction, despite promises to slash emissions.

The ink had barely dried on the hard-fought deal struck at last year's United Nations climate conference in Glasgow when Beijing's backslide on pledges began. 

The country's central economic planner has watered down a roadmap to slash emissions, greenlighted giant coal-fired power plants, and told mines to produce "as much coal as possible" after power shortages paralysed swathes of the economy last year. 

Environmentalists are concerned this would mean China would continue to pollute beyond the 2030 deadline by which it has promised to have reached peak emissions. -- AFP

February 25, 2022

The world has a rare opportunity to clean up the planet for future generations by uniting behind an ambitious treaty to tackle plastic trash, the UN environment chief tells AFP.

Inger Andersen says a global plastics treaty being negotiated in Nairobi "holds the potential and the promise of being the biggest multilateral environmental breakthrough" since the Paris climate accords signed in 2015.

"This is a big moment. This is one for the history books," the executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) tells AFP in an interview.

February 23, 2022

Less than 10% of the plastic used across the world is recycled, the OECD says, calling for "coordinated and global solutions" ahead of expected talks on an international plastics  treaty.

A new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report found that 460 million tonnes of plastics were used in 2019, the number nearly doubling since 2000.

The amount of plastic waste had more than doubled during that time to 353 million tonnes, the Paris-based OECD says. — AFP

February 16, 2022

China will help its coal-fired power plants run at full capacity, the government has announced, raising further alarm about the fate of Beijing's climate pledges.

Swathes of the world's second-biggest economy were paralysed last year because of power shortages, partly caused by a drop in coal supply as global prices of the fossil fuel soared.

China is the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, and has pledged to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

But coal production has been ramped up since last year's energy shortages, sparking uncertainty and concern about those targets.

The focus on energy security and economic growth was reiterated at a high-level meeting of China's State Council, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, state news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday. — AFP

February 16, 2022

The US coastline is expected to experience up to a foot (30 centimeters) of sea-level rise by the year 2050 because of climate change, making damaging floods far more common than today, a US government study says.

The Sea Level Rise Technical Report combined tide gauge and satellite observations with climate modeling from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make projections for the next 100 years.

It updates a 2017 technical report, providing new information on how tide-, wind- and storm-driven water levels affect current future flood risk. — AFP

February 14, 2022

Nearly 200 nations kick off a virtual UN meeting Monday to finalise what is sure to be a harrowing catalogue of climate change impacts — past, present and future.

Species extinction, ecosystem collapse, mosquito-borne disease, deadly heat, water shortages, and reduced crop yields are already measurably worse due to global heating.

Just in the last year, the world has seen a cascade of unprecedented floods, heatwaves and wildfires across four continents.

All these impacts will accelerate in the coming decades even if the carbon pollution driving climate change is rapidly brought to heel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is likely to warn.

A crucial, 40-page Summary for Policymakers — distilling underlying chapters totalling thousands of pages, and reviewed line-by-line — is to be made public on February 28.

"This is a real moment of reckoning," said Rachel Cleetus, Climate and energy policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. — AFP

February 3, 2022

In his 15 years defending one of Nairobi's last green spaces, Simon Nganga has seen off brazen attempts to seize what's left of the lush forest bordered by highways and housing estates.

Persistent efforts by developers and powerful individuals to seize chunks of the bush as their own were defeated under historic laws enacted to protect Kenya's dwindling forests from unchecked logging and environmental destruction.

But a proposal expected before parliament on Thursday seeks a major change to these protections, by allowing politicians to determine if public forest can be carved out and handed over to private interests.

Under the contentious amendment, anyone wishing to alter forest boundaries to claim ownership of land could lobby parliament directly, bypassing approval from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), which is currently mandated to scrutinise such bids.

"If it goes through... that will open a Pandora's Box," Nganga told AFP beneath the canopy of Ngong Road Forest, a 1,224-hectare tract of indigenous woodland inhabited by bush bucks, Sykes monkeys and over 100 species of birds.

"Everyone will want a piece of the forest, which is very dangerous for our forests, and our future."

The amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act — reforms passed after decades of rampant land clearing — has been  opposed by the environment ministry and the KFS, and has roused significant community anger. — AFP

January 28, 2022

Australia unveils a billion-dollar package to protect the climate-ravaged Great Barrier Reef on Friday, hoping to prevent the vast network of corals from being removed from UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison announces the Aus$1 billion (US$700 million) nine-year plan months after narrowly avoiding the reef being placed on UNESCO's "in danger" list. 

"We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy," Morrison says.

The move comes ahead of a general election expected in May, when Morrison will have to win key Queensland seats near the reef to remain in power.

When the UN previously threatened to downgrade the reef's World Heritage listing in 2015, Australia created a "Reef 2050" plan and poured billions of dollars into protection.

The measures are believed to have arrested the pace of decline, but much of the world's largest reef system has already been damaged. — AFP

December 31, 2021

More than 500 homes are feared to have been destroyed in fast-moving wildfires that are tearing through the US state of Colorado, the local sheriff said Thursday.

"We know that approximately 370 homes in the Sagamore subdivision... have been lost. There's a potential of 210 homes lost in Old Town Superior," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told a news conference. — AFP

December 27, 2021

The death toll from heavy rains that have battered the Brazilian state of Bahia since November rose to 18 on Sunday, amid incessant torrents that have displaced 35,000 people, authorities said. 

Bahia firefighters confirmed the death of a 60-year-old man who drowned in a river in the south of the state on Sunday.

Two people are also missing, while 19,580 have been displaced and another 16,001 forced to seek shelter, bringing the number of people driven from their homes to 35,000, the Bahia civil protection agency Sudec said.  

Another 286 people have been injured since the start of the downpours, Sudec added. — AFP

December 21, 2021

The US state of California announced Monday it is suing Walmart, alleging the retail giant unlawfully disposes of millions of toxic waste items.

The state said it had conducted 58 inspections of trash compactors at Walmart stores between 2015 and 2021 and found items that require special handling when they are thrown out, such as batteries, insect killers, cleaning supplies, electronic waste and confidential customer information.

"When one person throws out a battery or half-empty hairspray bottle, we may think that it's no big deal," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. 

"But when we're talking about tens of thousands of batteries, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous waste, the impact to our environment and our communities can be huge."

Based on Walmarts records, the state said the store illegally disposes of 159,600 pounds of toxic waste each year amounting to a million items. — AFP

December 19, 2021

Over 22,000 people were evacuated throughout Malaysia Sunday as the country faces some of its worst flooding in years.

The tropical Southeast Asian nation often sees stormy monsoon seasons at the end of the year, with seasonal flooding regularly causing mass evacuations.

Heavy downpours since Friday have caused rivers to overflow, submerging many urban areas and cutting off major roads, stranding thousands of motorists. 

Almost 22,000 flood victims in eight states and territories were recorded on an official government website, with over 10,000 of them in the central state of Pahang.

More than 5,000 people fled their homes in the country's richest state of Selangor — which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur — with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressing surprise at the strong flooding there.

"In Selangor, the situation happened as if by surprise because the monsoon season... rarely has floods occurring in Selangor," he said in a late night Saturday press conference. — AFP

December 17, 2021

Several European supermarket chains are dropping Brazilian beef products linked to destruction of the Amazon rainforest and tropical wetland, the US activist group Mighty Earth said Thursday.

Chains such as Carrefour Belgium have committed to pulling from their shelves corned beef, beef jerky and fresh prime cuts suspected to come from cattle raised in the Amazon and the Pantanal tropical wetlands.

The move came after a Mighty Earth investigation in partnership with Reporter Brasil, a Brazilian non-government organisation founded by journalists, highlighted links between Sao Paulo manufacturing plants of Brazilian meat-processing giants JBS, Marfrig and Minerva and deforestation.

Activists have long criticised the environmental footprint of the global meat industry, blaming it for some two-thirds of global biodiversity loss. — AFP

December 14, 2021

The UN's World Meteorological Organization recognizes a new record-high temperature in the Arctic, confirming a reading in Siberia last year of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

"This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate," agency chief Petteri Taalas says in a statement. — AFP

December 14, 2021

Russia vetoes a Security Council resolution formally linking climate change and global security that was supported by a majority of UN member states.

Backed by Niger and Ireland, the draft resolution called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to "integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies."

The text won support from 12 of the Council's 15 members.

China abstained, while India voted against, arguing that global warming was chiefly an issue related to economic development, rather than international security.  — AFP

December 13, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions from Europe's biggest meat and dairy firms continue to increase, according to a new report Monday, which found many firms are polluting "with impunity". 

The non-profit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) said many major companies had no climate plans or targets and even among those that do it raised concerns about "greenwashing", calling on governments to step up regulation.

The study looked at 35 of the largest beef, pork, poultry and dairy companies headquartered in the EU, UK and Switzerland, examining their possible climate plans and emissions from their supply chains, in particular livestock, a major emitter of greenhouse gases. 

According to the analysis, these companies were responsible for seven percent of EU emissions in 2018, while the emissions of the top 20 exceed those of the Netherlands. 

"The climate footprint of Europe's big meat and dairy companies rival the fossil fuel giants yet they continue to operate with impunity," said IATP European Director Shefali Sharma. — AFP

December 12, 2021

Climate change has made weather systems such as the series of tornadoes which devastated parts of the United States overnight "more intense," President Joe Biden said Saturday.

"The specific impact on these specific storms, I can't say at this point," the president said in televised comments after more than 75 people were killed by the powerful tornadoes across five states.

"But the fact is that we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming, everything," Biden continued. "And obviously it has some impact here but I can't give you a quantitative read on that." — AFP

December 8, 2021

Island nations in the South Pacific were cleaning up Wednesday after storms and tidal surges triggered widespread flooding, with rising seas caused by climate change blamed for the inundation.

The Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Federated States of Micronesia all reported flooding, with reports that remote parts of Vanuatu were also hit by rising waters.

"(The) government of the Federated States of Micronesia has been made aware of extensive saltwater inundation across the nation's islands as a result of ongoing king tides and storm surges," President David Panuelo said in a statement.

"The government has received numerous requests from citizens asking for support." — AFP

December 2, 2021

The United States is by far the biggest contributor to global plastic waste in the world, according to a new report submitted to the federal government that called for a national strategy to tackle the growing crisis.

Overall, the US contributed around 42 million metric tons (MMT) in plastic waste in 2016 -- more than twice as much as China and more than the countries of the European Union combined, according to the analysis. 

On average, every American generates 130 kilograms (286 pounds) of plastic waste per year, with Britain next on the list at 99 kilos per person per year, followed by South Korea at 88 kilos per year. — AFP

November 8, 2021

Australia said Monday it will sell coal for "decades into the future" after spurning a pact to phase out the polluting fossil fuel to halt catastrophic climate change.

More than 40 countries pledged to eliminate coal use within decades during the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, which aims to cap the warming of Earth since the Industrial Revolution to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius.

Australia, along with some other major coal users such as China and the United States, did not sign up.

"We have said very clearly we are not closing coal mines and we are not closing coal-fired power stations," Australian Minister for Resources Keith Pitt told national broadcaster ABC.

Defending Australia's decision, Pitt said Australia had some of the world's highest quality coal.

"And that is why we will continue to have markets for decades into the future. And if they're buying... well, we are selling." — AFP

November 4, 2021

China emits nearly a third of CO2 emissions in 2021, according to a report.

October 31, 2021

New Zealand set itself an ambitious new emissions reduction target Sunday, with a pledge to halve its net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The new target, announced as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the critical COP26 summit on climate change, is substantially higher than the previous goal of a 30 per cent reduction set as part of the 2015 Paris agreement.

New Zealand's enhanced contribution to the global fight on climate change "represents our fair share, and is in line with what's needed if we are to avoid the worst impacts of global warming," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Emissions are currently about the same as they were in 2005 and Climate Change Minister James Shaw described the next decade as "make or break" for the planet.

"To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, the science shows we now have about eight years left to almost halve global greenhouse gas emissions," he said in a statement. 

"That's eight years for countries to make the necessary plans, put in place policies, implement them, and ultimately deliver the cuts."  — AFP

October 26, 2021

Iran's capital is suffering its worst drought in half a century, a water resources official said Tuesday, citing a 97-percent drop in monthly rainfall compared with last year.

Tehran has had 0.4 millimeters of rain since September 23, compared with 14.3 mm over the same period in 2020, said Mohammad Shahriari, deputy director of the company that supplies the region.

"Groundwater and surface water are at a critical state and there has not been a similar drought for the past 50 years," he was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency.

The five dams supplying water to the capital are at less than a third of their capacity, holding just 477 million cubic meters (under 17 billion cubic feet) of water instead of two billion cubic meters.

In September last year, the reserves held 729 million cubic metres of water. — AFP

October 26, 2021

The United Nations say that Asia suffered its hottest year on record in 2020, ahead of the COP26 summit, with extreme weather taking a heavy toll on the continent's development.

In its annual "State of the Climate in Asia" report, the UN's World Meteorological Organization says every part of the region had been affected.

"Extreme weather and climate change impacts across Asia in 2020 caused the loss of life of thousands of people, displaced millions of others and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking a heavy toll on infrastructure and ecosystems," the WMO says. — AFP

October 23, 2021

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, will aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, its de facto ruler said Saturday, days before the COP26 global climate summit.

"I announce today Saudi Arabia's target to reach net zero emissions by 2060 through its circular carbon economy approach," said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a recorded statement at the "Saudi Green Initiative" forum. — AFP

October 18, 2021

New Zealand pledges Monday to quadruple foreign aid spending on climate change, addressing its "woefully inadequate" response to the challenge in recent decades.

As representatives from around the world prepare for a landmark UN summit on global warming, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Wellington would lift its climate aid budget to $930 million over four years.

Ardern says at least half the money would go to Pacific island nations, many of which are low-lying and face being swamped by rising seas.

"We need to continue to step up our support for our Pacific family and neighbours who are on the front line of climate change and need our support most," she says in a statement. — AFP

October 13, 2021

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia — one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters — is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.

"Russia in practice will strive for carbon neutrality of its economy. And we set a benchmark for this — no later than 2060," he said at an energy forum in Moscow. — AFP

October 13, 2021

New Zealand put forward a raft of carbon-cutting plans Wednesday, ranging from reduced car usage to making ebikes more accessible to meet its target of becoming carbon-zero by 2050.

But the proposals, which come ahead of the COP26 climate meeting of world leaders in Glasgow at the end of this month and are a forerunner to the government's emissions reduction plan next May, drew immediate criticism.

New Zealand is under pressure to do more to curb carbon emissions, which are increasing, but the discussion document made little mention of agriculture which contributes 48 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.

October 12, 2021

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was accused Tuesday of "crimes against humanity" at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in the destruction of the Amazon, the first case seeking to explicitly link deforestation to loss of life.

Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning and industrial-scale agriculture in the Amazon are higher than the total annual emissions of Italy or Spain. Deforestation in the region already releases more CO2 than the rest of the Amazon can absorb.

Austrian environmental justice campaigners Allrise filed the official complaint at The Hague-based court Tuesday morning. They asked for legal proceedings against Bolsonaro and his administration for actions "directly connected to the negative impacts of climate change around the world".

The complaint accuses the Brazilian leader of waging a widespread campaign resulting in the murder of environmental defenders and of endangering the global population through emissions caused by deforestation. — AFP

October 11, 2021

Prince Charles, a lifelong environmentalist who has championed organic gardening and runs one of his cars on white wine and cheese, has urged world leaders to turn talk into action at the upcoming UN climate summit.

Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son and heir, 72, is due to attend events at the two-week COP26 summit in Glasgow starting on October 31, along with his 95-year-old mother.

But in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Monday, he said he worried that world leaders would "just talk", adding: "The problem is to get action on the ground."

The UN summit will try to persuade major developing economies to do more to cut their carbon emissions, and get the rich world to cough up billions more dollars to help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

When asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's UK? government? was ?doing enough itself against climate change, Charles replied:??"I couldn't possibly comment."  — AFP

October 7, 2021

Britain is eager to brandish its environmental credentials before the upcoming COP26 summit, but it is grappling at the same time with mounting protests from climate activists.

Direct action group Extinction Rebellion has brought cities to a standstill and vowed to do the same at the UN climate change conference in Glasgow later this month.

In recent weeks, a previously unheard-of offshoot, Insulate Britain, has also caused gridlock on motorways and main roads, sparking scores of arrests and a court injunction.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday called the protesters a "confounded nuisance" and welcomed moves for "new powers to insulate them snugly in prison where they belong". — AFP

September 28, 2021

Thai authorities on Tuesday rushed to protect parts of Bangkok from floodwaters that have already inundated 70,000 homes and killed six people in the country's northern and central provinces.

Tropical storm Dianmu has caused flooding in 30 provinces, with the kingdom's central region the worst hit, the Thai Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said.

The level of the Chao Phraya River —  which snakes through Bangkok after winding almost 400 kilometers from the north —  is steadily rising as authorities release water from dams further upstream.

Soldiers on Tuesday set up barriers and sandbags to protect ancient archaeological ruins and landmarks as well as neighborhoods in the old royal capital Ayutthaya, some 60 km north of Bangkok. —  AFP

September 26, 2021

A "once-in-a-generation" music event circled the world on Saturday, with a slew of megastars taking the stage in New York for Global Citizen Live — 24 hours of shows across the planet to raise awareness on climate change, vaccine equality and famine. 

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, advocated for COVID-19 vaccine access to be treated "as a basic human right," as the event was broadcast live from New York's Central Park.

"The way you're born should not dictate your ability to survive," the Duke of Sussex said to cheers from the thousands-strong crowd.

NGO Global Citizen wants one billion trees planted, two billion vaccines delivered to the poorest countries and meals for 41 million people on the brink of starvation.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex followed performances by singer Alessia Cara and pop veteran Cyndi Lauper with a rendition of her "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" dedicated to Afghan women. — AFP

September 24, 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday urges all countries to raise their climate ambitions as the UN Security Council took up the environmental crisis, warning that it is aggravating conflicts.

Blinken points to recent record rains in New York that contributed to dozens of deaths and said climate has aggravated conflicts in countries including Syria, Mali, Yemen, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

"The climate crisis isn't coming. It's already here and clear patterns are emerging and its impact, the consequences, are falling disproportionately on vulnerable and low-income populations," Blinken says.

"All our nations must take immediate, bold actions," Blinken says, weeks ahead of high-stakes UN climate talks in Glasgow. — AFP

September 20, 2021

Natural disasters sparked by climate change have forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes in Burundi in recent years, British charity Save the Children says in a new report released on Monday.

It says climate shocks — not conflict — are now the main cause of internal displacement in the landlocked East African country, which has a largely rural population.

"Over 84 percent of all internally displaced people in Burundi... have been displaced due to natural disasters rather than conflict, mostly due to the rise of Lake Tanganyika, Africa's second-largest lake," the charity says. — AFP

September 16, 2021

A new climate change report out Thursday shows that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be impossible without immediate, large-scale emissions cuts, the UN chief said.

The United in Science 2021 report, published by a range of UN agencies and scientific partners just weeks before the COP26 climate summit, said climate change and its impacts were accelerating.

And a temporary reduction in carbon emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had done nothing to slow the relentless warming, it found.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, struck at the COP21 summit, called for capping global warming at well below 2 C above the pre-industrial level, and ideally closer to 1.5 C.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report's findings were "an alarming appraisal of just how far off course we are" in meeting the Paris goals. — AFP

September 16, 2021

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will host a closed-door meeting of world leaders Monday on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York to boost climate commitments.

The roundtable comes less than six weeks before a major United Nations climate meeting, COP26, in Glasgow, aimed at ensuring the world meets its goal of holding century-end warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"UNGA is the last big moment in the international calendar ahead of COP26," Britain's UN ambassador Barbara Woodward says in a statement. "Climate change will be the UK's top priority." — AFP

September 13, 2021

The UN rights chief warned Monday that environmental threats were worsening conflicts worldwide and would soon constitute the biggest challenge to human rights.

Michelle Bachelet said climate change, pollution and nature loss were already severely impacting rights across the board and said countries were consistently failing to take the necessary action to curb the damage.

"The interlinked crises of pollution, climate change and biodiversity act as threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts, tensions and structural inequalities, and forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations," Bachelet told the opening of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era."

The former Chilean president said the threats were already "directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights, including the rights to adequate food, water, education, housing, health, development, and even life itself".

She said environmental damage usually hurt the poorest people and nations the most, as they often have the least capacity to respond. — AFP 

September 7, 2021

A global network of more than 1,500 climate NGOs called on Britain to postpone the upcoming COP26 climate summit, saying in a statement on Tuesday that a lack of COVID-19 vaccines risked sidelining developing countries.

Rising cases, unequal global vaccine rollout and stringent quarantine requirements for some 60 "red list" nations and territories hoping to attend the 12-day UN climate talks mean that "a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible," the Climate Action Network said.

"Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out," said Tasneem Essop, CAN's executive director.

"There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis." — AFP

September 3, 2021

At least 25 people in the New York region have died from flash flooding caused by rainfall brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, officials said Thursday.

Twelve people have now lost their lives in New York City, including 11 who were trapped in the basements of their home, the NYPD said.

Ten were known to have died in New Jersey, according to officials there and another three succumbed to heavy flooding near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. — AFP

September 2, 2021

At least eight people have died in New York after the city was inundated by flash flooding, police said Thursday, as Storm Ida wreaked havoc on the northeast United States, forcing flight cancellations and state of emergency declarations.

Ida slammed into the southern state of Louisiana over the weekend, bringing severe flooding and tornadoes as it blazed a trail of destruction north.

New York state governor Kathy Hochul declared an emergency as the remnants of the storm caused massive flooding in the country's financial and cultural capital, leaving the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens badly hit. 

Police did not say how the eight deaths in the city occurred. — AFP

August 31, 2021

Japan and the United States agreed to press China to further reduce carbon emissions, the Japanese foreign minister said Tuesday after high-level talks in Tokyo.

US climate envoy John Kerry is in Japan to drive international action ahead of November's COP26 summit to combat global warming.

"We discussed our cooperation on efforts to reduce the emissions of major emitter countries, including China," Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a press briefing after meeting Kerry.

"China is the world's largest emitter of CO2, as it is also the world's second-largest economy... it is important that we call on them to fulfil the responsibility appropriate to their status," he said.

Kerry will meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and then travel to China to hold talks with Xie Zhenhua, the country's special envoy for climate change affairs.

The 26th edition of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, begins on November 1 in the Scottish city of Glasgow. — AFP

August 24, 2021

Climate change made the deadly floods that devastated parts of Germany and Belgium last month up to nine times more likely to occur, according to an international study published Tuesday.

The World Weather Attribution team of experts found downpours such as the extreme rainfall in July are now up to 19 percent heavier due to human-caused warming. — AFP

August 23, 2021

Scores of firefighters backed by water-dropping aircraft battled a forest fire that broke out early Monday on the southern part of Greece's Evia island, less than two weeks after an inferno decimated its northern part.

The fire was burning near the village of Fygia where two neighborhoods have been evacuated and was moving toward the coastal tourist village of Marmari, where authorities were preparing boats to evacuate people if needed, according to Athens News Agency.

Forty-six firefighters were battling flames fanned by high winds — assisted by 20 fire engines, three water-dropping airplanes and two helicopters, the Greek fire brigade said. 

Authorities have boats on standby off Marmari. Evia is northeast of the capital Athens.

The civil protection authorities had announced on Sunday a "very high risk" of fire for many areas of Greece on Monday. — AFP

August 17, 2021

Thousands of people, including tourists in campsites, have been evacuated as a wildfire raged near the plush resort of Saint-Tropez in southern France, the fire service said Tuesday.

Around 750 firefighters and water-droppping aircraft were battling the blaze in difficult conditions, with high temperatures and strong winds.

"Thousands of people have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, but there are no victims," a fire service spokeswoman said, adding that the blaze was "still very fierce".

France is just the latest of a number of Mediterranean countries to be hit by extreme weather and wildfires, which climate scientists warn will become increasingly common because of man-made global warming. — AFP

August 15, 2021

In recent years, the pines had grown so much that the Haniosakis family could no longer see the Acropolis from their charming garden in Drosopigi, a small hamlet overlooking Athens.

"And now there she is again, because everything has gone up in smoke," Betty Haniosakis, 77, acknowledges bitterly, sitting on a bed in a nearby municipal summer camp where her family sheltered from the flames.

When the fire reached her home last week in a wave of blazes that would later engulf the island of Evia in the east and parts of the Peloponnese too, the danger did not seem too imminent at first.

The fire "came very slowly, there was not a bit of wind," recalls American-born Betty.

Residents of the sparsely-populated community had already received warning messages by cellphone from the civil protection authority to evacuate.

The police drove by once, twice. The third time they came over, there was no more time to dither.

"'You need to leave. Now,' they said," recalls Haniosakis' daughter Eleni, a 45-year-old teacher.

"That's when we knew it was very serious."

They were among hundreds forced to abandon their homes that week, unsure of whether they would see them again.

That week, Greece battled around 600 blazes, some of them "mega fires", Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis later explained.

With conditions on the ground bone-dry in the worst heatwave in decades, a fire in the forest of Varibobi near Athens roared back to life after being nearly subdued and spread to neighbouring Drosopigi.

Betty wanted to take refuge in the basement, shutting the doors and hiding under soaked blankets.

But her daughter persuaded her to flee alongside their three cats and three dogs. Her elderly husband Giorgos, 89 and in a wheelchair, had already left a day earlier.

The family found temporary lodgings in a summer camp for children that had been closed owing to the pandemic, and there they remain. — AFP

August 10, 2021

China insists Tuesday it is implementing its climate commitments, while signalling no new policies following a UN report warning much more urgent action was needed to fight global warming.

Many world leaders responded to Monday's report, which said climate change was occurring faster than estimated, by calling for decisive and immediate moves to curtail fossil fuels.

When asked for a response to the report, China's foreign ministry emphasised the government's current policies and commitments.

"China has insisted on prioritising sustainable, green and low-carbon development," a spokesperson tells AFP in a statement. — AFP

August 10, 2021

A bombshell climate science report "must sound a death knell" for coal, oil and gas, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday, warning that fossil fuels were destroying the planet.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the 1.5C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement would likely be breached around 2030 — a decade earlier than it itself projected just three years ago.

Guterres called the IPCC's assessment, the most detailed review of climate science ever conducted, "code red for humanity". — AFP

August 10, 2021

The capacity of forests, soil and oceans to soak up more than half of all manmade CO2 pollution is projected to weaken with further emissions, threatening efforts to cap global warming at liveable levels, the UN warned Monday.

So-called land and ocean sinks have consistently pulled 56 percent of CO2 generated by human activity from the atmosphere over the last six decades, but that percentage is set to diminish, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said. -- AFP

August 10, 2021

Climate impacts such as rising sea levels and the melting of Earth's frozen spaces are now "irreversible for centuries or millenia" even if mankind radically curbs its carbon pollution, a UN scientific report warned on Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the greenhouse gases humans had already emitted meant it was inevitable that oceans would continue to rise due to heating and ice melt, "and will remain elevated for thousands of years". — AFP

August 10, 2021

All but a tiny fraction of the 1.1 degrees Celsius of global warming since the mid-19th century is "unequivocally caused by human activities," the UN said Monday in its first comprehensive assessment of climate science since 2014.

"It has been clear for decades that the Earth's climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed," Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 1 co-chair Valerie Masson-Delmotte said in a statement. — AFP

August 10, 2021

Global heating is on track to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius around 2030, a full decade earlier than projected in 2018, according to a bombshell UN climate science report released Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment said the 1.5C warming threshold — a cornerstone goal of the Paris Agreement — would be surpassed by 2050 no matter how aggressively humanity draws down fossil-fuel driven carbon pollution. — AFP

August 9, 2021

As heart-stopping images of fires and floods dominate news cycles worldwide, the UN's climate science panel will unveil on Monday its much-anticipated projections for temperature and sea-level rises less than three months before a crucial climate summit in Scotland.

After two weeks of virtual negotiations, 195 nations approved the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) comprehensive assessment of past and future warming on Friday in the form of a "summary for policymakers".

The text — vetted and approved line by line, word by word — is likely to paint a grim picture of accelerating climate change and dire threats on the horizon. — AFP

July 28, 2021

The global economy's business-as-usual approach to climate change has seen Earth's "vital signs" deteriorate to record levels, an influential group of scientists said Wednesday, warning that several climate tipping points were now imminent.

The researchers, part of a group of more than 14,000 scientists who have signed on to an initiative declaring a worldwide climate emergency, said that governments had consistently failed to address the root cause of climate change: "the overexploitation of the Earth". 

Since a similar assessment in 2019, they noted an "unprecedented surge" in climate-related disasters, including flooding in South America and Southeast Asia, record-shattering heatwaves and wildfires in Australia and the US, and devastating cyclones in Africa and South Asia. 

Of 31 "vital signs" — key metrics of planetary health that include greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness, sea-ice extent and deforestation — they found that 18 hit record highs or lows. 

For example, despite a dip in pollution linked to the pandemic, levels of atmospheric CO2 and methane hit all-time highs in 2021.

Greenland and Antarctica both recently showed all-time low levels of ice mass, and glaciers are melting 31 percent faster than they did just 15 years ago, the authors said.  — AFP

July 27, 2021

Thousands of US firefighters are battling a blaze in California that has grown so big it is generating its own weather system, with authorities warning on Monday conditions could worsen.

The flames have grown large enough to create clouds that can cause lightning and high winds, which in turn fan the fire, according to experts.

Around 5,400 firefighters have been struggling to contain the inferno, which was just 22 percent contained late Monday, the California fire and forestries department reported.

"If these clouds get tall enough they do have the potential to produce lightning," warned Julia Ruthford, a government meteorologist assigned to the blaze. — AFP

July 23, 2021

Piles of cars were strewn across a central Chinese city Thursday as shocked residents picked through the debris of a historic deluge that claimed at least 33 lives, with rescue efforts ongoing and hundreds seeking to find their relatives.

An unprecedented downpour dumped a year's rain in just three days on the city of Zhengzhou, weather officials said, instantly overwhelming drains and sending torrents of muddy water through streets, road tunnels and the subway system.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the area were also affected by the floods, with farmland inundated and road and rail links severed.

In worst-hit Zhengzhou, grim images of horror inside the subway system were relayed in real-time over social media, showing water rising during Tuesday's rush hour from the ankles of passengers to their necks.

At least a dozen people died before rescuers were able to cut survivors free from carriages. — AFP

July 22, 2021

Thousands of residents fled blazes in western Canada on Wednesday with several hundred soldiers scheduled to deploy to fight this year's virulent and early fires, which are wreaking havoc across portions of western North America.

"I have a holiday trailer that is my new home," said Margo Wagner, head of a district in the western province of British Columbia, who has found herself among the evacuees.

The fire marks the second time in four years that her home in the province's central Canim Lake rural area has been threatened by a blaze.

South of the border, a number of communities in the United States are being threatened by wildfires, creating conditions so extreme that the blazes have generated their own weather, according to experts.

Nearly 80 huge fires are currently ravaging hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares) in California, Oregon, Montana and Nevada.

The largest among these is still the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which has burned through a section of land the same size as the city of Los Angeles, in just two weeks.

"The fire got so big and it creates so much energy that it started to create its own weather," Marcus Kauffman, a specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry, told AFP, adding that the blaze "feeds on itself" and has even been making its own lightning. — AFP

July 21, 2021

Twelve people died after torrential rains flooded the subway in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, authorities said Wednesday, as shocking images of passengers struggling against neck-high water inside a train carriage emerged on social media.

The city "has experienced a series of rare and heavy rainstorms, causing water to accumulate in Zhengzhou metro", city officials said in a Weibo post, adding 12 people died and five were injured. — AFP

July 21, 2021

Canada's western province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency Tuesday, with wildfires expected to grow even larger in the coming days due to high heat and winds.

"We have reached a critical point," said provincial public safety minister Mike Farnworth.

"Based on the advice of emergency management and wildfire officials, and my briefing last night on the worsening weather, I am declaring a provincial state of emergency."

The decision empowers officials to organize mass-scale evacuations and to provide emergency accommodation for evacuees, he added.

Some 5,700 people were under evacuation orders in the province Tuesday — more than double the previous day's tally, as the threatened region grew in size.

Around 32,000 more residents have been placed on alert. — AFP

July 8, 2021

Colombia lost more than 1,700 square kilometers of forest in 2020, an area the size of the capital Bogota and an eight percent increase on the previous year, the environment ministry said Wednesday.

Some 64 percent of wildfires and deforestation affected the Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest that is shared with eight other countries and territories.

"That's where we have to make the most efforts," said Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Carlos Correa. 

Francisco Cruz, the deputy environment minister, said the 2020 increase is due to the influence of armed groups that encourage illegal logging by farmers.

Leftist guerrillas, drug-traffickers and smugglers all operate in the Amazon.

Deforestation has soared since a 2016 peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leftist rebels.

The very next year it reached a record level of 2,170 square kilometers. — AFP

July 6, 2021

New Zealand recorded its hottest June on record as temperatures continued to soar in a pattern consistent with global warming, a government scientific agency said Tuesday.

Daily temperatures averaged 10.6 Celsius (51.1 Fahrenheit) — 1.9C above average despite a cold snap late in the month, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said.

"It's huge. There's only been 13 times since 1909 that we've had such an anomaly," NIWA scientist Chris Brandolino told public radio.

"What's alarming is that over the past 10 years that's happened six times." — AFP

June 23, 2021

For thousands of years, people have built their great metropolises right up against the contours of coasts, in estuaries and deltas, confident of the ebb and flow of the tides. 

Domination of the seas allowed many coastal cities to become trading powerhouses and cultural melting pots. 

But now that strength is becoming a liability as climate change swells the oceans, redrawing the map and putting hundreds of millions at risk.

That's the warning of an unpublished draft report by the UN's climate science advisory panel, seen exclusively by AFP, which outlines the vast and urgent climate threats facing the planet. — AFP

June 16, 2021

A financial exchange offering carbon credits and investments in conservation projects is set to launch in Singapore, but it may struggle to convince sceptics of the value of controversial carbon offsets. 

Climate Impact X (CIX), backed by the Singapore stock exchange, the city-state's main investment fund and biggest bank, aims to help the growing number of firms seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

From oil majors to tech giants and airlines, companies are lining up to make net-zero pledges, but face challenges to hit their targets. — AFP

June 2, 2021

"Now, when there's smoke here, everybody panics," said Steve Crowder, mayor of the small town of Paradise that was almost wiped off the map by California's deadly 2018 wildfires.

The former police officer still struggles to hold back tears when talking about the blaze that claimed dozens of lives and engulfed 95 percent of his community's buildings.

"It's still hard to get over the 85 people that didn't get out," he told AFP.

"It's the most horrific thing that I've ever experienced in my life... I think fire terrorizes everybody here."

Across California, deadly infernos have only expanded in size since that traumatic year — in 2020, some 4.3 million acres went up in smoke.

Now, the western US state is bracing for the worst as yet another dry summer approaches. Already five times more vegetation has burned this year compared to the same time last year. — AFP

May 31, 2021

For the first time since 2019 and following a flurry of net-zero pledges from the world's largest emitters, UN climate negotiations resume Monday in a virtual format just six months before the crunch COP26 summit.

The talks, nominally hosted by the United Nations climate change programme in the German city of Bonn, will all be informal, meaning that no decisions will be taken during the three-week dialogue.

But with increasingly dire warnings from scientists that the pace of global warming is already outstripping humanity's best plan to cut emissions, the pressure for progress to be made on a number of thorny issues is high.

In 2018, countries agreed to many elements of the Paris agreement "rulebook", governing how each nation implements its goals.

But several issues remain unresolved, including rules about transparency, carbon markets, and a unified timeframe for all countries to ratchet up their emissions cuts. — AFP

May 27, 2021

Three Indian vessels on Thursday joined the battle to contain a major fire on a container ship off the Sri Lanka coast amid fears that it could break up and spew out hundreds of tons of oil.

The X-Press Pearl has been blazing out of control for a week and with heavy winds battering the Singapore-registered vessel, authorities fear a new oil disaster on Sri Lanka's beaches.  

The Indian coastguard ships have joined a Sri Lankan navy ship and four private tugs spraying water on the X-Press Pearl, which has 25 tons of nitric acid in its cargo.

A military helicopter was deployed to drop bags of fire retardant chemicals on the ship Wednesday.

But the fire has weakened the 186-meter long vessel and it could break up and spill oil, according to Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) — AFP

May 27, 2021

Indigenous Brazilians of the Mundurucu ethnic group on Wednesday said their leaders were attacked following a police operation aimed at kicking out miners squatting on native land in the far northern state of Para.

Brazil's Supreme Court this week ordered the government to protect members of the Mundurucu and Yanomami indigenous groups who are threatened by wildcat miners in their communities deep in the Amazon rainforest.

"Criminals are terrorizing the leaders of the Mundurucu people for opposing illegal mining," tweeted Sonia Guajajara, a leader of the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB).

"In an act of terrorism they torched the home of (Mundurucu leader) Maria Leusa Kaba and are continuing to threaten other people in reprisal for the Federal Police operation in the region to kick out invaders," said Guajajara, one of the main spokespeople for indigenous Brazilians. — AFP

May 14, 2021

Climate summit COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November, is "our last hope" of preventing runaway temperature increase, the president of the event was to say in a major speech on Friday.

"I have faith that world leaders will rise to the occasion and not be found wanting in their tryst with destiny," British MP Alok Sharma was set to say, according to extracts of his speech released to the media.

COP26 will bring together climate negotiators from 196 countries and the EU, along with businesses, experts and world leaders. — AFP

May 10, 2021

Climate change is set to devastate Kenya's tea production as the world's largest exporter faces rising temperatures, erratic rainfall and insect infestations, according to analysis released on Monday.

Tea is the world's most consumed drink after water and disruption in supply from the east African nation is predicted to have a global impact. 

A report from the charity Christian Aid outlined the various threats Kenya faces to its key black tea crop, as well as the dangers that other countries are likely to encounter as the planet continues to warm.

Citing a peer-reviewed study, the report said that the quadruple threat of rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, droughts and new insect infestations are forecast to destroy 26.2 percent of the country's optimal tea growing areas by 2050.  

And climate change is expected to reduce the areas with medium quality growing conditions by nearly 40 percent in the same time frame. 

"For generations we have carefully cultivated our tea farms and we are proud that the tea that we grow here is the best in the world," said Richard Koskei, a tea farmer from Kenya's western highlands.  — AFP

April 22, 2021

US President Joe Biden opened an international climate summit Thursday saying that the United States "isn't waiting" to lead on an issue of "moral and economic imperative."

"The cost of inaction keeps mounting. The United States isn't waiting," he said in the opening address of the two-day summit being hosted virtually by the White House. — AFP

April 21, 2021

A group of 43 international banks including sector heavyweights have joined a UN-convened pact to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the world body said Wednesday.

Bringing together household names like Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, the "Net Zero Banking Alliance" members vowed to make greenhouse gas emissions from their lending and investment portfolios "align with pathways to net-zero by 2050 or sooner" with regularly updated intermediate goals.

"All targets will be regularly reviewed to ensure consistency with the latest science," the United Nations' finance for the environment initiative UNEP FI said in a statement.

HSBC boss Noel Quinn said it was "essential" for banks to finance the green transition, adding that "we have to establish a robust and transparent framework for monitoring progress... and we want to set that standard for the banking industry."

The group will also be a founding member of a sector-wide initiative — the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) — from former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance. — AFP

April 21, 2021

The European Parliament and EU member states have agreed a target to cut carbon emissions by "at least" 55 percent by 2030, the EU Commission said in a statement released early Wednesday.

"The European Climate Law enshrines the EU's commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels," read the statement. —  AFP

April 14, 2021

New Zealand will force banks to reveal the impact their investments have on climate change under world-first legislation intended to make the financial sector's environmental record transparent, officials say.

Commerce Minister David Clark says the law would make climate reporting mandatory for banks, insurance companies and investment firms.

"Becoming the first country in the world to introduce a law like this means we have an opportunity to show real leadership and pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory," he says. — AFP

March 25, 2021

Decades of poaching and shrinking habitats have devastated elephant populations across Africa, conservationists said Thursday, warning one sub-species found in rainforests was a step away from extinction.

In an update of its "Red List" of threatened species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said the African forest elephant population had shrunk by more than 86% in three decades and it was now considered "critically endangered".

The population of the African savanna elephants had meanwhile decreased by at least 60% over the past 50 years, IUCN said, with the Red List now listing that species as "endangered". — AFP

March 19, 2021

As part of its commitment to environmental protection and conservation, Globe joins the world in calling for consistent global recycling efforts, proper waste disposal, ban of single-use plastics and other sustainable initiatives during the worldwide celebration of Global Recycling Day.

It continues to encourage positive consumer behavior through its numerous environmental sustainability programs like E-waste Zero and ‘Wag Sa Single Use plastic or WasSUP that call for the extended lifespan of electronic gadgets, plastics and endorse responsible recycling.

“We introduced our E-waste Zero program back in 2014 as a way to raise funds to put up new classrooms in Aklan which were devastated by typhoon Haiyan. Since then we were able to scale the program by partnering with the rest of the AC Group, corporate clients, schools, and NGOs,” says Yoly Crisanto, Globe Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP for Corporate Communications.

Follow this page for updates about climate change and information on current environmental issues. Main photo by Efigenio Toledo IV

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