Issue 7

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Letter from the Editor

The editor enjoying the ocean view in April

Dear Reader,


If this is your first time perusing an issue of Green News Australia, welcome! This is the official newsletter of Green Force Australia, a group of teenagers brought together by a desire to bring greater awareness to environmental issues. Besides this biannual publication, we also write letters to politicians, and investigate intriguing issues such as climate denialism and the environmental records of various Australian politicians. Some of this research has already been published in the "Resources" section, and more is coming soon.

This issue of GNA has no particular theme - the articles simply address some of the most notable events related to the environment which have already happened in the first half of 2021. We have contributions from four members of GFA, apart from those of the Editor: Angelica Philips writing the Awareness piece, Will Shields on the Analysis article, and Ivy Rush on the Comic Relief segment. (If not specified, assume the author is the Editor.) Whether you're looking for an in-depth analytical response to the state of the world's coral reefs, or a report on the toxic-waste dumping scandal in Japan, or a critical look at new environmental legislation in France, or some light humour with an apocalyptic undertone, Green News Australia Issue #7 has something for you.

If you would like to contribute a one-time article or photo to Green News, or if you are a school student who would like to get involved with Green Force's activities, you can connect with us via the Contact page.


As a final note, I was recently lucky enough to be interviewed for an episode of 'Climate Conversations,' with Robert McLean. Robert's Podcast is one of many in the 'Climactic Collective' group. For those of you who enjoy the radio and listen to podcasts, I cannot recommend them highly enough! If you would like to listen to my interview, this is the link: https://www.climactic.fm/show/climate-conversations/nicky-allen-wants-to-give-kids-a-voice-through-her-green-news/


(I apologise for incorrectly referring to Emma Johnston as the Dean of Science at Sydney University - she is actually the Dean of Science at UNSW.)

Happy World Environment Day!

Nicola Allen

Green News Australia Editor

Green Force Australia General Manager


Please be mindful that all photos used in this newsletter have their sources cited underneath. Many of these photos are NOT taken by Green Force members, and belong to their respective organisations. If you wish to reproduce these photos anywhere else publicly, you must use the citations. Thank you.


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Action

Leaders' Summit on Climate, organised by Joe Biden


From the 22nd to the 29th of April this year, the American President Joe Biden hosted an online conference to address anthropogenic climate change, called the Leaders' Summit on Climate. The leaders of 40 countries were invited to this virtual event, including most of the top 20 emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. The only two world leaders on that list who were not invited were Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, and President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky of the Ukraine, whose countries are the 11th and 20th largest emitters of greenhouse gases respectively.

Biden at the Summit - International Politics & Society

The conference was livestreamed on YouTube, and the English version of the first day has now received nearly 100,000 views. Watching the speeches being shown to thousands of viewers in real time was incredible. Because it was a school night, I only got through about two hours of the event before I had to go to bed, but I did my best to make up for it by getting up the next morning and instantly reopening the video to keep watching.

Now that the US has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, set ambitious targets for emissions reductions in the next few decades and hosted this summit, it can safely be said that the country is on track to lead the world in climate action, rather than lag behind and bury its head in the sand. Australia, on the other hand, is simply disappointing. Although Australian companies, individuals and NGOs are going ahead with reducing emissions and transitioning to green energy sources, our government, having only recently made a formal acknowledgement of the severity of anthropogenic global warming, is choosing to focus on 'resilience and adaptation' rather than mitigation. In other words, instead of trying to fix the problem, politicians are planning to hide from it. This is not the Australian way, and the people of our country deserve better. The situation was painfully evident during the Leaders' Summit on Climate. So many other countries around the world - even those with much higher emissions and smaller economies than Australia - are setting visionary goals for their economies and energy systems.

Kamala Harris - Politico

All of this got me thinking about the various goals and numbers being thrown around. And as I knew that I would need to write about this for the next issue of Green News, I came to realise that a system of tabulation was the best way to go. The document below contains a table with information on all the speakers who attended the conference whose countries are on the list of the top 20 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Before you read it, it's worth mentioning that there were several other distinguished speakers at the conference whom I haven't had time to cover. These include Pope Francis; Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States; Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State; António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Happy reading!


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The White House, President Biden Invites 40 World Leaders to Leaders' Summit on Climate, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/26/president-biden-invites-40-world-leaders-to-leaders-summit-on-climate/, 26/3/21

US Department of State, U.S.-India Joint Statement on Launching the “U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership”, https://www.state.gov/u-s-india-joint-statement-on-launching-the-u-s-india-climate-and-clean-energy-agenda-2030-partnership/, 22/4/21

Reuters, Who's attending Biden's climate summit? https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/whos-attending-bidens-climate-summit-2021-04-21/, 22/4/21

The Centre for Climate and Security, The Leaders' Summit on Climate is a Historic Moment in Global Security, https://climateandsecurity.org/2021/04/todays-leaders-summit-on-climate-is-a-historic-moment-in-global-security/, 22/4/21

Climate Council, BIDEN’S ‘LEADERS SUMMIT ON CLIMATE’: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS AUSTRALIA DOING?, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/biden-climate-summit-australia/, 22/4/21

Railway Pro, Russia to start hydrogen pilot project, https://www.railwaypro.com/wp/russia-to-start-hydrogen-pilot-project/, 26/4/21

US Department of State, Leaders' Summit on Climate, https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/, 29/4/21

YouTube, 2021 Leaders' Summit on Climate, https://www.youtube.com/c/leaderssummitonclimate/videos?app=desktop, 29/4/21

Wikipedia, 2021 Leaders' Climate Summit, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Leaders%27_Climate_Summit, 9/5/21

Joe Biden, THE BIDEN PLAN FOR A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/, 2021

European Commission, 2030 Climate Target Plan, https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/2030_ctp_en, 2021

Climate Action Tracker, Indonesia, https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/indonesia/, 2021

 

Scandal

Japan dumping contaminated water from Fukushima into the Pacific


Almost two months ago, on the 13th of April this year, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet unanimously approved a bill which authorises the government of Japan to release radioactively contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean. Since then, many people have stepped forward to oppose the decision, despite the Japanese government's continuous efforts to assure the world that the dumping poses no major threat to public health or the natural environment. To understand the mistakes of the present and future, we must examine the blunders of the past.

The disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in Okuma on the northeast coast of Japan, is arguably one of the greatest blunders of the century so far, considering the plant operator, TEPCO, admitted (over a year later) that it could have been largely avoided if proper safety protocol had been followed. The accident was triggered by magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake, followed by the resulting tsunami, which rose 14 m high as it rushed in from the sea towards the plant, pouring over the seawall and flooding 4 reactors. The earthquake happened on Friday the 11th of March 2011, and the main leakage of radioactive contamination, as well as structural damage of the facilities through the various explosions, occurred from the 12th to the 15th of March. In total, the plant suffered 3 hydrogen explosions and 3 nuclear meltdowns, and was eventually classified by the International Nuclear Event Scale as a 7, the highest ranking and the only disaster to date with the same ranking as Chernobyl. 154,000 residents were evacuated due to the disaster, creating an evacuation zone of 20 km.

The Fukushima disaster - Institution of Civil Engineers

The 2014 Millennium Report described it as, "the greatest nuclear catastrophe in history, one that has defied countless attempts to resolve it." As for the tsunami and earthquake, it said, "A total of 196,559 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Around 27,000 people were killed. More than 460,000 were made homeless… In the first three days after the disaster… the Japanese military rescued 66,000 people…" The last point of note is the way in which the Millennium Report blamed the Japanese government: "The Japanese Government, too, bears great responsibility for the extremely incompetent and lacking response to this nuclear disaster and national catastrophe."

But this was far from the end of this nuclear saga. The Fukushima incident itself was merely the start of a long chain of events, laced with immeasurable grief and suffering, which has led us to this point. The point at which the contaminated water being stored at Fukushima is about to reach the capacity of its storage tanks, and the government has resorted to desperate measures in order to find a cheap and easy solution. In a recent article on the subject, Dr Richard A. Dixon, Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas, explains where the water is coming from: "Both water pumped into the reactor buildings to cool the nuclear fuel debris and groundwater [have] become contaminated…"

The Japanese government's plan is to release the water into the Pacific Ocean over the next three decades or so, in a diluted form. So far, they have spent $18 million on an extensive advertising campaign, in an effort to convince the public that there is nothing to fear from their decision. However, in light of the response from the international community to the Cabinet's approval, it is difficult to trust their promises.

Dr Dixon writes that they made "a move strongly condemned by… many other groups including the local fishing industry. A joint Korean-Japanese initiative has delivered a 65,000-strong petition, signed by people and organisations from 86 countries." Fisheries in South Korea are currently attempting to sue the Japanese government on the basis that their business would be heavily impacted, seeking compensation of nearly AU$12,000 per day. South Korean students have shaved their heads in the streets to protest the humanitarian and environmental implications of the decision. And although the people living in and around Fukushima are obviously the ones most deeply invested in the issue, those who lived through and/or lost loved ones to the Minamata Bay disaster of the 1950s (a case of severe water poisoning caused by the release of many tonnes of mercury into the ocean) are acutely aware of the dangers of reckless dumping of potentially deadly substances.

South Korean student has her head shaved - Reuters

Finally, Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, and Deputy Director of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has voiced Beijing's displeasure with the plan: "It can be seen that the Japanese side’s series of whitewashing operations have not eliminated the concerns of their own people, and they have not been able to get through in front of the international community… People from all over Japan, including residents of Fukushima, have continued to take to the streets to express their shock and dissatisfaction with the government’s decision." (By "whitewashing operations," he means the promotional material released by the Japanese government.)

It is clear that the ecological impacts of such a disaster would be long-lasting and impossible to reverse, as well as severe: precious sources of groundwater would be contaminated and rendered unusable for decades, and it is extremely likely that countless ecosystems would be impacted, placing even more pressure on species which could already be on the brink of extinction thanks to the overarching problems of other forms of pollution, and anthropogenic climate change.

The most obvious alternative to dumping is the construction of 20 gigantic tanks to hold the water permanently. This might be viable since there is still a lot of land which is uninhabitable for humans around Fukushima, which could be allocated for radioactive material storage instead of being left to its own devices. Another viable solution is "radiolysis of concrete containing radioactive… waste" which has already been used for quite some time by the United States' Savannah River Plant. In other words, the plan to dump the Fukushima waste in the Pacific is not only irresponsible and wildly controversial, but also completely unnecessary.


US Department of Energy: Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Radiolytic gas production from concrete containing Savannah River Plant waste, https://www.osti.gov/biblio/5150618, 1/1/1978

New York Times, Japan Plans to Unlink Nuclear Agency From Government, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/world/asia/22japan.html, 21/6/11

CNBC, Japan utility agrees nuclear crisis was avoidable, https://www.cnbc.com/id/100164467, 11/11/12

The Millennium Report, FUKUSHIMA : A Nuclear Catastrophe of Epic Proportions, http://themillenniumreport.com/2014/09/fukushima-a-nuclear-catastrophe-of-epic-proportions/, 7/9/14

Very Well Health, The Minamata Disaster and the Disease That Followed, https://www.verywellhealth.com/minamata-disease-2860856, 16/11/19

BBC, Fukushima: Japan approves releasing wastewater into ocean, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56728068, 13/4/21

Bloomberg, U.S. Friends Join China in Ripping Japan Plan on Fukushima Water, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-12/japan-to-dump-treated-radioactive-fukushima-water-into-ocean, 13/4/21

Reuters, South Korean students shave heads in protest over Japan's nuclear waste water plan, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/south-korean-students-shave-heads-in-pro-idUSKBN2C70XL, 20/4/21

The Scotsman, Japan's plan to dump radioactive waste water in Pacific Ocean is cowardly and wrong, https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-japans-plan-to-dump-radioactive-waste-water-in-pacific-ocean-is-cowardly-and-wrong-dr-richard-dixon-3210547, 22/4/21

Global Times, Japan's plan of nuclear wastewater dumping an 'outrageous misconduct:' experts, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202104/1221883.shtml, 22/4/21

Japan Today, S Korean fishermen sue Japanese gov't over Fukushima water, https://japantoday.com/category/politics/s.korean-fishermen-sue-japanese-govt-over-fukushima-water-yonhap, 14/5/21

RT, Beijing accuses Tokyo of ‘whitewashing’ plans to dump nuclear wastewater into sea as Japan reportedly blows $18mn on PR op, https://www.rt.com/news/525035-china-japan-nuclear-waste-pr/, 28/5/21

UNT, Prof. Richard Dixon, https://biology.unt.edu/prof-richard-dixon, 2021

 

Analysis

Coral reef protection and destruction: Palau vs the USA - William Shields


Palau, a small archipelago in Oceania, makes headlines for its immaculate reefs and the actions the Palauan people will take to protect them. The condition of the Palauan reefs made us at GNA wonder, “What can Australia learn from Palau?”


The fundamental difference between Australian and Palauan reef maintenance is the consistent restrictions Palau imposes on fishing management, pollution, and other Anthropogenic intrusions, especially at a local level. However, in order to understand the impact of this reef management, we need to investigate the state of the reefs and their threats.


Palauan reefs are, in comparison to most countries, in pristine condition. Palauan reefs have ~45% coral cover [1], compared to the Great Barrier Reef’s current 14%. Moreover, these reefs are in one of the main marine biodiversity hotspots in the world, the Central Indo-Pacific, with a range of endemic species [2].

A coral reef in Palau - Keoki Stender for Ocean Society

This doesn’t mean that Palauan Reefs are in flawless condition, as more intense typhoons and rising ocean temperatures, alongside other limited anthropogenic impacts like runoff and fishing, do lead to significant coral and other fauna mortality. In 1998, an El Niño event led to mass coral bleaching which, in the most vulnerable areas, decreased coral cover from around 65% to 15%. Palauan coral reefs are “generally … recovering well” [3], but the impacts of climate change and consequent coral bleaching are only going to get more severe as time goes on.


Typhoons amplified by anthropogenic climate change are also likely to be a serious threat to Palauan reefs in the near-future. Typhoons Bopha and Haiyan from 2013 and 2014 respectively led to immense decline in coral cover (dependent on area), with the reefs closest to typhoon Bopha losing up to 60% of their coral cover [4]. Additionally, Scientific American reported “markedly fewer reef fish and benthic invertebrates than previous years” [5]. Unfortunately, Palau has no control over the anthropogenic exacerbation of these typhoons.

Typhoon Bopha - NASA

Palau has significant local and national regulation and customs dictating acceptable reef sustainability practices. On a national level, the Palauan Government has designated 80% of their exclusive economic zones as marine protection areas, where fishing and other resource collection is (with some exceptions), outlawed. Moreover, on a cultural level, the local practice of ‘bul’, (the process of temporarily prohibiting fishing in certain areas to allow the ecosystem to recover) [6] increases the sustainability of the reefs by limiting anthropogenic impact. The banning of sunscreens with potential to harm organisms also shows Palauan commitment to reef protection.


These practices are underpinned by Palau's willingness to sacrifice income, be it from fishing or tourism, in order to sustain the reefs. The mindsets of Australia and Palau are admittedly different by necessity, for Palau requires the reefs to act as a buffer from typhoons to protect its entire population, and reef sustainability plays a role in Palauan culture as well. Moreover, the Australian rentier economy requires resource extraction more so than Palau’s tourism based economy. However, despite Australia’s requirements, it is a substantially wealthier country with the financial means and agency to establish broader reef protection from runoff, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Overall, through the protection of the intrinsically valuable ecosystems of reefs, Palau shows the benefits of sacrificing national income for the long-term rewards, both human and natural, of reefs.


America is generally apathetic about the destruction of its coral reefs, with limited implementation of solutions targeting the core issues of climate change and coral disease outbreaks. The result of this is a consistent decline in reef quality with no indication of positive change. Some scientists are now arguing that the Florida reefs might be unrecoverable. We decided to investigate how this came about, and the consequences of poor reef protection, to learn about what Australia shouldn’t ignore when protecting the GBR.


It is indisputable that American reef quality is sharply decreasing, despite the spatial and environmental diversity of the reefs. A report released by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) in November of last year announced that American coral reefs are in “fair condition but are vulnerable and declining.” It also highlighted how the Florida reefs are the most “impaired.” [7] Some scientists, like Alina Szmant, also believe that the “assault overwhelming a fragile ecosystem” makes Florida's reefs unrecoverable [8].

Coral disease across Florida's reef - NOAA

Climate change and disease are the primary causes for coral reef decline in America and are killing off large populations of American reef-building coral [9]. For example, there were 6 major coral bleaching events in the Florida Reef, attributable to anthropogenic climate change [10] from 1987-2015 [11]. In 2005, a severe worldwide bleaching event led to ~50% coral mortality in parts of the Caribbean [12], and the subsequent disease outbreaks caused by the bleaching ultimately resulted in a 60% decrease in coral cover in the Virgin Islands [13] and significant damages in Florida.


So where did everything go wrong?


For American reefs, we can’t just look at what has happened. We need to observe what hasn’t happened. America is among the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, both in raw amounts and per capita [14], displaying a considerable apathy for climate and environmental policy. From 2019-2020, a bipartisan initiative attempted to reintroduce the Coral Reef Protection Act which expired 15 years ago. However, this didn’t get passed [15]. Moreover, in 2018, the Trump Administration abandoned plans to expand the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary, in order to access underwater oil reserves [16]. This is the culmination of the politicisation of climate change and environmentalism, and these macro level setbacks impede community and regional initiatives.


Although the Biden Administration has set goals and taken some action, such as a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to switch to renewable energy [17], it’s too early to predict the extent of the change this will bring about.


It is clear that America is far from a role model in the sustainability and maintenance of coral reefs, with a consistent lack of action leading to a likely irreversible set of consequences for the health, biodiversity, and beneficial properties of its reefs. America displays, perhaps best of all, how important active reef management and environmental conservation is. The country demonstrates why Australia cannot ignore the declining state of the GBR, and what we stand to lose from climate inaction.

Overall, the attitudes and policies implemented by America and Palau couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. The results of their differing approaches can be seen in the reefs: higher coral cover, higher biodiversity, fewer extinctions, and more benefits like typhoon protection, in Palau. Australia cannot fully emulate Palau, but we can see Palau’s example of what proper reef management can achieve with limited financial resources as motivation to do better, and conversely, we should avoid falling into the trap of incessant politicisation and low federal management like America.


[1] Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, 2020. The Republic of Palau: Global Reef Expedition Final Report. Global Reef Expedition Reports. [online] Annapolis, MD. Available at: <https://t3g9m2b3.rocketcdn.me/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Palau-Final-Report.pdf> [Accessed 22 May 2021].

[2] Reimer, J. et.al, 2018. Investigating biodiversity of coral reefs and related marine ecosystems in Palau. [online] Available at:

<https://picrc.org/picrcpage/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PCORIEBiodiversity180301vFINALCJDR b.pdf> [Accessed 24 May 2021].

[3] Marino, S. et al., 2007. The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of Palau. [online] Available at: <https://www.sprep.org/att/IRC/eCOPIES/Countries/Palau/31.pdf> [Accessed 22 May 2021].

[4] Gouezo, M., Golbuu, Y., van Woesik, R., Rehm, L., Koshiba, S. and Doropoulos, C., 2015. Impact of two sequential super typhoons on coral reef communities in Palau. Marine Ecology Progress Series, [online] 540, pp.73-85. Available at:

<http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps2015/540/m540p073.pdf> [Accessed 23 May 2021].

[5] Young, M. and Ginsburg, D., 2013. Before and After the Storm: The Impacts of Typhoon Bopha on Palauan Reefs. [online] Scientific American. Available at:

<https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/before-and-after-the-storm-the-impacts-of-ty phoon-bopha-on-palauan-reefs/> [Accessed 23 May 2021].

[6] Gruby, R. and Basurto, X., 2013. Multi-level governance for large marine commons: Politics and polycentricity in Palau's protected area network. Environmental Science & Policy, [online] 33, pp.260-272. Available at:

<https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1462901113001330> [Accessed 22 May 2021].

[7] NOAA, 2020. Coral Reef Condition: A Status Report for US Coral Reefs. [online] NOAA. Available at: <https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/27295> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[8] Voosen, P., 2019. Scientists Track Florida's Vanishing Barrier Reef. [online] Sciencemag. Available at: <https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/scientists-track-florida-s-vanishing-barrier-reef> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[9] Toth, L., et.al., 2019. The Unprecedented Loss of Florida's Reef‐Building Corals and the Emergence of a Novel Coral‐Reef Assemblage. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, [online] 100(4). Available at:

<https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecy.2781> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[10] Eakin, C., Lough, J., Heron, S. and Liu, G., 2009. Climate Variability and Change: Monitoring Data and Evidence for Increased Coral Bleaching Stress. Townsville: Springer, pp.51-84.

[11] Manzello, D., 2015. Rapid Recent Warming of Coral Reefs in the Florida Keys. Scientific Reports, [online] 5(1). Available at:

<https://www.nature.com/articles/srep16762#:~:text=The%20measured%20rate%20of%20warmi ng,ocean%20warming%20from%20climate%20change.> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[12] Eakin, C., et.al., 2010. Caribbean Corals in Crisis: Record Thermal Stress, Bleaching, and Mortality in 2005. PlosOne, [online] 5(11). Available at:

<https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013969> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[13] Miller, J. and et al, 2009. Coral disease following massive bleaching in 2005 causes 60% decline in coral cover on reefs in the US Virgin Islands. Coral Reefs, [online] 28(4), pp.925-937. Available at: <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00338-009-0531-7> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[14] Union of Concerned Scientists. 2008. Each Country's Share of CO2 Emissions. [online] Available at: <https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[15] US Congress. 2020. Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2429/text> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[16] Lavelle, M., 2017. The Coral Reefs You Never Heard of, in the Path of Trump’s Drilling Plan. [online] Inside Climate News. Available at:

<https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19052017/coral-reefs-donald-trump-drilling-gulf-mexico-m arine-sanctuary/> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

[17] The White House, 2021. FACT SHEET: President Biden Sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Union Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies. [online] Available at:

<https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/22/fact-sheet-preside nt-biden-sets-2030-greenhouse-gas-pollution-reduction-target-aimed-at-creating-good-paying-un ion-jobs-and-securing-u-s-leadership-on-clean-energy-technologies/> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

 

Awareness

French Environmental Legislation - Angelica Philips


In early May of this year, new environmental legislation was introduced into the lower house of the French parliament. The proposed bill is very broad, promising to reduce meat in school cafeterias, minimise packaging waste, and ban both short-distance flights and gas heaters on terraces.


The legislation would allow for polluters to be charged for their pollution in accordance with new ‘ecocide’ laws, and would ensure that public school cafeterias offer more vegetarian meals. The bill would mandate that goods such as clothes carry an ‘ecoscore’, indicating their impact on the environment.

Short domestic flights banned - Bloomberg, via SMH

The process of drafting the legislation involved a months-long discussion with 150 members of the public, resulting in dozens of ways to reduce emissions being suggested to the government, and quite a few being accepted.

The bill encourages various environmental changes that would generally lead to a small decrease in emissions, and don’t come at great costs to business or the population. France has lagged behind other European countries when it comes to climate action, having an emissions target of cutting 40% by 2030, whereas the EU has agreed to a 55% reduction target.

The main criticism of the policy is that it doesn’t do enough. “It’s a law that might have been adequate 15 years ago, when the climate emergency was less pressing. In 2021, it will not be enough to effectively tackle global warming,” said Jean-Francois Julliard, the head of Greenpeace France.

Throughout the country, thousands of activists protested the bill, critiquing the legislation that they believed was watered down and would not bring the sufficient change necessary to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. Groups such as Extinction Rebellion lit smoke bombs and chained themselves to gates outside of the National Assembly in Paris. Members of the group claim that the bill is an example of “greenwashing”.

With the French elections only a year away, Monsieur Macron is under pressure as France’s environmental party, Les Verts (The Greens), gains political power. This reflects a broader increase in support of environmental policies in Europe and globally. Even Monsieur Macron's main rival – far right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen – has adopted a platform of conservative environmentalism.

After the French government raised taxes on fuel to combat climate change, there were many rallies involving working class French citizens, who comprise a key voter base for Macron’s centrist/liberal party. This was the Yellow Vest movement, which protested heavily against the rising cost of living and fuel in France. In order to maintain this voter base, Macron has attempted to appease both environmentalists and working class citizens with the new legislation, but the result is a bill which fails to adequately address the concerns of either group.

Demonstrators of the Yellow Vest movement - Gulf News

The bill has only been approved in the lower house where it was passed by 332 to 77, and it will pass to the senate this month, where it will be debated in the conservative-controlled senate. It is likely that it will pass, leading to a small reduction in emissions, but one not significant enough to make the change needed.

The political climate in France is very divided, with both sides of the political spectrum moving further apart, so the legislation is likely to cause more conflict and division. Clearly, the environment will be a key issue at the next French election.


The Sydney Morning Herald, French parliament votes to ban airport expansions and short flights, https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/french-parliament-votes-to-ban-airport-expansions-and-short-flights-20210505-p57ox6.html?btis, 5/5/21

Deutsche Welle, France: Climate protesters take to the streets, https://www.msn.com/en-za/news/other/france-climate-protesters-take-to-the-streets/ar-BB1gxW1h, 9/5/21

CNA, Thousands march in France as Macron takes climate plan to Senate, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/thousands-march-in-france-as-macron-takes-climate-plan-to-senate-14776320, 10/5/21

New York Times, Going Green, or Greenwashing? A Proposed Climate Law Divides France, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/business/macron-france-climate-bill.html?searchResultPosition=1, 19/5/21

Wikipedia, Marine Le Pen, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Le_Pen, 3/6/21

 

Comic Relief

Scomo's response to Project Sunset - Ivy Rush


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