Planet Watch

Alaska Native tribes challenge Tongass logging

Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit Dec. 23 challenging the Trump administration's move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The tribes are represented by nonprofits Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and are joined as plaintiffs by other environmental groups, commercial fishing groups, and tourism businesses. In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the "roadless rule." The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the "largest intact temperate rainforest in the world."

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

Native American activist Winona LaDuke and a small group of opponents of the planned Line 3 oil pipeline project braved frigid winds Dec. 15 to demonstrate outside the Enbridge Energy office in Park Rapids, Minn. LaDuke and her self-proclaimed "water protectors" carried signs reading "Mother Earth Revolution," "We are here for the future," and "Protect climate, water, treaties." The planned pipeline would bring more shale oil from northern Canada to US markets. Local Ojibwe bands in Minnesota have brought legal challenge against the pipeline, asserting that the potential for oil spills from the line poses a risk to their treaty-guaranteed hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

COVID-19 could deepen global poverty: UNDP

Severe long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty, bringing the total to over 1 billion by 2030, according to findings by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The study, part of a long-standing partnership between UNDP and the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, assesses the impact of different COVID-19 recovery scenarios on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating the multidimensional effects of the pandemic over the next decade. The "Baseline COVID" scenario, based on current mortality rates and the most recent growth projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), would result in 44 million more people living in extreme poverty by 2030 compared to the development trajectory the world was on before the pandemic. Under a "High Damage" scenario, where the recovery is protracted, COVID-19 is likely to push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, compared to that baseline, says the report.

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration on Nov. 16 announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office issued a call for "nominations" on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. The notice launches the beginning of a 30-day public comment period before the agency moves forward with lease sales.

United States formally exits global climate pact

The United States on Nov. 4 formally left the Paris Agreement, the nearly-universal global accord to reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to slow climate change. The US began the exit process one year ago, when it notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the agreement, triggering the effective date of withdrawal. The decision to withdraw was the fulfillment of remarks Donald Trump made not long after becoming president in 2017 in which he claimed the Paris Agreement was less about climate change and more about other countries taking advantage of the US financially by transferring coal-mining jobs from the United States to those countries.

Humanity's affluent 1% drive climate change

The richest one percent of the world's population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, "Confronting Carbon Inequality," is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the "consumption emissions" of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It found:

Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

The Innu Nation of Labrador announced Oct. 6 that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land in 1967 to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community's culture and way of life. "The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu. What happened, it was not right. Our elders deserved better treatment then, and we demand better treatment now," said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, "stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent."

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights  (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

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