EU ministers have agreed to ratify the landmark Paris climate agreement at an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Friday, all but guaranteeing that it will pass a legal threshold to take effect next week and sparing the bloc’s blushes in the process. The EU’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The EU’s member states decided to make history together and bring closer the entry into force of the first ever universally binding climate change agreement. We must and we can hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies.
September 2016 is a major milestone for the world’s climate. At a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide is usually at its minimum, the monthly value failed to drop below 400 parts per million (ppm). That all but ensures that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to scientists. And global temperature has increased to a level not seen for 115,000 years, requiring daunting technological advances that will cost the coming generations hundreds of trillions of dollars, according to the scientist widely credited with bringing climate change to the public’s attention. A new paper submitted by James Hansen, a former senior Nasa climate scientist, and 11 other experts states that the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years.
Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first. Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes.
Horizontal fracking can go ahead, the government has said, in a landmark ruling for the UK shale gas industry. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire. Environmentalists and local campaign groups reacted angrily, saying it was a denial of local democracy. It means, for the first time, UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally, which is expected to yield more gas. A second site, Roseacre Wood, has not yet been given the green light amid concerns over the impact on the area. Javid overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year and provoking outrage from local groups, environmentalists and politicians. The council cited visual impact and noise when it turned down the company’s two planning applications to frack on the Fylde last year, but a month later Cuadrilla submitted an appeal.
Pangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, were thrown a lifeline at a global wildlife summit on Wednesday with a total trade ban in all species. More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade, to feed the huge and rising appetite in China and Vietnam for its meat and its scales, a supposed medicine. The unique scaly anteaters are fast heading for extinction in Asia and poachers are now plundering Africa. But the 182 nations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) unanimously agreed a total ban on international trade on all species at the summit in Johannesburg, prompting cheers and applause from delegates. More on the Guardian website here.
China is the world’s deadliest country for outdoor air pollution, according to analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN agency has previously warned that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources are killing 3 million people worldwide each year. For the first time the WHO has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level. It reveals that of the worst three nations, more than 1 million people died from dirty air in China in 2012, at least 600,000 in India and more than 140,000 in Russia. At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.
Shoppers in England have become much more likely to take their own bags to the high street since the introduction of a plastic bag charge nearly a year ago, a study has found. More than nine in 10 people now often or always carry their own bags, up from seven in 10 before the 5p charge came into effect, and the public became much more supportive after it started. The number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and big retailers in England has fallen by 85%.
The Labour party has strengthened its opposition to fracking, saying it would ban the controversial technique for extracting shale gas if it came to power. Speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool, shadow energy and climate secretary Barry Gardiner is to announce the party will be going further than its previous policy of a moratorium until environment conditions are met.
The Guardian reports that world’s first agreement to curb aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution has been struck by 191 nations in a landmark United Nations accord, although environmental groups have warned the deal doesn’t go far enough. A meeting of 2,000 delegates at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency, in Montreal has settled upon a global emissions-reduction scheme that will apply to passenger and cargo flights that generate more than 10,000 tonnes of annual greenhouse gases. The deal, aimed at reducing the growing climate impact of plane travel, follows years of disagreement between nations on how to slow emissions from the sector. Instead of facing a cap or charge on emissions, airlines will be involved in an offsetting scheme whereby forest areas and carbon-reducing activities will be funded, costing about 2% of the industry’s annual revenues. Global aviation emissions in 2020 will be used as a benchmark, with around 80% of emissions above 2020 levels offset until 2035. A push by the shipping and oil industries for a five-year delay to curbs on toxic sulphur emissions would cause an extra 200,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease, according to an unpublished International Maritime Organisation (IMO) study.
Romania has banned all trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats in a surprise decision that gives Europe’s largest population of large carnivores a reprieve from its most severe and immediate threat.
The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated.