ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH –
Diseases from environmental risks
WHO calls for more research into microplastics and a crackdown on plastic pollution
22 August 2019
Note: Media around the world referred to this study as indicating that there was no evidence that microplastics were damaging human health. In reality the WHO declared that we are confronted with a major problem and that it is urgent to do intensive research to clarify the risks. That message is significantly different.
Mortality from air pollution
In a new study „Cardiovascular disease burden from ambient air pollution in Europe reassessed using novel hazard ratio functions”, published in the current issue of the European Heart Journal (Feb 2019), a team of scientists updates the calculations of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), a worldwide health study, and also its own calculations in the past: The previous calculation of the global mortality rate of 4.5 million deaths per year from air pollution is now re-assessed to amount to 8.8 million deaths per year. Europe has a higher rate of mortality than the global average; around 800.000 people die in Europe from air pollution every year, the study finds.
Study download: https://academic.oup.com/DocumentLibrary/EHJ/2019_PR/ehz135.pdf
WHO Report (March 2016) “Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks”. See: http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventing-disease/en/
Economic cost of the health impact of air pollution in Europe - WHO Europe, study published 29 April 2016. --- A staggering US $ 1.6 trillion is the economic cost of the approximate 600 000 premature deaths and of the diseases caused by air pollution in the WHO European Region in 2010, according to the first-ever study of these costs conducted for the Region. The amount is nearly equivalent to one tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire European Union in 2013. - - -The economic value of deaths and diseases due to air pollution – US$ 1 600 000 000 000 – corresponds to the amount societies are willing to pay to avoid these deaths and diseases with necessary interventions. In these calculations, a value is attached to each death and disease, independent of the age of the person and which varies according to the national economic context. --- Air pollution: the single largest environmental health risk --- Over 90% of citizens in the Region are exposed to annual levels of outdoor fine particulate matter that are above WHO's air quality guidelines. This accounted for 482 000 premature deaths in 2012 from heart and respiratory diseases, blood vessel conditions and strokes, and lung cancer. In the same year, indoor air pollution resulted in an additional 117 200 premature deaths, five times more in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
New GDP Center/UNCTAD Report: A New Multilateralism for Shared Prosperity
This report, launched on 12 April 2019, advances a set of “Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal” that can form the foundations for a new multilateral trade and investment regime that has shared prosperity and sustainable development as its core goals. The report has been prepared by the Boston University Global Development Policy (GDP) Center and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The report states, inter alia:
The report concludes: The “Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal” advances an urgent research and policy agenda for a New Multilateralism that rebuilds the rules of the global economy toward goals of coordinated stability, shared prosperity, and environmental sustainability, while deliberately respecting the space for national policy sovereignty.
State of the environment - recent reports:
Published in time for the Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.
It emphasizes that urgent and inclusive action is needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet with healthy people.
Global Chemicals Outlook, second edition, 2019 - The Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mandated by the UN Environment Assembly in 2016, seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development. It takes stock of global trends as well as progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020. The Global Chemicals Outlook II finds that the global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020. Solutions exist, but more ambitious worldwide action by all stakeholders is urgently required.
The Living Planet Report 2018 is the 12th edition of WWF’s biennial flagship publication.
Global Resources Outlook 2019
Natural Resources for the Future We Want
Since the 1970s, global population has doubled and global Gross Domestic Product has grown fourfold. These trends have required large amounts of natural resources to fuel economic development and the attendant improvements in human well-being this has brought across the globe. However, these gains have come at a tremendous cost to our natural environment, ultimately impacting human well-being and exacerbating inequalities within and between countries.
The Global Risks Report 2019
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published the 14th edition of its annual report ranking global risks, both in terms of impact and likelihood, with environmental threats topping both lists for the third year in a row.
World Water Development Report 2019 - Leaving No One Behind
The 2019 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2019) entitled ‘Leaving No One Behind’ seeks to inform policy and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, how improvements in water resources management and access to water supply and sanitation services are essential to overcoming poverty and addressing various other social and economic inequities. It was launched at the Human Rights Council, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva (Switzerland), on 19 March 2019.
From the Report:
2,1 billion people have no access to clean and permanently available drinking water. Menschen haben keinen Zugang zu sauberem und durchgängig verfügbarem Trinkwasser. 4,3 billion people cannot use clean sanitary places.
Governance developments: UNEP & UNEA
On UNEP activities see: https://www.unenvironment.org/
On UNEA (UN Environment Assembly) see: http://web.unep.org/environmentassembly/
On the 2019 session of UNEA see a summary at: http://enb.iisd.org/unep/oecpr4-unea4/
A book to remember a milestone in the debate not only about sustainable development but also the need of international environmental governance reform: Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission). By Iris Borowy, Routledge, November 2013.
The UN World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, alerted the world to the urgency of making progress toward economic development that could be sustained without depleting natural resources or harming the environment. The Brundtland Report strongly argued that sustainable development must be based on social, economic and environmental grounds, and that this change in perception must also have institutional implications at national and international levels. Some 30 years after the Brundtland Commission started its work we are still struggling with it.
More …. http://www.routledge.com
Rio+20 (2012) --- The Future We Want - The final document adopted at Rio+20 Conference, available at: http://www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html
The Contested Legacy of Rio+20, by Maria Ivanova, (September 20th, 2012). See: http://uncsd.iisd.org/guest-articles/the-contested-legacy-of-rio20/
Rio+20 - Failure or step in the right direction? - The reactions to the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 20-22 June 2012 were mixed. The final document “The Future We Want” received sharp criticism, from NGOs and scientists, while politicians saw certain progress. Dr. Lothar Guendling looks at the conference results and the possible perspectives for international environmental policy. More ... http://www.georgiatoday.ge/article_details.php?id=10245#
Green Economy – The Breakthrough To Change And Sustainable Development? - From 20-22 June more than 100 Heads of States and Governments and over 25000 participants are expected at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development called “Rio+20”. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the legendary conference at Rio in 1992. Dr. Lothar Guendling, Attorney in Luxemburg and international advisor to the Grigol Robakidze University Institute for Public Law and Administration and its Research Centre for European Environmental Law in Tbilisi looks at the importance and possible outcome of the upcoming global gathering. More ... http://www.georgiatoday.ge/article_details.php?id=10224
EUROPEAN UNION ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
"Living well, within the limits of our planet" --- New EU environmental action program formally adopted.
On 15 November 2013 the Council adopted a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a general union environment action programme to 2020 (PE-CO_S 64/13, 15519/13 ADD1 REV1). Adoption of the legislation followed an agreement reached during the informal discussions with the European Parliament on 19 June 2013. The seventh Environment Action Programme entitled "Living well, within the limits of our planet" replaces the sixth programme, which expired in July 2012.
More at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/envir/139603.pdf
Complying with EU environmental legislation: see the monthly infringement procedures at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/law/press_en.htm
EU enlargement and the environment
For the annual enlargement packages, see: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/strategy-and-progress-report/index_en.ht
Free trade and the environment
"Making TTIP environmentally sound", German Advisory Council on the Environment, opinion released 24 February 2016, more at: http://www.umweltrat.de/EN/TheGermanAdvisoryCouncilOnTheEnvironment/thegermanadvisorycouncilontheenvironment_node.html
Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) established by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 72/277 (“Towards a Global Pact for the Environment”), second session 18-20 March 2019, summary at http://enb.iisd.org/unep/globalpact/oewg2/
More on the “Global Pact” at https://globalpact.informea.org/
Gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments: towards a global pact for the environment. Report of the UN Secretary-General, 30 November 2018, UN Doc A/73/419. Link at http://enb.iisd.org/unep/globalpact/oewg2/
Launched on 24 January 2019, the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT & SDGs
Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals:
All information on SDGs and the developments since 2015, also on the High-Level Political Forum regular meetings: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/
The Sustainable Development Report 2019, a Bertelsmann Foundation publication, was released on 19 June 2019. Among the main findings are:
Eradicating poverty and strengthening equity remain important policy priorities. Eradicating extreme poverty remains a global challenge with half of the world’s nations not on track for achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty).
Critical voices in the sustainability debate
Sustainability will only be achieved if we change, at a global scale, the way we produce and consume. A drastical look at realities of the globalized economy gives the Mighty Earth Report “Cargill, the worst company in the world”, released on 9 July 2019.
Another critical view at the world still being far from abandoning the unsustainable way of production and consumption: For all those who read German, Kathrin Hartmann, Aus
kontrolliertem Raubbau, 2015, Blessing-Verlag,
Sustainable development is accepted by all, in theory
and as a concept; to make it a reality is a different story.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), released on 8 August 2019 and addressing land as a critical resource, desertification and land degradation, food security, and land and climate change responses.
Download at: https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl-report-download-page/
WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018. This publication, issued on 28 March 2019, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate, which was first issued in 1994.
2018 was the fourth warmest year on record. – 2015-2018 were the four warmest years on record as the long-term warming trend continues. - Ocean heat content is at a record high and global mean sea level continues to rise. - Artic and Antarctic sea-ice extent is well below average. - Extreme weather had an impact on lives and sustainable development on every continent. - Average global temperature reached approximately 1 °C above pre-industrial levels . - We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases . - Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference.
IPCC SPECIAL REPORT: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.
Issued 2018, revised January 2019: An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above
pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C
between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence)
Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for
centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system,
such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are
unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence).
Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than
at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate
of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and
implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence).
Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and
economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with
Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid
and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and
buildings), and industrial systems (high confidence). These systems transitions are unprecedented
in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all
sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant up-scaling of investments in those
options (medium confidence).
More ... https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Paris Agreement 2015
Text of the Paris Agreement: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf
More information on the process:
All info on the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), its COPs, Meetings of the Parties under Kyoto and Paris, decisions, documents etc: https://unfccc.int/
Losing Earth, by Nathaniel Rich, Pan Macmillan, 2019;
in German published by Rowohlt Verlag, 2019
The Uninhabitable Earth - Life After Warming, By David Wallace-Wells, 2019
Publication on the Paris Agreement (in German): “Unter 2 Grad? Was der Weltklimavertrag wirklich bringt“ ("Below 2°? What the world climate agreement is really good for"). --- Details: Sommer, Jörg & Müller, Michael (Hrsg.), Unter 2 Grad? Was der Weltklimavertrag wirklich bringt. 320 S., Stuttgart (Hirzel-Verlag, 2016), ISBN 978-3-7776-2570-6, Euro 19,80
Contributions by: Franz Alt, Hans Diefenbacher, Ottmar Edenhofer, Christian Flachsland, Jochen Flasbarth, Thomas Friesel, Hartmut Graßl, Rüdiger Haum, Peter Hennicke, Lukas Hermwille, Anton Hofreiter, Pierre Ibisch, Hartmut Ihne, Andreas Jung, Claudia Kemfert, Ulrike Kornek, Maria Krautzberger, Manfred Kriener, Martin Kaiser, Mojib Latif, Reinhold Leinfelder, Claude Martin, Matthias Miersch, Volker Mosbrugger, Michael Müller, Kai Niebert, Hermann E. Ott, Nick Reimer, Holger Rogall, Sabine Schlacke, Ann-Kathrin Schneider, Uwe Schneidewind, Susanne Schwarz, Christoph Seidler, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Jörg Sommer, Frank Uekötter, Barbara Unmüßig, Beate Weber-Schuerholz, Hubert Weiger, Anders Wijkman, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. --- The book was published on 22 April 2016, the day when the Paris Agreement was signed. ---
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. - First global biodiversity assessment since 2005. - A definitive new global synthesis of the state of nature, ecosystems and nature's contributions to people - the first such report since the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005, and the first ever that is inter-governmental - will be presented to representatives of 132 Governments for consideration of approval in May 2019. - Report agreed on and Summary for Policy-Makers released on 6 May 2019. Some fundamental findings:
For other assessment reports of IPBES, especially the regional reports on Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, released in 2018, see https://www.ipbes.net/assessment-reports
IUCN protected area guidelines
Borrini-Feyerabend, G., N. Dudley, T. Jaeger, B. Lassen, N. Pathak Broome, A. Phillips and T. Sandwith (2013), Governance of Protected Areas: From understanding to action. Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 20, Gland, Switzerland, IUCN. xvi + 124pp. ---
The guidelines are available online at: www.iucn.org/publications
State of world forests - reports and data
Loss of animal species in forests by 50% since 1970 at global level. - WWF Forest Report 2019, released 13 August 2019. -
The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since record-keeping began in 2001. Of greatest concern is the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of primary rainforest, an area the size of Belgium. The figures come from updated data from the University of Maryland, released 25 April 2019 on Global Forest Watch.
Open letter of scientists
In an open letter to the EU, published on 26 April 2019 in “Science”, more than 600 scientists and two organisations representing 300 indigenous peoples, raise human rights and environment protection concerns over Brazil’s current policies and request the EU bodies to insist in the trade negotiations with Brazil in the respect of human rights and environmental standards : “We urge the EU to make trade negotiations with Brazil conditional on: (i) upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; (ii) improving procedures to trace commodities associated with deforestation and Indigenous rights conflicts; and (iii) consulting with, and gaining consent from, Indigenous Peoples and local communities to define strict social and environmental criteria for traded commodities.”
Open letter at: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6438/341.1
Intergovernmental Conference on an International Legally Binding Instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, Second Session 25 March-5 April 2019. - Summary of the session with brief history and background at: http://enb.iisd.org/oceans/bbnj/igc2/
German Advisory Council on Global Change Flagship Report 2013: World in Transition: Governing the Marine Heritage
Despite numerous international treaties and voluntary commitments, the seas are still being massively overfished, polluted and increasingly exploited as the Earth's last resort. In view of the oceans’ poor condition the WBGU developed a long-term vision of the conservation and sustainable use of the blue continent: All marine zones with the exception of territorial waters should be declared the common heritage of mankind. In order to move closer to this ultimate goal for ocean governance, the WBGU also makes recommendations for action that link up with ongoing political processes. In this context it examines the example of two focal themes: food (sustainable fisheries and aquaculture) and energy from the sea. The report shows that sustainable stewardship of the oceans is urgently necessary, that the seas can be incorporated into a transformation towards a low-carbon, sustainable society, and that such a transformation can achieve substantial benefits worldwide both for a sustainable energy supply and for food security.
The report is in German, with an English summary. The flagship reports of the Council are all available online. ---
The English version has been published in February 2014 ---
More ... http://www.wbgu.de/fr-2013-oceans
Arctic: new report on biodiversity impacts of sea ice changes (Oct 2013): Life Linked to Ice examines the consequences for biodiversity of the dramatic changes occurring to sea ice. It was prepared by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group (CAFF), and both draws from and builds on Arctic Council assessments in order to present an overview of the state of knowledge about sea-ice-associated biodiversity. The report is intended as a briefing and reference document for policy makers. ---
Fishery practices in the Arctic: new report on destructive fisheries (March 2016), see:
ENVIRONMENT AND WASTE
Biodegradable bags can hold a full load of shopping three years after being discarded in the environment. Researchers from the International Marine Litter Research Unit (University of Plymouth) publish new research in Environmental Science and Technology. More about this study published 29 April 2019 at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/biodegradable-bags-can-hold-a-full-load-of-shopping-three-years-after-being-discarded-in-the-environment
So, we better forget about plastic bags altogether, “bio” or not, support all initiatives that could phase them out, and go shopping with the good old shopping bags. That’s really no big deal.
Global trade in plastic waste
A new GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) report, published on 23 April 2019, analyses the current trends in global trade in plastic wastes, the origin of the wastes in industrialized countries (21 countries of origin with USA, UK, Germany and Japan on top), and the environmental impacts in the receiving countries (water contamination, crop death, illness, and the open burning of plastic waste) whose communities lack the capacities to deal adequately with the wastes. Just another issue of justice in international environmental governance. With data from Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The report at GAIA’s webpage:
The issue is at the Basel Convention meeting 29 April – 10 May 2019 which discusses a proposal of Norway to apply the prior-informed-consent rule to the export of plastic wastes. More on the meeting, the Basel Convention, and its role in international waste governance at http://www.basel.int/
The legacy of Chernobyl and Fukushima. - A new report addresses the unsettled problems of nuclear energy uses:
At the occasion of remembering Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) the Federal Minister for the environment declared (10 March 2016): "Nuclear energy has no future". See: www.bmub.bund.de/presse.
At the same time (March 2016), the German Federal Constitutional Court considers the case brought before it by power supply companies that the phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany decided in 2011 by the federal government was unconstitutional.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
For a comprehensive all-inclusive and regular preview of upcoming events in the environment and sustainable development fields, including major international conferences and meetings, see: http://www.iisd.org/calendar/