Each week we share the top sustainability news stories from around the world. Here’s this week’s round up:
This week we explore Irish agriculture and farming, an investigation into Brazil’s deforestation and opinions around putting an end to short-haul flights around Europe.
Irish Agriculture Will “Change for the Better” says Climate Action Minster
When speaking at the Dublin Climate Dialogues this week, Minister for Environment and Climate Action and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan indicated that Ireland’s agriculture sector will “change for the better” as the country transitions to a net-zero emissions economy. The comments come during an international event preceding the highly-anticipated Cop26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow this upcoming November.
As Irish farmers switch to a mixed grasslands system it will ultimately lower the cost for the farmer and reduce the amount of fertiliser needed, according to Ryan. The move will ultimately be a “better and healthier solution for animals, and for all natural systems in Ireland” he said. Finally, he mentioned the importance of facilitating a “Just Transition” for Irish agriculture so that the younger generation of farmers can be financially supported in the future, something that has recently been called into question.
Recently farmers in Ireland have been at odds with the government, most notably staging protests surrounding a long-running dispute between beef farmers and meat factories. Farmers staged protests by blocking Dublin city centre streets with tractors as well as blockading meat processing factories and forcing them to temporarily shut down in order to ensure better pay for the beef they supply. The protests ended with the previous minister brokering a deal, however, farmers in Ireland are still concerned about the sustainability of their future.
Government action will also involve rewetting of bogs as their carbon sink capacity will assist in the economy-wide transition. Currently Ireland’s agricultural sector accounts for almost 40% of its total carbon emissions so this is an industry that will be focused on during the next decade of renewable transition.
Brazil Environment Minister Targeted In Wood-Smuggling Probe
Brazilian police this week searched properties connected to Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and other officials in a probe on allegations they allowed illegal exports of timber from the Amazon to the United States and Europe. Police were acting on a ruling from Supreme Court Justice Alexandre Moraes. The judge reversed rule changes that officials made to permit the exports retroactively and granted access to Salles’ bank account and tax records.
The court listed that US border authorities stopped illegal logging shipments in December 2019 and January 2020 while two shipments without proper paperwork went to Belgium and Denmark. Reuters reported though that there were far more shipments than the few caught at the U.S. border, with thousands of cargoes of wood exported from the Amazon without the usual authorisation.
The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, has seen massive deforestation in the past two decades. Between 2017 and 2018, 7,900 square kilometres of rainforest were cut down due to the ever-growing human consumption and population. While more than 90% of the deforestation is Illegal, the Brazilian government has done little to stop or enforce it. A growing chorus of environmental advocates and sustainability-focused investors have demanded that Salles be removed as minister for his efforts to roll back environmental protections in the country.
EU Official Backs German Greens on Curbing Flights
EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said “I support taxing kerosene like other fuels” and that “nobody has to fly ten or twelve times a year”. He thinks that if EU citizens could be persuaded to limit themselves to one flight a year, “then there would be no problem – neither for climate, nor for their wallets.” The comments come in response to German Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock’s call for a ban on short-haul flights. The green’s popularity and policies have soared in Germany ahead of a September general election. Opinion polls suggest the Greens could lead Germany’s next coalition with Baerbock becoming chancellor.
She said that a greens led government would make budget flights a thing of the past. “A family travelling by train should pay less for a train ticket than for short-haul flights” she added. She further added that their emergency climate programme would include making solar panels compulsory for new buildings. Her policies were met with some governmental resistance from the current coalition, indicating that they believe banning short-haul flights aren’t the best way to halt aviation emissions. About 2.5% of global C02 emissions come from aviation. Combined with gases and water vapour trails, the industry as a whole is responsible for 5%.
Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.