World’s Largest Marine Nature Reserve
Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has agreed to a vast marine protection area in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The joint USA/New Zealand proposal will establish a 1.55 million km2 special protection area (the BBC news article has a map of the area here). The new special protection area status will come into force in December 2017. It will strictly limit or prohibit activities to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives. Some areas of the special protection area will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research whilst other areas will be strictly controlled as no fishing zones.
Significantly, there has been important international agreement to create the marine protection area. In total twenty four countries have come together and worked towards this goal of marine protection. The Ross Sea is in an area which is relatively untouched by human activity and has many diverse species that include penguins, seals and whales among many others.
This achievement has taken around five years to come to fruition: the CCAMLR Scientific Committee first endorsed the scientific basis for the marine protection area (MPA) proposals in 2011. From 2012 to 2015 the proposals were refined in terms of the scientific data to support the scheme. Specific details, such as exact location of the boundaries, of the MPA were also based upon this research.
Areas closed to fishing, or in which fishing activities are restricted, can be used by scientists to compare with areas that are open to fishing. Scientists can then research the relative impacts of fishing and other changes, such as those arising from climate change. It should help in the understanding of the range of variables affecting the overall status and health of marine ecosystems. For further information see this CCAMLR link.
This huge special protection area is remarkable in terms of the international agreement and could pave the way for many other ocean protection areas that may help to preserve marine species and fish stocks.
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Withdrawal Agreement Signed
More than 150 countries have reached an agreement to phase out Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases that are causing more extreme warming of the Earth. The amendment to the Montreal protocol has agreed to a programmed phasing out of Hydrofluorocarbons that are used in fridges, air conditioning and aerosols. HFCs have a global warming effect that is around 15,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. They also represent the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
An amendment to the Montreal Protocol was signed in Rwanda that will start to see richer countries cut back their HFC use from 2019. It is known as the Kigali amendment after where the agreement was signed. 197 parties to the Montreal protocol have now extended it to decommission use of the HFCs which are CFC (ChloroFluoroCarbon: ozone hole damaging gases) replacement gases.
There are three time scale approaches that will be used for different countries. Firstly the richer economies (such as the European Union, the US and others) will begin limiting their HFC use from 2019. They will need to make cuts of at least 10% of HFC usage from then. Next, some developing countries like China, Latin America countries and island states will freeze their use of HFCs from 2024. Thirdly, other developing countries, specifically Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states will not freeze their use until 2028.
China, which is the largest producer of HFCs, will not start to cut their production or use until 2029. India, will start even later, making its first 10% cut in use in 2032. Some estimates suggest that the removal of HFCs may reduce climate change by around 0.5 degrees Celsius, although this is debated.
HFCs are from a group of fluorinated greenhouse gases that are known as F-gases. They are the most important F-gases from a climate perspective and are relatively short lived in the atmosphere. Some other F-gases such as perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Some F-gases are 23,000 times more potent, in terms of their warming potential, than carbon dioxide. This European Commission link highlights the commitment to cut F-gas emissions by two thirds by 2030 in Europe.
The Montreal protocol follows the 2015 Paris (COP21) climate agreement which was signed by over 190 countries last December and will start with effect from early November 2016. The protocol was originally signed in 1987 in order to remove the highly destructive CFCs that were depleting high-level ozone above the Polar regions.
Ban For Internal Combustion Cars By 2030?
In Germany, the Bundestrat (or Upper House) which is the federal council of all 16 German states, has passed a resolution to ban the internal combustion engine (ICE) powered car by 2030. This is an influential resolution that may gain wider acceptance, although it is not binding. Other countries in Europe are also keen on the idea, such as The Netherlands and Sweden for example. The European Union may follow: the resolution calls on the European Commission to “evaluate the recent tax and contribution practices of Member States on their effectiveness in promoting zero-emission mobility”. This could mean taxing internal combustion vehicles more or reducing tax on electric cars.
Given there has been much awareness of worsening air pollution from internal combustion engines and diesel cars specifically, due to particulates that are released into the atmosphere, this could be the start of a shift towards more sustainable vehicles. Paris and other cities such as London are now using measures to attempt to improve their air quality that ban older cars (in the case of Paris as of this July) or charge vehicles with internal combustion engines to enter the city centre (London).
This shift in traction to electric vehicles could be seen as part of the mega trend to move to electrically powered transport and Germany has set out some goals that would mean that there will be little incentive to continue to support internal combustion engines that are powered by fossil fuels.
References used for this article include: http://arstechnica.co.uk/cars/2016/10/germany-bundesrat-internal-combustion-ban-2030/ and http://www.treehugger.com/cars/germanys-bundesrat-calls-end-internal-combustion-engine-powered-cars-2030.html