Top Stories

January 07, 2015



China encourages environmental groups to sue polluters

China has granted public interest groups more power to sue those that disobey environmental protection laws. Social groups that work to fight polluters judicially will gain special status and have court fees reduced, the Supreme People’s Court said on its website. They will also be allowed to sue firms or individuals across China, regardless of where the organisation is based. Premier Li Keqiang announced last year that the country was “declaring war” against pollution, and a series of measures have been announced, but questions remain over enforcement. Despite the increased opportunities for NGOs, they face intense government scrutiny in China, with charges of “illegal fundraising” often used to shut businesses that authorities deem politically inconvenient. But there are signs the government is willing to accommodate lawsuits brought by environmental NGOs. Last month, six Chinese companies were fined a record $26 million for discharging tens of thousands of tonnes of waste chemicals into rivers. (The Guardian)


Amnesty and Oxfam welcome new controls on weapons companies

Campaigners at Amnesty International and Oxfam have hailed a huge victory as the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law on 24 December 2014. The treaty aims to set the highest standards for controlling the $85 billion international trade of arms and ammunition, and to cut the supply of weapons to all dictators and human rights abusers. Under the new rules in the ATT, supplier governments must assess associated risks of arms deals against strict criteria, including whether the arms might be used for human rights violations or war crimes. “Campaigners around the world have been fighting for this moment for years. This treaty is not just a piece of paper. If robustly implemented, it has the potential to save lives and protect vulnerable civilians,” said Oxfam spokesperson Mariam Kemple Hardy. To date, 129 states have signed the ATT, with 60 having ratified it. These include major arms exporters such as France, the UK and Germany (Oxfam; Amnesty International)


Slide in commodity prices increases toll on Amazon rainforest

A commodity boom has helped pull more than 80 million Latin Americans out of poverty in the past decade, according to the World Bank. However as prices for oil and other commodities slide, economists and environmental researchers warn that increased demand may hasten the loss of forest cover, leading to governments in the region trying to maintain growth rates by relaxing environmental legislation and driving deeper into the jungle. Satellite imagery of the Amazon basin shows that Brazil has cut the pace of deforestation by 75% since 2004, largely due to tighter environmental regulation. However, in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and other Amazonian nations, deforestation has increased threefold in the same period. “Price declines and slower growth make nations more desperate, and they can be more apt to weakening environmental standards in order to grab at any investment,” said Kevin Gallagher, a development economist at Boston University. (The Guardian)

Technology and Innovation

Ford showcases latest “Smart Mobility” innovations at 2015 Consumer Electronics Show

This week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Ford is showcasing its latest innovations, aimed at helping to change the way the world moves. With the Ford Smart Mobility plan, the automaker is focusing on leading-edge work in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. The first steps for the plan are 25 mobility experiments being conducted around the world this year, aimed at tackling global megatrends challenging today’s transportation model, including explosive population growth and air quality concerns. “We are here at CES with a higher purpose,” said Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. “We see a world where vehicles talk to one another, drivers and vehicles communicate with the city infrastructure to relieve congestion, and people routinely share vehicles or multiple forms of transportation for their daily commute.” (Sustainable Brands)

Corporate Reputation

Shell agrees £55 million deal over Niger Delta oil spill

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a £55 million in compensation to 15,600 Nigerian fisherman and residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta for two oil spills in 2008 and 2009. The law firm representing the Nigerian fishermen and their community, Leigh Day, described it as one of the largest payouts to an entire community after devastating environmental damage. The lawyers’ clients will receive an average of £2,200 each for losses caused by the spills, with the remaining £20 million left for the community. While Shell said it had accepted responsibility for the spills “from the outset”, lawyer Martyn Day said it was “deeply disappointing that Shell took six years to take this case seriously and to recognise the true extent of the damage these spills caused to the environment and to those who rely on it for their livelihood”. (BBC; CNBC)




Image source: Black Sea Defense and Aerospace 2010 By locotenent Bogdan Rădulescu / CC BY-SA 3.0