Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International for July 18, 2021. №29

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Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International for July 18, 2021. №29

The alleged mastermind of the 2016 killing of environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was convicted of homicide by a Honduran court on Monday. Roberto David Castillo Mejía, the former head of the hydropower company Desarrollos Energéticos (Desa) and an ex-army intelligence officer, was found guilty of participating in the assassination of Cáceres. The court decision, reached after a 49-day trial, was unanimous.

David Castillo Mejía, the hydroelectric company executive arrested for orchestrating the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, in the custody of Honduran authorities in 2018. Photo credit: the Attorney General’s office of the Republic of Honduras.

Cáceres was gunned down in her home on March 2, 2016 at the age of 44 after leading opposition to the Agua Zarca dam, which was to be built on the Rio Galcarque, a river that is sacred to the local Lenca people. Cáceres — herself Lenca — was the co-founder the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

Berta Caceres at the banks of the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras. Photo credit: The Goldman Prize.

Cáceres was recognized for her activism against the dam in 2015 when she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Her subsequent murder shocked the world and led to the suspension of the Agua Zarca dam.

A mural of murdered activists Berta Cáceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo by disoniador via Pixabay.

Castillo Mejía is the eighth person to be convicted in the murder. According to the Associated Press, seven men were sentenced to prison in December 2019 for their role in the assassination, receiving terms ranging from 30 to 50 years.

Castillo Mejía is set to be sentenced in August and is expected to receive 24 to 30 years for allegedly financing the hit and providing support to the hitmen, according to prosecutors. Read more


Europe Unveils Plan to Shift From Fossil Fuels, Setting Up Potential Trade Spats. The proposal would impose tariffs on some imports from countries with looser environmental rules. It would also mean the end of sales in the European Union of new gas- and diesel-powered cars in just 14 years. In what may be a seminal moment in the global effort to fight climate change, Europe on Wednesday challenged the rest of the world by laying out an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, a plan that also has the potential to set off global trade disputes.

Wind turbines near an open-cast mining site and the coal-fired Neurath power station in western Germany.Credit...Ina Fassbender/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The most radical, and possibly contentious, proposal would impose tariffs on certain imports from countries with less stringent climate-protection rules. The proposals also include eliminating the sales of new gas- and diesel-powered cars in just 14 years, and raising the price of using fossil fuels. “Our current fossil fuel economy has reached its limit,” the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said at a news conference in Brussels. The effort, pushed by the European Commission, the E.U.’s bureaucracy, makes the 27-country bloc’s proposal the most aggressive and detailed plan in the world to reach a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, proposing big changes during this decade. To force the issue, Brussels has committed in law to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases 55 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Read more


Greenland's natural resources minister Naaja Nathanielsen said the environment and climatic impacts of further oil and gas extraction had been assessed as being "too high" when weighed against potential financial gains, and was therefore being stopped. And, not issuing further exploration licenses was a "natural step," because Greenland took the "climate crisis seriously," according to the vast Arctic island's Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mute Agede.

Greenland's new government campaigned against the resource extraction projects seen by others on the island as a route towards financial and political independence from Denmark

"The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain," the cabinet said, stressing sustainable farming of its natural resources such as fisheries stemming from Inuit traditions. Energy minister Kalistat Lund said Greenland was experiencing "the consequences of climate change in our country every day" and took " climate change seriously." Read more


Nine districts in Indonesia have pledged to protect 50% of forests, peatlands and other “important ecosystems” in their jurisdictions by 2030, local leaders announced last week. Spread across three islands and six provinces, the districts of Siak, Musi Banyuasin, Sintang, Sigi, Gorontalo, Bone Bolango, Aceh Tamiang, Sanggau and Kapuas Hulu are members of the Sustainable Districts Association, formed in 2017. The pledge encompasses a total of 5.8 million hectares (14.3 million acres) of forest and 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) of peat — a total area the size of South Carolina. “We district leaders in Indonesia affirm our commitment to implementing sustainable development at the district level, in order to support the national priority agenda of the Republic of Indonesia toward sustainable development,” Dodi Reza Alex Noerdin, the elected leader of Musi Banyuasin and outgoing general chair of the Sustainable Districts Association, said at a July 7 meeting, which was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and various development and civil society organizations and private companies.

Deforestation in Indonesian Borneo in 2019. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

After the 1998 fall of the dictator Suharto, broad powers over land-use planning and licensing were devolved from Jakarta to the nation’s districts, giving them considerable sway over the fate of the nation’s rainforests and peatlands, among the most extensive in the world. In recent years, however, some of those powers have been transferred back to the provincial and central government levels. Last week’s declaration, called the “Declaration of a Vision for Sustainable Districts 2030,” follows the 2018 Manokwari Declaration by the governors of Papua and West Papua provinces, who pledged to protect 70% of the forestland in those two provinces. Read more


Conservation and climate action groups on Thursday applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement of far-reaching new protections for Alaska's Tongass National Forest as well as a restoration of a key rule that former President Donald Trump rescinded three months before leaving office in a bid to open millions of acres to industrial logging.

An ocean inlet in Misty Fjords National Monument, part of the Tongass National Forest. Arabani / Flickr

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration would put back in place the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, also known as the Roadless Rule, which Trump exempted Alaska from in a move that outraged Indigenous communities in the region as well as environmental advocates. With the rule back in effect, companies will again be barred from road construction and large-scale logging in more than half of the 16 million acre forest, which includes five million acres of old-growth trees such as Sitka spruce trees that date back at least 800 years. The forest serves as a habitat for more than 400 species of wildlife and fish, ensures food sovereignty for Indigenous communities in Alaska — including the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, whose traditional territories lie within the forest — and plays a vital role in mitigating the climate crisis. Read more


Giant pandas are no longer classified as endangered but are still vulnerable, Chinese officials say. The classification was downgraded as their number in the wild has reached 1,800. Experts say that the country managed to save its iconic animal through its long-term conservation efforts, including the expansion of habitats. China considers pandas a national treasure, but have also loaned them to other countries as diplomatic tools.

Giant pandas are no longer classified as "endangered" - but are still "vulnerable"

The latest classification upgrade "reflects their improved living conditions and China's efforts in keeping their habitats integrated", said Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation at a news conference. The new classification comes years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had already removed the animal from its endangered species list and re-labelled it as "vulnerable" in 2016. At the time, however, Chinese officials had disputed the decision, saying that it could mislead people into believing that conservation efforts could be relaxed. Read more


The registration of the Far Eastern stork, which is currently being completed in the Amur region with the support of WWF Russia, has shown a record increase in the number of this rare bird in the entire history of regular observations. The number of breeding pairs in the Russian part of the Amur basin is approaching 1000, and the total number of storks is estimated at about 5.5 thousand individuals.

Nest on a wooden support.  Fotos by Anton Sasin

In key stork nesting areas, the Foundation's partners-public organizations, federal and regional protected areas - with the support of WWF Russia, carried out a huge amount of work to install artificial supports for nests in places where there were not enough nesting trees.

Nest on the power line facility. Fotos by Anton Sasin

The problem of conflicts between storks and humans when nesting birds on power transmission poles has been practically solved, and the largest electric grid companies in the region are implementing multi-year programs to ensure safe nesting of storks at network facilities. The fight against illegal fishing in stork habitats, which undermines the stork's food base, is being successfully conducted. Read more


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