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Hydrogen trains, a vaccine for malaria and the powerful new coalition seeking to save tropical forests

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Aerial views of Ribangkadeng village, nestled in the tropical forests of West Kalimantan. Nanang Sujana, CIFOR
7 May 2021
7 May 2021

World leaders have set a raft of new climate targets – but the Earth is still on track for a 2.4 degrees Celsius temperature rise by the end of the century.

In this Landscape News round-up, find out what that means for the future of food, water and human migration. Also in this week’s news: the largest public-private partnership to finance tropical forest protection, a lithium gold rush and a landmark ruling by Germany’s top court.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

A plant nursery in Yangambi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Axel Fassio, CIFOR
A plant nursery in Yangambi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Axel Fassio, CIFOR

Some 40 percent of the world’s population is affected by land degradation. Last week, we arranged a digital forumexploring how to fix that by restoring the Earth’s degraded landscapes.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, communities are setting an example by planting 1 million trees to restore the Congo Basin’s degraded tropical forests.

Monarch butterflies have dwindled over the last 20 years – and it’s on us to stop them from dying out entirely by rewilding our farms, gardens and cities.

BUSINESS

A lithium mine in Nevada, U.S.A. Doc Searls, Flickr
A lithium mine in Nevada, U.S.A. Doc Searls, Flickr

The U.S., U.K. and Norway are partnering with major corporations including Amazon, Nestlé and Unilever to raise funds to protect tropical forests.

Nestlé has also been ordered to stop bottling water from a forest in drought-hit California, where it has been taking 25 times as much water as it is legally allowed to.

Credit Suisse investors have called on the Swiss banking giant to adopt a harder line on coal financing.

Honda will only make zero-emissions vehicles from 2040. Germany will introduce Europe’s first hydrogen trains next March.

As electric vehicle sales have soared, so has demand for lithium, sparking a ‘white gold’ rush in Germany’s Black Forest and California’s Imperial Valley.

Could Namibia’s Kalahari Desert be home to the next big oil find? Local communities are tempted by promises of wealth, despite living in one of the fastest-warming places on the planet.

So, how will the climate crisis taste? Find out with a swig of this dreadful beer brewed with smoke-tainted water, malt from buckwheat and millet, and dandelions instead of hops. Ugh.

CLIMATE

A forest fire in Rondônia, Brazil. The Amazon rainforest has long served as a carbon sink. Victor Moriyama, Greenpeace
A forest fire in Rondônia, Brazil. The Amazon rainforest has long served as a carbon sink. Victor Moriyama, Greenpeace

The Brazilian Amazon has turned into a net carbon emitter over the past decade, while glaciers are melting faster than previously thought.

Last year’s lockdowns drastically reduced air pollution in South Asia. That has delayed snow melt this year, which could mean more drinking water for 300 million people.

With the climate crisis already challenging rural livelihoods, here’s how Kenya is grappling with an influx of climate migrants into its cities.

POLICY

Air conditioning units often use hydrofluorocarbons, which are much more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. Nico Kaiser, Flickr
Air conditioning units often use hydrofluorocarbons, which are much more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. Nico Kaiser, Flickr

Most countries are underestimating their carbon emissions and not doing enough to slash emissions of another potent greenhouse gas: methane.

For its part, the U.S. will reinstate methane rules loosened under the Trump administration. It will also sharply reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Colombia has earmarked the Guajira Peninsula as a new mecca for wind energy, but the Indigenous Wayúu people could end up footing the bill with their land.

In a landmark verdict, Germany’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the German government must set clear goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2030.

PEOPLE

Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in India. Ninara, Flickr
Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in India. Ninara, Flickr

Stricken by hunger and conflict, a record 29 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Sahel.

In Madagascar, some starving people have been forced to eat leaves and locusts to survive.

India’s deadly air pollution could be aggravating its COVID-19 crisis. In the U.S., air pollution disproportionately affects people of color and may also impair cognition.

Malaria claims over 400,000 lives a year – but that figure could be slashed with a breakthrough vaccine that has proven 77 percent effective in early trials.

These Nigerian teen activists are turning plastic waste into fashion, while six Extinction Rebellion protesters have been acquitted after graffitiing Shell’s London headquarters in 2019.

Indigenous Cambodians are losing their forests as ecotourism dries up, and First Nations leaders are suing the Canadian government for not providing their communities with clean water. 

PLANET

Earthworms help recycle nutrients in the soil. schizoform, Flickr
Earthworms help recycle nutrients in the soil. schizoform, Flickr

Up to 20 percent of the world’s groundwater wells are on the brink of drying up due to overexploitation, drought and the climate crisis.

Pesticides are seriously harming earthworms, beetles, springtails and other vital organisms that keep our planet’s soil healthy.

Scientists have removed 42.8 metric tons of marine debris from a protected area in Hawaii, located at the heart of the Great Pacific garbage patch.

Meanwhile, conservation groups have bought 950 square kilometers of forest in Belize – part of Central America’s largest rainforest and a biodiversity hotspot – to protect an important wildlife corridor.

Seven years ago, a marine heatwave nearly wiped out one of the northeast Pacific’s main predators. Now scientists are bringing them back – by growing them in a lab.


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