Sustainability Reads: November 3- November 9

Elections a ‘bloodbath’ for environmental policy, advocates say
This week’s U.S. midterm elections did not turn out favorably for Democrats and threaten all the positive steps that the administration and the EPA have done over the past few years. The Keystone XL Pipeline is now poised to pass as the Republican-led House previously approved the project 8 times. Analysts believe that climate-denying Senator James Inhofe will be appointed the chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Senate leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans seek to end Obama’s “war on coal”. In sum, further support for fracking and detrimental pipeline, climate change denying Senator in charge of environmental committee, and support for the dirtiest fuel source that exists. The future looks dim for environmental policy and the potential for the U.S. to step it up next year for the Paris 2015 international climate negotiations. However, the elections did have some positive effects at the local level as many fracking bans went into place. By Peter Moskowitz, AlJazeera America.

From conflict to peacebuilding The role of natural resources and the environment
Since 1990 at least 18 violent conflicts have been fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. In fact, recent research suggests that over the last sixty years at least 40% of all intrastate conflicts have a link to natural resources. Conflicts that are linked to natural resources are also twice as likely to relapse into conflict. Civil wars such as those in Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo have centred on “high-value” resources like timber, diamonds, gold, minerals and oil. Other conflicts, including those in Darfur and the Middle East, have involved control of scarce resources such as fertile land and water. This report summarizes the current academic knowledge and field experience on the links between environment, conflict and peacebuilding. It was written to inform UN entities, Member States and other peacebuilding actors with special attention paid to the role of a new UN Peacebuilding Commission. Integrating environmental and natural resources factors as part of peacebuilding and conflict interventions will only become more dire as future population growth and climate change put a further strain on resources. Although rarely the sole cause of conflict, the exploitation of natural resources and related environmental stresses can be implicated in all phases of the conflict cycle, from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of violence to undermining prospects for peace. Report outlines guidance to manage this risk including the need to develop capabilities for early identification of concerns with natural resources and the environment, provide oversight and protection of environment during conflict, integrate concerns as part of peacebuilding process and strategy, and assist national governments to utilize natural resources sustainably for economic recovery after conflict. By United National Environment Programme.

Developing countries switching to low carbon economy at twice the pace of developed nations
Developing countries are increasing their clean energy capacity twice as fast as developed nations, a new study suggests. Climatescope 2014 report analyzed 55 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean – which together represent almost half of Earth’s population and a quarter of global GDP. The stronger clean energy growth shown in developing nations contradicts the common belief that only developed countries have the means to switch to a low carbon economy. The report is linked to the website Climatescope 2014 with an interactive tool to assess the investment climate and policies for clean energy investments in the 55 countries. Based on parameters like ‘Enabling framework, Financing and Investment’, ‘Value chains’ and ‘GHG Management’, the analysts score the countries on a scale out of five. The average score is just 1.1, with China leading the leaderboard with 2.23 points followed by Brazil and South Africa. Article by The Climate Group, Study by Climatescope.

What’s the environmental impact of modern war?
November 6th was the UN’s International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, and as so UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has called on nations to do more to protect the environment from the devastation of war. When reviewing modern warfare and the environmental destruction, a researcher at John Hopkins University stated that “most serious environmental damage caused to Iraq over the course of the past 24 years of war and pariahood has been the systematic destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure.” Furthermore, One report suggests that the US military, with its tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, used 190.8m litres of oil every month during the invasion of Iraq. Moreover, wildlife and habitats disappear. The Geneva Convention places restrictions on methods of warfare “which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment,” so this destruction can actually be considered as violating international law. By Karl Mathiesen at The Guardian.

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