Sustainability Reads: May 18- May 24

Major New Index Ranks Environmental Democracy in 70 Countries
World Resources Institute (WRI) and partners in the Access Initiative, a network of civil society organizations, launched the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) this week. The EDI evaluates environmental democracy in 70 countries, including 75 legal and 24 practice indicators, based on recognized international standards to publicly track countries’ progress in enacting national laws to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in environmental decision making. Interesting findings include:

  • Top countries based on national laws: Lithuania (1), Latvia (2), Russia (3), United States (4), South Africa (5), United Kingdom (6), Hungary (7), Bulgaria (8), Panama (9) and Colombia (10).
  • Nearly half (46%) of countries assessed do not provide any ambient air quality data online for their capital cities.
  • Laws on public participation lag behind: the vast majority of countries assessed (79%) earned only fair or poor ratings for public participation.

WRI Press Release.

Pollinator Politics: Environmentalists Criticize Obama Plan To Save Bees
New strategy to address the widespread disappearance of bees was recently released by the Obama administration. Base of the strategy is to restore 7 million acres of bee-friendly habitat that have been lost to urbanization, development and farming. This is a great start, but criticism includes a lack of restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids (a pesticide that is increasingly linked to be detrimental to bees). Europe and Canada are currently moving to restrict use. NPR. 

Organic farming ‘benefits biodiversity’
Researchers at the University of Swansea and institutes in France recently found that organic farms act as a refuge for wild plants, offsetting the loss of biodiversity on conventional farms. Although organic farming produces lower yields than conventional methods, fields around organic farms have more types of wild plants, providing benefits for wildlife. The researchers found that even just 25% of organic farms on a field of conventional farming could make a difference in helping provide habitat for wildlife. Because of this, the researchers say land-sharing between organic farms and non-organic farms could have benefits for both crop production for a growing human population and biodiversity. By Helen Briggs at the BBC.

Additionally, a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) working paper estimates that post-tax energy subsidies totaled $4.9 trillion or 6.5% of the global GDP in 2013 and the removal of such subsidies could reduce global carbon emissions by 20%. Although the pressure from oil and gas industry is strong- the answer to this issue is pretty straight-forward to us.

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