The outgoing Trump administration undermines its own attempts to destroy the Alaskan wilderness; plus it’s official, one upside of the coronavirus pandemic is cleaner air; General Motors chooses the voice of reason and decides to join team California in the fight for clean air; and the United Nations called on the carpet for failing to meet ocean protection goals.
Trump Won’t Destroy Alaska/COVID Clears Air/GM Goes EV/UN Fails
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TORPEDOES HUGE GOLD-MINING PROJECT AT ALASKA’S BRISTOL BAY
The lame duck Trump administration denied a key permit for a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska, striking a devastating blow to a project opposed by an unlikely coalition that included the Alaska Wilderness League, Trout Unlimited, the Natural Resources Defense Council and several Canadian Indigenous People’s tribes. The coalition to halt the construction of the Pebble Mine inside Alaska’s Koktuli River Watershed also included such unlikely allies as Donald Trump, Jr., Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers.
Those republicans claimed to have all enjoyed fishing or hunting around Bristol Bay. It is believed their first-hand experience recreating that area to be the reason behind their opposition to a massive mine that would ultimately spoil 2,800 acres of wetlands, 130 acres of open water and over 130 miles of streams in the watershed. One opponent called the decision to deny the permit a victory for common sense.
DEEPER DIVE: Science, Seattle Times
EUROPE’S CLEANER AIR
The European Environment Agency, EEA, announced that investments in reduced air pollution have paid off, preventing around 60,000 premature deaths every year since 2009. Scientists around the world have linked this year’s drop in air pollutants to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented millions from traveling by car and plane. As an agency of the European Union, the EEA is tasked with providing independent data on the environment and supporting sustainable development across Europe. Their new report is based on air quality data collected by over 4,000 monitoring stations in Europe.
However, the EEA reported air pollution is still causing roughly 400,000 premature annual deaths across 41 European countries. Still, representatives have said the data shows that efforts to reduce air pollution through policy and action prove beneficial for the health and productivity of all Europeans.
DEEPER DIVE: EEA
GM FLIPS TO CALIFORNIA’S SIDE IN POLLUTION FIGHT WITH TRUMP
General Motors is switching sides in the legal fight against California’s right to set its own clean-air standards, abandoning the lame-duck Trump administration’s wishes. CEO Mary Barra said in a letter to environmental groups that GM will no longer support the Trump administration in its defense against a lawsuit over its efforts against California’s standards. And GM is urging other automakers to do the same. In her letter, Barra wrote that the company agrees with Biden’s plan to expand electric vehicle use. “We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” the letter said.
The move is a sign that GM and other automakers are anticipating big changes under the new administration. Already at least one other large automaker, Toyota, said it may join GM in switching to California’s team. In a statement, Biden said GM’s decision is encouraging for the economy, the planet and success of American auto workers.
FALLING SHORT OF MARINE GLOBAL PROTECTION
Here on the Climate Daily, we cover climate change news that gives our listeners a boost of hope and positivity. However, sometimes we have to be real with you because there isn’t always good news. A decade ago, nations pledged to protect 10% of the oceans by the end of 2020 under a United Nations initiative called the Convention on Biological Diversity. Notably, the United States was not among the nations involved in this initiative. While some new marine protected areas have been added, nations fell short of that goal. Reported by Mongabay, a generous assessment calculated only about 7.5% of the world’s oceans is protected today.
One of the largest marine protected areas covers oceans across north Hawai’i, home to the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and two dozen whale and dolphin species. While U.N. nations failed to achieve their goal, the north Hawai’i marine protected area is a good example of what effective conservation efforts can do for a marine ecosystem. Conservationists are now pushing for a more ambitious goal of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030.
DEEPER DIVE: Mongabay