Nature and Biodiversity

Wildfire threatens California's giant sequoias, and other environment stories you need to read this week

Climate change: Wildfires have caused damage, pollution and visibility issues in Yosemite.

Climate change: Wildfires have caused damage, pollution and visibility issues in Yosemite. Image: VIA REUTERS

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of the Environment

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  • This weekly round-up brings you key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: Yosemite's giant sequoia trees under threat from wildfire; 11 dead in Italy glacier collapse linked to climate change; EU backs labelling gas and nuclear investments 'green'.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

A wildfire threatening some of the world's oldest giant sequoia trees in California's Yosemite National Park expanded five-fold over the weekend as smoke prompted air quality alerts throughout the park and obscured views. As of 10 July, the blaze had scorched nearly 1,600 acres of timber and brush at the southern end of the park. Fire was first reported on 7 July by visitors on the Washburn Trail of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Italian police have confirmed 11 people died when a glacier collapsed in the Alps in an incident being blamed on rising temperatures. Much of Italy has been hit by an early-summer heatwave and scientists said climate change was making previously stable glaciers more unpredictable.

Heavy rain battered China's northeastern rust belt on 7 July, triggering floods that trapped buses, swamped roads and disrupted commuters in cities, with more storms forecast.

Countries need to expand manufacturing of solar panels from their current concentrated base in China to ensure secure supply and meet targets for cutting planet-warming carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency said on 7 July.

Solar PV manufacturing capacity climate change environment
Solar PV manufacturing capacity by country and region, 2021 Image: IEA

Renewable energy accounted for 49% of German power consumption in the first half of 2022, up 6% percentage points from a year earlier thanks to favourable weather conditions, industry groups said on 5 July.

Rich countries and international financial institutions need to provide more funding for Africa to support global climate goals by preventing African nations from pursuing carbon-intensive development, a senior African Development Bank executive said on 6 July.

The European Parliament on 7 July backed rules on aviation fuel that set binding targets for the replacement of kerosene with less polluting energy sources, but extended the definition of what a green fuel could be. If approved, the requirements would be a world first.

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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

2. EU parliament backs labelling gas and nuclear investments as green

The European Parliament has backed EU rules labelling investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly, throwing out an attempt to block the law that has exposed deep rifts between countries over how to fight climate change.

The vote paves the way for the European Union proposal to pass into law, unless 20 of the bloc's 27 member states decide to oppose the move, which is seen as very unlikely.

The new rules will add gas and nuclear power plants to the EU "taxonomy" rulebook from 2023, enabling investors to label and market investments in them as green.

Gas is a fossil fuel that produces planet-warming emissions - but far less than coal, and some EU states see it as a temporary alternative to replace the dirtier fuel.

Nuclear energy is free from CO2 emissions but produces radioactive waste. Supporters such as France say nuclear is vital to meet emissions-cutting goals, while opponents cite concerns about waste disposal.

Climate campaigners criticized the EU's decision, with Greenpeace saying it would mount a legal challenge.

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3. World hunger rising as U.N. agencies warn of 'looming catastrophe'

World hunger levels rose again last year after soaring in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Ukraine war and climate change threatening starvation and mass migration on an "unprecedented scale" this year, according to U.N. agencies.

Up to 828 million people, or nearly 10% of the world's population, were affected by hunger last year, 46 million more than in 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019, agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme and World Health Organisation said in the 2022 edition of the U.N. food security and nutrition report.

World hunger levels remained relatively unchanged between 2015 and 2019.

"There is a real danger these numbers will climb even higher in the months ahead," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, adding price spikes for food, fuel and fertilisers stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war threaten to push countries into famine.

"The result will be global destabilisation, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe," he said.

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