Climate and Nature

200,000 hectares of Indonesian palm plantations to be forested, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Trucks are seen near a palm oil plantation at a village located near Indonesia's projected new capital, known as Nusantara National Capital, in Sepaku, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia, March 8 2023. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Top nature and climate news: 200,000 hectares of Indonesian palm plantations to be forested, and more. Image: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: 200,000 hectares of Indonesian palm plantations to be forested; Earth's carbon budget for 1.5°C will be exhausted by 2029; US Environmental Protection Agency must phase out food waste from landfill sites by 2040.

1. 200,000 hectares of Indonesian palm plantations to be forested

Ownership of the plantation lands, which cover an area roughly two-and-a-half times as big as New York City, is expected to be returned to the state.

The move follows legislation issued in 2020 aimed at clarifying the legal status of plantations operating in areas designated as forests.

Around 3.3 million of the country's 17 million hectares of palm plantation have so far been identified as illegally occupying land that should be tree canopy.

Plantation owners falling foul of the rules will face a fine and no longer be able to grow palm oil on the land.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, which is used in products including cakes and biscuits, cosmetics, soaps and cleaning products.

"The ones in protected forests and conservation forests, the government wants to restore after they pay the fine," said forestry ministry secretary general Bambang Hendroyono.

As part of government efforts to mitigate climate change, an estimated 200,000 hectares of palm plantations found in forest areas will be returned, Bambang told reporters, but this total may increase.

2. Earth's carbon budget for 1.5°C will be exhausted by 2029, says IPCC

Humanity is burning through its available carbon budget quicker than originally thought, scientists say.

Without urgent and concerted global efforts to reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions that cause climate change, we could breach the 1.5°C limit by 2029 instead of the mid-2030s, The Guardian reports.

Globally, 2023 saw extreme heat and unprecedented temperatures, including the world's hottest-ever month recorded in July. Mean-average annual temperatures for the year are expected to be close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

While this could be a one-off extreme year, scientists are concerned that soon the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere will keep temperatures at dangerous levels for longer.

UN advisory body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, had forecast that the world could afford to emit another 500 billion tonnes of CO2 and have a 50% chance of keeping below the 1.5°C target. This budget assumed annual carbon dioxide emissions of around 40 tonnes.

However, new research into the impact of a global ban on aerosols, which worked to cool the atmosphere by reflecting sunlight back into space, has led scientists to recalculate the remaining carbon budget.

The latest estimate leaves 250 billion tonnes, which brings forward the 1.5°C deadline to 2029 - just six years from now, The Guardian says.

Global atmospheric CO2 concentration.
Increasing global atmospheric CO2 concentrations over time. Image: Our World in Data

Global average atmospheric concentrations of CO2 continue to increase over time, from around 336 parts per million (PPM) in 1979 to around 419 PPM in 2023, as the image above shows.

As there is a lag between atmospheric conditions and resulting temperature increases, even if temperatures are stabilized the atmosphere will continue to heat for several years.

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3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

The US Environmental Protection Agency must phase out food waste from landfill sites by 2040, government officials from 18 states have said. The group has called for concerted action to reduce the impact of methane emissions that fuel the climate crisis.

The funding gap for climate adaptation is 50% higher than previously estimated, the UN Environment Program says. It is estimated that poorer countries require between $194 billion to $366 billion to adapt to climate change, with existing finance flows standing at just $25 billion for the 2017-2021 period.

Global warming has caused Nepal's snow-topped mountains to lose almost one-third of their ice in the last 30 years, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to Mount Everest.

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1.6 million acres of US Great Plains grassland has been destroyed in one year, data from the World Wildlife Fund shows. This equates to an area the size of Delaware state being ploughed for agricultural use.

Chad in Africa has reported its first dengue fever outbreak, according to the World Health Organization. More than 1,300 suspected cases have been identified and one death reported to date.

Musicians Filkins Drift walked 870 miles around Wales in the UK, carrying their instruments to bring music to remote communities. The mammoth hike aims to encourage the music industry to change its mindset on sustainable touring.

The Baltic Sea faces "critical challenges" as a result of the climate crisis and biodiversity degradation, with little or no improvement in its health between 2016 and 2021, according to a report by scientists at the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission.

Mexico has announced a $3.4 billion plan to rebuild the coastal resort of Acapulco, which was devastated by Hurricane Otis. The recovery plan includes tax breaks, humanitarian relief and infrastructure reconstruction costs.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

The ingenuity of young leaders is a key component of efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest and improve the lives of its communities. These people must be listened to. Here's why.

The European Commission has proposed a methane emissions limit on EU gas imports. If adopted, the proposal could put pressure on the bloc's fossil fuel suppliers to prevent methane leaks in their oil and gas infrastructure.

Related topics:
Climate and NatureClimate Change
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Contents
1. 200,000 hectares of Indonesian palm plantations to be forested2. Earth's carbon budget for 1.5°C will be exhausted by 2029, says IPCC3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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