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Aircraft emission fears, Scottish wind power, child labour loophole and dam damned
Aviation emissions harm public health
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an “endangerment finding” at the end of July that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft harm public health and welfare. The finding does not entail immediate action, but could be the basis for emissions-limiting measures later on. According to the finding, domestic and international flights originating in the US contribute 3% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, 12% of US transport emissions and 29% of global aviation emissions. Drew Kodjak of the International Council on Clean Transportation said the finding “triggers a legal mandate” for the EPA to act on aviation emissions. Industry group Airlines for America rejected this, saying “we're already at the edge of feasibility” on cutting emissions.
Scotland could be wind powerhouse
The UK government's ban on subsidies for onshore wind farms should be reviewed because it could cost Scotland billions, according to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee. A committee report said that Scotland could be a wind powerhouse, but faces up to £3 billion in lost investment from the May closure of the UK Renewables Obligation to onshore wind. The Renewables Obligation requires UK electricity providers to source a certain proportion of energy from renewable sources. Scottish Affairs Committee chair Pete Wishart said Westminster's vacillation on subsidies for renewables, plus the recent abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, indicate “a troubling shift in the government’s priorities”, which could hurt Scotland because it produces 30% of the UK's renewable electricity. The cost of generating electricity from onshore wind is now significantly lower than it would be from the mooted Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.
India's child labour loophole
India faces criticism over an update to its laws on child labour. The update, approved by India's parliament in New Delhi, bans children under 14 from working and imposes more severe penalties for employers who hire children. But the law also includes an exemption that would allow children to work in family businesses, and would also permit widespread employment of older children, except in mining or workplaces where there could be exposure to hazardous substances. The Indian government said the exemptions were pragmatic, but Unicef India said the “helping in family enterprises” opt-out would fail to protect children from “invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work”.
DRC dam investment pulled
A mega hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo looks in doubt after the World Bank suspended funding in late July. The planned Inga 3 Dam on the Congo river in the west of the huge African country would cost $14 billion and have an electricity generating capacity of 4,800 megawatts – more than Europe's biggest power station at Neurath in Germany. However, the project has been dogged by environmental concerns, allegations that it will violate international law and criticism that while producing electricity for industry, it will do little to improve conditions for the Congolese people. The World Bank said it suspended funding because the DRC government wanted to “take the project in a different strategic direction”. Joshua Klemm of campaign group International Rivers said the suspension of financing “illustrates that Inga 3 violates basic environmental and procurement standards”.