FREEDOM AND SAFETY
Around the world, a raft of new legislation to help protect the environment has just come into force.
Last year, the UN warned that if the damage to the climate is not reversed by 2030 it will be too late. The 2020s could be the decade that makes the difference, but only if the right action is taken to cut carbon emissions.
By focusing on some of the more visible, day-to-day problems, like pollution and plastic, newly enacted laws are helping to raise awareness as well as make a lasting difference. Here are five examples being introduced this year.
France is getting tough on vehicle emissions. High-polluting cars, such as SUVs, are now subject to higher levies. Until now, owners have had to pay an additional $14,000 on vehicles that breach emissions limits of 184g/km CO2.
That has now risen to $22,240. As well as the benefits to the planet, the French finance ministry estimates the increase will help generate $56 million a year, according to Bloomberg.
Thailand’s government has announced the use of three types of plastic – microbeads, cap seals and oxo-degradable plastics – will be banned by the end of the year.
And an initiative to stop the use of plastic bags has been joined by 43 retailers, including department stores and convenience store networks. They have agreed to stop giving out free plastic bags, which contribute to the almost 2 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year by consumers in the country.
France has banned a range of items made from single-use plastic, including plates, cups, and cotton buds, and drinks bottles when used in school canteens and catering services. This time next year, cutlery and straws will go the same way, along with styrofoam cups and containers, drink stirrers, and confetti.
Currently, there are exemptions in place covering compostable products made from at least 50% organic material. Cutlery used in hospitals and prisons, or on planes and trains, is also exempt – although all these exemptions are due to end in July 2021.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, single-use plastic bags less than 2.25 mm thick have been banned, with thicker bags or a paper alternative being offered instead. There are some exceptions, including restaurants, bakeries, and dry cleaning services.
The state of Oregon has enacted similar rules, with retail stores and restaurants no longer allowed to provide single-use checkout bags. Under the new law, most premises must charge 5 cents for paper bags and reusable plastic ones more than 4 mm thick.
In New York, meanwhile, a statewide ban on most types of single-use plastic bag comes into force in March. The Department of Environmental Conservation is taking aim at the 23 billion plastic bags used across the state each year, and has launched the Bring Your Own Bag New York campaign to encourage shoppers to get into the habit of using their own bags.
The tiny Pacific nation of Palau is home to a rich marine ecosystem that includes around 400 species of hard coral and 300 species of soft coral, and 1,400 species of reef fish. In 1998, it was hit by coral bleaching following changes in sea temperatures caused by a band of warm water around the equatorial Pacific area, known as an El Niño. More coral bleaching occurred in 2010.
Now, Palau has banned certain kinds of sunscreen as part of a series of measures to protect its environment. Oxybenzone is commonly used in many sunscreens as it absorbs ultraviolet light. But it can harm coral reefs and other marine life, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and can cause bleaching and leave the coral less resilient to climate change.