DGI Brief - Dec 20, 2016
- Beijing & the industrial northern CHINA are engulfed in toxic haze that has crippled the region, prompting the government to issue “red alert” & emergency measures to cut down on air pollution – closing factories, highways, schools, restricting traffic etc. Why it matters: > 460 million people are effected, with >200 million people living in areas where air pollution is 10x above the WHO guidelines. The safe limit is 25 micrograms of poisonous PM2.5 particles per cubic meter, but the readings in Beijing & northern Chinese cities today were >300 & 500 micrograms respectively. Aside from the economic costs – 700 companies stopped production, >500 flights were cancelled – the smog has serious repercussions on people’s health, affecting lungs & respiratory systems. The problem is that despite the obvious situation & commitments to reduce carbon emissions, China continues to rely on coal for energy & factory production & has, in fact, plans to build many more factories & increase production. To this end, the government has been lifting caps on coal mining. One step forward, 2 steps back.
- UN Secretary-General warned that SOUTH SUDAN is heading towards genocide unless immediate the world acts immediately & called for the Security Council to impose an arms embargo. Why it matters: Since 2013, when South Sudan just 2-yrs old plunged into ethnic violence, 10s of thousands were killed, 3.1 million displaced & this year alone, >6.1 million people – half of the population – require humanitarian aid. This figure is expected to rise by “a staggering” 20-30% in 2017!!! Spearheaded by the US, the Security Council is asked to impose arms embargo & sanctions on ALL parties engaged in the conflict. But not all member states are convinced the risk is so grave. I’m not against sanctions, I just feel that we must figure out something else also. It takes time to feel the effects of sanctions & in a country with rampant lawlessness, cross-border smuggling & gang/militia activities, extreme poverty, 0 accountability of the government to its citizens…what exactly would this embargo, these sanctions look like on the ground? Time to be creative!
- USA: Using an obscure provision of a 1953 law, President Obama declared a permanent offshore oil-drilling ban along wide areas of the Arctic & the Atlantic Seaboard. Why it matters: Obama claims the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives him the authority to declare the ban in an effort to protect >115 million acres of US-owned Arctic waters and 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Coast (Virginia to Canada), home to most important ecosystems, coral canyons, rare species of fish, endangered species like polar bears & bowhead whales. It is a phenomenal environmental legacy. The creative way President Obama used the law will make it difficult for his successor to undo the ban. It’d require the Congress to amend the 1953 law but this would need 60-vote Senate majority, unlikely in a Senate with 52 Republicans. Well done, Mr. President.
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