Points of Progress: Denmark ends hunt for oil deposits, and more

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This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

Staff
Places where the world saw progress, for the Jan. 18, 2021 Monitor Weekly.

1. United States

Regenerative agriculture is picking up steam in the United States, with groups dedicated to restoring soil fertility and reducing carbon footprints. Danone North America’s soil health program has reduced the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents by more than 80,000 tons since it started three years ago, reports the company, using farming techniques that sequester carbon in the ground. The program’s farming practices include planting more cover crops, fostering biodiversity on farmland, and protecting water systems. In 2020, the program grew by 64%, and it aims to expand enrollment to 100,000 acres, continue funding soil health research, and increase farmer partnerships in the coming years. A new investment fund, rePlant Capital, is trying to reach similar goals by tying farm loan interest rates to how well farmers improve their soil’s water and carbon storage. Restoring soils that have been battered by decades of fertilizers and herbicide is expensive, so rePlant is offering $250 million to farmers to help finance the transition. (PR Newswire, Forbes)

2. Costa Rica

Conservation group Paso Pacífico has designed a new tool to fight illegal wildlife trafficking – a GPS tracker disguised as a turtle egg. About the size of a pingpong ball, the so-called InvestEGGators have a rubbery exterior and are finished with a special yellowish paint developed by a Hollywood special effects artist. Inside, there is a SIM card that transmits GPS tracking data via mobile networks. Poachers decimate sea turtle nests along Central America’s unprotected beaches, but a two-year study shows the decoy eggs could offer crucial intelligence on trade routes. Of the 101 decoy eggs Paso Pacífico deployed in Costa Rica, a quarter were picked up by illegal traders and five successfully provided data, with one mapping a trade route 85 miles inland. The team is working on extending the device’s battery life and mimicking different kinds of eggs, but the current decoys are considered an affordable way for conservation projects and law enforcement agencies to track and fight wildlife trafficking across state borders. (CNN)

3. Denmark

Denmark is canceling future oil and gas expeditions in the North Sea, ending the Nordic country’s hunt for new fossil fuel deposits. On Dec. 3, the Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities announced it will terminate the current licensing round and not consider any further applicants. The European Union’s largest oil and gas producer, Denmark will stop all oil and gas extraction after 2050.

Claus Bonnerup/Polfoto/AP/File
A.P. Moller-Maersk’s oil rig, named Halfdan, sits in the North Sea. Denmark has decided to end offshore oil and gas activity, saying the country is “putting an end to the fossil era.”

The canceled tender and 2050 deadline are expected to cost the nation roughly $2.1 billion, but experts say the continued exploration of the North Sea undercuts the country’s ambitious climate goals. Norway and the United Kingdom, both larger oil and gas producers, are not part of the EU. (Reuters)

4. Romania

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has moved the European bison from vulnerable to near threatened, reflecting decades of dogged conservation work. Europe’s largest land mammal only survived in captivity in the early 20th century. Reintroduction efforts began in the 1950s, and the Continent’s bison population more than tripled to 6,200 between 2003 and 2019. The largest subpopulations now graze in Poland, Belarus, and Russia. Dozens of bison have also been released into Romania’s Southern Carpathian Mountains as part of the area’s largest rewilding program.

Rafal Kowalczyk/IUCN/AP/File
European bison – recently found only in captivity – are returning to the wild, with 47 herds grazing throughout Europe.

There are now 47 free-ranging bison herds across Europe, though only eight are large enough to have long-term genetic viability. Conservationists will continue to work to improve genetic diversity, increase herds’ access to each other, and protect bison from conflict with humans. (IUCN, European Commission, Life Bison)

5. Kenya

The High Court of Kenya has ruled that the government failed to investigate sexual violence that occurred in the wake of the 2007-08 election, offering hope for victims and a monetary award for four complainants. Human Rights Watch documented 172 cases of rape, mostly of women and girls, by militia group members, humanitarian workers, and Kenya’s security forces in the postelection violence that killed 1,500 and displaced over half a million others. Very few people were convicted, and little government support has been offered to survivors. But this landmark judgment is being recognized as a step forward. “The Kenyan High Court’s ruling is a win for the thousands of women and girls – and men and boys – who have waited for years for Kenyan authorities to acknowledge the harm that they suffered, and to provide appropriate redress,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. (Capital FM)

6. Australia

In a first for Australia’s Victoria state, the Indigenous Gunaikurnai community has gained control of a river system. The government will grant the Gunaikurnai – a group of roughly 3,000 people representing the region’s five major clans – two gigaliters of water from the Mitchell River annually, a move hailed by rights groups. The decision comes 10 years after the community gained native title over much of the area, which acknowledged Indigenous peoples’ rights to certain aspects of the environment. But the title only allowed for free use of water for personal purposes; now the Gunaikurnai will have free rein to determine how to use the water. A study by Griffith University in Queensland found that Indigenous communities hold less than 1% of Australian water rights, and the government’s National Indigenous Australians Agency said the grant is a significant step forward for traditional ownership. “Land and water rights for indigenous Australians supports self-determination and provides certainty for long-term economic, social and cultural development,” the agency said. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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