By Mike Gaworecki
30 December 2015
(mongabay.com) – As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was.
This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada.
The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks.
Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.
1. The world committed to climate action in Paris in what will almost definitely be the hottest year on record.
In what was surely the biggest news of the year, negotiators representing nearly 200 countries reached a historic agreement to address climate change in Paris this December.
The Paris Agreement commits countries to curbing greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) relative to pre-industrial levels.
All signatories are required to take action toward meeting that goal by some combination of becoming more energy efficient, reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and burning less fossil fuels. That includes rich, industrialized nations like the United States and China as well as small, poor countries that are already struggling with the impacts of rising sea levels and temperatures.
Some elements of the agreement are legally binding, but most language related to emissions reductions is voluntary, an approach insisted on by U.S. negotiators because Republicans in Congress would never ratify a binding treaty […]
8. Environmental activists killed for standing up for the planet.
According to a report by London-based NGO Global Witness released earlier this year, “Each week at least two people are being killed for taking a stand against environmental destruction.”
The report found that 116 environmental activists were murdered in 2014. Nearly half of them were Indigenous activists, and they were mostly killed for opposing hydroelectric dam projects and mining and agribusiness operations on their lands.
This year, sadly, saw much more of the same. Though not all of these cases have been proven to have been related to the victim’s activism, here are a few of the people who dedicated their lives to standing up for the planet that we lost this year.
- Rigoberto Lima Choc was fatally shot in broad daylight in the town center of Sayaxché, Guatemala after a court suspended the operations of a palm oil company believed to be responsible for a massive fish die-off.
- Fernando Salazar Calvo was fatally shot outside his home in Colombia. He was an active member and spokesperson of the Association of Artisanal Miners of the Cañamomo Lomaprieta Indigenous Reservation.
- Jopi Peranginangin, a 39-year-old Indonesian activist who opposed unbridled oil palm expansion and was the head of campaigns for Sawit Watch, was stabbed to death outside a nightclub in South Jakarta.
- Telésforo Odilo Pivaral Gonzalez, who actively opposed a conflict-ridden Escobal silver mine project, was killed by unknown assailants who shot him five times.
- Sieng Darong, a Forestry Administration ranger, and Sab Yoh, a police officer, were shot and killed while patrolling a protected forest in Cambodia.
- And just last month, Alfredo Ernesto Vracko Neuenschwander, a woodworker who led a movement to resist forest invasions by illegal gold miners in Peru’s biodiverse Tambopata region, was gunned down at his home. [more]