3 stories you may have missed

Editor’s note: Conservation and environmental news is made every day, but some of it may go unnoticed. In a recurring article, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know.

1. SEC moves closer to enacting sweeping climate disclosure rule

US regulators are preparing to fight back against greenwashing.

The story: Since the 1930s, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has required public companies to publish basic financial information so that investors can make informed decisions. This year, the federal agency plans to expand those requirements to include key climate data, Matthew Goldstein and Pierre Eavis reporting for the Washington Post. When the new rule is finalized, publicly traded companies will be required to disclose their annual greenhouse gas emissions, their exposure to events such as sea level rise and wildfires, and their plans to reduce their exposure to these risks. While environmental groups have welcomed the proposal, opponents have signaled that the final version will be challenged in federal court.

The big picture: The SEC estimates that about a third of the annual reports it reviewed in 2020 voluntarily included climate-related information. However, since there is no uniform federal mandate, companies can choose which data to report, allowing them to highlight the good and omit the unflattering information.

“Publicly traded companies can no longer select weather reports, and investors will have a much better idea of ​​their exposure to material weather risks,” said Sen. Jack Reed, one of Rhode Island’s top Democrats. “There’s an old saying in business: what gets measured gets managed.”

Although a quarter of public companies in the United States have committed to net zero emissions, recent surveys have found that the numbers rarely add up. To reduce “green laundering,” the new SEC rule would also require companies to tie any net-zero claims to a detailed, mathematically sound plan to achieve those goals.

Negotiations to protect international waters are deadlocked.

The story: More than 60% of the world’s oceans lie beyond the jurisdiction of any nation in an area commonly referred to as the “high seas” – yet only 1% of this vast, largely unexplored expanse is protected. Earlier this month, long-awaited negotiations to establish the first-ever legal process to protect the high seas stalled, Marine Laouchez and Marlowe’s Hood report for Phys.org. United Nations member states have failed to agree on what some scientists say is the most important ocean protection treaty in four decades. The UN must now set a date for a new round of negotiations, probably in August.

The big picture: “The high seas are not only ecologically vital, they are also essential to the livelihoods of communities around the world,” Tamara Thomas, director of ocean policy at Conservation International, told Conservation News. “This year, countries have the opportunity to increase their conservation ambitions – striking a balance between sustainable use of our oceans and safeguarding them. That means establishing a treaty to conserve the high seas – and providing fair and sustainable funding. accessible to countries to manage any new protected area.

Leaders collectively representing more than 1,000 conservation organizations – including Conservation International – have called on governments to establish an international treaty on the high seas in 2022. This would support the global goal of conserving 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 .

“This treaty cannot come too soon,” added Thomas. “After nearly 20 years of discussions at the United Nations, we finally have a chance to conserve very precious high seas ecosystems, which can ensure the vitality of the ocean for generations to come.”

Stock up on antihistamines – pollen has a moment.

The story: Pollen is vital for plant reproduction, but yellow dust also triggers allergies in 30% of Americans. Allergy season will only get longer and stronger on a warming planet, Yingxiao Zhang and Allison Steiner write in The Atlantic.

The two atmospheric scientists have studied how a dozen different North American grasses and trees will respond to global warming, and they warn that we could see a double increase in total pollen this century. The cause: Higher temperatures will extend the length of the growing season, while increased carbon dioxide levels will stimulate photosynthesis, increasing pollen production.

Zhang and Steiner expect the spring pollen season to stretch for another two months. Compared to 1990, the North American pollen season is already 20 days longer and pollen concentrations have increased by 21%.

The big picture: Global warming will have considerable effects on the terrestrial flora. Crops will dry out in arid areas near the equator; pollen-producing trees and grasses will benefit from longer growing seasons at mid-latitudes; and agricultural frontiers will extend towards the poles. Shifting agricultural frontiers present new opportunities for rural economies, but also many global risks.

“As current pitches become less suitable, there will be pressure to develop new [farming] borders, and that’s going to come with a host of major environmental consequences, like unprecedented amounts of carbon being released into the atmosphere,” says Lee Hannah, senior climate change scientist at Conservation International. “We also risk pollution and the loss of incredible biodiversity in these places.”

Matthew Ribel is the senior editor of Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up here to receive updates by email. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A forest in Thailand peangdao)

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