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Global Declaration Enshrines Housing as a Right, not a Commodity. Photo: Picasdre – Wikimedia Commons Amsterdam has signed up to a global declaration to the United Nations which states that ‘housing must first and foremost be considered as a right, not a commodity’ in order for cities to survive. The initiative, launched by Barcelona’s outspoken mayor Ada Colau, says that segregation and real estate speculation are two of the issues which must be tackled to ensure cities meet the human rights needs of their inhabitants. To achieve this, local authorities need more powers and funding to better regulate the real estate market, improve public housing stock and develop ‘urban planning schemes that combine adequate housing and quality neighbourhoods that are both inclusive and sustainable’. The declaration, signed by the cities of Paris, New York, Strasbourg, Montevideo and Madrid among others, was presented on Monday at a local government forum involving the United Nation’s special rapporteur on adequate housing and the high commissioner for human rights.

China & the EU Sign Circular Economy MOU. China and the European Union (EU) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the circular economy at the 20th EU-China Summit, held in Beijing 16-17 July. A circular economy implies reducing waste to a minimum and re-using, repairing, and recycling existing materials and products. The ‘historic’ agreement, signed by European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chairman of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission He Lifeng, could see the world’s two largest economies align key circular economy mechanisms and pave the way for the development of product standards and policies, which could create the conditions for a ‘system shift’ on a global scale towards a low carbon, regenerative economy. Co-operation by the two economic powerhouses in this field will cover strategies, legislation, policies and research in areas of mutual interest.

“Collaboration and sharing of knowledge and best practices are key to unlocking these opportunities. California Hits Emissions Targets Years Early. Easter Island Reduces the Time Tourists can Stay. Norway the first Scandinavian Country to Decriminalise Drugs. 04/18| Maritime CO₂ to be Regulated for First Time. Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London.

Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states. The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present. In future, they will have to not only be more energy-efficient, but also make use of cleaner energy, in the form of batteries supplying electricity, solar and wind electricity generation, and perhaps even a return to sail in some cases, or more controversially to nuclear power, as some warships already use. Environmental campaigners said the plan was not enough given the urgency of tackling climate change, though they welcomed the deal, which has taken decades of work. . … we have a small favour to ask. 02/18| German Cities to Trial Free Public Transport.

“Car nation” Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines. The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity. “We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.

“Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” the ministers added. The proposal will be tested by “the end of this year at the latest” in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn and industrial cities Essen and Mannheim. 12/17| China Opens Up City Roads for Driverless Cars. Drivers in Beijing, beware: soon, you’ll be driving alongside autonomous vehicles. On Monday, Beijing’s Municipal Commission of Transport announced (Chinese) provisional regulations for testing self-driving cars on city roads. Companies that are registered in China and have tested self-driving cars in enclosed spaces can now apply for permission to test their vehicles on Beijing’s bustling roads. It certainly won't be the first city in Asia—or the rest of the world—to embrace autonomous vehicles: self-driving startup nuTonomy already operates in Singapore, and several U.S. cities are home to the cars of Uber, Waymo, and others.

But the news is the latest sign of China’s commitment to making autonomous vehicles a reality, in hopes of alleviating congestion on city streets and becoming a leading technology power. China’s tech companies and carmakers have been waiting for this to happen. 11/17| 'Political Watershed' as 19 Countries Pledge to Phase Out Coal. A new alliance of 19 nations committed to quickly phasing out coal has been launched at the UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany.

It was greeted as a “political watershed”, signalling the end of the dirtiest fossil fuel that currently provides 40% of global electricity. New pledges were made on Thursday by Mexico, New Zealand, Denmark and Angola for the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is led by the UK and Canada. “The case against coal is unequivocal,” said UK climate minister Claire Perry, both on environmental and health grounds – air pollution from coal kills 800,000 people a year worldwide. “The alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed.” The UK was the first nation to commit to ending coal use – by 2025 – but the electricity generated by coal has already fallen from 40% to 2% since 2012. But McKenna said it was very important that communities dependent on coal jobs received help. The alliance was also welcomed by the most vulnerable states. 09/17| San Francisco, Oakland to Sue Major Oil Companies. 07/17| Caltrans Begins Modifying California Roads for Self-Driving Cars.

Google's Waymo added 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in 2016. Waymo The director of Caltrans said the state's highway management system has already begun modifying roadways to accommodate the way self-driving cars navigate. “The automated vehicles (AVs) can follow lane lines,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty told KPCC Southern California Public Radio. Trending: The most expensive East Bay homes sold in 2017 “They can’t follow the Botts’ Dots, so we’re actually changing our delineation standards to go away from the Botts’ Dots which we’ve been using for decades because AVs have a difficult time following those.” Dougherty said that the lane modification will happens as roads and highways get new construction or standard re-striping done — and added that the agency aims to have the state's highways and interstates modified within the next two to three years. “All of our lane lines are going to get thicker,” Dougherty told KPCC.

07/17 | Sweden Officially Starts Using Blockchain to Register Land & Property. Lantmäteriet, the land registry of Sweden, officially started to utilize Blockchain technology to register land and properties. Since early 2017, various countries including Brazil have begun to utilize Blockchain technology to facilitate the ownership of land and properties in a decentralized, transparent and immutable network. In an interview with Computer Weekly, Mats Snäll, Lantmäteriet’s head of development, revealed that the Swedish land registry has been actively investing in Blockchain technology and developing a proof-of-concept Blockchain platform since 2016. In March of this year, Lantmäteriet completed the initial phase of trials of its Blockchain-based land and properties registry platform. Snäll said: “When we heard about Blockchain and its supposed benefits, we wanted to explore whether this is an actual next-generation technology we could use for registries.

Private Blockchain vs. public decentralized Blockchain network Potential security issues. 05/17| San Francisco Considers Taxing Robots. 05/17| Germany Allows Self-Driving Cars on its Roads, with a Driver. Add Germany to the list of places where businesses can test their self-driving cars on the open road -- as long as they have a driver sitting at the wheel ready to take control at any time. That's one of the restrictions imposed by a new law voted by the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) on Friday. The move will be a welcome one for Germany's automotive industry, allowing manufacturers such as Audi to test self-driving vehicles in their home country, rather than taking them all the way to California. Other requirements of the new law for anyone wanting to put a self-driving car on the German roads include the fitting of a "black box" recorder like those in planes -- with the same goal of helping investigators reconstruct what happened in the event of an accident.

The data will be stored for six months and handed to law enforcement officers on request. With the capabilities of self-driving vehicles changing so quickly, the Federal Council plans to review the law in two years' time. 05/17| EU Parliament Calls for Robot Law; Rejects Robot Tax. 05/17| AeroFarms Partners with 100 Resilient Cities. May 9, 2017 AeroFarms Partners with 100 Resilient Cities, Rockefeller Foundation to Increase Food Security and Fight Climate Change AeroFarms is proud to announce a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to social, economic, and physical challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a Resilience Strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges.

Feeding a growing population while stemming the tide of climate change is a major challenge for cities all over the world and we are ready to offer our experience and expertise to the 100RC members. 05/17| Norway Becomes First Country to Commit to Zero Deforestation. Norway has become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.

The Norwegian parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment made the pledge in a recommendation on the government’s Action Plan on Nature Diversity. The committee requested that the government “impose requirements to ensure that public procurements do not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest.” The committee also requested that the government protect biodiversity through a new policy and the investments made by the Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global. Related: Norway is spending almost $1 billion to build ten bicycle superhighways “This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest. Via Climate Action News Images via Flickr and Wikipedia. 01/17| Barcelona’s Passes Rules to Deliver Sustainable Tourism.


France Mandates Green Roofs for New Builds. A new law recently passed in France mandates that all new buildings that are built in commercial zones in France must be partially covered in either plants or solar panels. Green roofs, as they are called, have an isolating effect which helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building during the winter or cool it in the summer. They are capable of retaining rainwater and reducing problems with runoff, and also offer birds a place to call home in the urban jungle. French environmental activists originally wanted to pass a law that would make the green roofs cover the entire surface of all new roofs. However, partially covered roofs make for a great start, and are still a huge step in the right direction. Some say the law that was passed is actually better, as it gives the business owners a chance to install solar panels to help provide the buildings with renewable energy, thereby leaving even less of a footprint.

See also: What Makes a Building Green’ ? Benefits of Green Roofs. 03/15| French Introduce Laws to Define Appliance Lifespan. It is news that will cheer anyone who has struggled to get a vacuum cleaner, fridge or TV repaired only to be told it’s probably cheaper to buy a new one. A new government decree in France is forcing manufacturers to tell consumers how long their appliances will last. French companies will also have to inform consumers how long spare parts for the product will be available, or risk a fine of up to €15,000 (£11,000). And if this wasn’t enough, from next year faulty products – whether it’s mobile phones to washing machines – will have to be repaired or replaced for free within two years of being purchased. The French government hope this will help to combat “planned obsolescence” – the practice of designing products with restricted life spans to ensure consumers will buy more.

It’s hardly a new idea. Manufacturers say there are valid reasons for all of this. . … we have a small favour to ask. The Guardian is editorially independent.