The environment in the news thursday, 19 June 2008

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • Reuters: Property must cut carbon footprint faster: U.N.

  • Nigerian Tribune: Man as crucial factor in climate change reduction

  • The Korea Herald: Regulator urges socially responsible management

  • Gulf Times: Qatar leads mercury control drive in Gulf

  • AfricaNews (Netherlands): Children unite to conserve environment

  • Money Corn Prices Linger at Record Highs but Wheat and Rice Wear Thin

  • Die Welt (Germany): Wie sich Afrika in den letzten Jahrzehnten verändert hat

  • Le Monde : Atlas de l’Afrique: un bijou d’information

Other Environment News

  • BBC: Arctic sea ice melt 'even faster'

  • AFP: Oceans warm more quickly than suspected: study

  • AFP: US should take on lead role in climate change battle: envoy

  • Reuters: Beijing hires foreign experts for pollution watch

  • AFP: German cabinet agrees a raft of energy-saving laws

  • AFP: Green car bonus to push French budget into red: report

  • Reuters: Biotech crops seen helping to feed hungry world

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROA

  • ROAP

  • RONA


Other UN News

  • Environment News from the UN Daily News of 18 June 2008 (none)

  • Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 18 June 2008 (none)

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

Reuters: Property must cut carbon footprint faster: U.N.

Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:34am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - The global property industry could pay a high price for moving too slowly to shrink its colossal carbon footprint, a report to a United Nations conference on the environment said on Wednesday.

The "Building Responsible Property Portfolios" report urged investors to comply with the U.N.-backed Principles for Responsible Investment or risk seeing their returns on environmentally unfriendly property assets slide sharply.

The report, which was written by Gary Pivo of the University of Arizona and supervised by the Property Working Group of the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UN EPFI), said buildings were responsible for around half of global carbon dioxide emissions, both from operations and the energy consumed by people traveling to and from them.

It said investors could exert crucial influence on property fund managers to invest in sustainable property, and reap significant financial benefits from savings on operating costs and higher rents from tenants.

"We operate in an industry where investors, occupiers, constructors, and developers each blame the other for the lack of positive action in improving the environmental footprint of new and existing buildings," said Paul McNamara, co-Chair of the UN EPFI Property Working Group.

"Our report highlights the wide range of opportunities that exist for institutional investors who want to take positive action and apply the Principles for Responsible Investment to their property assets," he said.

European members of the UN EPFI Property Working Group include AXA Investment Managers, F&C Asset Management, Hermes Real Estate, Morley Fund Management, PRUPIM and WestLB AG.

(Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Paul Bolding)

(See for the global service for real estate professionals from Reuters)

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Nigerian Tribune: Man as crucial factor in climate change reduction

By Sulaimon Adesina - updated: Thursday 19-06-2008

When Emeritus professor David Okali, started his keynote speech at the event to mark the 2008 World Environment Day at the Faculty of Law Auditorium in the University of Ibadan, with a particular reference to the works of the late revered writer, Chinua Achebe in his Things Fall Apart, the audience was actually made to realise the bottomline of his message. Okali had analysed the untold suffering of man occasioned by climate change, as put up by Achebe, a situation made more worrisome as man had no positive clue to either the causes or the remedies to his dilemma. Achebe published the famous book in 1958.

Without doubt, climate change and its inherent calamities have become front burner issues globally in recent times with nations becoming more alert to the need to carry out proactive measures. Okali’s contention, however, is for human beings to practically take control of the situation. As a field expert with decades of experience, the professor, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Environmental study/Action (NEST), said the future generation would be ashamed of the 21st century generation which had all the wherewithal to put a meaningful check to preventable catastrophe but failed to act. The most crucial weaponry required to fight the menace, Okali said, was information which man, he stressed, now has in abundance.

For instance, he traced the immediate causes of the phenomenon as radiative force, which is the alteration in balance between incoming and outgoing radiation in the earth’s atmosphere; and change in the balance of greenhouse gases (carbondioxide, methane and nitrite oxide) and halocarbons. Out of these, carbondioxide, he said “has the highest effects and most of these are due to the human effect.” To drive his point home, Okali, who is also the President of the Nigeria Academy of science said, “Carbondioxide in the air since mid 19th century has risen by 31 percent.” And the emission of the gas has been traced mainly directly to the action or inaction of man. Okali’s contention, then is, why and how will man continue to be the architect of his misfortune?

Corroborating Okali’s stance, the National Chairman, Institute of Environmental Engineers, Akin Kumolu, said “Climate charge is happening and it has been established that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are the causes.

On the specific activities of man which add to the volume of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, Kumolu listed gas flaring, deforestation (especially the burning of fire wood), burning of fossil fuel (with burning of kerosere and cooking gas having the largest share), industrial emissions (the discharge of gaseous emissions indiscriminately into the atmosphere) and automobile release of carbondioxide into the atmosphere as those factors which require urgent attention.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), recognising climate change as the defining issue of our era, chose the slogan, “Kick the Co2 (carbondioxide) Habit: Towards a Low Carbon Economy,” to mark the 2008 World Environment Day across the globe.

No doubt, the over concentration on the use of non-renewable energy sources had ignited the significant portion of the global warming as experienced today. Kumolu stated,” Coal and oil paved the way for the world’s industrial progress and the developing countries are following the same route.

But, while the highly industrialised societies that have accounted for over 97 per cent of global emissions are striving meaningfully to adopt alternative energy sources to power their economy, Nigeria, nay other developing nations still have their power generation tied to wood, charcoal, kerosere, petrol and the likes, thereby fueling the dangers ahead.

The present and potential risks of climate change are repeatedly drummed into our ears and the stories are not palatable. Okali is more concerned of the dangers posed to Nigeria.

“There is proneness to desertification and drought, there is threat to water resources, there is threat to food security and livelihoods, there is threat to health security, there is threat to energy, industrial, transport and financial sectors and there is high vulnerability to the economy of our nation,” he said.

On the global front, the United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said flood has affected between 250,000 and 300,000 people in Cuba alone as at March 2008. Out of the figure, about 100,000 are in need of immediate assistance including food, shelter, health, water and sanitation, while some 13,465 persons are in 225 temporary shelters.

In the United states of America, as at June 16, 2008, nine rivers are at record levels of upsurge, dozens of bridges have been destroyed, up to 80 bridges have been closed due to flooding, Cedar River flood crest has exceeded the historic 1929 record, 400 city blocks are under water with 438 streets submerged, 25000 people have been evacuated and damage costs in cedar rapids have been estimated at $737 million.

In China, over a hundred thousand people were directly affected from earthquake with many thousands submerged. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General in his message to the 2008 mark of the World Environment Day said, “The environmental, economic and political implications of global warming (caused mainly from over concentration of carbondioxide in the atmosphere) are profound.

“Ecosystems—from mountain to ocean, from poles to the tropics are undergoing rapid charge. Low lying cities face inundation, fertile lands are turning to deserts and weather patterns are becoming ever more unpredictable.”

Kumolu said the government, the industry and the general public have specific roles to play for man to overcome the most daunting challenge of this century. According to him, “the government must set up regulatory agencies to make and enforce laws and also review them as we learn more of dynamics of climate charge and as technological solutions begin to manifest themselves.”

Though the Federal Government is said to be finalising arrangements on the establishment of a commission on climate, the nation will benefit from the whole exercise if such commission was composed of seasoned field experts, who could utilise their wealth of experience to bring a local solution to the issue at hand.

It is also important that the Federal Government hasten the birth of the said commission if something meaningful would be achieved. The industry, Kumolu said “also must innovate, manufacture and operate under a new paradigm where clean and sustainable environment will drive many decisions.”

The government is also the key player here as it has enormous influence on the operation of the industries. Nigerian companies will become more of agents of positive change if their registration, operation mode and regulation are tailored towards maintaining clean environment.

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The Korea Herald: Regulator urges socially responsible management

June 18, 2008 Wednesday

Financial Supervisory Service Governor Kim Jong-chang yesterday urged financial institutions to use responsible management that will control various social, economic, and financial risks.

"Socially responsible management will prevail in the Korean corporate arena," the nation's top financial regulator said yesterday in a speech to the U.N. Environmental Program Finance Initiative conference held in Seoul.

Kim noted that many advanced financial companies have increased socially responsible investing, or SRI, and taken into account "business sustainability" in their credit assessment policy.

SRI is an investment strategy combining the intent to maximize both financial return and social good.

The Kookmin, Woori, Daegu and Ex-Im banks are considered to have exemplified the new business practice in Korea's financial industry by considering a company's "environmental risk" in their credit decision-making process.

Other financial companies also appear to have followed suit by paying close attention to the ethical aspects of a company - such as their activities in charities, scholarship funds and community services.

"In Korea, some financial companies have incorporated SRI into their credit assessment process and published books on topics related to SRI and the environment," he said.

The role of financial institutions in sustainable economic development was high on the agenda for the conference, co-hosted by UNEP and two other international agencies under the U.N. umbrella.

In an attempt to give additional momentum to the trend, the financial regulator said he will take measures to encourage companies to disclose information about socially responsible management. With surging oil prices and a growing need for environment-friendly energy, he urged financial companies to increase their portfolios and alternative energy development projects while extending their loans to companies involved in them.

By Kim Jung-min


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Gulf Times: Qatar leads mercury control drive in Gulf

Published: Thursday, 19 June, 2008, 01:25 AM Doha Time

By Noimot Olayiwola
AN information system developed by Qatar for regulating the use of mercury has been recommended as a model for mercury inventory development worldwide at the end of a regional meeting in Doha yesterday.
The three-day event was a preparatory meeting for the upcoming second Open Ended Working Group on mercury in October in Nairobi, Kenya.
The system called the ‘Qatar mercury management information system (QMMIS)’ was developed by the information technology department of the Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR).
SCENR’s head of Chemical Management section Eng. Mohamed al-Ebrahim told Gulf Times that through QMMIS, the council has taken several steps on mercury control in the country.
“The council has been able to create an inventory on mercury within different sectors such as health, agriculture, education and the municipalities and we are glad that this is being considered as part of the recommendations to the working group meeting coming up in October,” he said.
The consultation meeting, comprising delegates from the GCC countries such as Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Oman, Yemen and representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regional office for West Africa, UNEP-Chemicals and Programme for the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, held discussions on control of mercury, its challenges and way forward at national, regional and global levels.
They agreed that there were three essential areas to consider in moving forward, which included actions to be taken at national level, regional level and finally the requirements for international action.
“At the national level, all concerned authorities, including the private sector and non-governmental organisations, should be involved to provide support because national partnerships are seen as an important element for the control of mercury,” they said.

Regional co-operation and co-ordination on all activities, but in particular monitoring activities and measures to control the movement of mercury via customs controls were seen as key by the delegates. 

They stressed the importance of involving regional offices such as United Nations Environment Protection, ROWA and other regional organisations such as PERSGA and ROMPE in the work in the region.
The importance of partnerships at a global level, in particular to assist with information and resources from countries with more developed programmes to manage mercury was equally emphasised. 

According to a draft communique, the delegates agreed that a legally binding instrument, which would ensure the provision of information and assistance, that may not necessarily be delivered under a voluntary agreement, should be developed; financial and technical support, including technology transfer and the provision of information relating to the management of mercury, should be readily available; there should be support for capacity building on mercury management; enabling activities, including but not limited to, the development of inventories and action plans should be developed; monitoring activities, to include not only levels of emissions, but also levels present in environmental media (air, water, soil, biota).

There were also recommendations on the management of waste containing mercury, including the provision of assistance to manage contaminated sites and creation of information sources, such as database with lists of products containing mercury and a list of alternatives to mercury if they exist.
The meeting agreed that their recommendations are essential for a legally binding instrument to succeed and meet the needs of the region.

UNEP-ROWA regional network co-ordinator Abdulelah al-Wadaee and Mercury and other Metals programme co-ordinator Sheila Logan praised the efforts of the Qatari government in leading the campaign on mercury control in the region.

“Qatar has done so well by being the only country in the region to put in place a programme on creating inventory on mercury in different sectors of the country as well as reaching out to different stakeholders who will help facilitate strong partnership on the issue,” al-Wadaee said.
He expressed hope that the recommendations put forward by Qatar delegates would be considered in Nairobi.

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AfricaNews (Netherlands): Children unite to conserve environment

Mugira Fredrick, Africanews reporter in Uganda, Photo: Elles van Gelder

A 13-year-old Cameroonian running clean-up campaigns and tree plantings is among 700 children from around the world attending a UN environment conference in Stavanger, Norway for children who are engaged in environment conservation in their communities.

Other remarkable children taking part in this conference include a 13-year-old Australian who is making a documentary called ‘A Kid’s Guide to Climate Change’, for which he interviewed a local indigenous leader, visited a wind farm and a wave generator, and built a model solar car, a 14-year-old Indian who is campaigning against water waste in his community and a 13-year-old American who has helped organize a recycling drive and collect 100,000 pounds of e-waste.

The biannual Tunza International Children's Conference that runs from today till 21st June under the theme ‘Creating Change’ is one of the largest international children’s conferences in the world organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

This year, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, UNEP will show the inspiring initiatives of dozens of children from around the world through ‘My Story’, a series of short video clips.

In a news release, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director says that, “the 700 children attending the Tunza conference are a powerful sign of the creativity, energy and dynamism that children are capable of to protect our planet. We can all learn from them, and we should all take heart in the fact that increasing numbers of children are becoming a force for positive change as we move towards greener lifestyles.”

The Conference is organized by UNEP in partnership with the Norwegian NGO Young Agenda 21 with Bayer AG as one of the main sponsors, brings together children aged between 10 and 14 from more than 100 countries who are engaged in environmental issues. The aim is to increase their environmental awareness and equip them with skills to promote environmental projects in their communities.

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