The environment in the news

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • UN News Centre: UN tool for measuring energy use and emissions may become industry standard

  • Guardian (UK): Shell accepts liability for two oil spills in Nigeria

  • Daily Times (Nigeria): UN to release report on oil pollution in the Niger Delta

  • Inter Press Service: Efforts to Improve Water Quality Falling Short

  • Houston News (USA): Pygmy loris twins born at Moody Gardens

  • Fiji Times (Fiji): Learn the lessons of climate change

  • Sun Star (Philipines): Law on regulated use of cosmetics pushed

  • IT Web (South Africa): ConVista not only committed to successfully implementing SAP software, but also to 'planting seeds of learning'

Other Environment News

  • UN News Centre: First test of UN-backed tsunami warning system to be held in the Mediterranean

  • IB Times (UK): The World Climate Summit

  • Biodiversity Policy and Practice: EUROBATS Announces Bat Conservation Initiative

  • Nigeria: Tackling the Lagos Floods

  • Japan Times (Japan): Holding oil firms liable for rights violations

  • Discover Magazine (USA): Building the Green-Collar Economy

  • Huffington Post (UK): Climate Pragmatism or Climate Illusion?

  • Daily Planet (USA): Building a healthy, green rural economy

  • NG News (Canada): Maritime Steel owner gets temporary environment permit

  • Mail (Ghana): Oil sector must not compromise environment

  • WAM (UAE): Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi Urges Developers to Protect the Mangrove Tree

  • Walesonline (UK): Environment Minister signs up for Keep Wales Tidy campaign

  • Angola Press (Angola): Strategic plan on environment gives priority to training, sensitization

  • Dawn (Pakistan): Roads, flyovers playing havoc with environment, court told

  • Star (SA): Looking out for the environment

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions


  • RONA

Other UN News

  • Environment News from the UN Daily News of August 3rd 2011

  • Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of August 2nd 2011 (None)

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

UN News Centre: UN tool for measuring energy use and emissions may become industry standard
2 August 2011
A tool developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for measuring energy use and carbon dioxide emissions in homes and offices is under consideration for standardization, a move that could lead to the creation of a uniform system for defining the climate impact of buildings.
The Common Carbon Metric (CCM), developed by UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, is to be considered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards, the UN agency said in a press release.
The CCM is intended to create a uniform system for defining the climate impact of buildings through a consistent protocol, which can, in turn, help develop international baselines for use by architects, designers and the construction industry.
The buildings are currently the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with an estimated one third of global energy use taking place in offices and homes. Carbon dioxide emissions from buildings are set to rise from the 2004 level of 8.6 billion tons to 11.1 billion tons in 2020.
“At UNEP we believe there is great potential for the building sector to contribute to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Sylvie Lemmet, the Director of UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics.
“Development of the Common Carbon Metric and the ISO’s decision to consider it as an international standard are important steps to remove the barriers to unlock this potential and provide a path to more energy efficiency in the building sector,” she added.
Developing new standards for buildings can help governments plan more effectively towards achieving national targets on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions, according to UNEP. The CCM can also support the formulation of carbon credit schemes and other emission reduction mechanisms, the agency said.
The tool is specifically designed to measure energy use when a building is operational. Given that the day-to-day use of buildings accounts for 80 per cent to 90 per cent of their total energy consumption, the CCM deals with the period in a building’s lifespan where the greatest amount of emissions are produced.
First launched during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the CCM measures both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions equivalent in buildings per metre squared or per occupant over the course of one year. It contains two approaches – a “top-down” model, which takes measurements from a collection of buildings, or a “bottom-up” model, which is applied to an individual building.
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Guardian (UK): Shell accepts liability for two oil spills in Nigeria
3 August 2011
Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars after accepting full liability for two massive oil spills that have devastated a Nigerian community of 69,000 people and may take at least 20 years to clean up.

Oil spill experts who have studied video footage of the spills at Bodo in Ogoniland say the spills could together be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disater in Alaska when 10m gallons of oil was spilt. Until now, Shell has claimed that less than 40,000 gallons were spilt.

Papers seen by the Guardian show that following a class action suit in London over the past four months, the company has accepted responsibility for the double rupture in 2008 of the 50-year-old Bodo-Bonny trans-Niger pipeline that pumps 120,000 barrels of oil a day though the community.

Ogoniland is the small region of the Niger delta which threw out Shell in 1994 for its pollution but then saw eight of its leaders, including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed by the goverment.

The crude oil that gushed unchecked from the two Bodo spills which occurred within months of each other in 2008 has clearly devastated the 20 sq km network of creeks and inlets on which Bodo and as many as 30 other smaller settlements depend for food, water and fuel.

No attempt has been made to clean up the oil, which has collected on the creek sides, washes in and out on the tides and has seeped deep into the water table and farmland.

According to the communities in Bodo, in two years the company has only offered £3,500 together with 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of beans and a few cartons of sugar, tomatoes and groundnut oil. The offers were rejected as "insulting, provocative and beggarly" by the chiefs of Bodo, but later accepted on legal advice.

Shell's acceptance of full liability for the spills follows a class action suit bought on behalf of communities by London law firm Leigh Day and Co, which represented the Ivory Coast community that suffered health damage following the dumping of toxic waste by a ship leased to multinational oil company Trafigura in 2006.

Many other impoverished communities in the delta are now expected to seek damages for oil pollution against Shell in the British courts. On average, there are three oil spills a day by Shell and other companies working in the delta. Shell consistently blames the spills on local youths who, they argue, sabotage their network of pipelines.

"The news that Shell has accepted liability in Britain will be greeted with joy in the delta. The British courts may now be inundated with legitimate complaints," said Patrick Naagbartonm, corordinator for the Centre of Environment and Human Rights in Port Harcourt.

Later this week the company will be heavily implicated by the UN for the environmental disaster in the Niger delta which has seen more than 7,000 oil spills in the low lying swamps and farmland since 1989. Shell first discovered oil in the Niger delta in 1956. According to Amnesty International, more than 13m barrels of oil have been spilt in the delta, twice as much as by BP in last year's Gulf of Mexico spill.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report, funded by Shell, will be presented to president Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday and is expected to be released on Friday in London.

UNEP's report, the first peer-reviewed scientific study of more than 60 spills, is expected to to say that oil pollution in Ogoniland is much worse than previously believed, having sunk deep into the water table. Many spills have not been cleared up since 1970 and the effects on the local economy, health and development have been severe. The report will not apportion blame for individual spills.

International oil spill asessment experts who have seen the Bodo spill believe that it could cost the company more than $100m to clean up properly and restore the devastated mangrove forests that used to line the creeks and rivers but which have been killed by the oil.

Proceedings against Royal Dutch Shell and Shell petroleum development company (SPDC) Nigeria began in the high court on 6 April 2011. Last week Shell Nigeria said: "SPDC accepts responsibility under the Oil Pipelines Act for the two oil spills both of which were due to equipment failure. SPDC acknowledges that it is liable to pay compensation -to those who are entitled to receive such compensation."
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Daily Times (Nigeria): UN to release report on oil pollution in the Niger Delta
3 August 2011
A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the impacts of oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta is expected to be released in Abuja on Thursday.
The report, which was established to examine the impacts of oil pollution on the environment and communities in Ogoniland, is the first such study of oil pollution impacts in the Niger Delta where the oil industry has operated for more than 50 years.
Major stakeholders in the oil industry in the Niger Delta comprise the federal government and multinational oil companies, with Shell being the main on-land operator.
Human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has researched and reported on "the devastating impact of oil pollution on human rights in the Niger Delta, including the rights to food, water, health and livelihood."
In a statement released today, the organisation said: "Amnesty has exposed how the poorest people are often the most likely to be exploited by multinational extractive companies, and to be pushed deeper into poverty."
The statement added that the organisation will be responding to the UNEP report when it is published.
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Inter Press Service: Efforts to Improve Water Quality Falling Short
2 August 2011
Despite increased spending on sanitation works, the water quality in rivers near large urban centers in Brazil ranges from poor to very poor. Some say the reason is the development model chosen by the South American nation.
The 2011 report on the country’s water resources by the national water regulatory agency (ANA) was received with satisfaction by the government: in terms of availability and quality, 90.6 percent of the country’s freshwater sources presented "good" results, according to report coordinator Ney Maranhão.
But viewed from other perspectives, the study, published Jul. 19, does not give cause for optimism, the representatives of a number of water-related environmental and social organizations told Tierramérica.
While efforts and investments have indeed been made, they are still insufficient, believes Edson Aparecido da Silva, coordinator of the National Front for Environmental Sanitation.
The report reveals that during the period studied, 2008-2009, the proportion of "good quality" water rose from 70 to 71 percent, while that of "very poor quality" remained at two percent.
Nevertheless, the proportion of "poor quality" water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs rose from six to seven percent, while that of "fair quality" rose from 12 to 16 percent. In the meantime, "very good" quality water fell from ten to four percent. A glass of pure, crystal clear water can be found in only four percent of the country’s water resources.
The situation is especially bad in rivers near large metropolitan areas, where pollution is attributed primarily to the release of untreated wastewater.
A hundred of these rivers are currently in a state of intensive therapy.
Poor and very poor water quality is found in large cities and state capitals like São Paulo, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, in south and southeastern Brazil, and Salvador, in the northeast, as well as mid-sized cities like Campinas (in the southern state of São Paulo) and Juiz de Fora (in the eastern state of Minas Gerais).
An assessment of more than 1,700 points monitored shows that numerous river basins are compromised by the large-scale release of "urban household sewage," the report states.
In Silva’s opinion, the main cause of groundwater and surface water pollution is the lack of treatment of sewage and industrial waste.
The National Sanitation Information System reports that only 35 percent of the water from the country’s sewers is treated. "In other words, of all the sewer water, more than 60 percent is discharged as is, with no treatment," Silva commented to Tierramérica.
The government highlights that between 2005 and 2009, there was an increase in investment in wastewater treatment, mainly through the sanitation-related component of the country’s Growth Acceleration Programme (PAC)
"Sanitation policies are showing results in the improvement of water quality, but a great deal of investment is still needed," admitted Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira at a media conference with the foreign press.
The money invested in sanitation works during this period - over 8.35 billion dollars - is slightly less than 60 percent of the amount needed to solve the problem, she added.
Silva recognizes that the government has made a "significant" effort. "Brazil has resumed investment and planning in the sector, but it is not enough to make up for the time lost," he said, stressing that the government should address sanitation as a public health issue.
"It is well known that where this is adequate water in terms of quality and quantity, and adequate collection and treatment of sewage and waste, hospitalization rates for water-related diseases are much lower," he noted.
Solving the problem will require not only increased investment, but also a return to joint planning and resource management involving public and private, provincial and municipal operators.
For his part, Rogério Hohn, national coordinator of the Movement of Dam-Affected People, says that the government report is "confirmation" of what organizations like his have been warning about for a long time.
"The conception of economic growth is what is causing consequences for the environment and therefore the water," Hohn told Tierramérica.
These consequences stem from the big hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure megaprojects that are located precisely in the country’s main river basins, he maintained.
Hohn also highlighted the impact of agrochemical products. Brazil is "the world’s leading consumer of toxic agrochemicals. Every citizen of Brazil consumes an average of 5.2 liters of these toxins," he said.
The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, particularly by the agro-industry sector, contaminates the food and water in the countryside where the food is produced and in the cities where it is consumed, he explained.
Catholic priest Nelito Dornelas, the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops advisor to the Brazilian Climate Change Forum, said that what he finds most frightening about the report is that the government "is satisfied with this situation that officially confirms what we have been saying."
Dornelas stressed that Brazil is home to 12 percent of the world’s drinking water supply, and of this, 80 percent is in the Amazon rainforest, where the effects of water pollution in industrialised regions that seem far away, such as those in the south and southeast, are also beginning to be felt.
"All of the rain that falls in the southeast, for example, is formed in the Amazon, and our fear is that toxic rain is already falling too," he commented to Tierramérica.
In Mato Grosso (in central-western Brazil), "contaminated rain is already beginning to affect people’s health," he said.
Dornelas believes that "what is actually polluting the water is the production model that Brazil has chosen, which is neither pure nor correct."
He pointed specifically to the contamination of the Guaraní Aquifer, one of the world’s largest groundwater reservoirs, stretching 850,000 square kilometers across central-southern Brazil, northeastern Argentina, and parts of Uruguay and Paraguay.
A study released in April by the Technological Research Institute of the state of São Paulo and other state agencies warned that illegal dumping of waste and toxic agrochemicals used in sugar cane plantations are threatening the Aquifer.
This is precisely because "it is located in the agro-industry paradise, which is the southeastern region where enormous amounts of agrotoxins are sprayed," said Dornelas.
Reversing this contamination will require a change in the development model, but above all a change in the entire development paradigm, he said.
This paradigm shift, he added, should take into consideration the "seven deadly sins of modern times" defined by Indian independence leader and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948): "Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle."
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Houston News (USA): Pygmy loris twins born at Moody Gardens
2 August 2011
Moody Gardens guests get a special treat this summer: the chance to see two rare pygmy slow loris offspring, born June 13, on exhibit in the Rainforests of the World Exhibit.
"They are very cute," said Paula Kolvig, assistant curator at Moody Gardens. "We are excited for our slow loris family, and even more excited that our visitors will be able to see them grow up in the Rainforest Pyramid."
The addition of the second set of twins is a rare and valuable boost to the population of this primitive primate species called prosimians that are found in tropical forests of Laos, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. These arboreal (tree-living) primates were nearly extinct in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Much of the forests where the loris lived were destroyed.
After the Vietnam War, deforestation continued to be a threat. Due to numerous environmental dangers, the species is listed as "vulnerable" by United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
To assist in repopulating the species, Moody Gardens, an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), teamed up with the AZA to participate in a Species Survival Plan (SSP). The birth at Moody Gardens was a great success of this cooperative breeding and conservation program, which helps ensure the survival of the species in both the wild and captivity.
The babies were born to mother Luyen and father Icarus. Moody Gardens has had successful breeding and births with this pair since 2006. The parents are 11 and 15 years old and have been an integral part of the Moody Gardens animal collection for seven years.
"Icarus is off exhibit while the twins are very young, so they spend their day by Luyen's side for comfort and nursing," Kolvig said.
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Fiji Times (Fiji): Learn the lessons of climate change
2 August 2011
MANY may view climate change as an enemy but a lesson is to be learnt from it, says Ratu Maseikula Niumataiwalu who represented the Econesian Society and the Youth of the Pacific at the recent Rio+20 Pacific preparatory meeting in Apia, Samoa.
"I mean, what's a win without a loss?" he said.
"What's war without a cause? What's hope without humanity in need?
"Maybe climate change is trying to teach us to be more appreciative of what we have."
Ratu Maseikula said one participant posed the question of whether we're under the assumption that by greening the economy we should be able to fish as much as we want and cut down as many trees as we want as long as it's sustainable.
"Sustainable development is not only about the relationship between the social, economic and environment but about the people and their social, economic and environmental hopes," Ratu Maseikula said, adding there was a need to for a change of behaviour, in mind-set and consumption.
Commenting on the theme of the Rio+20 meeting which is a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development, Ratu Maseikula said a lot of work still needed to be done to achieve a green economy and that this could be achieved only if there was full participation and co-operation from everyone.
"Green economy, which the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defined as one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities is not a solution but a vehicle that will take us towards sustainable development," the youth representative said.
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Sun Star (Philipines): Law on regulated use of cosmetics pushed
3 August 2011
An environmental watchdog said Congress should pass a law that would end the recurring problem of cosmetics containing hazardous chemicals.

To emphasize their cause, the EcoWaste Coalition presented before the senators on Wednesday the results of the tests the group conducted on skin whitening products.

Using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a device that is routinely used by US regulatory agencies, the EcoWaste, in collaboration with US-based International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen), detected mercury in 11 out of 12 skin lightening creams purchased from Quiapo retailers.

The tests conducted by visiting Ipen scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi detected high quantities of mercury, ranging from 1,085 to 28,600 parts per million (ppm).

This is way above the national regulatory limit of one ppm for mercury in cosmetics as defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), Lucero pointed out that mercury use in cosmetic products can lead to skin rashes, discoloring and scarring, and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial disorders.

Unep has warned that “direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.”

Cosmetics that conceal essential product information such as their chemical ingredients and their associated risks should not be sold in the market, Lucero said.

The group expressed support to Senate Bill 1886 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that will require cosmetic products sold in the country to be “free of any ingredients which have been identified as chemicals causing cancer or reproductive toxicity.”

EcoWaste also welcomed Senate Bill 943 filed by Senator Lito Lapid, which if enacted, will prohibit the use of phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals recognized as endocrine disruptors, in personal care products

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