WorldScan: October 28, 2003

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Europe Limits Toxics in Automotive Coatings

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - European Union countries must reduce the number of toxic substances in car paints, varnishes and solvents, starting in January 2007, under a new agreement reached Monday in Luxembourg by the 15 EU environment ministers.

The purpose of the proposed law, known as a directive, is to limit the emissions of solvents containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in certain paints, varnishes and vehicle refinishing products.

The draft legislation is intended to improve European air quality and guarantee greater protection to building site workers and workers in the automotive industry. VOCs are known to be damaging to the human central nervous system, they contribute to the formation of smog and can create respiratory problems.

A two-phase approach is suggested for the decorative paint market, with increasingly tight specifications to be in place by January 1, 2007 and by January 1, 2010.

The European Commission, the executive branch, is invited to submit to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers by the end of 2008 a report that examines the broad scope for making further reductions in the VOC content of products outside the scope of the measure agreed on Monday.

The Commission review in 2008 shall examine any new element that arises in relation to the socioeconomic impact of the application of phase two as foreseen for paints and varnishes.

A second Commission report is planned in 2012 to examine the potential for making further reduction in VOC content of products already covered by the directive. Both these reports shall be accompanied, if appropriate, by proposals to amend the legislation.

The ministers also agreed to extend the EU tax on petroleum products to other energy products from January 2004.

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UNEP Stimulates Funding for Renewable Energy

TOKYO, Japan, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - In a new United Nations initiative aimed at increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Klaus Toepfer has launched a Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative (SEFI).

Toepfer told more than 600 bankers and financiers in Tokyo for the UNEP Finance Initiative Global Roundtable October 20 that two of world's most pressing issues – energy security and climate change – will not be solved "by the mindset that created them."

"Instead of climate change we need to create the climate for change,” he said.

Toepfer told the group that “although sustainable energy technologies such as solar cells and wind generators have advanced rapidly, the transaction costs and market uncertainty of many renewable energy projects has led most financiers to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, which is compounded by an overall lack of information, experience and the tools needed to quantify, mitigate and hedge project and financial product risks.”

He said, “SEFI will help mainstream financiers overcome these barriers and consider renewable energy and energy efficiency as not just niche investments, but key components of secure energy systems based on truly sustainable forms of energy.”

Toepfer is attempting to redirect the billions of dollars to be invested in new energy infrastructure in the next two decades away from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

If fossil fuels are not replaced with renewable energy generation, "the resulting serious and irreparable environmental and social harm could dramatically affect the health of human societies, economies and the ecosystems on which they depend," he said.

"For developing countries, in particular, the reliance on fossil fuels and centralized infrastructure will not serve the vast majority of people in rural areas where the economic benefits of a modern energy system are elusive, although the environmental costs from using low quality fuels such as dung, coal and kerosene are not," he said.

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Canada Moves To Protect Antarctica

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - Canada has enacted the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act which provides the legislative authority required for Canada to ratify the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the Madrid Protocol. Canada signed the protocol lin 1991.

Environment Minister David Anderson and Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said the new legislation will help to prevent environmental degradation in the Antarctic.

The fragile ecosystems of the Antarctic are threatened by human disturbance of plants and animals, marine pollution, climate change, invasive alien species and contamination from poor waste management locally, as well as the long range transport of pollutants.

"Canada’s planned ratification of the Madrid Protocol will help to further protect the Antarctic ecosystem, and will demonstrate Canada’s commitment to the international environment," said Graham. "The Antarctic is a region of great environmental importance and plays a significant role in global climate and ocean systems."

Anderson said that since Canada signed the protocol, Canadian companies, scientists and tour operators active in the Antarctic have been voluntarily meeting or exceeding the obligations of the protocol.

When the new legislation and supporting regulations come into force, the obligations contained in the Madrid Protocol will apply to Canada.

Environmental assessments, waste management plans. and environmental emergency plans must be in place before activities can occur in the Antarctic. Damaging historic sites will be banned.

Canadian expeditions, tourism operations, vessels and aircraft will now be required to apply for, and receive, a permit to be in the Antarctic, except in the case of an emergency.

The Madrid Protocol came into force in 1998, designating the Antarctic as a natural reserve dedicated to science and peace. With the objective of further preventing pollution and environmental degradation in the Antarctic, the protocol also sets out environmental principles to govern activities that take place in the region.

Some 400 Canadians visit the Antarctic each year. Two Canadian tour companies operate there, and approximately 40 Canadian scientists are involved in Antarctic research.

The Madrid Protocol is part of the Antarctic Treaty System, which also includes the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. Canada is a party to these three agreements.

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Western Hemisphere Organizes to Help Migratory Birds

WASHINGTON, DC, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - For the first time in more than 40 years, wildlife officials from 25 countries in the Western Hemisphere met in Chile earlier this month and agreed to develop a hemispheric strategy for the conservation of migratory birds. Sponsored by the United States, the Western Hemisphere Migratory Bird Conference took place from October 6 to 8, in Termas de Puyehue, Chile.

In a media note issued October 22, the U.S. State Department explained that John Turner, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, led the U.S. delegation, which included officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

Representatives of approximately 40 environmental nongovernmental organizations and international conventions also attended.

In his opening remarks to the conference, Turner expressed the hope that these birds, which fly thousands of miles during their migratory cycles, can increase hemispheric understanding.

"Here in the Western Hemisphere, migratory birds remind us that we are neighbors," said Turner. "These living resources speak to us of our shared environment, economies, and culture. They challenge us all to become better stewards of the natural resources on which we all depend. Perhaps if we take better care of migratory birds, we can also take care of other species of wildlife, our watersheds, forests, and other habitats."

The conference established an Interim Steering Committee that includes representatives of governments, international organizations and NGOs that will produce and distribute information on the status of migratory bird species and habitats throughout the Americas.

As a first step, participants identified five priority needs:

Participants identified tools already available to help address these priorities through national, international, and nongovernmental organizations.

The steering committee will help coordinate the activities of the many organizations involved in this area and facilitate implementation of concrete measures to safeguard migratory birds from the Arctic to Antarctica. A second hemispheric conference is being considered for early 2005 to assess progress and identify further actions needed.

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Plan to Collect Rockhopper Penguins Attacked

LONDON, UK, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has called on the UK government to stop plans to capture 120 pairs of wild rockhopper penguins from Tristan da Cunha, a UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic.

A South African aquarium owner is on his way to capture the penguins from Nightingale Island, one of the penguin's most important breeding sites, the RSPB says. The bird protection organization says the penguins will be shipped to zoos and bird collections around the world "on the unproven premise" that they will be used to support captive breeding programs.

Although the application has been approved by Bill Dickson, administrator of Tristan da Cunha, the RSPB has written to Bill Rammell, the minister for overseas territories at the Foreign Office, calling on the government to overrule the decision.

Alistair Gammell, the RSPB's international director, said, "It appears to us that this expedition is little more than a commercial collecting expedition with no benefits to conservation. Considering the lack of information on penguin numbers on Tristan da Cunha, we are surprised the UK government has apparently sanctioned this so easily."

"If captive breeding is failing, is it advisable to take more birds? Alternatively, if it is succeeding, why are more birds needed?" Gammell asked.

The scheme, which has not been supported by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, also raises concerns about the welfare of the penguins during their capture and transportation.

BirdLife International lists the rockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because of the rapid decline of several populations, some of which have been depleted by 24 percent over the last 30 years.

The penguins around Tristan da Cunha die entangled in driftnets and as a result of the rock lobster fishery.

Currently, the penguin populations are not known to be declining in Tristan da Cunha, but there has been no long term study and it is known that populations on other South Atlantic islands are not doing well. There has been no assessment of the potential damage that the removal of these birds will have on the viability of the population.

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Bad Water Proves Deadly in Manila

MANILA, Philippines, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - At least four people, including a seven year old boy, have died and over 200 other residents in Manila's Tondo district have been hospitalized after drinking contaminated water, according to Manila Health Department head Dr. Florante Baltazar.

The victims succumbed to El Tor disease, a diarrhea like illness that people get from drinking polluted water. The fatalities were caused by dehydration, Dr. Baltazar said.

Tondo area residents have been experiencing stomach pains and dizziness since October 23 after drinking the water. Initial reports disclosed the disease was triggered by a defective water pipe in the area.

Water in the Tondo district is supplied by Maynilad Water Services Inc. In an interview Tuesday over Radio dzBB, Maynilad officials admitted that the water pipes in the district are old but said that they could not do any repairs because of lack of funds.

Mayor Lito Atienza has advised Tondo residents to boil their water for 30 minutes before drinking.

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Three Food Firms Win China's First Green Biz Competition

SHANGHAI, China, October 28, 2003 (ENS) - The first Chinese producer of organic honey, a manufacturer of testing kits to detect genetically modified organisms, and an organic food company have won the first green business competition in China. The contest is sponsored by New Ventures, a project of the World Resources Institute's Sustainable Enterprise Program.

One of the winning companies is Beijing Organic Foods Co., Ltd., a pioneer enterprise in China's organic foods market which currently has sales of $2.3 million. The company sells products in 60 supermarkets throughout 12 cities in China.

Also a winner is ChongQing Jinbiao Biotechnology Company, Ltd, a company that manufactures and markets testing kits that can detect genetically modified organisms in one minute and cost one-fourth less than the industry average.

The third winning firm is Nanjing Ruikang Agriculture Co., Ltd., a company that produces and exports organic honey to the United States, Japan and Europe and holds 66 percentage of the global market for organic royal jelly.

The winners, chosen from among 10 finalists, were announced at the end of the first annual New Ventures Investor Forum in China, held October 21-22, in Shanghai. It is a marketplace for investors in sustainable enterprises. The forum is sponsored by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Citigroup.

The winning companies, whose business plans call for investments ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million, now will have the opportunity to negotiate for venture capital with these investors.

"Although three companies were selected for special mention, I believe that all the 10 finalists are winners. The experience they gained through the New Ventures program will bring them to the next level of sophistication to meet requirements in future business planning and expansion," said Richard Stanley, Citigroup country officer for China.

Since September 2000, New Ventures has hosted three investor forums in Latin America that have facilitated investments of $6.4 million to several sustainable businesses. Last year, WRI and Citigroup expanded the New Ventures program to China.

"The businesses represented at the forum demonstrate that there are profitable opportunities in China's fast growing environmental sectors," said Luiz Ros, director of WRI's New Ventures program.

At the forum, the International Finance Corporation signed an agreement to bring the New Ventures program to Indonesia.

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