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New Scientist: Toxic waste mystery in Ivory Coast deepens


15.9.2006

Seven people are now reported dead, and 30,000 injured, by toxic waste dumped in August at 11 open tips around Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The Ivorian cabinet has resigned over the incident, and on Friday angry crowds burned the house of the port director. But some dumps are still reported to be unfenced, with children playing in them.

Treatment of the victims will depend on what poisoned them, which remains a mystery. Experts from the UN Environment Programme have flown to Abidjan to investigate. “Foreign experts” were reported as saying in Abidjan on Friday that the waste contains hydrogen sulphide (H2S), while the company that owns the waste says that would be “amazing”.

But hydrogen sulphide has a characteristic smell of rotten eggs, and such a smell is said to have been hanging over Abidjan since the dumping. In fact, the stench seems to be why the mess arrived in Abidjan in the first place.

Unloading slops

On 2 July 2006 the tanker Probo Koala arrived in Amsterdam from Gibraltar, and asked Amsterdam Port Services (APS) to unload its “slops” – residues from washing cargo tanks with caustic soda. The ship was on contract to Trafigura Beheer, a Dutch commodities trader, to carry petroleum derivatives used to make gasoline.

Such slops are normally handled under the 1978 Marpol treaty on pollution from ships. “But when they pumped the stuff out, it smelled of rotten eggs,” says Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network in Seattle, US, a pressure group that monitors the toxic waste trade.

That meant it was not regular Marpol waste, and had to be handled differently. APS demanded more money. “The ship’s operators decided the price was not justified,” a spokesperson for Trafigura told New Scientist.

They pumped the waste back on board and sailed off, stopping in Estonia and Nigeria and eventually contracting with Compagnie Tommy of Abidjan to take the waste. Trafigura denies reports that Tommy is owned by Puma Energy, a Trafigura subsidiary.

APS had the waste chemically analysed “but they did not test for hydrogen sulphide”, says a spokesperson for Trafigura. “I can’t say there couldn’t be hydrogen sulphide there, but I would be amazed.”

Breathing difficulties

The effects of low-level exposure to hydrogen sulphide can be delayed, and include headache, dizziness, weakness, sore throat, nausea, nosebleeds and breathing difficulties. These symptoms have been reported by people in Abidjan.

Michael Costigan, of the UK's Health and Safety Executive says exposure to “a few hundred parts per million” of the gas induces eye irritation and breathing difficulties, while 1000 parts per million for even a few minutes – or half that level for a few hours – causes unconsciousness and death.

Hydrogen sulphide is a metabolic poison, like cyanide, and regularly kills people who work in sewers, the oil industry and other affected workplaces.

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Die Welt: Giftmüll soll zurück nach Europa
17.9.2006
Mehr als eine Woche nach dem Rücktritt der Regierung wegen des Giftmüllskandals ist das neue Kabinett vorgestellt worden. Nur die Minister für Umwelt und Verkehr wurden ersetzt. Ministerpräsident Banny kündigt eine schnelle Säuberung der verseuchten Deponien an.

Abidjan/Hamburg - Mehr als eine Woche nach dem Rücktritt der Regierung der Elfenbeinküste wegen eines Giftmüllskandals ist das neue Kabinett vorgestellt worden. Die Minister für Umwelt und Verkehr wurden ersetzt, ansonsten blieb die Regierung von Ministerpräsident Charles Konan Banny weitgehend unverändert. Banny kündigte an, eine Säuberungsaktion der verseuchten Deponien werde an diesem Wochenende beginnen. Der Müll solle dann nach Europa zurückgebracht werden.

Nach UN-Angaben sind in der Hafenstadt Abidjan bis zu 14 Deponien durch den illegal abgekippten Giftmüll verseucht worden. Sechs Menschen starben nach Angaben des Gesundheitsministeriums an den Folgen der Verseuchung, darunter drei Kinder. 9.000 Menschen mussten mit Vergiftungserscheinungen ärztlich behandelt werden. Banny sagte, der frühere Verkehrsminister oder seine Mitarbeiter hätten Genehmigungen ausgestellt, die zu dem Skandal beigetragen hätten. Er könne auch nicht ausschließen, dass Bestechungsgelder geflossen seien.

Der Giftmüll war Ende August vom örtlichen Vertragspartner der niederländischen Ölhandelsfirma Trafigura illegal auf Deponien in Abidjan entsorgt worden. Der Giftmüll soll zurück nach Europa, wie auch das Nachrichtenmagazin „Der Spiegel“ berichtet. Die Verbrennung der petrochemischen Rückstände aus der Reinigung von Öltanks sei in einer französischen Müllverbrennungsanlage geplant, hieß es.

Für den Exekutivdirektor des UN-Umweltprogramms (UNEP), Achim Steiner, ist der Giftmüllskandal in der Republik Elfenbeinküste ein besonders schmerzhaftes Beispiel dafür, wie illegale Abfalllieferungen in die Dritte Welt menschliches Leid erzeugen. Laut „Spiegel“ befürchtet er, dass sich der Sondermüll-Schmuggel mit dem globalen Handel immer mehr lohne werde. Die beteiligten europäischen und afrikanischen Firmen müssten mit harten Strafen rechnen.



Wie der „Spiegel“ unter Berufung auf die Ölhandelsfirma Trafigura weiter berichtet, scheiterte eine ordnungsgemäße Entsorgung der Schiffsölabfälle in Amsterdam und Rotterdam an der Zahlung von 250.000 Euro und einer drohenden hohen Vertragsstrafe für die verspätete Öllieferung. Die Entsorgung der chemisch angereicherten Reinigungssubstanzen in Abidjan sei danach „auftragsgemäß“ erfolgt.

Spiegel: Der Kapitän wusste Bescheid

Ein vertrauliches Telefax vom Kapitän des Öltankers „Probo Koala“, der im Auftrag von Trafigura weltweit petrochemische Produkte befördert, belegt laut „Spiegel“ seine Kenntnis über die Gefährlichkeit der Tankladung. Danach handele es sich nicht um „Schmutzwasser aus dem normalen Schiffsbetrieb“, sondern um Stoffe, die der so genannten Basler Konvention unterliegen. Für solche grenzüberschreitende Abfallexporte müssen jedoch Genehmigungen der jeweiligen Transit- und Empfängerländer vorliegen. Auf dem Weg nach Estland verkehrte die „Probo Koala“ dem „Spiegel“ zufolge auch in der Nord- und Ostsee vor der deutschen Küste.

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Schweizer Depeschen Agentur: 2007 wird das «Jahr des Delfins»

15.9.2006

[appears in Aargauer Zeitung,, Berner Rundschau, Liechtensteiner Volksblatt, Basler Zeitung, Tagesanzeiger, Grenchner Tagblatt, Dresdner Neuest Nachrichten, Leipziger Volkszeitung, Rehin-Neckaer Zeitung, Augsburger Allgemeine, Frankfurter Rundschau, plus about 50 regional and local news outlets in Switzerland and Germany ...]
Die UNO hat für 2007 das «Jahr des Delfins» ausgerufen. Die Säuger drohten angesichts der verschmutzten Gewässer, Jagd und verknappter Nahrungsressourcen nach Überfischung schon bald aus den Weltmeeren zu verschwinden.
Um diesen Prozess zu stoppen, starteten das UNO-Umweltprogramm UNEP und das Übereinkommen zur Erhaltung wandernder wild lebender Tierarten (CMS) nun die neue Initiative. Das teilten die Organisationen in Monaco gemeinsam mit Fürst Albert von Monaco mit, der Schirmherr der Kampagne ist.
Mit der «Initiative können wir etwas bewirken, um diese faszinierenden Meeressäuger vor dem Aussterben zu bewahren», betonte Fürst Albert. Zusammen mit professionellen Tauchern wird er an diesem Sonntag eine Delfinskulptur im Meeresschutzgebiet des Fürstentums in Larvotto versenken.

Eine Sprecherin des UNEP in Bonn sagte, das «Jahr des Delfins» sei die erste Kampagne dieser Art. Die UNO-Organisationen wollten aber zum Schutz bedrohter Tierarten auch in den Folgejahren weiter jeweils eine bestimmte Art hervorheben.

Zum Schutz der Delfine gebe es bisher auch etwa das Abkommen zur Erhaltung der Kleinwale in der Nord- und Ostsee. Delfine sind weltweit vielfach gefährdet. Besonders häufig ertrinken die Säugetiere als unerwünschter Beifang in den Netzen von Fischern. (sda) _____________________________________________________________________________

Indpendent on Sunday (UK): Inconvenient truths (for Al Gore and the rest of the planet)

Geoffrey Lean

17.9.2006

Suddenly global warming has come in from the cold. A potent combination of startling natural events, growing public pressure, and pioneering political commitments has brought it storming up the agenda.

Even many of the previously sceptical are now convinced. For example, who would have thought the leader of the Conservative Party would become Britain's most potent champion of radical action to combat climate change, or that he would share platforms with the leader of Friends of the Earth?

And who would have imagined Arnold Schwarzenegger - famous as for his devotion to the Humvee, the greatest of the gas guzzlers - would defy his party, as Governor of California, to drive through the world's most ambitious programme for cutting the pollution that causes global warming?

And as we report (right), even the "Toxic Texan" himself- President George W Bush, who set out to kill the Kyoto Protocol and all international attempts to tackle the problem - is laying the ground for a U-turn.

These dramatic changes of heart are not happening among scientists. There has long been more unanimity in the scientific community about the reality of global warming than over any other environmental issue I have known' a recent survey of 928 scientific papers found not a single one that dissented.

Nor are they occurring in public opinion, which is becoming steadily more convinced, and alarmed - even in the United States. A recent CBS/New York Times poll shows that four in every five Americans (including three out of every five Republicans) believe it is a serious, or very serious, threat - and that three-quarters of Americans (and more than half of Republicans) insist that action must be taken to counter it "right away".

No, it has been the political and media establishments that have lagged behind, both here and in the United States. A survey of US media articles, in contrast with the one on scientific papers, found a majority cast doubt on the reality of global warming. Even here, climate change sceptics are two a penny in Islington, if almost impossible to find in the laboratory.

Though Tony Blair has made much of his praiseworthy achievement in putting the issue at the top of the agenda of last year's G8 summit, emissions of carbon dioxide have actually risen since Labour came to power. But now the born-again conversions are coming faster than at a revivalist rally.

Last week The Economist - bible of businessmen and right-of-centre politicians on both sides of the Atlantic - abandoned years of lordly scepticism to call on President Bush to lead the way in taking action.

And on Friday, Gerard Baker - a columnist on The Times much admired by Rupert Murdoch - confessing his own scepticism, concluded, "the only prudent course is to act now to reduce emissions...". The old man's youngest son, James, chief executive of BSkyB, is already on board, pressing for change like an old green campaigner.

And talking of conversions, how about this? An alliance of US Envangelical Christians - God gave humanity dominion to exploit nature as it wished - is calling for action in climate change as "a moral and spiritual issue". The catalyst for much of this is an unlikely box-office success, with an even less likely star. An Inconvenient Truth, fronted by former vice-president Al Gore, which was released in Britain on Friday, has already become the third most-seen documentary in US film history' it has even overtaken Truth or Dare (aka In Bed With Madonna).

So far, some 2.3 million Americans have gone to see a two-hour illustrated lecture by a man with a reputation as one of the most wooden politicians ever to run for public office.

Most have been blown away. Partly by Gore, who is warm, human, witty, at times moving, and who gives the best explanation of the issue I have seen. Partly by some spectacular photography and some stunning graphics. But mostly by the compelling evidence he presents.

Gore worries why politicians and governments have been so slow. Such was his "faith in the democratic system", he says, that he thought the mere emergence of the facts would be enough to spark a sea-change in Congress.

He comes to a somewhat charitable conclusion: "If an issue is not on the tip of their constituents' tongues it is easy for them to ignore it". But there is a hole at heart of the argument, a huge opportunity missed, for Gore tells us nothing of his failure when he himself was in power.

He tells us how he was one of the first people to become concerned about global warming, as a university student taught by one of the scientists who first identified what was happening. And he recounts how he held Congressional hearings on the issue and ran for President partly to highlight it.

But he glosses over his own time in office, when he was put in charge of environmental policy by President Clinton. Even then, the US dragged its feet in the climate negotiations. Worse, its carbon dioxide emissions shot up far faster than at any time in modern history - by 15 per cent, compared to just 1.65 per cent during the Toxic Texan's first term.

If Gore had stuck to his principles, however, he would almost certainly now have been President' Ralph Nader would not - and could not - have run against him on a green ticket, so denying him Florida.

His friends say that he has figured this out, and he has certainly worked his penance - trudging round the country to give the lecture now featured in the film at least a thousand times.

But it is important that he comes clean. Not just for the cause of truth he espouses, but because a new generation of politicians - including David Cameron - are making the issue their own. Who better to teach them about the difficulties they may face in office, and about the costs - both to themselves and the world - of failing to implement their beliefs?

Five Earth-shattering events

How global warming is changing the Earth now, and over the next 10 years

Monsoons in Britain?

One day this year, Mumbai in India suffered a record 37ins of rainfall in just 24 hours - the most severe example so far of how downpours become greater and more intense in a warmer world. Monsoon-type rainfall is even coming to Britain, according to research at Newcastle University' some parts of the country-such as Scotland and the North-east-are regularly doused with a foot of rain over 10 days. The water can not be absorbed into the ground and runs off it, causing floods.

Drowning polar bears

For the first time, polar bears have been found drowned in the Arctic, as receding, ice defeats even their prodigious swimming powers. The UN Environment Programme estimates summer ice has shrunk by more than a quarter in the past 50 years, and the rate of decline is quickening' last year an area the size of Texas disappeared, leaving the ice too far from land for the bears to swim to safely. It also deprives them of their food since they can only catch seals when their prey surfaces through cracks and holes in the ice.

Deserts spread to Europe

Deserts are spreading, even up into southern Europe. Desertification is a serious problem in Spain and scientists fear the Sahara could leap the Straits of Gibraltar. The jet streams, giant rivers of air high above the earth, which mark the edge of the tropics, are moving towards the poles. The areas just outside them contain many of the great deserts' these are also expected to move pole-wards as the earth heats up.

The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro

Hemingway's snows - one of the wonders of the natural world - will soon be as dead as the old man himself. More than 80 per cent of them have melted away' the picture on the right shows Kilimanjaro 10 years ago, the one on the left how it looks today. Within 20 years the snow will all have gone, for the first time in 100,000 years - and, as the world continues to heat up, it will not come back. Glaciers are melting worldwide' even in Tibet, on the very roof of the world, they are being reduced by half every decade.

Barn owls in the Arctic

Barn owls, robins, hornets and other temperate species are arriving in the Arctic for the first time. This is rendering the Inuit, literally, lost for words, as they have no names for them in their language, though they have 1,000 words for reindeer. Salmon and cod are also turning up, and farmers in Greenland have started growing cauliflower, and Chinese cabbage. And the Inuit have started embracing air-conditioning, after a heatwave last summer sent temperatures soaring into the low 30s centigrade in northern Canada.

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Financial Times: Launch of 2007 FT Sustainable Banking Awards

17.9.2006

London, September 17, 2006: The Financial Times, in association with the International Finance Corporation, today launched the 2007 FT Sustainable Banking Awards at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Singapore.

These awards, now in their second year, were created by the FT and the IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, to recognise banks that have shown leadership and innovation in integrating social, environmental and corporate governance objectives into their operations. The 2006 awards attracted 90 entries from 48 institutions in 28 countries.

Applications are now being accepted for awards in five categories: Sustainable Bank of the Year, Emerging Markets Sustainable Bank of the Year, Sustainable Bankers of the Year, Sustainable Deal of the Year, and Achievement in Carbon Finance. There will be additional awards for regional leadership under the Emerging Markets category. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2007.

Short-listed finalists will be invited to attend a special dinner in London in June, at which the winners will be announced. A conference on sustainable banking, addressing the views of banks, their stakeholders and civil society, is to take place earlier in the day. Both the conference and the awards dinner will be major networking events for the international banking community.

"We were delighted with the response to the inaugural awards and we expect the 2007 programme to attract even more interest from banks around the world," said Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times. "Sustainability has become extremely important to the international banking community, and the FT is pleased to be associated with the IFC in recognising innovation and achievement in this area."

Lars Thunell, IFC executive vice president, commented: "Increasingly banks understand the benefits of including sustainability in their business strategy, that is identifying environmental and social risks as well as market-based opportunities. There are many impressive examples in the OECD countries, but we would like to strongly encourage banks from the emerging markets to participate in the awards as well."

Leading consultancy Sustainable Finance Limited is the technical adviser for the awards.



Details of the awards programme

Q. 1 Why have awards for sustainable banking?

A. 1 The FT Sustainable Banking Awards were created by the Financial Times in association with the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, to acknowledge the progress that banks have made in integrating social, environmental and corporate governance objectives into their operations while maximising shareholder value.

The goal is to highlight initiatives that work and to reward progress on the journey towards sustainability. It is a best-in-class measure, not an absolute measure.

We hope the awards _ now in their second year -- will act as a catalyst for further innovation in sustainable banking, helping to encourage best practice and transparency in the way banks approach sustainability and stimulate debate on the role banks can or should play in the area of sustainability.

Q. 2 What types of awards will be given in 2007?

A. 2 The 2007 awards will be given in five categories:

Sustainable Bank of the Year

The bank that has shown excellence in creating environmental, social and financial value across its operations.

Emerging Markets Sustainable Bank of the Year

The emerging markets bank that has shown excellence in creating environmental, social and financial value across its operations. There will also be prizes for regional leadership.

Sustainable Bankers of the Year _ Award for Innovation

The business teams and individuals that have shown outstanding innovation in the area of sustainable banking. This award is open to both internal and external nominations.

Sustainable Deal of the Year

The financial institution that has completed in 2006 a transaction with outstanding social, environmental and financial impact, innovation in approach and the potential for replicability.

Achievement in Carbon Finance

The thematic award for 2007, recognising groundbreaking initiatives and transactions in any area of carbon finance -- from carbon trading, to low-emission housing and car finance, to eco-insurance and carbon hedge funds.

An outright winner and a runner-up will be named in each category, including the Emerging Markets regional prizes.

Q. 3 Who is eligible to enter?

A. 3 Submissions are welcomed from any private sector banking institution in developed and/or emerging markets, including corporate headquarters or branch offices of international commercial or investment banks, emerging market banks, development finance institutions, micro-credit institutions, housing finance institutions, etc. Any bank can submit for multiple awards.

The Achievement in Carbon Finance award is also open to other financial sector participants, including asset management companies, private equity institutions and insurers.

The awards are not open to multilateral institutions.

Q. 4 What is the awards selection process and timeline?

A. 4 The deadline for entries is February 28, 2007. Click here for entry forms.

A short-list of five entries in each of the five categories will be selected by the judging panel at a meeting in April 2007. Further information may be requested from short-listed entrants.

One winner and one runner-up in each of the five categories will be chosen by the judges at a second meeting in June 2007. In the Emerging Markets category, a short-list will be selected for each regional prize, with the overall winner chosen from the regional prize winners.

The winners and runners-up will be announced at the awards dinner in June 2007.

Q. 5 Who is on the judging panel?

A. 5 The judging panel is co-chaired by senior representatives of the FT and IFC, and includes leading figures involved in sustainable finance and development.

John Willman, UK business editor, Financial Times (panel co-chair)

Lars Thunell, executive vice president, International Finance Corporation (panel co-chair)

Paul Clements-Hunt, head, United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative

Paul Grimes, chief operating officer, FTSE Group

Tessa Tennant, chair, Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia

The technical advisers to the awards are Sustainable Finance Limited.

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Le Bulletin: La perte de biodiversité pourrait compromettre la réalisation des Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement

13.9.2006

Rome (Italie), 13 septembre 2006 - La dégradation de l'environnement et, plus particulièrement, la perte de biodiversité, pourrait compromettre la réalisation de certains Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement (OMD), a déclaré M. Alexandre Müller, Sous-Directeur général de la FAO, à la veille de la première réunion (Gland, Suisse, 15 septembre 2006) du Comité spécial interorganismes sur l'objectif Biodiversité 2010. Et la récente proposition du Secrétaire général de l'ONU d'ajouter une nouvelle cible à l'Objectif 7 (OMD 7), consistant à réduire de façon significative, d'ici à 2010, la perte de biodiversité, est la bienvenue.

A la réunion de Gland, les responsables d'institutions des Nations Unies, d'accords environnementaux internationaux et d'ONG devraient adopter une déclaration conjointe préconisant des mesures visant à réduire la perte de biodiversité.

L'objectif Biodiversité 2010 invite les pays « à atteindre d'ici à 2010 une réduction significative du rythme actuel de perte de biodiversité au triple niveau mondial, régional et national, en guise de contribution à l'atténuation de la pauvreté et au service de toute la vie sur terre ».

Approuvée par 110 dirigeants au Sommet mondial sur le développement durable (SMDD) en 2002, puis à nouveau au Sommet Millennium +5 à New York en 2005, la cible sert de suivi à la Convention sur la diversité biologique.

Cette Convention, signée par 150 chefs de gouvernement au Sommet de la terre de Rio en 1992, vise la promotion du développement durable.

Conçue comme outil servant à traduire les principes d'Action 21 en mesures concrètes, la Convention reconnaît que la diversité biologique englobe non seulement les plantes, les animaux et les micro organismes et leurs écosystèmes, mais également les populations et leur besoin de sécurité alimentaire, de médicaments, d'air et d'eau fraîche, d'un abri, et d'un environnement propre et sain.



Vaste participation
Outre la FAO, la réunion de Gland verra la participation du Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement (PNUD), du Programme des Nations Unies pour l'environnement (PNUE), de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture (Unesco), de la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le commerce et le développement (CNUCED) et de l'Institut des Nations Unies pour la formation et la recherche (UNITAR).

Aux organismes chefs de file des Nations Unies viendront se joindre plusieurs conventions internationales: la Convention sur la diversité biologique (CDB), la Convention sur le commerce international des espèces de faune et de flore sauvages menacées d'extinction (CITES), la Convention sur la conservation des espèces migratrices d'animaux sauvages (CMS) et la Convention Ramsar sur les terres humides.

Citons parmi les autres partenaires l'Alliance mondiale pour la nature (UICN), le Fonds mondial pour la nature (WWF) et les centres « Future Harvest » représentés par l'Institut international des ressources phytogénétiques (IPGRI).

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