Our Planet News
TOWARDS A BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL
The first meeting of the Open-ended Ad hoc Working Group on Biosafety held in Aarhus, Denmark, in July, succeeded in establishing a firm foundation for negotiating a future biosafety protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
An important step forward was taken in determining the range of issues that the protocol might address for the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms which may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Some of the elements proposed for inclusion in the protocol include objectives, jurisdictional scope, focal points, risk assessment and risk management, advance informed agreement and notification, monitoring of and compliance with protocol obligations, emergency procedures, public awareness, socio-economic considerations, liability and compensation. One of the main concerns underlying the discussions was to provide developing countries with the necessary technical, financial and institutional capacities for addressing biosafety issues.
The Working Group elected a ten-member Bureau which will be chaired by Mr. Veit Koester from the National Forest and Nature Agency of Denmark.
REINFORCED ENVIRONMENTAL LINKS WITH THE PHILIPPINES
As the key speaker at the 'National Conference on Co-Existence: Sustainable Cities and the Environment', held in Makati in July, the Executive Director highlighted the urgent need to integrate environmental concerns into urban development and underscored the following priorities for action in cities: improving access to drinking water and sanitation; the involvement of communities and the private sector in the management of solid wastes; reduction of air pollution generated by energy production, industries and transports; redefining transport infrastructures; and wise land management.
During her visit, the Executive Director discussed several environmental issues with the President of the country, Mr. Fidel V. Ramos, and was invited to attend his annual State of the Nation Address to the Congress. In addition, she participated in the inauguration of environmental projects in the city of Puerto Princesa.
Representatives from UNEP discussed a draft proposal with UNDP and UNIDO for the development and implementation of a demonstration project in Puerto Princesa on an integrated approach to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
CLEANER PRODUCTION IN CHINA: A SUCCESSFUL JOINT INITIATIVE
A pioneering project undertaken jointly by UNEP, the World Bank and China's National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) has resulted in major cleaner production achievements in China.
Strong cooperation between these organizations, industries and local government agencies over a two-year period have led to substantial reductions in pollution and waste in a number of Chinese enterprises. Under the UNEP/World Bank/NEPA project, a National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) was created in the country and a network of Chinese institutions actively involved in this field was established. Furthermore, demonstration activities carried out in 27 companies have already generated economic benefits of $2.9 million from the adoption of management or technology changes which require little or no investment. More importantly, a significant number of professional staff are now qualified to audit and implement cleaner production programmes. Additional bilateral and multilateral efforts will be undertaken to integrate cleaner production all over China with the objective of introducing this approach in 3,000 Chinese enterprises over the next five years. China was one of the first countries to be actively involved in the Cleaner Production Programme of UNEP.
UNEP, the World Bank, NEPA and NCPC, at the fourth UNEP Cleaner Production High-Level Meeting held in Oxford in September, issued a document entitled Cleaner Production in China: a Story of Successful Cooperation to publicize the results of their joint initiative, encourage donors to build further on this project, and stimulate similar efforts in other parts of the world.
TOWARDS SAFE MANAGEMENT OF CHEMICALS
In Accra, Ghana, in July, UNEP, UNITAR and FAO convened a regional workshop for Western and Central Africa on the sound management of chemicals. Government experts on chemicals management from 23 countries made a series of recommendations to: strengthen sub-regional and regional collaboration structures as well as cooperation among national chemicals focal points; enhance the capacities of Western and Central African countries in the field of chemicals management; and ensure the active participation of African countries in the negotiation and implementation of a legally binding Prior Informed Consent instrument. Ways of involving the industrial sector in the sound management of chemicals in Africa were also identified.
Funded by the Directorate General for Development of the European Commission, the event was convened as part of a series of regional workshops on chemicals management held all over the world.
WORK ON MILITARY ACTIVITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The Subregional Meeting on Military Activities and the Environment held in Bangkok, Thailand, in June, identified the environmental problems caused by the military sector in Asia and the Pacific as well as possible corrective solutions.
Convened by UNEP in cooperation with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), representatives of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam presented their views and experience on the links between environmental policies and military activities, stressing the need for further regional and international cooperation on the integration of environmental concerns into military activities, and emphasizing the importance for the military sector to play a major role in restoring the environment and in the promotion of sustainable development.
BIODIVERSITY DATABASES IN EAST AFRICA
In Nairobi in June, UNEP's Environmental Natural Resource Information Network Programme (ENRIN) hosted a regional workshop on the use of databases to support decision-making in biodiversity conservation in East Africa. The event provided a forum to review progress made by the collaborating institutions of the region in developing biodiversity databases. The information needs of decision makers were also identified. Furthermore, plans for developing a regional biodiversity database in East Africa were discussed during the workshop. This event was convened under the project Institutional Support for the Protection of East African Biodiversity financed by the GEF.
FACTS FOR CONSUMERS
UNEP and Consumers International have finalized their joint study on Environmental Labelling in Central and Eastern Europe. Research on the validity of environmental claims was carried out across six Central and Eastern European countries. This initiative enables UNEP to inform consumers on the purchase of environmentally friendly products as well as on the impacts of their consumption behaviours on the environment. The study is issued throughout the global network of consumer unions of Consumers International, and will enhance the environmental awareness of consumers in Central and Eastern Europe.
AGROFORESTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT
Within the framework of the UNEP Environmental Training Network for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Centre of Agroforestry for Sustainable Development of the National Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACH) held the fifth International Course in Agroforestry for Eco-development in August. Implemented in cooperation with FAO and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, this course focused on the training of professionals in the planning and implementation of agroforestry technologies, and will be incorporated as a preparatory course to a new master's degree programme in environment offered at UACH.
UNEP'S INFORMATION CLEARING-HOUSE
In response to numerous queries on environmental standards and guidelines for potentially polluting industrial wastes, the Industry and Environment Office of UNEP has set up an in-house database called Industry & Environment Emission Standards and Guidelines Information Clearing-house. Since the creation of the Clearing-house, three compendia covering a range of industrial sectors have been published to provide helpful information to governments, industries, international organizations, NGOs, trade unions, research institutes and individuals.
The compendia are the following:
Textile Industry Effluent Discharge Standards, Industry & Environment Emission Standards & Guidelines Information Clearing-house, volume I, UNEP, 1996.
Pulp & Paper Industry Effluent Discharge Standards, Industry & Environment Emission Standards & Guidelines Information Clearing-house, volume II, UNEP, 1996.
Iron & Steel Industry Air Emission Standards, Industry & Environment Emission Standards & Guidelines Information Clearing-house, volume IIIa, UNEP, 1996.
COOPERATION FOR SAFEGUARDING MIGRATORY SPECIES
The most important tool for international cooperation to conserve migratory waterbirds in Africa and Eurasia was formally opened for signature in August in The Hague by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. Concluded last year under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds is the product of a fruitful collaboration between the Government of The Netherlands, the UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Wetlands International, and many countries and NGOs in the regions concerned. Covering nearly 120 countries, the Agreement will enter into force following the signature of at least 14 Range States from Africa and Eurasia.
Climate Change and Human Health, document launched at the Second Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Geneva, in July 1996. Published jointly by WHO, WMO and
Transports et Environnement en Méditerranée: Enjeux et prospectives, Les Fascicules du Plan Bleu no 9, 1996. This document analyses the evolution and future prospects of transport and the environment in the Mediterranean and is published under the umbrella of UNEP and the Mediterranean Action Plan.
Environmental Labelling in Central and Eastern Europe, study guiding consumers in buying valid environmentally friendly products, published by Consumers International and UNEP, 1996.
Middle East Peace Process Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources: Training Course on Project Design and Appraisal Tools for Integrated Environmental and Economic Assessment, training manual which was used during the above course held on 4-8 December 1995 in Nairobi, UNEP.
Forum on the Caspian, Aral and Dead Seas: Perspectives of Water Environment Management and Politics, and Symposium on the Aral Sea and Surrounding Region: Irrigated Agriculture and the Environment, document containing a series of papers prepared by experts in support of these two events held in March 1995, Technical Publications Series no 4, UNEP, 1996.
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