Monday, February 25, 2013

Chinese Updates: Emissions from transportation and industry have increased faster than those from agriculture (20 Feb 2013)

By Jane Qiu and Nature magazine
Nitrogen-containing pollutants from agriculture, transport and industry in China has increased by more than half in 30 years, a study shows, adding to concerns about the country’s deteriorating environment.
“Rapid economic growth in China has driven high levels of nitrogen emissions in the past few decades,” says Zhang Fusuo, an agriculture researcher at the China Agricultural University in Beijing and a co-author of the study.
Once emitted into the air, key nitrogen pollutants — ammonia and nitrogen oxides — can be transformed to secondary pollutants such as ammonium and nitrates, and then washed to Earth by rain and snow. The process, known as nitrogen deposition, can do great damage to ecosystems, causing soil acidification, fertilizing harmful algal blooms and threatening biodiversity, says Zhang. But until his study, “there was little direct evidence for the magnitude of the problem in China”.
By analyzing data from 270 monitoring sites around the country, Zhang and his colleagues found that the amount of nitrogen deposition, as measured in precipitation, had increased by 60% — or 8 kilograms per hectare per year — between 1980 and 2010. The study is published in Nature today.
The researchers went on to assess how this had affected ecosystems. They found that the leaves of a range of herbaceous and woody plants across China were absorbing 33% more nitrogen than in 1980. Similarly, nitrogen uptake by rice, wheat and maize (corn) on long-term unfertilized farmland had increased by about 16% in the same period.
“This is the first major analysis of nitrogen deposition in China,” says Mark Sutton, an environmental scientist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh, UK. “The scale of the study is impressive. It allows the statistical power to detect changes and trends.”
Transport accelerates
“The composition of nitrogen deposition has changed over the years,” says Zhang. In 2010, about one-third of deposited nitrogen was in the form of nitrate, with the rest being ammonium; by contrast, in 1980, nitrate made up just 17% of deposited nitrogen. This suggests, he says, that nitrogen oxide emissions from transport and industry are increasing more rapidly than ammonia emissions from agriculture.
“This is consistent with the growth of those sectors,” says Zhang. Since the 1980s, the use of nitrogen fertilizers and the number of livestock have doubled, whereas coal consumption has increased more than 3-fold and the number of motor vehicles more than 20-fold.
If the current trends persist, ammonia emissions will increase by 85% by 2050; nitrogen oxide emissions will go up more than eightfold. “The impact will be unthinkable,” says Zhang.
Global trouble
Sutton, who co-authored a commentary published alongside Zhang's article, points out that nitrogen is not just a Chinese problem. Globally each year, around 140 million tons of nitrogen is lost to the environment as ammonia, nitrogen oxides and other compounds. That figure is projected to increase by 70% by 2050 — when emerging economies in Latin America and South Asia are likely to have the same nitrogen pollution problems as China.
This “is exacerbating climate change and having a whole range of effects on the environment and public health,” says Sutton. According to a report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and launched on 18 February by the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management and International Nitrogen Initiative, nitrogen pollution causes US$200-US$2,000 billion of damage around the world each year.
“It’s time to curb global nitrogen pollution,” says Sutton, who led the UNEP study. Improving practices in agriculture — the biggest contributor of nitrogen pollution worldwide — should be a top priority, he says.
“Fertilizer overuse is a common problem, especially in developing countries,” agrees Zhang. In an earlier study, he and his colleagues found that Chinese farmers use an average of around 600 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizers per hectare per year, but that could be cut by up to two-thirds without affecting crop yields.
Furthermore, says Sutton, “80% of the nitrogen in crops grown globally goes to feed livestock,” says Sutton. Higher consumption of meat and diary products, especially in developed countries, has substantially increased global nitrogen pollution. “Recycling nitrogen from manure and sewage would increase the efficiency of nutrient use, while reducing pollution and improving crop production.”
To make a real difference, he adds, “governments should join forces to better manage the global nitrogen cycle.”
This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on February 20, 2013.
Clean Air InitiativeBy Jane Qiu and Nature magazine

Study: Where Air Pollution Is Bad, Heart Attacks Are More Deadly by Cathryn Tonne and Paul Wilkinson (22 Feb 2013)

Clean Air Initiative

Study: Where Air Pollution Is Bad, Heart Attacks Are More Deadly

From: The Atlantic
By: Lindsay Abrams
Tiny particles introduced into the atmosphere by human activity appear to hinder our recovery after heart attacks by as much as 20 percent.
Patients released from the hospital following a heart attack are more likely to die over the following years if they go home to an area with higher levels of air pollution, according to a new study in the European Heart Journal.
By air pollution, the study refers specifically to particulate matter that's 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5). No significant results were found for larger particles or for the presence of nitrogen oxide in the air. But reducing the concentration of PM2.5 to a baseline level, absent human contributions, could reduce post-heart attack mortality by 12 percent, according to the authors.
To arrive at this data, they followed over 150,000 patients in England and Wales, cross-referencing their health records with average air pollution levels for their postcode (that's British for zipcode). At the study's end, a quarter had passed away; the researchers estimate that 4,783 of those deaths occurred prematurely and can be attribtued to the influence of air pollution.
People Who Come Out of the Closet Are Happier and Healthier
Women Who See Themselves as Objects Are Less Able to Count Their Own Heartbeats
By looking at postcodes, they hoped to get a clearer picture of how the area in which the patients live might be affecting their cardiovascular health. (Although they didn't look at the specific cause of death for patients who passed away within the follow-up period, the majority were assumed to be heart-related, as air pollution has previously been shown to negatively affect cardiovascular health.)
What's interesting about their focus on the patient's location, though, is that one of the aims of the study was to evaluate whether air pollution might be contributing to the socioeconomic disparities seen in mortality following heart attacks: Multiple studies have established that patients with lower income and less education are more likely to die following a heart attack. The same has been established for people living in poorer communities, which are also known to suffer disproportionately from poor air quality.
But after accounting for factors like smoking and diabetes, the researchers found little support for air pollution's ability to explain the steady decline of recovery rates with lowered socioeconomic status. Something else, yet to be fully understood, must be behind that association; air pollution is more of an equal opportunity health risk.
So how to reduce exposure, and thus at least this known risk? In the U.S., according to the EPA , major sources of PM2.5 include traffic, wood burned in stoves and fireplaces, field and forest burning, and, to a lesser extent, industrial production. Absent man's influence, its concentration in the air would stand at about 4 µg/m3; in this study, mean concentrations ranged from 8 to 14. Federal standards in the U.S. were officially updated last month to limit the PM2.5 concentration in the air to 12 µg/m3, and most of the country is believed to have already met this goal. That's not terrible news, because the authors estimate that for every 10 µg/m3 of increased PM2.5 pollution, the risk of death following a heart attack increases by 20 percent. Then again, 16 percent increased mortality isn't the most inspiring of minimum standards.
- Lindsay Abrams is an editorial fellow with The Atlantic Health channel. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times.

Publications: Clean Air Asia and GIZ Jointly Release Sustainable Urban Freight in Asia Publication by giz and Clean Air Asia on 19 Feb 2013

Clean Air Initiative

Clean Air Asia and GIZ Jointly Release Sustainable Urban Freight in Asia Publication

Freight transport has severe negative impacts on the local air quality in many Asian cities, and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. To avoid such undesired effects and at the same time to foster economic development by assuring an efficient supply of urban agglomerations with the wide range of required goods, local and national governments in Asia need to take action now.
The joint GIZ - Clean Air Asia publication "Sustainable Urban Freight in Asia" provides an overview on the current situation with regard to urban freight in Asia and outlines possible measures to be taken. It is based in part on SUTP's Module 1g Urban Freight in Developing Cities.
The publication is available for download here:

Events: 低碳管理‧卓越成效研討會 (Chinese version only) organized by BEC on 19 Mar 2013

Business Environment Council 商界環保協會
Event Signup
低碳管理‧卓越成效研討會 (Chinese version only)
Event Date:19 March, 2013 (Tuesday)
Event Time:2:30 - 5:00pm

Pakistani Updates: Report Exposes Pakistani E-Waste Recycling Workers' Plight (21 Feb 2013)

Report Exposes Pakistani E-Waste Recycling Workers' Plight

Feb. 21, 2013 — A 6-year-old girl in a remote Pakistani village sits quietly in the family's kitchen, breathing toxic fumes that drift from across the table where her father is burning a computer circuit board. The scene is one of scores documented by researcher Shakila Umair, whose has compiled the first known evidence of horrifying conditions in the country's secretive e-waste recycling cottage industry.

After months in Pakistan gaining locals' confidence -- and even risking a confrontation with a local mob boss -- Umair is just beginning to get the ICT industry to pay attention to the problem. The PhD student from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm presented her findings last week at the ICT for Sustainability conference in Zurich, which was attended by representatives from the public and private sector, as well as academia.
"This is the unfortunate reality for many people in Pakistan," says Umair, a native of Pakistan. "I have seen barrels of acid filled with disintegrating wires set just a few feet from where an entire family sleeps, and children playing in the soot left from people burning wires in the open air.
"The ICT industry could work with the Pakistani government to make the work safer, but the biggest problem has been the lack of documentation about the problem and its extent. So I hope this is an eye-opener for them."
Umair's social life cycle assessment documented hundreds of individuals, including adults and children, working without any protection from the dioxin, furans and other dangerous substances released as a result of the crude methods of manually dismantling discarded electronic devices and extracting precious materials. They work 12 hours shifts and are paid the equivalent of USD 2.70 per day, she says.
"Relatively small protective measures such as gloves and masks would easily make a big difference on the workers' health. But they cannot afford it themselves," she says. She also recommends making safety information available workers.
"The only time I saw someone using a mask was while dismantling printers," she says. "It was because of the toner. Unlike dioxin, it's visible. But it was a basic surgical mask that stops nothing.
"They are not aware of the toxins they are inhaling, and some of them are illiterate. They're unable to relate their illnesses to the work they do. I talked to people who said they felt uncomfortable physically, that they had trouble breathing. But they said they have no choice."
Stopping the flow of e-waste to Pakistan is not Umair's goal. "If it stops, their livelihood vanishes. I am from Pakistan and I would never want to see that happen," she says. Furthermore, she says some of the e-waste comes in the form of donations, which make it possible for many in Pakistan to get access to ICT tools that they otherwise couldn't afford.
Nokia's Sustainability Manager for Africa and the Middle East, Ulrike Vött, was one of those listening to Umair's presentation in Zurich. "With our Take back and awareness campaign involving media across Pakistan during 2011, we have started to try and find first ways of engagement -- with the aim of putting the topic onto the agenda," Vött says. "It is a long way to solving the e-waste problem. There are many other, governmental and non-governmental and industry groups working on this issue, and the picture is very complex indeed."
Photo: Shakila Umair presents her investigation of horrifying conditions in Pakistan's secretive e-waste recycling cottage industry. (Credit: Image courtesy of KTH The Royal Institute of Technology)

South Korean Updates: S. Korea to build 18 new thermal power plants by 2027 (22 Feb 2013)

S. Korea to build 18 new thermal power plants by 2027

S Korea-power plants 
S. Korea to build 18 new thermal power plants by 2027
SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will build up to 18 new thermal power plants by 2027 while also significantly expanding the generation capacity of clean, renewable power sources, such as solar and wind farms, the government said Friday.

The move comes as the country's electricity consumption is expected to grow by an annual average of 2.2 percent, from 482.5 billion kilowatt-hours this year to 655.3 billion kilowatt-hours by 2027.

The country's peak power demand is expected to grow at a faster rate of 2.4 percent per year from 79.7 million kilowatts in 2013 to over 110 million kilowatts in 2027, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

The government sets a 15-year power supply plan in place every two years. The latest is the sixth of its kind.

Under the new plan, the government seeks to increase the total generation capacity of clean, renewable sources to 12 percent of total consumption in 2027, compared with only 7 percent in 2025 under the fifth power supply plan announced two years earlier.

An additional 15.8 million kilowatts of electricity will come from the 18 new power plants in the plan approved Friday.

To secure enough supplies, the government has given out licenses to public and private companies to build 12 new thermal power plants using coal and six using natural gas.

Plans for new nuclear power plants, on the other hand, have been suspended.

"Considering the people's worsened sentiment toward nuclear power plants following the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant (in March 2011), the government decided to withhold any decision on new nuclear power plants that were earlier set to be completed between 2025 and 2027," the ministry said in a press release.

The country earlier sought to build four new reactors by 2027. Without the four new reactors, the country's power reserve rate would dip from 22 percent in 2024 to 16.5 percent in 2027, the ministry said.

The power reserve rate is a crucial indicator of stability in power supply with a reserve rate of below 4 percent of total generation capacity considered dangerous. In 2012, the country's average power reserve rate stood just above the dangerous level at 4.2 percent, forcing the government to issue numerous power shortage warnings during peak seasons in summer and winter.

The ministry said dangers of a possible nation-wide blackout will be greatly reduced next year when the power reserve rate is expected to reach 16.3 percent with over 14 million kilowatt-hours added to the country's total generation capacity.

Still, the government said it will work to limit the growth of consumption, which will include rate hikes.

"The government will reform the rate system and also introduce a rate system that links the cost to price that will allow it to quickly reflect any changes in the global energy price," the ministry said.

South Korea imports nearly 97 percent of all fuel, such as oil or coal, consumed here.


Publications: Climate Risks, Vulnerability and Governance in Kenya: A review by Jo-Ellen Parry, Daniella Echeverría, Julie Karami-Dekens, Joseph Maitima, IISD, 2012 (23 Feb 2013)

IISD Publications Centre

Climate Risks, Vulnerability and Governance in Kenya: A review

» Jo-Ellen ParryDaniella EcheverríaJulie Karami-Dekens, Joseph Maitima, IISD, 2012.Paper, 83 pages, copyright: UNDP
Climate-related risks adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of the people of Kenya and threaten the country’s near- and long-term development prospects. To analyze how Kenya’s capacity to prevent, manage and recover from disasters and adapt to the impacts of climate change could be strengthened, this desk-based review summarizes:
  • Kenya’s vulnerability to climate risks given current progress toward meeting its defined development goals.
  • Kenya’s exposure to climate risks historically, and how these risks might change in the future given available climate change projections.
  • The degree to which key sectors of the Kenyan economy and particular groups are vulnerable to existing and future climate risks.
  • Kenya’s current capacity to address climate risks given its policy framework, institutional arrangements, information availability, ongoing projects and capacity needs.
The paper concludes by providing sector-specific recommendations to address knowledge gaps and general recommendations to strengthen response capacity.
This paper was produced as part of the Climate Risk Management Technical Assistance Support Project funded by the United Nations Development Programme.

Events: Public Participation in Environmental Matters in East Asia: Access to Information, Administrative Procedures and Justice organized by UNU-IAS on 19 Mar 2013

Tuesday, 19 March 2013, 13:00 - 17:30 at UNU-IAS

Public Symposium
Public Participation in Environmental Matters in East Asia:
Access to Information, Administrative Procedures and Justice

Event description
Event language: English

The concept of “public participation in environmental matters” has become increasingly institutionalized around the world in the past two decades and was re-confirmed at Rio+20. Its three pillars, access to information, administrative procedures and justice for individuals and environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), are implemented quite progressively in environmental policies beyond national states. The Sustainable Development Governance Initiativeof UNU-IAS is currently working on a major publication addressing this issue in a multifaceted manner in different geographic regions. This symposium will provide an overview and thematic case studies on the current state of public participation in environmental matters with a focus on East Asia and in particular on Japan.


13:00Opening Session
Welcome remarks
Jose Puppim de Oliveira (Assistant Director of UNU-IAS)
13:10Presentation 1 “Public participation in Environmental Matters: Compendium, Challenges and Chances”
Volker Mauerhofer (Senior Research Fellow, UNU-IAS)
Discussion: 10 min.
Presentation 2 “Public Participation and the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity – the Example of Japan”Makiko Imai (IUCN Japan Committee/Member of Commission on Education and Communication of IUCN)
Discussion: 10 min.
14:30Presentation 3 “Public Participation in Environmental Matters: A Government’s Perspectives on Public Engagement with Biodiversity”Naohisa Okuda (Director, Global Biodiversity Strategy Office, Nature Conservation Bueau, Ministy of the Environment, Japan)
Discussion: 10 min.

Presentation 4 “Public Participation on the example of land-sea reclamation projects: Case studies from Japan, China and the Philippines”Jue Yang (Researcher, Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Tohoku University)
Volker Mauerhofer (Senior Research Fellow, UNU-IAS)
Discussion: 10 min.

Presentation 5 “Public Participation in the Japanese Traffic Planning System”Kumiko Taniuchi (Appointed Researcher, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University)
Discussion: 10 min.
16:20Presentation 6 “Public Participation from a NGO’s perspective: The Case of the Nagara River Wire Gate"Miori Aoyama (Special Committee of Aichi Prefecture to restore estuary of Nagara River)
Discussion: 10 min.

Presentation 7 “Environmental Information and Its Distribution: Experiences from the WorldBank”
Tomoyuki Naito (Manager, Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC), The World Bank)
Discussion: 10 min.
17:20Concluding SessionConcluding remarks
Volker Mauerhofer (UNU-IAS)

Registration is free and open to the public. For further information, please contact UNU-IAS at unuias[at] or 045-221-2300.

For registration and more information:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Books: Acid Earth The Global Threat of Acid Pollution, 2nd Edition By John McCormick (14 Feb 2013)

Acid Earth

The Global Threat of Acid Pollution, 2nd Edition

By John McCormick

Published 14th February 2013 by Routledge – 242 pages
Acid rain was one of the major environmental issues of the 1980s. But while industrialized countries have taken measures to reduce the emissions that lead to acidification, the problems have not gone away. Trees are still dying, lakes are still being made uninhabitable; buildings are still corroding; and human health is still suffering. The most worrying trend is the repetition in the industrializing countries of Asia and Latin America of the problems that have long afflicted Europe and North America. More than 10 years after it was first published, the highly acclaimed Acid Earth still provides the only global view of acidification, and remains the standard text on the subject. Chapters on the causes, effects and growing scientific understanding of acid pollution, and the possible solutions, are followed by detailed studies of the political struggles involved in responding to acid damage in western and eastern Europe, the US and the newly industrializing countries. Written in non-technical language for people interested in the problems of the environment, Acid Earth calls for a renewed sense of public and political will to bring the problems of acid pollution under control. The book also makes valuable reading for specialists and students. Originally published in 1992.
List of Illustrations Acronyms and Abbreviations Acknowledgements Introduction 
Part I The Dimensions of Acidification
1. Acid Emissions
2. Acid Damage
3. Acid Controls
4. Acid Politics 
Part I1 National and Regional Experiences
5. Britain
6. The European Union
7. Russia and Eastern Europe 
8. North America
9. The Newly Industrializing Countries Conclusions Notes Index

New Books:Ecosystem Services and Global Trade of Natural Resources Ecology, Economics and Policies Edited by Thomas Koellner (15 Feb 2013)

Ecosystem Services and Global Trade of Natural Resources

Ecology, Economics and Policies

Edited by Thomas Koellner

Published 15th February 2013 by Routledge – 292 pages
The utilization of natural resources to satisfy worldwide growing consumption of goods and services has severe ecological consequences. Aside from the projected doubling of food consumption in the next fifty years, the growing trade of biofuels and other commodities is a global challenge as the economic activities in the primary sector (i.e. mining, fisheries, aquaculture, forestry and agriculture) can damage biodiversity and ecosystem services. This should be taken into account in the decision-making affecting the global value chains linking consumer, retailer, processor, and producer in the North and the South.
To cover the topic of ecosystem services and global trade this book is organized into four major parts. Part 1 gives the theoretical framework from an ecological, economic and political perspectives. Part 2 explores how internationally traded biophysical commodities from agriculture, forestry and fisheries translates into a virtual flow of land, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. Part 3 describes how two widely used accounting tools (i.e., Life Cycle Assessment and Green National Accounts) deal with international aspects of ecosystem services, and Part 4 shows how instruments like labelling, bans, or payments for ecosystem services in the private and public sector can influence trade patterns and the management of ecosystem services.
This collection is a valuable contribution to the global change science dealing with ecosystem services. It illustrates the consequences of international trade on global ecosystem services and provides an overview of accounting tools and of market-based policy instruments to address negative and positive externalities. The book is certainly innovative, because it brings together research findings from distinct disciplines especially Industrial Ecology and Ecosystem Sciences, as well as Environmental Economics and Political Science.

1. Ecosystem Services and Global Trade of Natural Resources: An Introduction Thomas Koellner

Part 1: Foundations for Understanding the Trade of Natural Resources and its Implication for Ecosystem Services

2. Global Human Dependence on Ecosystem ServicesJordan Levine and Kai M.A. Chan
3. Economics of Global Trade and Ecosystem ServicesDavid Zilberman
4. International Trade Policies and Ecosystem Services David Blandford
5. The Need for Global Governance of Ecosystem Services: a Human-Environment Systems Perspective on Biofuel Production Roland W. Scholz 
Part 2: Ecosystem impacts of global flows of virtual land, water and sea in the physical economy 6. Ecosystem Impacts of Virtual Land Use Embodied in Traded Goods and Services Thomas Koellner and Manel van der Sleen
7. Ecosystem Impacts of Virtual Water Embodied in Global Trade of Agricultural ProductsHong Yang, Jungo Liu, Alexander J.B. Zehnder, and Johan Rockström
8. Global Trade of Fisheries Products-implications for marine ecosystems and their services Lisa Deutsch, Max Troell, Karin Limburg and Miriam Huitric

Part 3: Accounting Tools for Global Ecosystem Services 
9. Life Cycle Assessment and Ecosystem Services Thomas Koellner, Stephan Pfister and Annette Koehler 10. Ecosystem Services in Green National Accounting Jean-Louis Weber 
Part 4: Instruments for Global Governance of Ecosystem Services
11. Fair Trade, Environmental Labels, Bans and Ecosystem Services Ulrike Grote and Pradyot R Jena
12. International Payments for Ecosystem Services: Principles and Practices Graciela Chichilnisky13. International Biodiversity Offsets Annah L. Peterson, Chloe Hill, Louise A. Gallagher
14. Landscape Labeling: Combining Certification with Ecosystem Service Conservation at Landscape Scales Jaboury Ghazoul 
Conclusion 15. Governance of Ecosystem Services in a World of Global Trade Thomas Koellner et al.

Publication: UNEP 2012 Annual report

UNEP 2012 Annual report

The 2012 Annual Report details UNEP's wide-ranging activities in what proved to be the most momentous year in the organizations history. At Rio+20, Heads of State and governments decided to strengthen and upgrade UNEP; this was followed by the adoption of a resolution at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly later in the year that granted UNEP universal membership and called for increased resources.

The report details UNEPs work across its six thematic areas: Climate Change; Disasters and Conflicts; Ecosystem Management; Environmental Governance; Harmful Substances and Hazardous Waste; Resource Efficiency; and Sustainable Consumption and Production. It also highlights the key role UNEP plays in providing environmental leadership to the UN system and the international community, showcasing dozens of collaborative initiatives that drive the agenda of international environmental governance.

Year of Publication: 2013
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) logoAuthor: UNEP
ISBN No: DCP/1646/NA
Price US $: -
Stock Number: 978-92-807-3323-5
PDF Available at: UNEP 2012 Annual report
Number of Pages: 129

For more information:

Vietnamese Updates: Hanoi: Turning waste into electricity (20 Feb 2013)

Hanoi: Turning waste into electricity 

Thứ tư, ngày 20 tháng 02 năm 2013 cập nhật lúc 03:05

Presently in Vietnam, how to effectively handle waste resources and turn them into energy for human benefit is a matter of great concern at all levels, departments and to all the people. If this issue can be handled well, it will not only resolve the problem of environmental pollution, increase the land resources, but also contribute to solving the energy puzzle.

Consequently, Hanoi People’s Committee has recently approved to implement the Waste-to-electricity Project in Nam Son, Soc Son. When the project is completed, waste will be processed into domestic electrical energy with a capacity of less than 3MW. The goal of the project is to provide electricity only for internal use, not for business. This is the first project to build power plants turning waste into electricity in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The project was funded with the financial assistance of NEDO-Japan, through the Green Aid program by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam. The project consumes a total investment of $ 29.2 million, of which the Japanese funded $ 22.5 million.

In order to turn the waste and garbage in Nam Son landfill site into electricity, the plant will use advanced waste combustion technology, which recovers energy for power production. This is one of Japan's advanced technologies to radically treat industrial waste, develop alternative energy and reduce greenhouse emissions. Some kinds of garbage that can be comprehensively processed at the plant include: rubber, leather, plastic and fabric; paper pulp, medical waste, decomposed waste... and even the waste that requires high calorific value and larger form with dioxin content ensuring Vietnam’s standards.

It is expected that in 2014, the plant will be put into operation with industrial waste incinerator capacity being 75 tons / day. Moreover, the plant will retrieve energy from waste for power generation with a capacity of 1.930kW, contributing to enhancing the industrial wastes treatment capacity of Hanoi city and constructing typical industrial waste treatment models which will be duplicated in other provinces and cities throughout the country.

Hanoi People's Committee has agreed to fund the plant 100% from the city budget to ensure the implementation of synchronous auxiliary items and the requirements of the progress of the project before it is approved. In addition, the People’s Committee also requires the investor to specify the efficiency of the resources and other conditions of the project, such as reducing landfill area, saving land resources, reducing the risk of polluting emissions of hazardous waste, experimenting applications of advanced technology transferred by the Japanese... and to propose policies on electricity price support to estimate the economic efficiency of the project. As soon as the projected has been completed, major concerns about waste problem will be fundamentally solved.

Mai Chi

For more information: 

Publication: Strengthened Governance and Management Required to Prevent Rush for Resources from Damaging Fragile Arctic Environment, Says UNEP Year Book 2013 UNEP (18 Feb 2013)

Strengthened Governance and Management Required to Prevent Rush for Resources from Damaging Fragile Arctic Environment, Says UNEP Year Book 2013

The full report can be downloaded here:

Nairobi, 18 February 2013 - The rush for resources prompted by an apparent acceleration in sea ice melt calls for caution and effective governance� to avoid damage to the fragile Arctic environment, according to the UN Environment Programme's Year Book 2013.
The report, which each year outlines major emerging issues for the global environment, also highlights the need for better information and sound management to minimize the risks from chemicals and raises the issue of the recent spike in the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.

A reduction in Arctic summer ice cover has become more intense in recent years, culminating in a record low of 3.4 million square kilometres in 2012 - 18 per cent below the previous recorded minimum in 2007 and 50 per cent below the average in the 1980s and 1990s. Land ice is also retreating and permafrost is melting.

The retreating ice brings easier access to natural resources such as gas and oil, thus prompting increased human activity that may threaten the already fragile ecosystems and wildlife, the report says.

"Changing environmental conditions in the Arctic - often considered a bellwether for global climate change - have been an issue of concern for some time, but as of yet this awareness has not translated into urgent action," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"In fact, what we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place," he added. "As the UNEP Year Book 2013 points out, the rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves have consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake."

As ice and snow recede, making access and transport easier, the Arctic is expected to play a greatly expanded role in world energy and minerals supplies.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered natural gas is in the Arctic, largely on the continental shelves beneath the Arctic Ocean. More than 70 per cent of the undiscovered oil resources in the Arctic are estimated to be held in northern Alaska, the Amerasian Basin, the eastern side of Greenland and other areas.

One insurance company expects up to US$100 billion in Arctic investment in coming decade, largely in the minerals sector. Exploration and mining are accelerating, triggering construction of roads, ports and new settlements.

Receding sea ice is also opening up the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage for shipping for parts of the year. Some countries have estimated that the Northern Sea Route would be turned into a shipping highway "of global importance", with a 40-fold increase in shipping by 2020.

Additionally, there is likely to be a boom in fisheries, as a widely predicted northward shift in subarctic fish species, including Atlantic and Pacific cod, is now being detected. One study predicts that by 2055 fish catches in the high latitudes, including the Arctic, could increase by 30 to 70 per cent.

The combination of rapid environmental transformation and the rush for resources can interrupt hydrology, endanger ecosystems, prevent the passage of migrating caribou and reindeer and severely disrupt the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples. It also raises important geopolitical issues that are likely to have ramifications beyond far beyond the Arctic.

The Arctic Council - the core of which is formed by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States - has a crucial role to play in ensuring any resource exploitation is done responsibly.

The Council has considered sustainable development of the Arctic through reports on snow and ice, pollution, climate change impacts, shipping, human development and biodiversity, and has taken steps to improve environmental governance.

The need for improved governance is all the more crucial now, as the retreat of sea ice has been more rapid than projected in the last report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That report predicted that the Arctic could be ice-free by 2100, but the most-common prediction today is that this could come to pass by 2035.

Loss of sea ice has been accompanied by the melting of the Greenland ice cap, thawing of permafrost on the tundra and less snow on land due to earlier snow melt and melting of some snow cover on glaciers.

The reasons for the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe are manifold. More heat is brought into the Arctic through the atmosphere and ocean currents, while the melting itself prompts further melting by reduced reflection of incoming sunlight.

White ice and snow acts as a mirror, reflecting 85 per cent of solar radiation; however, ice-free areas of the ocean reflect only 10 per cent and the bare tundra only 20 per cent.

Black carbon (soot), a short-lived climate pollutant, is also believed to contribute to warming by darkening snow and ice and reducing reflective area. UNEP and partners last year launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to address black carbon and other such short-lived climate pollutants.

The thawing of permafrost will also contribute to further warming as the organic matter stored therein - up to 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon across the northern hemisphere - also thaws and decomposes, releasing the trapped carbon as CO2 and methane.

Impacts of accelerating melt on land and sea
The report outlines many possible consequences of the changing environment, which include:

Melting of ice and snow on land in the Arctic adds to the water in the world's oceans, raising global sea levels.

1) The largest long-term concern is Greenland, which could raise sea-level by an eventual seven metres if it all melted. While this not imminent as it would take several hundred years at current rates of warming, melting has recently accelerated and current predictions on snow and ice cover on Greenland could be conservative.

2) Lost Greenland ice, along with runoff to the ocean from permafrost thawing and melting of small glaciers, contributes to changes in global ocean circulation, with possible major consequences for weather systems globally

3) Climate change is a major stressor on Arctic biodiversity, with unique habitats disappearing and the life cycles of species synchronized to the melt of snow and ice disrupted.

4) Arctic mammals such as polar bears, walruses and some seals are particularly vulnerable to the loss of summer sea ice as the ice serves as a launching point and resting area during hunting. For example, receding ice has led to increasing numbers of walruses congregating at a handful of locations on land far from their feeding grounds.

5) While sea ice loss open up opportunities for fishing for some of the Arctic's approximate four million inhabitants, the loss of sea ice also means coastal communities have less protection from storms. Thawing permafrost destroys vital infrastructure, and changes to the Arctic can threaten indigenous communities' traditional subsistence lifestyle.

The way forward for the Arctic
The report issued many recommendations to tackle the emerging issues, including:

1) Reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains the most-important measure. Action within the UN climate process is essential and there may be scope for complementary action on curbing regional emissions of short-lived pollutants such as black carbon.

2) No steps to exploit the new environmental state of the Arctic should be taken without first assessing how the exploitation would affect ecosystems, the peoples of the North and the rest of the world as the potential for major environmental damage is high.

3) The challenges posed by climate change and social and economic development in the Arctic require a long-term vision and innovative policy responses. Assessing the options for the Arctic should explicitly include indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.

4) The rapid pace of change means that strengthened systems for monitoring and providing early warnings of new developments are essential. In particular, environmental research is urgently needed on the impact of short-lived pollutants, the mechanisms of changes to snow and ice and their implications, present and future changes in the biosphere, and the use of traditional knowledge to inform policy and management actions.

Illegal Trade in Wildlife

Another key aspect of the report is the focus on the serious spike in the illegal trade in wildlife.

Data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) monitoring programme showed that 2011 had the highest level of poaching since records began in 2002. Early indications suggest that the number of elephants that were killed in 2012, ran, as in 2011, into the tens of thousands, while a record 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa that year.

Illegal killing of large numbers of elephants increasingly involves organized criminal groups and sometimes well-armed militias. For example, up to 450 elephants were killed in Cameroon in early 2012. Poached ivory is believed to be exchanged for money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in the region.

CITES and its partners are supporting the strengthening of national enforcement capacities to fight wildlife crime. UNEP and CITES are also launching a campaign aimed at reducing demand for products from the illegal wildlife trade.

Reaching the 2020 goal for sound chemicals management
The UNEP Year Book 2013 also highlights that while chemicals bring many benefits, there is a need for better information and coordinated action by governments and industry to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals worldwide.

These risks may be compounded by the steady shift in the production, use and disposal of chemical products from developed countries to emerging and developing economies, says the report.

Annual sales of chemical products doubled between 2000 and 2009, with the share manufactured in highly industrialized countries falling from 77 to 63 per cent. Yet we are falling behind with pre-market testing and too little is known about chemicals already in circulation.

The number of man-made chemicals in the environment is increasing, with one 2009 study finding 212 chemicals in the blood and urine of a sample of the population of the United States. Of those chemicals, 75 had not been previously measured.

Emerging challenges include the risks of chemical mixtures, low-dose exposure, the substitution of hazardous chemicals by other hazardous chemicals, and nanotechnology.

Costs associated with the risks of chemicals are difficult to assess. However, many studies support the urgency of risk minimization. For example, a recent study found that preventing exposure to the neurotoxin methylmercury in children could save the European Union billions of euros each year.

UNEP is heavily involved in reducing the risks from mercury, and in January 2013 the international community agreed a UNEP-facilitated global treaty on Mercury - the Minamata Convention - which will be open for signing in October.

The report recommended the use of economic instruments to create financial incentives for improving chemical safety, increased government capacity for chemical regulation and clear and consistent public information on the hazards and uses of specific chemicals.

Additional information
The full report can be downloaded here:

For more information on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutions, visit the website:

UNEP's Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost can be downloaded here: 

UNEP's Emissions Gap 2012 report can be downloaded here:

UNEP's Global Chemicals Outlook report can be downloaded here:

For media enquiries, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head, UNEP News Desk
 +254 788 526
UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi)
 +254 20 762

For more information: