International business briefs: IUCN sets agenda, National Park funds, Spotless Brisbane, Bhopal anniversary, EPA water guidelines, Eco-friendly Christmas shopping

The newly elected president of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Valli Moosa, announced this week that global warming, along with the lack of protected marine zones, were key environmental issues that needed a place of priority on the world's green agenda. Mr Moosa, a former South African environment minister and anti-apartheid activist was picked as president for a four-year term at the IUCN's third World Conservation Congress in Bangkok. He also stated that there was an urgent need to protected certain areas in the oceans and high seas, pointing out that 12% of the land's total surface was under conservation, as opposed to just 1% of the ocean.

More than 360 former non-political career National Park Service (NPS) employees with well over 10,000 years of cumulative park management experience today saluted members of Congress for introducing HR 5358, the National Park Centennial Act of 2004, which seeks “to eliminate the annual operating deficit and (more than $6 billion) maintenance backlog in the national parks” by the time of the NPS centennial in 2016. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) expressed its pleasure at seeing that its 21 September 2004 “call for action” blueprint for America’s national parks is having a real impact on the thinking of the members of Congress.

Brisbane is officially Australia’s cleanest city, according to the latest Australian research. The Littering Behaviour Studies 6, launched this week by the Beverage Industry Environment Council, shows that the amount of littering behaviour visible in Brisbane has declined steadily since 2000. The most comprehensive study of disposal behaviour in the world, the LBS database contains more than 87,000 observations and more than 16,500 interviews. While Perth also performed well in 2003, no other Australian city has had four consecutive years of improvements like Brisbane. Melbourne and Sydney are static one level below, followed by Adelaide, Darwin and, bringing up the rear, Canberra and Hobart. “Queenslanders have an outdoor lifestyle that is the envy of the world, and that’s why they are more environmentally aware than the rest of the Australia,” Ms McCaskill explained. “The Littering Behaviour Studies research clearly shows that people are a lot less likely to litter a natural area, a beach for example. If the city is well managed and clean to begin with – like Brisbane – it is much more likely to stay clean.”

Friends of the Earth is marking the 20th anniversary of the world’s worst peacetime chemical disaster in Bhopal, Central India, in which Union Carbide’s pesticide plant began leaking 27 tonnes of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate and other toxins on 3 December 1984. Half a million people were exposed to the lethal gas as it spread throughout the city and 20,000 have died to date. This is seven times more than the death toll resulting from the terrorist attack on the US on September 11th 2001. Today, 150,000 remain chronically ill and one person dies each day from the effects of their exposure to the gases. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s chief executive, Duncan McLaren, said: “The Bhopal disaster is an appalling example of environmental injustice and corporate irresponsibility. Twenty years on no one has been adequately held to account for the disaster, the plant has not been cleaned up and survivors are still awaiting proper compensation and adequate medical treatment. Together with the survivors we are calling for justice for Bhopal and for a legally binding framework to stop companies avoiding their responsibilities to communities and to prevent disasters like Bhopal happening again.”

This week the US EPA issued guidance to help clarify how the collection and management of lead and copper samples is conducted under regulations that control lead in drinking water. “This guidance is the direct result of working with our national drinking water partners to provide clarity on critical elements in implementing our regulations that help safeguard the public’s drinking water,” said Ben Grumbles, spokesman for EPA. Earlier this year, the Agency discovered lead levels in certain cities across the country that prompted a review of how the lead and copper rule was being implemented. EPA collected and evaluated data that it requested from the states and, as part of this ongoing review, the Agency convened national expert workshops on monitoring, lead service line replacement, public education and compliance. The guidance comes as a result of information gathered at those workshops.

And finally, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) has announced its third annual appeal to all environmentalist consumers to practice ecologically conscious holiday shopping and provided a list of green gift ideas on their web site. “Consumer trends impact our natural resources just as much as changes in federal and state policy,” stated CCE executive director, Adrienne Esposito. “As Citizens we can cast a vote with our cash by purchasing gifts that are ecologically sound and contribute to a sustainable existence.” With the holiday shopping season looming, the CCE has assembled a starter list of ecologically friendly holiday gift ideas, which is now posted online at Citizens Campaign.

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