Cleaner waters in China, environmentally-sound video gaming, an end to routine gas flaring and human rights in Vietnam
The Chinese government has published what has been called a “landmark” action plan setting out how it intends to clean up the country's depleted and polluted water resources. The plan, issued by China's State Council, requires 10 industrial sectors (coking, electroplating, fertilizers, food processing, leather, metals, paper, pesticides, petrochemicals and textile dyeing) to make pledges on how they will clean up their operations to reduce water pollution. The worst polluters will be shut down, and a grading system for local and provincial officials on how well they manage water resources will be established. The plan will tackle contamination that affects an estimated 60% of China's groundwater, and will also seek to ensure that water demand does not outstrip supply, which on current trends is expected to happen by 2030. Readers of Chinese can find the plan here.
A voluntary agreement between Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony to improve the environmental performance of video game consoles has been endorsed by the European Commission. Under the agreement, the companies will make their game consoles more energy efficient, and will also introduce design changes and publish technical documents so that the consoles are easier to disassemble and recycle. The annual energy savings, according to the Commission, could be equivalent to the monthly electricity consumption of Lithuania. The Commission promises to make sure the agreement is implemented, and if it isn't, threatens that “regulatory action will be considered.”
The World Bank has brokered a commitment involving nine countries and ten oil companies to end routine gas flaring – or the controlled burning off of excess gas – at oil production sites. The companies, including Shell, Statoil and Total, will collaborate to end the practice wherever possible by 2030. The countries, including France, Norway and Russia, promise to amend their laws to make it easier for companies to stop flaring. Staggering amounts of energy are wasted by the practice – enough to power the entire African continent, according to the World Bank. Flaring is sometimes done for safety or technical reasons, but sometimes it happens because oil companies decline to invest in capturing the gas. Flaring results in 300m tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said: “We can take concrete action to end flaring and to use this valuable natural resource to light the darkness for those without electricity.”
Ombudsman gets tough
The European Ombudsman has stepped into a dispute between human rights campaigners and the European Commission, finding that the commission has committed “maladministration” in relation to trade negotiations with Vietnam. The Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, said the commission was wrong to refuse to carry out a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) in advance of the signing of a trade deal with the south-east Asian country. The commission said the HRIA was not needed because a partial assessment was done in 2009. Vo Van Ai, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, said repression was increasing in Vietnam, and without an HRIA the country would “reap significant commercial advantages from the EU while suppressing its citizens’ and workers.”
rights with impunity.” The Ombudsman has given the commission until 30 June to respond.
China Chinese pollution extractives gas flaring Human rights Oil video games Vietnam water water conservation