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GC Today - 17 February 2009

Special Events:

Green Customs Initiative: Capacity Building for Environmental Security

Delegates, guests and UNEP staff attended a side event organized by the Czech Republic, Green Customs Initiative: Capacity Building for Environmental Security, on Tuesday, 17 February. Rajendra Shende, the head of the UNEP's OzonAction, chaired the event which provided an overview of illegal trade in environmentally sensitive commodities. The session also introduced the Green Customs Initiative, its activities and the cooperation achieved to combat illegal trade problems through awareness-raising on all the relevant international agreements and enforcement. Customs and border protection officers constitute the front line of every country’s defense against trans-boundary illegal trade. National and internal crime syndicates worldwide earn an estimated US $20-30 billion annually from hazardous waste dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources. Keynote speakers agreed that the Green Custom Initiative is an effective way to expand the level of coordination and cooperation among all stake holders, as seen under the Montreal Protocol.

Key note speakers in attendance included:

Karel Bláha, Deputy Minister of the Environment, Czech Republic;
Hassan Mundu, Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Nigeria Customs Service;
John Bisonga, Director of World Customs Organization, East & South Africa
Gilbert Bankobeza, UNEP Senior Legal Officer

Green Economy Country Perspectives

Delegates, guests and UNEP staff attended a side event, Green Economy – Country Perspectives, on Tuesday, 17 February. Pavan Sukhdev (Green Economy Project Leader) led the discussion on the relevance of the Green Economy concept at the country level in the context of the unfolding economic crisis. Ren Yong from the Ministry of Environmental Protection (China) and Yong-Jin Kim, the Director for International Cooperation Division of the Ministry of Environment (Republic of Korea) each delivered a presentation on how their respective countries have taken the Green Economy to heart.

According to Ren’s presentation, the Chinese government plans to continue their strong commitment to not sacrifice environmental targets to stabilize the economy during the current financial crisis. He also said the Chinese government plans to invest RMB 4 trillion over the next two years into the Green Economy Initiatives. According to Yong-Jin’s presentation, the Korean government expects to create over 956,000 jobs with their new initiatives. He also outlined Korea’s new national development paradigm which aims to create new growth and green jobs while protecting the environment.

Professor Edward Barbier, author of the Global Green New Deal, ended the discussion by summarizing his opinions on the Global Green New Deal. He said it’s an important initiative because we already know that the longer we wait to act, the larger the problem will become in the future. He also stressed that although national plans are important, it’s imperative that the Green New Deal be a global plan which incorporates the needs and resources of all nations.


The Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea hosted an informative side event on mercury.

Italy is the lead partner in a major collaborative research project on mercury alongside Canada, Japan, South Africa, the USA and UNEP.

Dr Nicola Pirrone of the CNR Institute for Atmospheric Pollution in Rome presented the preliminary results of the first four years of the research partnership which is examining the natural and anthropogenic sources of mercury and major issues related to the interaction of mercury with land and marine ecosystems.

Seventy scientists from more than 12 countries have so far contributed to the project, which is due to culminate with a final report at the end of 2010, contributing to the work of the Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (TF HTAP).

Dr Pirrone told delegates that one important objective was to achieve international cooperation between organizations with mercury-related programmes – such as the World Health Organization and Global Earth Observation System of Systems – to harmonize mercury monitoring techniques and models so that outcomes can be compared. 

Acknowledging the topic involved a complexity of issues and solutions, Dr Pirrone thanked the project partners but said further research was required to fill the gaps in knowledge. A meeting to be held in St Petersburg in March 2009 will discuss next steps for the project including the outcomes of GC-25/GMEF.