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1 March 2011 – The United Nations climate change chief today called on governments to quickly transform the agreements reached in the Mexican city of Cancún last year into tangible action on the ground, and provide clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases emissions.

“Governments must now implement quickly what they agreed in Cancún and take the next big climate step this year in Durban,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, told reporters in Tokyo.

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Vietnam is setting up a nature reserve to protect one of the world’s rarest animals – an antelope-like creature called the saola.

It intends to create a 160sq/km (61 sq/mile) area in the central province of Quang Nam for the animal, which is also known as the Asian unicorn.

The existence of the saola was confirmed only two decades ago and sightings are very rare.

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union added a pesticide made by German chemical firm BASF to its blacklist of substances suspected of playing a role in declining bee populations.

Member governments banned the use of agricultural insecticide fipronil to treat maize and sunflower seeds, the European Commission said.

The restrictions take effect from December 31 but seeds which have already been treated can be sown until the end of February 2014.
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Honey bees could help treat mouth ulcers – thanks to new research into the healing properties of propolis, a mixture of resin and wax made by bees to seal and sterilise their hives.

Its use in medicine and food supplements has been limited because the sticky substance is not water soluble and has a strong, off-putting smell.

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MARK HENNESSY

Work is under way to save park from becoming a symbol of failed ambition

Construction workers are back on site at London’s Olympic Park in Stratford, 1,000 of them, as they prepare for life after last summer’s weeks of excitement during the Olympics and Paralympics, when hundreds of thousands daily passed through its gates.

Reminiscent of Rosetti’s Christmas carol In the Bleak Mid-Winter, Stratford, open to eastern winds, was a place yesterday where “frosty winds moaned, earth stood hard as iron” and the waters of the river Lea were stilled by heavy ice-packs.

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GENEVA — The global economy could reduce $100 billion a year in climate change-linked losses by providing the most vulnerable countries with “climate services” to help them prepare, a United Nations expert panel recommended Thursday.

The panel proposed creating a $75 million-a-year U.N.-administered agency, or program, to help developing nations deal with an increasing onslaught of tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods and droughts.

The World Meteorological Organization – the U.N.’s weather agency – said most of the funding would come through development aid, and then be handed out for specific projects in the most vulnerable nations.

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Plans for eco-flats in Oxford led by TV presenter Kevin McCloud have now been recommended for approval.

Councillors at Oxford City Council voted to grant the plans at a meeting on Wednesday. They were previously turned down over parking concerns.

The proposed 40 flats at Barns Road, Cowley will include a workshop for the homelessness charity Emmaus.

A council planning meeting on 5 June approved two developments in Northway and Westlands Drive.
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Some 89 percent of the global population is now using ‘improved’ water sources, that are protected from outside contamination. But the finding is controversial.

Boston

More than 2 billion people have gained access to improved water sources since 1990. The Millennium Development Goal – to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water – was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, according to a report compiled by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. This was measured by greater access to improved water sources – though the assessment is somewhat controversial because there is no guarantee of the quality or regular availability of the water. Still, many see it as progress in creating an infrastructure for clean, sustainable water access.

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South Africa is to unveil plans this week for what it claims will be the world’s biggest solar power plant – a radical step in a coal-dependent country where one in six people still lacks electricity.

The project, expected to cost up to 200bn rand (£18.42bn), would aim by the end of its first decade to achieve an annual output of five gigawatts (GW) of electricity – currently one-tenth of South Africa’s energy needs.

Giant mirrors and solar panels would be spread across the Northern Cape province, which the government says is among the sunniest 3% of regions in the world with minimal cloud or rain.

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UK scientists have been looking at how changes to the diet of cows and sheep could help reduce the animals’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The study suggested that certain feedstocks, in proportion to milk or meat yields, could reduce the release of methane by up to 33%.

According to latest figures, the agricultural sector accounts for about 43% of the nation’s methane emissions.

Ministers hope the study will improve the environmental performance of farms.

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