Dutch climate ruling, EU fracking, Indian idols and vaping dangers
The Dutch government will appeal a June court ruling that found it was not doing enough to combat global warming. The landmark ruling, from a court in The Hague, said the government was failing to protect its citizens from climate change, and that the Netherlands should cut its emissions by 25% by 2020 compared with 1990, and not by about 17% as currently planned. However, Dutch deputy environment minister Wilma Mansveld said the ruling should be checked by a higher court because it could lead to judges intervening in other policy areas and could interfere with the government's role in negotiating international treaties. While waiting for a further ruling, Mansveld said the government would act to implement the original judgment. The case was brought by citizens' groups and is being closely watched as a test of the extent to which governments can be compelled to increase emission reduction targets.
The European Union Ombudsman has agreed to look into the alleged excessive influence of lobbyists in a European-level expert group on regulation of fracking for natural gas. According to campaigners Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe, 70% of members of the in-principle independent “European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction” are industry representatives or have financial links to fracking. The chairs of working groups set up to look at specific issues “are fracking proponents and have even lobbied against tougher regulations”, the campaign groups say. The European Commission, which convenes expert groups dealing with EU policy, has until 30 November to answer the allegations. In a separate enquiry, the EU Ombudsman is looking more broadly at industry influence in EU expert groups.
Polluting PoP idols
Idols immersed in rivers and lakes during religious festivals are causing pollution and should comply with a range of minimum environmental standards, India's National Green Tribunal has said. In particular, idols should be biodegradable and manufacturers should avoid toxic chemicals, paints and dyes. The tribunal, which promotes the enforcement of environmental regulations in India, upbraided the state governments of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh for failing to crack down on “unchecked PoP idols” – referring to plaster of Paris. State governments were instructed to report their compliance by mid-September, in time for the Hindu rituals of Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Pooja, the tribunal said.
Trouble could be brewing for manufacturers of e-cigarettes. The California-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has published a scientific study linking the products to health risks and is notifying 20 e-cigarette makers that it intends to sue them in the US. “Vaping” e-cigarettes involves inhalation of toxic acetaldehyde and formaldehyde in concentrations way beyond safe levels, the group says. According to CEH, e-cigarettes are generally marketed as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes, but are increasingly being used by teenagers and young people and should be considered as health risks in their own right. “It's not safe to vape,” CEH director Michael Green said. More widely, research on the health effects of e-cigarettes has so far been inconclusive. The CEH study is available at www.ceh.org/ecigs.