The central Pacific island nation of Kiribati could be the first to be waving goodbye, Loophole closes, Woolly thinking and Woodland worries

Waving goodbye

The central Pacific island nation of Kiribati could be the first to be lost to global warming, with the process to abandon the islands starting as soon as 2020, the country's president, Anote Tong, has said. The I-Kiribati, or people of Kiribati, are “getting quite scared now and we need immediate solutions”, Tong told New Zealand radio in February. Kiribati’s government has prepared for abandonment by buying land in Fiji where people can be relocated, and by trying to increase educational standards to the same level as Australia and New Zealand so that the I-Kiribati make useful migrants. Rising sea levels threaten to overwhelm the low-lying Kiribati atolls, and are also making water supplies more brackish, threatening crops. A population of about 100,000 would be affected by the departure from Kiribati.

Loophole closes

Some manufacturers of appliances such as fridges, televisions and vacuum cleaners have been exploiting a loophole in European Union law to overstate the energy performance of their products, according to the European Commission. The products must meet certain energy consumption standards, but some companies have been using a “tolerance” of up to 10% to claim they are exceeding the limits. However, the tolerance is supposed to be used only by officials when they test appliances, similar to the way police forces sometimes allow drivers a margin when enforcing speed limits. The commission will amend 24 EU product energy standard laws to clarify that manufacturers cannot use the tolerance. Controversially, the commission has left the loophole open for lighting, because preventing manufacturers from using it “in the way that is current practice throughout the industry” would mean many products “would be entirely removed from the market”. Environmental groups said this legitimised cheating and meant consumers would continue to buy products that are less efficient than claimed.

Energy use of some fridges is being understated

Woolly thinking

Sustainability standard-setter Textile Exchange is calling for comments on a draft Responsible Wool Standard. This is intended to be a universal benchmark for sheep farming, covering animal welfare, land management and supply chain issues. The standard would add to Texas-based Textile Exchange’s portfolio, which already includes standards for organic and recycled content of textiles. The consultation is open until 15 April 2016, after which the Responsible Wool Standard will be finalised. “We owe it to the sheep to ensure that their welfare is being protected,” Textile Exchange says. The consultation is available at

Raising the bar for sheep

Woodland worries

The implementation by European Union countries of a law designed to combat illegal timber has left gaps that unscrupulous importers could exploit, according to the European Commission. In a February report on the 2010 EU Timber Regulation, the commission says that countries have adopted different penalties and inspection regimes. Four countries – Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain – have not adopted the law at all, though they should have done so by March 2013. In some countries, criminal sanctions have been put in place, while in others, importers of illegal timber face only fines or confiscation. The uneven implementation could mean that dodgy dealers target the weakest countries, in order to get illegal timber into the EU single market. Under the Timber Regulation, importers must certify that their wood (including in furniture, pulp and paper and other products) comes from legal sources, and must have documentation that can be inspected by the authorities.

Four EU countries have no laws to combat illegal timber  
global warming  water supply  energy  environmental  sustainability  timber  forests 

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