Polluters must pick up tab for damage to planet: UN environment chief

File photo: People make their way through heavy smog on an extremely polluted day with red alert issued, in Shengfang, Hebei province, China. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2017
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Polluters must pick up tab for damage to planet: UN environment chief

TEPIC, Mexico: Turning the planet’s environmental fortunes around is achievable if businesses, politicians and citizens work toward a common goal, with the biggest polluters picking up the bill, said the United Nations’ environment chief.
Highlighting the dramatic progress made by China and India, Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, urged governments to take a joined-up approach to going green.
“The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatised, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized,” he told an international conference on sustainable development at New York’s Columbia University on Monday.
“That cannot continue,” he said. “Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay the cost for that destruction or that pollution.”
There has been a “decoupling” of economic development and environmental degradation in many countries, but the World Health Organization now links a quarter of all deaths to pollution which contributes to cancer, heart attacks and respiratory problems, said Solheim.
Emphasising the role of businesses in developing new technologies to address the most pressing needs, Solheim pointed to the explosive growth of companies such as bike-sharing firm Mobike in China.
Meanwhile, the country is rapidly rolling out urban metro systems and a vast high-speed rail network to solve its transport challenge.
The dramatic slide in the cost of solar power is bringing health as well as environmental benefits around the world, Solheim added, while clean energy and technology are helping generate jobs and economic growth in countries like India.
“Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi realized he can electrify the villages and provide any number of green jobs — he can provide high economic growth, he can take care of his people, and take care of the planet by the same policies,” said Solheim.
While reaching the UN environment agency’s target of a “pollution-free planet” is achievable, action must be stepped up toward meeting that goal, said Solheim.
“Change is happening,” he said. “Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big.”


Thailand’s rescued cave boys to address media on Wednesday

Updated 22 min 32 sec ago
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Thailand’s rescued cave boys to address media on Wednesday

  • Journalists will submit questions in advance which will be vetted by a psychologist
  • Two British divers found them on July 2 squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several kilometers inside the complex

BANGKOK: The 12 Thai boys and soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave will be discharged from hospital on Wednesday and hold a news conference the same day to satisfy huge media interest in their story, a government official said.
“We want to reduce public curiosity,” government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Reuters on Tuesday.
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were safely brought out of the Tham Luang mountain cave complex near the border with Myanmar last week after a perilous rescue operation that drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists to the scene.
The boys and their coach have been in hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai since they were rescued.
The authorities have been concerned about the impact of sudden fame and media attention on the boys’ mental health, so Wednesday’s news conference will be carefully controlled.
Journalists will submit questions in advance which will be vetted by a psychologist. Approved questions will be put to the boys by a moderator.
“We arrange it so that, after that, the boys can go back to their regular lives,” Sansern said.
The boys and their coach had planned to explore the cavern for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
Two British divers found them on July 2 squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several kilometers inside the complex. Rescuers then had to work out how to get them out through the tunnels, some of which were full of fast-flowing floodwater.
Their dramatic story is already set for a retelling by Hollywood, with two production companies looking to put together movies about the boys and their rescue.
Passakorn Bunyalak, deputy governor of the province of Chiang Rai, said the boys would be sent home after the news conference and he was requesting their parents and journalists to hold off interviews for about 30 days.
“At this early stage, we are trying to get media not to bother the boys,” he told Reuters, adding that they were protected by Thailand’s Child Protection Act.
An article in the act protects those under 18 from media coverage that would cause emotional and reputational injury.