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EU Nations Adopt Controversial REACH Chemical Bill
The effect of the so-called REACH regulation (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) will mean that companies will now shoulder the burden of proving that their chemicals are safe.
The effect of the so-called REACH regulation (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) will mean that companies will now shoulder the burden of proving that their chemicals are safe.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Dec 18, 2006
EU environment ministers on Monday adopted, without debate, tough new rules on the use of hazardous chemicals, following the passage of one of the EU's most ambitious and hotly disputed legislative packages in years. The unanimous decision was largely expected after the European parliament last week adopted the relevant bill, has been derided by ecologists and industry but praised by consumer groups.

It aims to ensure that 30,000 chemicals -- in products ranging from cleaning products to toys to plastics -- no longer present risks to human health or the environment.

The so-called REACH regulation (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) will oblige companies to register all chemicals they use and provide information about them as well as any potential hazards.

It means that companies will now shoulder the burden of proving that their chemicals are safe. The current 40-year-old system has obliged public authorities to prove that such products are dangerous.

Of the estimated 100,000 substances on the European market, only those introduced since 1981 -- a mere 3,000 or so -- have been closely studied.

But an alliance of environmental and women's groups says the package is only a modest step and still contains loopholes that the chemicals industry could jump through.

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report

EU trade chief dismisses idea of punitive "carbon tax"
Brussels (AFP) Dec 18 - EU Trade Comissioner Peter Mandelson on Monday opposed the idea of a "carbon tax" on countries which do not ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change, as France recently suggested.

"Such a tariff would be problematic under current WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules, and almost impossible to implement in practice," Mandelson said in Brussels.

"Not participating in the Kyoto process is not illegal," he added.

Last month the French government said it would push European partners for a carbon tax on industrial goods from countries that ignore the Kyoto Protocol.

France would present European partners with proposals early next year for a "carbon tax" on imports of industrial goods from countries that "refused to commit themselves in favour of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012", said French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin

For Mandelson such a move would be "bad politics".

"Who would we target? China has ratified Kyoto but has no Kyoto targets because of its developing country status. The US has not, but states like California have ambitious climate change policies," he noted.

"A punitive approach to pursuing international cooperation on climate change would be politically and strategically clumsy. Dealing with climate change is an international challenge that requires international cooperation. Coercive policies will never achieve this. Collective responsibility will only be fostered by policies of dialogue, incentive and cooperation," he said in a speech podcast to an estimated audience of 50,000, according to his spokesman.

At the European Commission's daily briefing a spokesman would not be drawn on Mandelson's comments, saying that EU's executive body would take a decision on the matter on January 10 during wider energy discussions.

Kyoto requires industrialised countries to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent by a target of 2008-2012 compared with their 1990 levels.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Uruguay Takes Argentina To International Court Over River Blocks
The Hague (AFP) Dec 18, 2006
Uruguay on Monday asked the International Court of Justice to order Argentina to lift roadblocks which are stopping traffic across a border river between both South American countries. The blocks were erected by Argentine environmentalists in protest against a paper mill being built by Finnish company Botnia inside Uruguay near the Uruguay river separating the two neighbours.

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