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US: Vermont moves toward labelling of GMO foods
24 April 2014 - Vermont lawmakers have passed the country's first state bill to require the labelling of genetically modified foods, underscoring a division between powerful lobbyists for the US food industry and an American public that overwhelmingly says it approves of the idea. The Vermont House approved the measure Wednesday evening, about a week after the state Senate, and Governor Peter Shumlin said he plans to sign it. The requirements would take effect 1 July 2016, giving food producers time to comply. (more)

Belarus to invest $13 million in Green Towns project
24 April 2014 - About $13 million is to be invested in the project 'Belarus' green town -- support for green urbanism in small and medium-sized towns in Belarus', deputy head of the biological and landscape diversity department of the Nature and Environmental Protection Ministry Natalia Zharkina told reporters on 21 April. (more)

US: Google teams with SunPower to add $250 million to booming US residential solar market
24 April 2014 - SunPower just closed $42 million in non-recourse debt and now has added Google as a partner in a $250 million programme to finance residential solar rooftops. Google committed up to $100 million and SunPower is committing approximately $150 million. This is Google's sixteenth renewable energy investment and its third residential rooftop solar investment. Google has invested a total of more than $1 billion in 2 gigawatts of renewable energy projects across the globe. (more)

UK economy picking up speed - Bank of England
24 April 2014 - Britain's economy is growing strongly, and in February the Bank of England upgraded its growth forecast for 2014 to show expansion of 3.4 per cent, which would be the country's fastest growth since 2007. Last year the economy grew by 1.7 per cent. Britain's unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped in the three months to February below the 7 percent level originally set by the Bank for considering an increase in interest rates, and wages caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly four years. (more)

Strong durable goods orders buoy US growth outlook
24 April 2014 - Orders for long-lasting US manufactured goods rose more than expected in March and a measure of business capital spending plans surged, bolstering views of an acceleration in growth in the second quarter. The report fit in with other data such as industrial production, retail sales and employment, that have suggested the economy gained steam after a troubled first quarter. (more)

China's new environment law submitted to parliament
24 April 2014 - Amendments to China's 1989 environmental protection law that will mean stiffer punishments for polluters have been submitted to the country's parliament for deliberation, official news agency Xinhua reported late on Monday. The first change to the legislation in 25 years will give legal backing to Beijing's newly declared war on pollution and formalize a pledge made last year to abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China's water, skies, and soil. (more)

US: Eleven companies considered best for the environment
24 April 2014 - Its environment-saving goods and company policies land Seventh Generation, which banks more than $200 million in sales, at the top of a list of 84 companies considered 'best for the environment' by B Lab, a seven-year-old non-profit based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania that invented the concept of a 'Benefit Corporation', a company that turns a profit while benefiting its workers, its community and the Earth, sometimes at the expense of its owners. (more)

Belgium destroys ivory to raise awareness of illegal trade
24 April 2014 - On 9 April, Belgium destroyed 1.7 tonnes of ivory seized at its borders in an effort to draw public attention to an increase in the illegal trade and the risk it poses to elephant populations. The destruction mirrors similar initiatives by China, the United States, and France to highlight the killing of up to 50,000 elephants annually by poachers seeking their tusks. Some 41.5 tonnes of ivory was confiscated worldwide last year. (more)

Israel: New project encourages recycling after school
24 April 2014 - ELA Recycling Corporation chairwoman says Israel surpassed the US and Europe in meeting its plastic recycling goals this year. 'Israel has made a giant leap forward this year when it managed to surpass not only the US but also Europe in meeting its goals for recycling plastic containers, said Nehama Ronen, chairman of ELA Recycling Corporation. 'These achievements are a direct result of education and awareness and therefore we see great importance in cooperating with organizations involved in education and leisure.' (more)

Environmentalists celebrate Japan whaling ban
24 April 2014 - A UN court has ordered the Japanese government to stop its whaling programme in the Antarctic. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the nation must end its annual hunt of mainly minke whales in the Southern Ocean after disagreeing with Japan's claims that the hunts were for scientific research. Japan had agreed to be bound by the decision which was reached on 31 March in favour of Australia, who brought the case before the court. Soon afterwards, the government of Japan confirmed it had cancelled plans to hunt this year, making it the first since 1904 in which no whales will be pursued in those waters. (more)

US: FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes
24 April 2014 - The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Members of Congress and public health groups have raised concerns over e-cigarettes and questioned their marketing tactics. (more)

'Let's Clean Up Europe' on 10 May
24 April 2014 - A Europe-wide clean-up event, 'Let's Clean Up Europe!', will take place on 10 May all over the continent, reaching as many citizens as possible. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: 'Civic clean up movements are growing across Europe and we want to make them feel part of a European event. We have put together a network of national contact points in 21 countries to let people know what is going on in their neighbourhood, and what they can do to help. It's a hands-on initiative, so let's get our boots and gloves on. We all want to live in clean neighbourhoods, so together Let's Clean Up Europe.' (more)

Volkswagen Group launching major electro-mobility campaign in China
24 April 2014 - The Volkswagen Group is launching a major electro-mobility campaign in China -- the biggest initiative for e-mobility in China's automotive history, said Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, on the eve of the Auto China motor show in Beijing. The initiative gets underway with the launch this year of the Volkswagen brand's battery-electric e-up! and e-Golf models. (more)

Britain's budget gap narrowest since financial crisis
24 April 2014 - Britain's hefty budget deficit has fallen to its lowest since the financial crisis, official data showed on Wednesday. The deficit in the 2013-14 tax year fell to 6.6 per cent of gross domestic product from 7.4 per cent in 2012-13 -- in line with recent government plans. Other data out on Wednesday suggested that for manufacturers, business boomed over the past three months. The Confederation of British Industry's quarterly survey showed the sharpest rise in orders since April 1995, and biggest improvement in manufacturers' outlook since 1973. (more)

Germany: RWE eyes bigger role in energy saving business
24 April 2014 - German utility RWE plans to sell more energy saving products, its head of strategy said, as it strives to offset some of the losses made by its power plants across Europe. European utilities are facing weak energy demand, as well as an uncontrolled expansion of solar and wind power, which is replacing gas and coal-fired plants. Sector players, including RWE and smaller German peer EnBW, are now looking to make money by helping customers to save energy instead of selling them more. (more)

US Tech Vets links military veterans with civilian jobs
24 April 2014 - David Lucien is co-chairman of US Tech Vets, an online community that links veterans with employment opportunities in the US technology industry. The effort, through an online portal at, links national and regional technology associations with a community of veterans who have relevant skills in the tech industry. Since the platform's roll-out in January, a number of national technology associations representing more than 15,000 technology companies have signed on and pledged to promote jobs to veterans through US Tech Vets. (more)

US: IBM unveils new server model to tackle big data, analytics
24 April 2014 - International Business Machines Corp, in its latest attempt at reviving demand for its hardware products, is launching high-end system servers that it says are 50 times faster than its closest competitor at analyzing data. The POWER8 servers, the product of a $2.4 billion, three-year investment, are part of the company's decade-long shift to higher-value hardware technology. IBM said the machines are 50 times faster than the low-end x86-based servers it sold to Chinese PC maker Lenovo Group Ltd in January. (more)

US: Francis Slakey moves from scaling heights to greening cities
23 April 2014 - Francis Slakey has climbed the world's tallest peaks and surfed its seven seas. But now he's set his sights on an even bigger goal: encouraging American cities to ramp down -- way down -- on their use of BTUs and kilowatt hours. Dr Slakey is executive director of the new Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million prize that will be awarded to the US community of between 5,000 and 250,000 residents that shows the greatest ability to cut energy use. (more)

Australia: Tasmanian Aboriginal musician Dewayne Everettsmith keeps language alive through song
23 April 2014 - A Tasmanian singer-songwriter is spreading the sounds of local Indigenous language beyond the island, as interest in learning it grows within the state. Dewayne Everettsmith has released an album that includes the first commercially available song in Palawa kani. Palawa kani was constructed in the 1990s from community memory and documentary evidence of about a dozen original Indigenous languages. (more)

Finalists named in Bloomberg European city contest
23 April 2014 - Amsterdam wants to create an online game to get unemployed young people engaged in finding jobs across Europe. Schaerbeek, Belgium, envisions using geothermal mapping to give households personalized rundowns of steps to save energy. Gdansk, Poland, is proposing to require officials to debate ideas from citizens. The cities are among 21 finalists vying for millions of euros in a new government-innovation contest devised by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his foundation announced Wednesday. The finalists come from 11 European countries and include sprawling capitals and modest-sized cities, their climates and cultures as different as those of Stockholm, Sweden, and Barcelona, Spain. Asked for projects that could solve major social or economic problems or make government more effective, the cities 'stepped up with bold and creative ideas,' Bloomberg said in a statement. (more)

England replicates Finland's school lunch system
23 April 2014 - Next autumn, England will begin providing free school lunches to children aged between four and seven. The inspiration behind the decision came from Finland's nearly 70-year-old school food system. Also Scotland will provide free school lunches from the beginning of next year. An adviser to the project has been the internationally renowned Finnish public health expert Pekka Puska. In addition the Finnish Embassy in London and the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Food Culture ELO have set up a school food network designed to encourage British people to develop their country's school meals. (more)

Five environmental wins to celebrate
23 April 2014 - It can take decades or longer to show signs of positive environmental change, so most good news doesn't show up in everyday headlines. A gradually more efficient economy or fewer pollutants in the air are not exactly breaking news, but they are benchmarks worth noting. A lot of that progress has come since (and a result of) the first Earth Day in 1970. Advances in science, engineering, and technology have made it easier for humans to maintain higher standards of living while minimizing the impact on local animals, wildlife, as well as the global climate. There is hope that as a new wave of economies modernize, they can do so more cleanly and efficiently than past industrializations. (more)

Thailand: Wat Prayun in Bangkok receives UNESCO Cultural Heritage Conservation Award of Excellence
23 April 2014 - Wat Prayun Wongsawat Worawihan, known in short as Wat Prayun, in Bangkok has received UNESCO Cultural Heritage Conservation Award of Excellence. UNESCO Bangkok will officially honour Wat Prayun in a special ceremony at the temple on 23 April 2014. In the ceremony, UNESCO Bangkok Director Dr Gwang-Jo Kim will present the award for the restoration of the temple's principal chedi (reliquary stupa) to the visionary abbot who spearheaded the effort, the Most Venerable Professor Dr Phra Brahmapundit. (more)

World Book Day: New UN report spotlights potential of mobile technology to advance literacy
23 April 2014 - Mobile technology can advance literacy and learning in underserved communities around the world, according to a new report published on 23 April by the United Nations education agency on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day. The report, Reading in the Mobile Era, highlights that hundreds of thousands of people currently use mobile technology as a portal to text. Findings show that in countries where illiteracy rates are high and physical text is scarce, large numbers of people read full-length books and stories on rudimentary small screen devices. (more)

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