Green Olympics Effort Draws UN Environment Chief to Beijing
BEIJING, China, August 4, 2008 (ENS) – The head of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, will attend the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics on August 8 as part of the agency’s continuing support for the greening of the games, the UN announced today.
UNEP has been working with the Beijing Olympic Committee for the last three years with the aim of making the games environmentally friendly.
The Chinese National Stadium, nicknamed the
Bird’s Nest, where the Opening Ceremony
for the Olympic Games will be held.
(Photo by Luo Xiaoguang/Xinhua)
The Chinese government has spent $17 billion on a large-scale green drive ahead of the games, including a series of long-term environmental improvements for the city.
The city has introduced tougher standards for vehicle emissions and phased out ozone-depleting substances.
Beijing’s public transport network has been expanded with three new subway lines and Beijing has introduced 3,800 compressed natural gas buses – one of the largest fleets in any city in the world.
UNEP says the Olympic venues themselves also have many green features. Twenty percent of their energy comes from clean wind sources; solar power features prominently in the Olympic Village; and the Bird’s Nest stadium has an advanced rainwater recycling system.
Steiner will visit several of the green facilities built for the Olympics including the new subway lines and the Solar Wall – 2,000 square metres of solar panels.
On August 8, he will take part in the Olympic torch relay before attending the Opening Ceremony. While in the city, Steiner will also meet with China’s Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian and also with Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang.
Steiner will take part in a special event on volunteering for the Olympics on August 7 alongside film star Zhou Xun, who is the Chinese Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Development Programme, and Khalid Malik, the UN Resident Coordinator in China.
About 160,000 people will attend the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday, said a Beijing city government official here today.
About 70,000 will be guests, VIPs, athletes and actors performing at the ceremony and the remaining 90,000 will be the audience, staff and volunteers, said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, at a press conference.
The authorities have tested a plan to get this huge number of people in and out of the National Stadium, or Bird’s Nest, said Zhou.
The guests, athletes and artists will take chartered buses and the audiences will take public buses and the metro.
In the second half of 2008, UNEP will produce a post-games environmental report to assess the successes and challenges of the environmental measures taken by Beijing for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reminding U.S. citizens traveling to China for the Olympics that international treaties and U.S. wildlife laws limit the types of items they can buy and bring home.
“Just because you find something for sale overseas doesn’t mean you can import it,” said Benito Perez, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “Some products made from wildlife are illegal to import while others may require permits.”
Ivory and furs on sale in view of law
enforcement patrol in Linxia, China.
(Photo courtesy Environmental
The United States, China, and most other countries protect their native animals and plants under national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. Signed by more than 160 nations, this treaty supports sustainable trade in wildlife and plants while safeguarding endangered species.
In many cases, U.S. laws provide even stronger protections. The United States generally prohibits the importation of elephant ivory. Goods subject to seizure would include ivory carvings, jewelry, and figurines as well as raw and carved tusks.
Products made from sea turtle, such as tortoise shell jewelry and items with tortoise shell inlay, are prohibited and so are big cat skins and furs.
Restricted goods also include traditional medicines made from or parts of tiger, rhinoceros, leopard, Asiatic black bear, musk deer, pangolin, and seahorse.
“CITES regulates trade worldwide in more than 30,000 different animal and plant species,” Perez said. “Travelers need to ask questions and check trade restrictions before they buy.”
Travelers returning to the United States must indicate on their Customs declaration form whether they are bringing back any wildlife or wildlife products acquired abroad. Additional requirements apply if the species is protected under CITES or is a live animal or if they are importing eight or more of any item.
“By making informed choices, travelers can support conservation and avoid having their souvenirs confiscated at the airport,” Perez said.
More information about U.S. requirements for wildlife imports can be found under the International Travelers and Importers/Exporters tabs on the Office of Law Enforcement’s website at: www.fws.gov