1. A seaquake with the strength of 9.0 on the Richter scale and the resulting flood wave (tsunami) has caused disastrous damage to people, their livelihoods and their natural environments in South and Southeast Asia. One of the reasons for the high degree of damage has been the clearing of the natural mangrovia protection forests and the dense population along the coastal line due to tourism. The World Conservation Union (IUCN, http://www.iucn.org) demands following ecological guidelines in future development plans.

  2. Wangari Maathai rose to prominence fighting for those most easily marginalised in Africa - poor women. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize was praised by the awarding committee as "a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace". A pioneering academic, her role as an environmental campaigner began after she planted some trees in her back garden. This inspired her in 1977 to form an organisation - primarily of women - known as the Green Belt Movement aiming to curtail the devastating effects of deforestation and desertification. Her desire was to produce sustainable wood for fuel use as well as combating soil erosion. Her campaign to mobilise poor women to plant some 30 million trees has been copied by other countries.

  3. The Malaysian freighter "Selendang Ayu" went aground and broke in two parts near the Aleutian Islands. It carried approximately 424,000 gallons of Intermediate Fuel Oil (IFO 380) and 18,000 gallons of Marine Diesel. The salvage work was hindered by winter storms and by the bad state of the wreck. The midsection fuel tank ruptured when the vessel broke apart and released an estimated 40,131 gallons of IFO 380. The complete amount of oilspill remains unknown. The region of the North Pacific and the Bering Sea is the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the habitat of endangered seabirds, sea lions, seals, sea otters, and walruses. Only 15 years ago the Exxon Valdez went aground near by and caused irreversible damages.

  4. Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) took place from 6 to 17 December 2004 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Buenos Aires Conference tagged the tenth anniversary of the Climate Convention. It ended with a minimal compromise after a one day delay. For less developed countries in particular, funds of 400 million euros per year are to be made available by the EU alone in order to provide them with better protection against flooding, storms and other climate damage. There was an agreement on a second meeting to be held in Bonn in May 2005 about the further reductions in greenhouse gases after 2012. The US have reconfirmed their denial of the Kyoto Protocol.

  5. An expertise of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) points out that climate change, lack of water resources, water pollution, or soil degradation endanger the livelihood of poor people in many regions of the world. These environmental changes are largely man-made and linked with the economic and social development of a country in a complex way. The WBGU demands a closer international cooperation of fighting poverty and environmental policy.

  6. The map has been produced in the framework of the Corine Land Cover programme of the European Environmental Agency. Data on land cover is necessary for the environmental policy as well as for other such as regional development and agriculture policies. At the same time it provides one of the basic inputs for the production of more complex information on other themes (soil erosion, pollutant emissions into the air by the vegetation, etc.). The Map shows the major changes of the European landscapes since 1990.

  7. Extraction of fuel oil from the shipwrecked Prestige - lying at a depth of 4,000 metres just off the Galician coast - is almost finished. The Prestige split apart in a storm off the Galicia coast Nov. 19, 2002, disgorging most of its 77,000 tonnes of thick, toxic fuel oil onto the beaches of northern Spain and southwestern France in what was Spain's worst environmental disaster. Nearly 1,500 tonnes of oil remain inside the two pieces of the ship. Thousends of tonnes have spread over the sea surface.

  8. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, there remains a strip of land running the entire length of Europe, from the Barents to the Black Sea, which remains comparatively undisturbed. It is the aim of the ?Green Belt? project to have this entire strip, or key habitats within it, as well as the connected areas become part of an ecological network. The first Conference of the Working Group is being organised by BfN and IUCN.

  9. With a documentation of the Elbe flood of August, 2002, the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe (IKSE) has completed its underlying work on preventive flood management. The documentation covers all aspects from the emergence to the disastrous results of this natural phenomenon, complimenting the "Action Plan Elbe Flood Protection" from 2003 that covers all the Elbe catchment area.

  10. The impacts of climate change on Europe's environment and society are shown in this report published by the European Environment Agency. Past trends in the climate, its current state and possible future changes are presented using 22 selected indicators. For almost all of these a clear trend exists and impacts are already being observed. The report highlights the need to develop strategies at European, national, regional and local level for adapting to climate change.

  11. The Act on granting priority to renewable energy sources (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, EEG) of 21 July 2004 makes it compulsory for operators of power grids to give priority to feeding electricity from renewable energies into the grid and to pay fixed prices for this. The entry into force of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in the year 2000 triggered the desired boom in the construction of new installations.

  12. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Convention for the Protection of the Danube, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPD) celebrated International Danube Day for the first time on 29 June 2004.

  13. CEHAPE is a document for policy makers, negotiated with Member States, that highlights the main commitments on children's environment and health and details the four regional priority goals (RPGs) for Europe. CEHAPE was adopted by European Ministers at the Budapest Conference through the Conference Declaration. The Budapest Conference is the fourth in a series started in 1989, bringing together ministers of health and of the environment as well as major stakeholders. European ministers are expected to reach consensus and make political commitments to ensure safer environments for children, through the adoption of a Conference declaration and of a children's environment and health action plan for Europe.

  14. The conference charted the way towards an expansion of renewable energies worldwide, responding to the call of the Johannesburg summit for the global development of renewable energy. It also kept up the momentum generated by the coalition of like-minded countries for promotion of renewable energies (known as the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition, JREC). 3600 participants met in Bonn, among them official governmental delegations including energy, environmental and development ministers, representatives of the United Nations and other international and non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector.

  15. The POP Convention (POP stands for persistent organic pollutants) aims for a worldwide ban on the manufacture and use of 12 of the most hazardous chemicals. Among these are eight plant protection agents, for example DDT, and dioxins and furans, as well as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and hexachlorobenzene. These substances are distinguished by their toxicity, longevity, and their characteristic of becoming concentrated in the environment and the food chain. The continued, restricted use of DDT will be permitted in order to combat mosquitoes carrying malaria, as effective, affordable substitutes are not available in all countries. The Convention was signed in Stockholm in May 2001 and was the result of negotiations led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

  16. Since 2004 an annual nationwide Action Day Sustainable Washing/Dishwashing [Bundesweiter Aktionstag Nachhaltiges (Ab-)Waschen] has been taking place on 10 May, under the patronage of various outstanding persons.

  17. Regulation 1830/2003 on labelling and traceability provides for comprehensive information by labelling all food and feed containing, consisting of or produced from a GMO. The purpose is to inform consumers and farmers about the exact nature and characteristics of the food or feed, so that they can make informed choices.

  18. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has followed the request of Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden to designate the Baltic Sea as a "Particularly Sensitive Sea Area" (PSSA). Because of its low salinity and water exchange the Baltic Sea has hardly any self-healing power in case of pollution by oil or other dangerous substances.

  19. The Convention establishes the principle that export of a chemical covered by the Convention can only take place with the prior informed consent of the importing party. The Convention establishes a "Prior Informed Consent procedure," a means for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing countries as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of specified chemicals and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting countries.

  20. Flower of the Year 2004 is the Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella alpina).

  21. Tree of the Year 2004 is the Silver Fir (Abies alba).

  22. Bird of the Year 2004 is the Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes).

  23. Fungus of the Year 2004 is the Serpula lacrymans.

  24. Orchid of the Year: Long-bracted green orchid (frog orchid)(Coeloglossum viride (L.) Hartman)

  25. Vegetable of the year 2004 is the Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris).

  26. Medicinal Herbs of the Year are the Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and the Common centaury (Centaurium erythraea).

  27. In 2004 GNF has declared the Lake Chapala in Mexico as the Threatened Lake of the Year. Lake Chapala is extremely endangered of disappearing within the next years, because of overexploitation of water resources and contamination there is a high conflict potential for water resources. Another problem is the illegal settlement in the dried-up zones.

  28. Every year on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Global Nature Fund (GNF), an international foundation for the protection of environment and nature, highlights the threatened state of a unique lake to the world. Global Nature Fund (GNF), International Foundation for Environment and Nature, Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany

  29. Fish of the Year: Allis shad (Alosa alosa L.).

  30. Water plant of the year 2004 is the Utricularia australis.

  31. Butterfly of the Year ist Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines).

  32. Mollusc of the year is the freshwater snail (Theodoxus fluviatilis).

  33. Lichen of the year is the common yellow wall-lichen (Xanthoria parietina)

  34. Insect of the Year 2004 is the hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).

  35. Perennial herb of the Year is the Geranium.

  36. Medicinal Plant of the Year 2004 is the Peppermint (Mentha piperita).

  37. Animal of the Year: Fat Dormouse (Glis glis).

  38. Spider of the Year is the Green huntsman spider (Micrommata virescens).

  39. Invertebrate of the Year 2004: earth worm (Lumbricus terrestris)