Published: Monday 31 May 2004

The first two years of the UK emissions trading scheme have been a success, states a report issued by the country's National Audit Office (NAO). The UK launched its emissions trading scheme in March 2002, offering 34 companies a US $385-million dividend incentive over five years in return for a commitment to cut their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Three of the companies subsequently dropped out of the scheme. The rest were then set a CO2 reduction target of 0.79 million tonnes. According to the NAO, they managed to do better by reducing CO2 emissions by 4.64 million tonnes.

China has confirmed three more cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), taking the total number of cases to nine as the disease rears its head again. So far, one person has succumbed to the disease while one has been released after being cured. The disease had caused almost 800 deaths worldwide last year. Meanwhile, Taiwanese researchers have found that diluted promazine, commonly used to treat mental disorders, can be effective for SARS treatment. Niclosamide, used to kill parasites, is another potent option.

Efforts to put in place an ambitious earth observation system -- one of a series of initiatives taken by the US administration, even as it continues to dawdle over tackling global warming -- have moved forward. Representatives from 70 countries and international groups met in Tokyo, Japan, and approved a draft plan to implement the integrated earth monitoring network. The finalised version will be considered at the summit scheduled in Brussels in 2005.

As many as 2700 fire-fighters battled flames on half-a-dozen fronts, while wildfires scorched vast stretches of southern California in the US. More than 8094 hectares were reportedly affected by the blaze. The latest blazes sprang to life amid ideal conditions for wildfires: little rain and high temperatures. Worse, a plague of bark beetles turned huge swathes of forest into kindling, adding to the potential fuel for fires.

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