Best of our wild blogs: 8 Apr 11

What You Can Do For The Green Corridor
from AsiaIsGreen

From Lornie Trail to Rifle Range Link Part 2
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Call of the Collared Kingfisher...continued
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Exploring upstream Sungei Buloh Besar
from wild shores of singapore

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Fencing off wildlife not the answer

Straits Times Forum 8 Apr 11;

I REFER to the letter by Mr Frederick Ow last Thursday ("Protect NTU students from roaming wildlife"; March 31).

Mr Ow raised concerns about the risk of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students coming to harm as a result of encounters with wildlife from the nearby forest.

It is true that wild boar and venomous snakes may wander onto campus grounds and pose a threat to people. However, in most cases, encounters between people and wildlife are brief and usually result in the animal fleeing from humans.

A fence surrounding the entire NTU campus would not only be prohibitively expensive, but would also not serve its purpose for very long; wild boar, with their bulk and rooting habits, would soon be able to create gaps in the mesh, and snakes are able to scale most fences anyway.

In the meantime, other creatures such as pangolins and leopard cats (both of which are critically endangered species in Singapore) would find their access to habitats across the road suddenly cut off, isolating them in patches of forest which might be unable to sustain all their needs.

Instead of building fences to protect wildlife from people (and vice versa), it would be far better to create an environment where tolerance and co-existence are emphasised.

Instead of pandering to fear, a more desirable strategy would be to raise awareness on campus, such as having signboards or posters to inform people about the presence of these creatures, and dispelling misconceptions by distributing leaflets to staff and students, telling them what to do and what not to do should one encounter a wild animal.

To further minimise human-wildlife conflict, other key measures could include ensuring proper disposal of food waste, which will not only attract omnivorous scavengers, such as wild boar and monkeys, but also rats, which in turn might lead to more snakes on campus.

At the same time, it is essential to curb the unbridled enthusiasm of people who are so excited by wildlife sightings that they put themselves in harm's way. There would need to be a strong policy on preventing people from feeding the wildlife, which encourages wild animals to leave the forest and deliberately seek people out, with potentially dire consequences.

It will be impossible to completely prevent people from crossing paths with wildlife, and sharing the same places.

I believe the optimal solution would be to accept the presence of these creatures, maintain a respectful distance, and take necessary measures to reduce conflict. Instead of fearing them, let's appreciate the occasional fleeting glimpses and reminders that we are not the only species to call Singapore home.

Ivan Kwan

Ivan Kwan's full letter is posted on his blog.

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Going green through virtual building design

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 7 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE: An estimated 40 per cent of total global energy consumption is attributable to buildings.

And while 3D design, engineering and entertainment software is not something that you would often associate with building design, it is something that an increasing number of companies are turning to. They are using virtual solutions as an alternative to show flats and building mock-ups to cut costs and their carbon footprint.

As a result, Autodesk, a global supplier of 3D design, is seeing its fastest growth coming from Asia Pacific.

Patrick Williams, Senior Vice President of Autodesk Asia Pacific, said: "In the beginning it was kind of a battle cry and a lot of people were passionate about it now it's becoming more real and so we have a lot more examples of cost saving that are being achieved.

"We worked with Marriott hotel. For example, they were previously doing all of their designs physical prototypes - information modelling - they cut their cost by 91 per cent."

Autodesk said that in the region their business grew by 21 per cent last year, compared to the company's overall growth of 14 per cent.

Mr Williams said: "We expect that to continue looking at the opportunities in Asia Pacific, both in the emerging economies as well as the mature markets. We are about 25 per cent of the company's overall business and it is my job to ensure that we continue to grow that business over time."

Such intelligent models can cater to solutions for architecture; structural engineering; and mechanical, electrical and plumbing solutions. And according to some research houses, close to 30 per cent of all new buildings in Asia Pacific are expected to be green by 2015.


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Wind turbine manufacturer opens new facility in Singapore

Lynn Kan Business Times 8 Apr 11;

LEADING wind turbine manufacturer, Spain's Gamesa, launched its new R&D centre and commercialisation office here yesterday - despite Singapore's lack of a wind energy market.

Rather, Gamesa chairman Jorge Calvet chose Singapore to tap on its 'intellectual and engineering capabilities' in materials and coatings, a research area of importance because composite materials are used in turbines.

The Gamesa Advanced Materials Research Centre, currently housed at Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Research Techno Plaza, will employ more than 30 engineers by 2014.

The centre will move to CleanTech Park when the 50-hectare eco-business facility in Jurong is completed.

It will soon kick-start collaborations with researchers from NTU, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Mr Calvet said there is every likelihood that the research will start commercialisation within the next 18 to 24 months.

NTU has agreed to work on two projects with Gamesa to work on blade coatings and how to incorporate these materials into Gamesa's manufacturing line.

NUS will develop methods to monitor embedded smart sensors in turbine blades, that can relay any detected damage to the blade to engineers off-site.

The technology will be useful because turbines can be in far- flung, inaccessible areas, and currently require inspection by engineers.

Furthermore, damage - harder to detect in composite materials than metals - occurs due to exposure to harsh environments.

Said NUS' vice-dean (research) in the faculty of engineering, Tay Tong Earn: 'If you can detect damage, then you would need to repair only when necessary. It saves on manpower and time that translates into cost.'

Mr Calvet stressed that wind energy has an increasingly significant role within the energy market, in light of the disruptions to oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and complications with nuclear power in Japan following the 9.0-scale earthquake.

Gamesa's new commercial office, says Mr Calvet, will look after markets in South-east Asia. Recently, Gamesa opened a wind farm in Sri Lanka and also sold turbines to New Zealand.

Mr Calvet expects Gamesa's Asian derived revenue to burgeon further. In 2010, between 42 and 45 per cent of its revenue came from India and China.

'South-east Asia is a promising market,' said Mr Calvet. 'Any country keen to have wind (energy), we will look at, no matter how big or small.'

Spanish wind giant Gamesa sets up research lab in NTU
Jessica Cheam Straits Times 8 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE may not have high wind speeds to speak of but that is not stopping high-flying wind firms from setting up here.

Spanish wind giant Gamesa is the latest to set up a research and development (R&D) laboratory here.

At the opening ceremony yesterday, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research to develop cutting-edge wind-technology applications.

Speaking at the launch, Gamesa chairman Jorge Calvet said the advanced materials research centre, housed in NTU's Research Techno Plaza, is its first in South-east Asia.

'Being a technology company, we want to be at the forefront of our industry. Our partnership with Singapore's institutions will help us to achieve that, especially in advanced materials research,' he said.

In 18 to 24 months, Gamesa could start to see Singapore-developed applications put into its manufacturing process 'so customers can take advantage of the R&D we're doing here'.

Gamesa has so far pledged $1 million to NTU for projects that it is working on, with collaborations with the other institutions still being finalised.

The firm's scientists and engineers will be working on, for example, research into wind turbine blade coatings to withstand extreme conditions with NTU, and using smart sensors to monitor the performance of materials used in wind turbines with NUS.

It intends to employ more than 30 engineers in the R&D centre by 2014.

NTU president-designate Bertil Andersson said the collaboration 'will be instrumental in bringing valuable academic research' in sustainability to the wider market.

Economic Development Board assistant managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan said Gamesa's move 'reflects well on Singapore's strengths as a location for wind-energy research, namely, strong R&D infrastructure, skilled cosmopolitan workforce and favourable intellectual-property protection'.

Other investments here include Norwegian wind service firm DNV, which opened a clean-technology centre last year, and Danish wind-power firm Vestas investing $500 million in a research centre in 2008.

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A neighbour's nuclear indifference

John McBeth Straits Times 8 Apr 11;

WHILE governments around the world, including some at no risk of earthquakes and tsunamis, are using the Japan tsunami disaster to review their nuclear power plans, scientists and nuclear proponents in Indonesia remain unfazed.

This lackadaisical attitude, as much as the perceived hazards, bother those concerned about the ability of the Indonesian government to put the proper safeguards in place and, more importantly, to ensure these are strictly enforced.

Sticking to the rules has never been an Indonesian strong point, as shown by the slack performance of its regulatory agencies. Nervous neighbours like Singapore and Australia - and a good number of Indonesians - ask why a nuclear watchdog would be any different.

With the country's National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) refusing to bat an eyelid over the lessons to be learnt from Japan, it has been left to Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta and the head of the state-owned power utility to wag a cautionary finger.

They argue that in a country rich in natural gas, coal, hydro, geothermal, coal-bed methane and other forms of renewable energy - some barely tapped for electricity generation - nuclear should become an option only when the country's natural resources are dwindling.

Indonesia does have a law on its books allowing the construction of four 1,000MW reactors. The initial plan was to site these on the Muria peninsula in the heavily populated and seismically active Central Java region.

Some of the strongest opposition has come from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, which issued a shock fatwa in 2007 declaring the Muria project to be haram, or forbidden under Islamic jurisprudence.

A nuclear complex on the peninsula may not be at risk of a tsunami, or perhaps even a major quake, but it would lie in the path of potential pyroclastic flows from the Muria volcano a short distance away. The plant would also sit on compressed volcanic ash, making it vulnerable to liquefaction.

While Muria is last known to have erupted in 160BC and lies well to the north of Java's main volcanic chain, the complex is bisected by several fault lines running north from the Java trench off the southern coast.

With Muria looking increasingly unlikely, Batan is considering a plan to move the project to Bangka island, just to the south of Singapore and on the other side of Sumatra from one of the world's most volatile tectonic boundaries. It recently called tenders for a feasibility study of the new site.

The Bangka-Belitung provincial government may seem more welcoming, but with Singapore officials pointedly calling for Asean-wide nuclear safety standards, little is known about how much the plan has been socialised among Bangka's 600,000 people.

Mr Hatta, whose ministry is responsible for issuing environmental impact studies for strategic businesses, including nuclear power plants, told reporters recently: 'It is not easy to provide assurances to a public that is sceptical about nuclear reactors.'

Even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has reservations. 'Nuclear development is impossible in areas with opposition,' he told anxious voters during a 2009 election speech in Central Java. 'If there are still other alternatives, we will not use nuclear resources.'

Unable to meet an earlier 2017 start-up deadline, Batan has lost a number of nuclear scientists to Malaysia, one of four South-east Asian nations that have notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of their intention to develop nuclear-powered electricity.

But the biggest obstacle may turn out to be cost. Current estimates for a 4,000MW nuclear complex are in the US$10 billion (S$12.6 billion) range, more than twice that for a similar-sized coal-fired plant.

Mr Richard Tanter, director of Australia's Nautilus Institute, believes the new levels of safety demanded by the ongoing Fukushima emergency will inflate costs further, even for more modern pressurised-water and still-untried Generation Four reactors.

In a 2009 paper, Mr Tanter and two co-authors said Indonesia's handling of the nuclear hot-potato is a test of the power of public opinion in a new democracy, and of the capacity of the government to assess risk appropriately.

A key political lesson of the new era is that energy policy - power generation in particular - lies at the heart of a remarkably wide spectrum of issues, ranging from governance and transparency to climate change and the role of civil society in policy formation.

'In Indonesia's case, two concerns in particular may undermine the regime, including the ongoing corruption within the Indonesian government and the seeming impunity of many senior government officials and political elite in the face of evident conflicts of interest and legal obligation,' Mr Tanter said in his paper.

Many find it particularly disturbing that all government and IAEA volcanic and seismic studies of the Muria project have been kept out of the public domain for more than three decades.

Perhaps with its hands full dealing with the global fallout from the Fukushima crisis, the Vienna-based agency did not respond to e-mail queries about the studies or whether it has signed off on the Bangka feasibility plan.

Nuclear energy is here to stay
Business Times Editorial 8 Apr 11;

TO SAY that recent events in Fukushima, Japan have dented confidence in nuclear energy would be an understatement. The reactions around the world have ranged from extreme concern to near-panic as Japan - the only country ever to suffer the horrific consequences of a nuclear attack - continues to struggle to contain the radioactive fallout from its reactors, almost a month after the devastating earthquake and tsunami which have left a trail of death and destruction in the northeast of the country.

Radiation is being carried through the atmosphere and by ocean currents to as far as the West Coast of North America and getting into the global food chain. Such developments are leading countries to take a serious second look at nuclear energy, which once promised a way to reduce dependence on environmentally destructive fossil fuels.

China has shelved the construction of new nuclear reactors, while some developed Western nations which were eager to reduce their dependence on oil and coal are reviewing their nuclear energy plans and plants. In Germany, the ruling Christian Democrats have lost an important state election over the nuclear issue, while closer to home, South-east Asian states with ambitious long-term plans to tap nuclear power are re-thinking their positions.

Conflicting and confusing news about Japan's containment efforts has simply added to the concern about nuclear energy which currently provides some 12 per cent of the world's energy needs.

The industry's proponents argue that quakes and tsunamis aside, nuclear energy is the cleanest source - with zero emissions - and the best choice for a world grappling with the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment and climate. Nuclear energy also offers the best input-output ratio amongst all energy sources: a small quantity of nuclear fuel produces large amounts of energy. Unlike other energy sources, nuclear plants can be located virtually anywhere - although the wisdom of locating them near earthquake and tsunami-prone areas is obviously being questioned.

Besides the environmental, economic and political fallout from Japan, detractors point to the high cost of building plants and the difficulty in managing their dangerous radioactive waste. There is also the issue of the catastrophic clean-up costs should something go wrong, as has happened three times in as many decades.

The bottomline is that there is no easy answer on how best to tap clean energy. We know that dependence on fossil fuels cannot go on forever. But the development of other environmentally 'clean' fuel sources has reached nowhere near the scale needed for widespread commercial use. The nearest thing to clean energy now is natural gas, but this is not an inexhaustible resource either.

Like it or not, nuclear energy is here to stay. The only question is, how do we make it more safe and foolproof.

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Taken by Malaysia's untouched nature

Daphne Iking The Star 8 Apr 11;

THE closest I’ve ever come to my very own Avatar experience was not in some distant, far away nation. It was right here in Malaysia, deep in the heart of the Borneo jungle, to shoot a documentary in Kampung Buayan, Sabah.

The remote village is four hours off road from Kota Kinabalu and seven hours on foot through gushing rivers and dense jungles.

After walking for three hours, the sounds of the forest were almost hypnotic. I started zoning out and letting go of the city, including my initial fears about this trip.

They seemed almost superficial now. I was told I would be living in a bamboo hut with the hill tribes and that I would have to fish for my own food.

I was worried about whether I could survive without my usual creature comforts like hot water, access to my Twitter account or feather-down pillows.

Yet, there I was trekking through a lost world so untouched that I felt a need to tread quietly and respectfully through it.

I marveled at the lush green moss lighting my path like a fluorescent marker. The Borneo rainforest is more than 130 million years old but so many Malaysians I have spoken to seem unaware we have the oldest rainforest in the world.

When I started my journey, I thought I was prepared for life in the jungle. I was not.

For starters, my local guide said my expensive hiking boots would get waterlogged when crossing deep rivers, “You need to buy the kampung shoe. We all wear it. It is less than RM10”

After trekking for about three hours, in my lightweight, brand new pair of waterproof ‘kampung shoes’, a torrential downpour descended upon us.

The rain frightened me not because it was relentless but because I heard that leeches love the wet weather.

True enough, when I finally arrived at the head villager’s bamboo hut, I let out an ear-piercing scream when I took off my shoes. There were leeches between my toes and another one had crawled up to my knee, under my cargo pants.

The villagers who greeted me, amused by my reaction, welcomed me with warm, dry clothes and promptly ushered me to a secluded spot to have a bath. It was breathtaking and it was where I spent every morning, brushing my teeth and bathing in the icy stream.

I was introduced to an elderly woman from a nearby village, fit as ever, because of the long distances they walk every day. I found out she was almost 80 but the most intriguing thing, was the colour of her hair.

It was jet black but she had never stepped foot into a hair salon her entire life. I think it was due to her stress-free existence and the clean, fresh air she wakes up to every morning.

When I got a cut on my arm, my local guide, Daniel Doughty from Borneo Colours, introduced the local medicine man to me. Somehow, he knew exactly which plant would help heal my small wound.

I was amazed because the cut was almost unnoticeable the next day. For the communities living there from the time of their ancestors, the forest was their pharmacy.

Everything they needed was right on their bio-diverse doorstep, or what the locals would call home.

So you can imagine how disturbed I was to hear that the state government planned to build a RM2.8bil dam.

According to Malaysia Today, that will drown 12 sq km of land, displace 1,400 Dusun residences and destroy farms, orchards, community halls, clinics, four schools, several churches, ancestral graveyards, suspension bridges, eco-tourism sites and sprawling rice fields.

Having lived with the hill tribes and understanding their simple way of life, it was impossible to imagine how they would function or find work in the city.

This existence is all they have ever known. As one heartbroken native, Irene, told Wild Asia, “Our lives are here. We have everything that we need. The river is our icebox and the land is our supermarket”

According to a Straits Times Singapore news article, the proposed Kaiduan dam project contradicts the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Malaysia is a signatory.

In addition, the proposed location has long been recognised as a primary centre for plant diversity and is included in the WWF Global 200 high priority eco-regions.

It is my heartfelt wish that the Dusun communities will continue to live on their ancestral land and that the bio-diverse region will continue to flourish and thrive.

I left Borneo, moved by the sheer beauty of the forest and her people but they all shared the same plea, “Please don’t sweep our lives away”.

If you have any comments you would like to share on the building of the dam, please drop me an email, Facebook or Twitter message.

Jojo Struys is an avid twitterer @jojo_struys and is currently directing a reality project called Astro Hitz ‘Yuna Inspired’ Powered by DiGi, which airs on Astro Hitz every Sunday at 930pm with repeats on Friday at 6.45pm/ midnight and Saturday at 9.30pm.

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Philippines scientists race to save nation’s reefs from climate change

Bea C. Cupin GMA News 8 Apr 11

The nation's coral reefs are rapidly turning into bright colors that are not pretty.

The pinks, oranges and yellows are tell-tale signs of bleaching caused by climate change. The pastel hues that are spreading throughout the Philippines' underwater gardens are an anemic stage before corals become white, signifying death in the marine world.

The past year has seen the biggest bleaching to occur in Philippine seas since 1998, according to scientists who gathered at a marine conference in the Manila Observatory on Tuesday.

But much of the bleaching went unrecorded and unobserved, due to the lack of a proper coastal monitoring system in the country.

“We cannot expect to help people when we don’t have the basics," said Presidential Adviser on Climate Change Elisea Gozun, who addressed the conference on the Integrated Evaluation of Coastal Research Enhancement and Adaptive Management (ICE CREAM) Program.

The program is a research partnership between the Manila Observatory and University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute to “build up the science that leads up to adaptation and resilience," according to Manila Observatory Executive Director Antonia Loyzaga.

The lack of local data on changes in the marine environment has hindered efforts to design programs to reverse the coral destruction.

Gozun said the government has been forced to rely on other countries for data, when the country's rich biodiversity is nearly ideal for observing the impact of climate change on a variety of sea life.

The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, a marine region that contains nearly 3/4 of the world’s known corals, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

At the end of three years, the information collected from the ICECREAM program will be used to create marine protection plans for barangays.

Basic data first

According to Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, basic information on coastal conditions is either non-existent or unavailable in the country. “Sayang lang ang dami ng data [from government agencies] that isn’t available to the public," said Licuanan.

Licuanan’s study focuses on coastal ecosystems—particularly, the state of the country’s coral reefs. Last year’s summer season witnessed a rise in seawater temperatures, which result in the partial bleaching of many coral reefs in the country. Bleaching occurs when seawater temperatures increase by at least 2° Celsius above the average maximum.

Dr. Fernando Siringan likewise shared the difficulty in collecting data when he conducted his study on the Philippine-wide vulnerability assessment of coastal areas to sea level rise, changes in shoreline position and coral reef destruction.

Verification, he said, was difficult since they only had anecdotal data in certain areas.

'Kakaibang nangyayari'

Siringan also emphasized the importance of establishing systems soon. “May kakaibang nangyayari sa atin. The magnitude of what is happening in the country is different from other countries," he said. His study also covers coastal erosion and seawater level rises.

Coral reef destruction rates for instance, hit an all-time high of 95% after the bleaching that happened during the 2010 summer.

If an El Niño similar to the one last year returns in 10 years, Licuanan says that only 11% of the country’s corals will be left after 50 years. If the return time is cut short to 5 years, only 1% of the country’s corals will survive by 2061.

Dr. Cesar Villanoy’s study on sardine production, seawater temperature and rainfall, for example, indicate that fish production is highest during the El Niño phenomenon. According to Villanoy, this is because more rain dilutes the surface water, making upwelling less possible.

Upwelling is a natural phenomenon in which colder and nutrient-rich sea water moves towards the surface. When upwelling does not occur, sardines are left with less phytoplankton to feed on, forcing them to move elsewhere in search of food.

Switching to bangus

The effect is not only ecological, but economic as well. In the Zamboanga Peninsula for instance, sardine manufacturers were forced to switch to bangus during a La Niña year. Villanoy said that the patterns caused by the coming and going of El Niño and La Niña “may impact long-term trends in primary productivity and fisheries."

As seas continue to warm, encroaching on land and disrupting human lives, one of the biggest concerns will be how this will affect coastal communities.

“[Data] imply that the present-day healthy reefs where [the Philippines’ most common species can be found] are likely to be resilient to the projected further warming of the seas," said Siringan.

Corals of genera Acropora sp., Goniastrea sp., and Porites sp. are the most common in the country’s modern reefs. Fossils of these genera have been found in land areas that used to be underwater, implying their ability to survive deeper and warmer oceans.

Siringan said that the same conclusion could not be made for human communities.

Threat to heritage

Climate change is threatening the country’s heritage, according to Dr. Porfirio Aliño.

Recent data, he said, indicated a decline of biodiversity in Visayas seas. “The Philippines as a rich area of ecosystem goods and services needs to be understood and managed wisely," he said.

The experts at the forum were quick to add however, that the country sorely lacks resources and experts to for effective climate change preparedness.

Gozun said that while data collection is beginning to improve, the country still has a long way to go. The first step, she said, was raising awareness.

According to Villanoy, local communities are involved early on in the research through workshops and seminars. Later on, when new tools and techniques are discovered, the communities are called back in for an update.

Licuanan added that given the huge threat climate change posses, short-term solutions might also be necessary.

“We can’t reorganize our government offices overnight but maybe we can create auxiliary groups [that can assist in monitoring]," he said.

Members of the scientific community for instance, created the Marine Sanctuary Network (MSN), tasked to monitor coral reef developments all over the country. MSN is composed of different universities from all over the country.

According to Licuanan, the seas are displaying the same pattern as they did last summer, indicating the possibility of another dramatic rise in seawater temperatures.

If the cycle of seawater temperature increase becomes shorter and goes unmonitored, the vibrant greens and browns of our healthy coral reefs might become a thing of the past. – HS, GMA News

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Number of hot spots in Sumatra down to 17

Antara 7 Apr 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) of Riau province said the number of hot spots in Sumatra now was 17 or down from the previous day when there were 57 hot spots.

Satellite monitoring by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) had shown , the 17 hot spots were scattered in several provinces. namely South Sumatra (seven hot spots), Aceh (two hot spots) as well as North Sumatra and Jambi with one hot spot each, an analyst of Riau`s BMKG, Marzuki, said.

As for Riau where 30 hot spots had been detected previously, there were now only six hot spots, namely in the districts of Indragiri Hulu (three hot spots), Kampar and Siak one each.

"Some of the other Riau districts which also had detectable hot spots such as Rokan Hilir, Meranti, Bengkalis, Dumai and Pekanbaru city are currently nil," Marzuki said.

He explained, the reduction of the hot spots due to the rain which fell in most Sumatra regions including Riau.

"For the last two days the rain fall almost equally in Riau but in different times. The satellite monitoring yesterday (Wednesday 6/4), in Pekanbaru rain occurred in the afternoon. While in coastal areas such as Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis and Meranti, the rain intensity were going on day and night," Marzuki noted.

Up to two days ahead, the rain is still likely to fall in all regions of Riau with low to moderate intensity, he added.

"The rain opportunity is more concentrated in central Riau , southern and coastal regions. While the air temperature in the next few days is estimated to be between 32 to 33 Celsius," Marzuki said.

Regarding the possibility of smoke export from Sumatra mainland to neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, Marzuki predicted, it was very small considering the wind direction was more likely to revolve in Sumatra.

"Dominant wind direction rotates in the west and east of Sumatra. The haze tends to a number of areas affected by fires and forest land itself, such as Jambi, South Sumatra, North Sumatra and Riau," Marzuki said.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Airlines complain about haze over Supadio airport
Antara 7 Apr 11;

Sungai Raya, W.Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Several airlines have complained about haze caused by land burning in Sungai Raya sub district, West Kalimantan, which was reducing visibility at Pontianak`s Supadio airport, a local official said.

"Due to the drought now plaguing West Kalimantan, many pilots have complained about haze disturbing visibility over Supadio airport, especially in the morning," the chief of operations at Supadio airport, , Irmadani, said here Thursday.

According to him, the pilots protested because the visibility down to the runway at the Supadio airport covered by smog therefore it was o hard to see and visibility was low.

The pilots said it had became quite difficult to see the runway, although in aviation 400 feet of visibility was still tolerable and not very alarming.

However, the pilots` complaints must also be accommodated because if it is allowed to continue, further it would disrupt the flight activity in West Kalimantan, Irmadani said.

"It is estimated that because of the smoke in the near future, the airport was forced to close," he said.

Another threat is the disruption of the economy in West Kalimantan.

"Hence, there should be a precaution or prevention," Irmadani insisted.

The Supadio airport Pontianak management has been taking various steps, including calling through social networks like twitter that contains the suggestion for the local people not to burning lands, forests or playing kites around the airport.

"The burning will bring up the smog in large quantities and it will disrupt the flights. We hope the people realize this," Irmadani hope.

Meanwhile, the plantation company, PT Peniti Sungai Purun official in Pontianak district, West Kalimantan, said, 95 percent of fires in the area of ​​the company has been successfully extinguished and controlled.

"Reports from the officers indicated that," the corporate affairs of PT Peniti Sungai Purun, Didiet Fadriana said.

The land area burned in the company is estimated to have a consuming 400 hectares.

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Palm oil body criticises Malaysia's IOI for environment, social damage

Niki Koswanage Reuters 7 Apr 11;

* IOI the 2nd firm to face censure after Indonesia's SMART
* IOI licence for green palm oil may get suspended-RSPO
* IOI shares flat, analysts see limited market impact
* Firm accepts RSPO view but warns on NGOs' false statements

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 (Reuters) - An industry body for eco-friendly palm oil has censured Malaysia's second largest palm oil planter, IOI Corp , alleging it has drained peatlands and felled forests on Borneo island to expand and that it could face further sanctions.

The censure follows complaints by green groups over IOI's environmental practices in the Malaysia's Borneo state of Sarawak, including a protracted land dispute with a local community.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group of planters, NGOs and consumers, said its grievance panel found IOI to have breached its membership obligations, making it the second firm after Indonesia's SMART to face censure.

IOI's current and ongoing applications to certify its plantations as environmentally and socially responsible have been suspended and the firm has until May 2 to come up with an acceptable solution to the issues raised, the RSPO said.

"Failure to deliver the required proposal ... will result in the RSPO considering further sanctions, which may include the suspension of (the) IOI licence," RSPO said in a statement on its website seen on Thursday.

The comments will invite further scrutiny to $30 billion palm oil industry that has tried to boost its green credentials in the wake of an aggressive campaign by environment and social activists as well as consumers shunning palm oil-based products.

IOI shares were up slightly to 5.56 ringgit around 0400 GMT on Thursday.

Analysts said there will be muted market impact unless big customers like Unilever (UNc.AS: Quote) and Finnish oil refiner Neste Oil stop buying from the firm although that may provide more opportunities for companies in China and India to snap up cargoes.

IOI said on its website that the company accepted the RSPO's decision and would work with the industry body to find a solution, especially for the land dispute issue.

But it warned that activists were making unfair and false statements against the planter.

"Merely pressuring one party will not guarantee or facilitate the successful conclusion of the discussion said," IOI said.

U.S.-based green activists Rainforest Action Network welcomed the RSPO statement and called on agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest palm oil importer to the U.S., to scrutinise its relationship with IOI.

"This ruling reinforces RAN's demand that Cargill institute basic safeguards on its supply chain to ensure it is not selling palm oil from stolen indigenous lands to American consumers," said Lindsey Allen, RAN forest programme director.

The spotlight on IOI comes as Golden Agri Resources , the parent of Indonesia's SMART, joined the RSPO and pledged to commit to producing green palm oil as both companies raced to win back their customers. [ID:nL3E7F41I0]

Major palm oil consumers such as Unilever and Nestle stopped buying from SMART because of environmental concerns, and have yet to resume supply ties, traders said. (Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Ed Lane)

Malaysia's 2nd-biggest listed palm-oil company under scrutiny
The Star 7 Apr 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: IOI Corp Bhd, the country's second-biggest listed palm-oil company, is being scrutinised by an industry group following allegations about land disputes and illegal deforestation.

IOI was given 28 days to respond to the allegations, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil said in a statement on its website.

The group would consider further sanctions, including the suspension of licences for new certified sustainable transactions, if IOI didn't deliver the required response by May 2, it said. IOI shares fell 17 sen, or 3%, to RM5.55, the most since Feb 10.

The dispute concerned plantation land in Sarawak occupied by IOI Pelita Plantation Sdn Bhd, which is 70% owned by IOI, the company said.

The complaints were made by “several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the local community of Long Teran Kanan in Sarawak,” the RSPO statement said.

The organisations weren't named. Calls to the company's head of corporate communications after office hours weren't answered.

“The nature of the grievance covers two locations and three specific matters land dispute over native customary land leased by IOI for palm oil production in Sarawak; drained peat land on endangered wildlife habitat and clearing of forest area; and illegal deforestation,” the statement said.

“IOI accepts this decision and will work closely with RSPO in developing a plan to find an acceptable solution to the issue of compensation,” the company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“However, IOI is concerned over the sustained actions by various NGOs and some online news websites, which seek to mislead public opinion on the issue by repeating various false statements and unfair allegations against IOI.”

RSPO certification indicates that palm oil used in a particular product is “produced without undue harm to the environment or society,” and that “volumes are traceable,” according to the group's website.

“Current and ongoing certification” of IOI's production had been suspended with immediate effect, the group said.

“IOI welcomes an independent organisation like RSPO to appoint representatives to observe the proceedings of the meetings between IOI Pelita and the natives and possibly mediate in the negotiation over the affected land area and the amount of compensation,” the company said.

Nestle SA, the world's biggest food maker, and Unilever, the largest palm oil user, last year suspended purchases from Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group after allegations from Greenpeace that the company was illegally destroying rainforests. An independent study cleared Sinar Mas. - Bloomberg

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Gir lions flourish, thanks to adjoining areas

DNA India 7 Apr 11;

The Lion King's successful conservation story is making international headlines. An academic paper titled 'A conservation success story in the otherwise dire megafauna extinction crisis: The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) of Gir forest' that chronicles Gujarat's efforts in conserving the big cat has been printed in a Singapore-based magazine.

The paper authored by Gujarat's senior IFS officer, HS Singh and Luke Gibson of the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore brings out the stellar increase of the lions in the wild from its near extinction a century ago to a thriving 411 as per the census last year.

The paper points out that the availability of native ungulates and the lions' migrations to satellite areas around the sanctuary has tremendously helped to increase its population. "Protection of core and satellite habitats and the relocation of pastoral communities and their livestock triggered forest recovery and coincident increases in native prey populations. Wild ungulate populations increased by 10-fold between 1970 and 2010, supporting an increase in the lion population from 180 animals in 1974 to 411 animals in 2010," the paper states.

Dr Singh, a veteran forester and who has authored several books on the wildlife in Gujarat is an avid observer of trends. "Coincident with the increase of the ungulate population, lions shifted their predation preferences from a diet composed of 75% livestock to one composed of just 25% livestock. This example demonstrates the value of native prey populations to sustain imperiled carnivore species," Dr Singh has observed in his paper.

Another aspect pointed out as a reason for effective conservation is moving out the native pastoral communities (Maldharis) and their livestock outside the protected lion habitat.

However, the paper also remarks that, "Despite impressive recoveries of wild ungulates, recent increases in livestock populations in the Gir Conservation Area may limit the potential recovery of wild prey species and consequently the Asiatic lion."

"Another key aspect in the conservation of the Asiatic lion was their dispersal and the subsequent protection of surrounding satellite populations. Approximately one fourth of Asiatic Lions are located in protected satellite populations outside the Gir Conservation Area, and subsist primarily on wild prey species. The protection of these satellite habitats and the maintenance of corridors linking them to the core population in the Gir Conservation Area has allowed for the continued growth of this endangered species," the paper concludes.

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World food prices fall for first time in eight months

Yahoo News 7 Apr 11;

ROME (AFP) – World food prices fell for the first time in eight months in March after record highs largely due to oil prices, though the situation remains volatile, the UN's food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Food Price Index dropped to an average 230 points in March, down 2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March 2010, the Rome-based agency said.

"The decrease in the overall index this month brings some welcome respite," said David Hallam, director of the FAO's trade and market division.

"But it would be premature to conclude that this is a reversal of the upward trend," he added.

The FAO index, which monitors average monthly prices for key staples, showed international prices for oils, sugar and cereals in particular had dropped.

Rice prices also fell, largely as a result of abundant supply in exporting countries and sluggish import demand. By contrast, dairy and meat prices rose.

"The biggest story is the oil sector, that's the driver behind the decline in prices," said Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO economist and grains analyst.

"The drop was driven by sell-offs in the market, but didn't last," he said.

"We saw a decline only in the first two weeks of March. In the second half of the month prices rebounded. Most of the price increase is not captured in this index but is likely to be reflected in the next one," he said.

March was also extremely volatile for grains, largely due to growing economic uncertainties and the turmoil in North Africa and parts of the Near East as well as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the FAO said.

"We need to see the information on new plantings over the next few weeks to get an idea of future production levels," Hallam said.

"But low stock levels, the implications for oil prices of events in the Middle East and North Africa and... Japan all make for continuing uncertainty and price volatility over the coming months," he said.

The oil and fats price index fell 19 points in March, breaking nine months of consecutive increases, while the sugar price index averaged 372 points -- down as much as 10 percent from the highs of January and February.

The dairy price index averaged 234 points, up 1.9 percent from the previous month and 37 percent above its level in March 2010, while the meat price index changed little from its February levels at an average of 169 points.

"As we have said before, this crisis will be volatile. The prices are still at very high levels. It all depends on the 2011 harvest. The market is not going to ignore uncertainty for at least the next six months," Abbassian said.

World food prices hit record highs at the beginning of the year and the agency had warned in March that oil price spikes could push them even higher as increasing violence in Libya sent jitters through commodity markets.

"With many poor communities already feeling the effects of higher food prices and grain stocks in the main food exporting countries at dangerously low levels, sighs of relief in response to today?s announcement by the FAO would be premature," Oxfam's policy advisor Luca Chinotti said in a statement.

"Food remains far too expensive for many poor people," he said.

Latest FAO Food Price Index shows first decrease in eight months
FAO 7 Apr 11;

7 April 2011, Rome - The FAO Food Price Index has dropped for the first time after eight months of continuous price spikes, FAO announced today.

The Index averaged 230 points in March 2011, down 2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March of last year.

"The decrease in the overall index this month brings some welcome respite from the steady increases seen over the last eight months," said David Hallam, Director of FAO's Trade and Market Division. "But it would be premature to conclude that this is a reversal of the upward trend," he added.

"We need to see the information on new plantings over the next few weeks to get an idea of future production levels. But low stock levels, the implications for oil prices of events in the Middle East and North Africa and the effects of the destruction in Japan all make for continuing uncertainty and price volatility over the coming months," said Hallam.

Oil and sugar prices lead the decline

International prices of oils and sugar dropped the most, followed by cereals. By contrast, dairy and meat prices were up, although only marginally in the case of meat.

The Cereal Price Index averaged 252 points in March, down 2.6 percent from February, but still 60 percent higher than in March 2010. March was extremely volatile for grains, with international quotations first plunging sharply, driven largely by outside market developments such as the increased economic uncertainties accompanying the turmoil in North Africa and parts of the Near East as well as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, before regaining most of their losses. Rice prices also fell as a result of abundant supply in exporting countries and sluggish import demand.

The FAO Oils/Fats Price Index fell 19 points, or 7 percent, in March, interrupting nine months of consecutive increases.

The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 372 points in March, down as much as 10 percent from the highs of January and February.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 234 points in March, up 1.9 percent from February and 37 percent above its level in March 2010.

The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 169 points in March, little changed from February.

A positive outlook but food stocks diminish

World production of cereals fell in 2010, resulting in falling stocks, while total cereal utilization is expected to reach a record level in 2010/11.

While most indications point to increased cereal production in 2011, the projected growth may not be sufficient to replenish inventories, in which case prices could remain firm throughout 2011/12 as well.

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New warning on Arctic ice melt

Richard Black BBC News 8 Apr 11;

Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer ice will probably be gone within this decade.

The original prediction, made in 2007, gained Wieslaw Maslowski's team a deal of criticism from some of their peers.

Now they are working with a new computer model - compiled partly in response to those criticisms - that produces a "best guess" date of 2016.

Their work was unveiled at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting.

The new model is designed to replicate real-world interactions, or "couplings", between the Arctic ocean, the atmosphere, the ice and rivers carrying freshwater into the sea.

"In the past... we were just extrapolating into the future assuming that trends might persist as we've seen in recent times," said Dr Maslowski, who works at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

"Now we're trying to be more systematic, and we've developed a regional Arctic climate model that's very similar to the global climate models participating in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments," he told BBC News.

"We can run a fully coupled model for the past and present and see what our model will predict for the future in terms of the sea ice and the Arctic climate."

And one of the projections it comes out with is that the summer melt could lead to ice-free Arctic seas by 2016 - "plus or minus three years".
Thin evidence

One of the important ingredients of the new model is data on the thickness of ice floating on the sea.

Satellites are increasingly able to detect this, usually by measuring how far the ice sits above the sea surface - which also indicates how far the ice extends beneath.

Inclusion of this data into the team's modelling was one of the factors causing them to retrench on the 2013 date, which raised eyebrows - and subsequently some criticism - when it emerged at a US science meeting four years ago.

Since the spectacularly pronounced melting of 2007, a greater proportion of the Arctic Ocean has been covered by thin ice that is formed in a single season and is more vulnerable to slight temperature increases than older, thicker ice.

Even taking this into account, the projected date range is earlier than other researchers believe likely.

But one peer - Dr Walt Meier from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado - said the behaviour of sea ice becomes less predictable as it gets thinner.

"[Maslowski's] is quite a good model, one thing it has is really high resolution, it can capture details that are lost in global climate models," he said.

"But 2019 is only eight years away; there's been modelling showing that [likely dates are around] 2040/50, and I'd still lean towards that.

"I'd be very surprised if it's 2013 - I wouldn't be totally surprised if it's 2019."
Crystal method

The drastic melt of 2007 remains the record loss of ice area in the satellite era, although subsequent years have still been below the long-term average.

But some researchers believe 2010's melt was equally as notable as 2007's, given weather conditions that were favourable to the durability of ice.

Although many climate scientists and environmental campaigners are seriously concerned about the fate of the Arctic ice, for other parts of society and other arms of government its degradation presents challenges and opportunities.

The Russian and Canadian governments, for example, are looking to the opportunities for mineral exploitation that will arise; while the US military has expressed concern about losing a natural defence around the country's northern border for part of the year.

"I'm not trying to be alarmist and not trying to say 'we know the future because we have a crystal ball'," said Dr Maslowski.

"Basically, we're trying to make policymakers and people who need to know about climate change in the Arctic realise there is a chance that summer sea ice could be gone by the end of the decade.

"For the national interest, the defence interest, I think it's important to realise that 2040 is not a crystal ball prediction."

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Developing Countries Step In Where Richer Nations Fear to Tread

Marwaan Macan-Markar IPS News 8 Apr 11;

BANGKOK, Apr 8, 2011 (IPS) - Led by countries like Indonesia, 48 developing nations are rolling out a range of pledges to voluntarily cut their respective emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2020, the year climate scientists say the earth’s rising temperature should peak by if an environmental catastrophe is to be avoided.

Indonesian negotiators confirmed during a U.N. climate change conference here that Jakarta is prepared to cut its GHG emissions by 26 percent on its own accord. But that is not all: the world’s most populous Muslim country is prepared to increase emissions cuts to 41 percent if it receives development assistance that industrialised nations have committed to providing.

"It is a pledge that sends out an important message: Indonesia is prepared to do its share to shoulder the burden of reducing greenhouse gases," says Shalimar Vitan, economic and justice campaigns coordinator for the East Asia office of Oxfam, the British humanitarian agency. "It also is informing the citizens of the country that Indonesia is eyeing a low carbon development agenda."

"To cover the cost of the initial cuts from its own resources reflects its recognition that developing countries have a common but differentiated responsibility towards the global climate change agenda," Vitan told IPS.

Indonesia’s affirmation here, at the first of three rounds of climate talks this year ahead of a U.N. climate summit in the South African city of Durban in November, marks a significant shift from what a country currently ranked as the fifth highest emitter of GHGs - after China, the United States, India and Brazil - had pledged previously. Following the 2007 U.N. climate summit it hosted on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia had said it would only focus on slashing its deforestation rates.

Smaller developing countries are doing their part as well, reveal experts at Climate Analytics, a think tank based in Potsdam, Germany, which runs a website monitoring emissions commitments and actions. The Maldives, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica have been singled out for their ambitious pledges to slash GHG emissions significantly, reveals the Climate Action Tracker at

The Maldives, an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean, has been described as a ‘role model’ by Climate Analytics for its "declared intention to become climate neutral by 2020. The South Asian nation intends to "apply for [foreign development assistance] but states that their pledge is voluntary, unconditional to external support."

"For most developing countries, it is an attempt to demonstrate what they are doing, and a signal to the developed countries that they want to see more ambitious emission cuts," Marion Vieweg, climate policy analyst at Climate Analytics, told IPS. "From the political side, it is the right signal to send to this process."

The significance of this trend has exposed a fault line at the Bangkok talks, pitting negotiators of the developing world - who represent the largest bloc as part of the 131-member Group of 77 (G77) and China - against those of the developed world. Environmental diplomats from the G77 have been pressing their counterparts from the richer nations to make a political commitment to guarantee that they will meet their obligations towards GHG emission cuts under the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, from 2013 onwards.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is the world’s only international treaty that, since entering into force in 2005, binds 37 industrialised nations and the European Community to slash their GHG emissions to curb the rise of global warming.

The first phase of the protocol - a key pillar for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - runs out in 2012. By then the developed world was expected to slash their emissions by five percent, measured against 1990 levels.

"We need to hear [developed] countries say they are going to comply to the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol," asserted a visibly frustrated Pablo Solon Romero Oroza, the head of Bolivia’s delegation here, during a discussion on the future of the protocol. "Developing countries are doing more to cut emissions without legal obligations than developed countries."

The prospect of developed nations meeting their treaty obligations under the second phase of the protocol - with an increased level of emission cuts - has come under a cloud of uncertainty at the climate talks here.

"A political commitment [by the developed countries] towards the second commitment period is very important; it focuses on deliverables," Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a senior member of India’s negotiating team, told IPS. "That is a stepping stone to move forward. Higher ambitions are needed."

As it is, the total amount of GHG emissions the developed world is prepared to slash by 2020 will be between 10 to 15 percent, measured against 1990 levels. It is a figure far short of the required global emission cuts of 25 to 40 percent that has been stressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nobel Peace Prize winning body of climate scientists.

"There is a large gap between pledges - by both developing and developed countries - and what is needed to keep temperatures below the limit set for 2020," says Bill Hare, a lead author of the IPCC’s ‘Fourth Assessment Report’ on climate change. "[Developed] countries could do a few more gigatonne reductions to help close the gap."

To keep temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, climate change experts like Hare say that global emissions need to drop to between 40 to 40 billion gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020. "Three years ago it was 45 billion gigatonnes, and even after the pledges we are left with a nine billion gigatonne gap."

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Rich, poor nations feud at UN climate talks

Karl Malakunas Yahoo News 8 Apr 11;

BANGKOK (AFP) – The first UN climate talks for the year entered their final phase on Friday with negotiators still trying to hammer out a deal after familiar feuds between rich and poor nations flared.

The four days of talks had an apparently modest main goal of sorting out an agenda for the rest of the year's negotiations that would lay the foundations for agreements at an annual UN climate summit in South Africa in November.

But delegates said the agenda had still not been decided by early Friday, with one key point of dispute an insistence by many poorer countries for a greater focus on actions developed countries must take to fight global warming.

"Everybody is a bit surprised, we did not expect the agenda to stall the talks for this long," France's ambassador for climate change negotiations, Serge Lepeltier, told AFP.

Delegates said a compromise could still be reached by the end of the talks on Friday evening that would set a path towards the end-of-year summit in Durban.

But they said the spirit of cooperation between developed and developing countries that led to breakthroughs at the last annual summit in the Mexican resort city of Cancun in December was not nearly as strong in Bangkok.

"This year will be more difficult and Durban will be more difficult than Cancun," Lepeltier said.

"The power struggle is back."

The talks began on Tuesday with poor nations demanding that rich ones agree to a second round of legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments under an updated Kyoto Protocol.

The first round of commitments are due to expire at the end of 2012, but some richer countries have said they do not want to sign up to a second phase because major polluters the United States and China will not.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and its climate envoys have repeated this week that the country has no intention of signing on.

Developing countries, including China, did not have to commit to cutting emissions as part of the Kyoto Protocol and most of them maintain this should remain the case.

Throughout the Bangkok talks, some of the richer countries have pushed to have the focus for this year's negotiations primarily on pushing forward the more modest agreements achieved in Cancun last year.

However poorer nations say that, if only the Cancun agreements are put into action by the end of 2012, rich nations will not have to agree on legally binding emission cuts and the Kyoto Protocol will have largely fizzled out.

The Cancun agreements saw all nations pledge "urgent action" to keep temperatures from rising no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

A Green Climate Fund was also established that aims to by 2020 channel $100 billion annually from rich countries to poor ones to help them cope with climate change.

But many of the hardest issues were put aside in Cancun because nations were seeking to rebuild trust and revive UN climate negotiations, following a near collapse in the process 12 months earlier at a summit in Copenhagen.

Those issues, most particularly whether developed countries will agree to a second phase of emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol, threaten to weigh down negotiations throughout 2011.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has also warned that the non-binding pledges made by nations in Cancun to curb their emissions will not be nearly enough to keep temperature rises under the crucial two-degree threshold.

U.N. Climate Talks Risk Backsliding on Cancun Outcome
David Fogarty PlanetArk 8 Apr 11;

Arguments over the agenda that have stalled U.N. climate talks in Bangkok this week show that some nations are trying to row back from hard-won agreements reached last December, Russia said on Wednesday.

The December deal in Cancun included a Green Climate Fund to manage $100 billion a year in aid to poor nations by 2020 and to limit a rise in average world temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

It also won consensus on measures to protect tropical forests and a framework to help poorer nations adapt to rising seas and greater weather extremes, in a series of agreements viewed as saving the fraught U.N. climate negotiations from collapse.

But the April 3-8 talks in Bangkok, the first major climate meeting since Cancun and meant to agree on a plan to build on the December agreements, have stalled because of a dispute over an agenda presented by the 131-member G77 grouping plus China.

Rich nations say that agenda doesn't reflect all the agreements in Cancun and pushes for the resolution of key outstanding issues by the end of the year instead of trying to work through things step-by-step as agreed in Cancun.

"The hopes and the expectations were that after Cancun we will start more focused work on building up on the outcome of Cancun," said Oleg Shamanov, head of the Russian delegation.

He said the idea was to come up with the specific elements of what would become the formal decisions at major climate talks in the South African city of Durban at year's end.

"Instead we are now trapped and locked into purely procedural discussions about the agenda that could have been avoided.

"That highly disappoints me that we are pulling back from the dynamics that we achieved in Cancun," he told Reuters in an interview.


Cancun left unresolved tougher issues such as the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s main weapon in the fight against climate change. Poor nations want Kyoto's fate resolved by Durban.

Kyoto's 2008-12 first phase binds nearly 40 rich nations to emissions targets. But no successor pact that would expand or replace Kyoto from 2013 is in sight and rich and poor nations are deeply divided on the shape of any new pact.

Poorer nations want Kyoto to remain as the main agreement. Under the pact, developing nations are obliged to take voluntary steps to curb emissions.

"My assessment is that some parties that are a bit scared of the outcomes of Cancun, that they are too far reaching and that they are trying to take a precautionary position," said Shamanov, adding that Russia was keen to see progress in the talks.

"I would like to see the work focused on specific elements where we have more or less clear mandates emanating from Cancun. We have to go step by step."He said poorer nations needed to understand it was impossible to renegotiate or revise the Cancun Agreements "through the backdoor of procedural disputes on the agenda."

"I think that is what it is about. It's all about a firewall between the actions of developed countries, commitments of the developed countries and the possible actions by developing countries."

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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