Best of our wild blogs: 5 May 11

Checking up on an oil-slicked East Coast shore
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Portraits - Branded Imperial
from Butterflies of Singapore

Ulu Sembawang Park Connector
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

oriental pied-hornbills @ SBWR 30Apr2011
from sgbeachbum

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Localised flash floods after heavy, intense rain

Jo-ann Huang Channel NewsAsia 4 May 11;

SINGAPORE: Flash floods occurred in at least six locations around Ang Mo Kio and Bishan in mid-afternoon on Thursday.

According to the PUB, the national water agency, the floods were caused by heavy and intense rain over many parts of Singapore.

About 90mm of rain fell in less than one hour between 3pm and 4pm. The amount of rainfall is approximately more than 50% of the average monthly rainfall for May.

PUB says the flash floods subsided within 20 minutes.

Some ground-floor shopkeepers in Ang Mo Kio said they had to scramble to keep the floodwaters out of their premises.

Even regular customers like Shi Jun Wen, who was at a Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic at that time, were roped in to help.

But a small step in front of the clinic at Block 330, Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 had kept the floods at bay.

Mr Shi said the water would have entered the clinic if the downpour had continued beyond 4pm.

He said: "In my experience, I have never seen such heavy rain. It was so heavy that I had to grab some towels to keep the shopfront dry, because we have furniture and beds to protect from the water. But I have never seen anything like this (before)."

- CNA/ir

PUB issues flash flood warning
Channel NewsAsia 4 May 11;

SINGAPORE: The MET Services extended its heavy rain warning on Wednesday.

It said thundery showers with gusty winds over many areas of Singapore are expected to last between 4 and 5.15pm.

PUB, the national water agency, reported earlier on flash floods at Bishan Street 13, in front of Kuo Chuan Presbyterian School have subsided.

Floods are also reported in several areas in Ang Mo Kio.

- CNA/ck

Flash floods hit Bishan, Ang Mo Kio
Jalelah Abu Baker & Cassandra Chew Straits Times 5 May 11;

FLASH floods hit certain parts of Ang Mo Kio and Bishan yesterday - the first time these areas have been hit in recent years. But the water subsided within 20 minutes.

PUB, the national water agency, said the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 3 and 8, and Bishan Street 13 were affected after about 90mm of rain fell between 3pm and 4pm. This amount of rainfall is approximately more than half the average monthly rainfall for May, but traffic was still passable on the affected roads.

Asked yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had called him about the floods as Ang Mo Kio is his constituency.

'I told PM, I'm sorry it happened again, it's not something that we planned for. What is important to me is that PUB was there quickly... to assist any affected residents or motorists, and the water subsided very quickly,' he said on the sidelines of a community event yesterday evening.

He said PUB has been on standby because of the inter-monsoon period, and that improvement works are being done in the affected Ang Mo Kio areas and will be completed by the year end.

The heavy, intense rain yesterday also led to water spilling into an underground walkway from Yio Chu Kang MRT station to Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.

Mr Chua Zong Sheng, a recent graduate of NYP who had wanted to use the link, was shocked. 'I've never seen this area flooded in my three years here.' The 1.75m-tall 20-year- old estimated that the water would have reached his knees.

An NYP spokesman said she understood that the water cleared within half an hour after the rain subsided.

In a warning on its website yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had said heavy thundery showers with gusty winds were expected over many areas of Singapore between 4.10pm and 5.15pm. The warning included PUB's message that flash floods could occur in low-lying areas in the event of heavy rain. But a PUB spokesman said it did not receive any reports of such incidents in Orchard Road and Bukit Timah, which were in the news last year for being flooded.

Car broker Keith Tok, 32, who was in Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2 to service his car, said he had to wait 45 minutes for the water to subside at about 4.30pm. He said of the brown water covering the road and up to half the height of a car's tyres: 'The workshop guys were saying it came from a choked drain nearby.'

More afternoon showers with thunder are expected in the next three days. An NEA spokesman said the recent rainy spell is because of strong convection due to heating up of land areas in the day, and is typical of the current inter-monsoon season.

When asked if the flash floods yesterday would affect how people vote on Saturday, Dr Yaacob said: 'We are learning as we go along, and I hope Singaporeans understand we will try to improve as we go along, and how best we can do, we have to wait and see.'

He said that by the end of the year, PUB would have installed about 150 sensors in the drainage system to monitor water levels.

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Singapore: Carbon tax scheme a matter of when

Business Times 5 May 11;

FOR most governments, going 'green' is clearly a matter of political correctness. But the route to achieving a cleaner, carbon-reduced environment is no easy one.

Shell recently signalled the closure of its Clyde refinery in Sydney, with the potential loss of 500 jobs. The rationale was that it was unable to compete with new, bigger and more efficient Asian refineries, although there was nagging industry suspicion that it was a proposed carbon tax by the Australian government which provided the final straw.

As opposition leader Tony Abbott puts it bluntly, 'if we have a carbon tax in this country, we won't have less emissions'. 'We'll just have less manufacturing,' he said, referring to not just oil refining but also the coal and steel industries.

In Singapore, talk of a carbon tax surfaced late last year, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that a price on carbon would be introduced here should there be a global climate change deal. This could be a tax on the carbon content of fuels, or a cap-and-trade system that caps the amount certain industries can pollute, beyond which companies pay extra. If they pollute less, they gain carbon credits which can then be sold, contributing to the company's profits.

A working group is reportedly studying the possible introduction of such a carbon scheme and its cost impact on households and industries, with its report expected to be completed within the next few months. It will also go through a consultation process before being finalised. Timing-wise, there is no hurry for Singapore to push this. Cancun - which hosted the United Nations climate change talks at end-2010 - failed to deliver on a global green deal, with the next upcoming meeting in South Africa later this year.

Meanwhile, little more has been heard, although a recent government feasibility study on coal gasification as an alternative feedstock on Jurong Island stressed that the consultants take into account a potential carbon tax on the project's viability.

Industry watchers say that it would take time for a carbon scheme to take root here, although the government should engage players early for feedback - something which has not happened yet.

There will be an impact on any industry which uses hydrocarbons as fuel. This covers the oil refineries to the power stations among others, although the latter argue that over 80 per cent of Singapore's electricity is being produced from efficient gas-firing plants, which is already the greenest technology available. A carbon tax will only raise electricity prices for everyone. Besides, are there that many energy alternatives for Singapore?

How about carbon credits? IUT Global - a wastefood-to-energy recycling firm - recently folded up due to problems sourcing sufficient waste volumes to break even. While carbon credits may not have saved it, they would have helped - and would also have induced other green firms to invest here.

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Indonesia, EU sign pact on sustainable timber

Yahoo News 4 May 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia and the European Union signed an agreement Wednesday to fight against the trade in illegal timber, one of the drivers of deforestation and a major source of greenhouse gases.

The Voluntary Partnership Agreement aims to ensure that by 2013 all the timber products exported to Europe from Indonesia are certified as having been logged sustainably.

"Not only is Indonesia the first Asian country to conclude VPA negotiations with the EU, it is also by far the largest timber exporter to enter into such an agreement," EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said.

Indonesian Forestry Minister Hasan Zulkifli said demand for cheap timber products from bargain-hunting consumers was one of the main reasons Indonesia struggled to control what is known locally as the "forest mafia".

"Illegal logging is stimulated by high demand for illegal timber and timber products. Therefore, efforts to combat illegal logging will not be effective if we only address the supply side, ignoring the demand side," he said.

Illegally harvested wood until recently represented about 50 percent of timber exported from Indonesia and 20 percent of timber products imported into the EU, according to an official statement announcing the agreement.

"In less than 50 years, Indonesia has gone from being 82 percent forest to only 49 percent today, a trend that has led to social problems, environmental degradation and a loss of economic opportunities on a massive scale," it said.

"Between 1990 and 2005, Indonesia lost 28 million hectares (69 million acres) of forest, almost enough to cover the landmass of the Philippines," it said.

Scientists say that when forests are destroyed, particularly those growing in peat, vast amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere, contributing to man-made climate change.

Indonesia is often cited as the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, thanks mainly to deforestation.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has vowed to get tough with the "forest mafia" including corrupt forestry officials and military officers, but watchdogs such as Greenpeace say progress has been halting at best.

The EU imported $1.2 billion-worth of timber and paper from Indonesia in 2010, about 15 percent of the country's total exports in the forestry sector.

Brussels has already signed similar accords with Cameroon and Ghana, and others are being negotiated with countries including DR Congo, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In 2010 the EU introduced legislation obliging importers to ensure timber products were legally sourced.

EU and Indonesia sign deal on illegal timber
Richard Black BBC News 4 May 11;

Indonesia and the European Union have finalised an agreement aimed at ending the trade in illegally-sourced wood.

The agreement will mean that EU companies will only be able to import timber that is certified as complying with Indonesian environmental laws.

The East Asian nation possesses some of the world's most lavish forests, which in turn support spectacular wildlife.

The EU has concluded similar deals with four African countries, and Liberia is expected to follow suit next week.

The deal - signed in Jakarta - is known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

"Not only is Indonesia the first Asian country to conclude VPA negotiations with the EU, it is also by far the largest timber exporter to enter into such an agreement," said EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht.

Currently, European countries import about $1.2bn (£720m) worth of timber and paper from Indonesia each year.

This accounts for about one-sixth of the nation's exports.
Importing problems

Last year, a major assessment concluded that the rate of illegal logging in Indonesia had declined by about 75% over the preceding decade.

Even so, it said, 40% of the timber harvested was illegal.

This was despite an initiative dating back to 2003 in which the government, alongside environmental groups and some companies, attempted to rein in illegal loggers, processors and exporters.

Meanwhile, the US and EU have recently stepped up measures designed to block wood and wood products of illegal origin.

The US amended the Lacey Act so that companies are responsible for making sure their imports are legal, and the totemic Gibson guitar company is among those investigated as a result.

Last year, the European Parliament passed legislation with similar components, which comes into effect in March 2013.

Indonesian Forestry Minister Hasan Zulkifli said this sort of move was also essential for tackling the problem.

"Illegal logging is stimulated by high demand for illegal timber and timber products.

"Therefore, efforts to combat illegal logging will not be effective if we only address the supply side, ignoring the demand side," he said.

Mardi Minangsari of Indonesian environment group Telapak said she was hopeful that tackling both ends of the chain would bring results.

"We have worked hard with other stakeholders to design a system that will involve independent auditing and independent monitoring by civil society," she said.

"Also, we know that the new legislation in the US and EU preventing the entry of illegal timber has played a big role in convincing industry of the need to transform the way timber is harvested in Indonesia."

Companies wanting to export to the EU will have to be able to track their products from forest to exporting port.

Independent auditors - yet to be appointed - will be charged with verifying that companies' tracking is up to standard.

These auditors will report back to a joint Indonesian-EU committee.

Although only exports to Europe are covered by the agreement, the EU hopes that setting up the system will help Indonesia curb illegal logging and illegal exports across the board.

The BBC's Karishma Vaswani says Indonesian products will have to provide a certificate confirming they have not been sourced from protected forests

"By engaging with Indonesia, by having a good process to look at the legislative framework and identify the gaps, we hope to help them improve the whole situation," a European Commission official told BBC News.
Responsible sources

Despite the optimism, campaigers warned that challenges remain.

"This is an incredibly important milestone," said Faith Doherty, leader of the Environmental Investigation Agency's (EIA) forest campaign, who was kidnapped in Indonesia a decade ago during a mission to uncover forest crime.

"[However,] the core issue at the heart of illegal logging and the illegal trade has always been corruption, and credible transparency is the key to this VPA's success.

"Even though the agreement is now with us, a major challenge lies ahead in keeping it free from corruption and ensuring that the government of Indonesia implements it properly and with robust transparency."

Generally, restrictions on the timber trade have had a mixed reception in the industry.

Some companies see it as a threat to their business - others, as an opportunity, ensuring that responsible practices are not penalised and that the supply of raw materials will be safeguarded.

Commenting on the latest agreement, Andre de Boer, secretary-general of the European Timber Trade Federation, congratulated the Indonesian and EU decision-makers.

"This regulation will support our quest for a level playing field in the market, encouraging buyers to purchase legal and sustainable timber, and therefore supporting producers who act responsibly," he said.

The EU is expected to conclude a similar agreement next week with Liberia.

A decade ago, the West African republic saw exceptionally rapacious logging, with armed factions trading timber concessions for weapons, prolonging the years of bloody civil conflict.

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US removes gray wolf from endangered list

Kerry Sheridan Yahoo News 4 May 11;

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government said Wednesday it is formally removing about 1,300 gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain region from the endangered species list, capping a legal battle that has dragged on for years.

The Interior Department will also seek to remove thousands more wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered list because they have recovered to "healthy levels," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters.

The issuing of the final rule follows an order of Congress last month and means that states will manage the animals and that hunting will resume in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Utah, Oregon and Washington.

Gray wolves in Wyoming will remain under federal protection until that state develops a suitable management plan, he said.

"The recovery of gray wolves in the US is a tremendous success story of the Endangered Species Act," said Salazar.

"From a biological perspective, gray wolves have recovered. It is now time to return their management to states that are prepared to ensure the long-term health of the species."

The move ends a long political and legal battle that dates back to 2008 when the Fish and Wildlife Service took steps to remove wolves from the endangered list, though lawsuits brought by environmental groups kept the change from taking effect.

Last month, an annex was added to the highly disputed budget bill, removing the wolves from federal protection, marking the first time Congress has ever been involved in the removing of an animal from the endangered species list.

The bill was approved and environmentalists had to admit defeat after years of fighting in court to preserve the endangered status of the gray wolves.

Wolves had all but disappeared in the mainland United States by 1974. In 1995, 66 gray wolves from Canada were released in Idaho and near Yellowstone national park in hopes that their numbers would multiply.

Their protected status has allowed them to reach a total population of 1,651 across the entire Rocky Mountain region, including Wyoming, which is not affected by Wednesday's decision, said the Sierra Club.

Those who oppose the move to delist the wolves say the population is genetically isolated and disconnected, and urge more time to allow their numbers to grow.

But ranchers say wolves are a nuisance to livestock and could even threaten humans if their population grows too large.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it would accept public comments on its proposal to delist as many as 4,100 wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin before acting further, likely by the end of the year.

It also considering a proposal to delist another type of wolf, known as the eastern timber wolf.

"To be sure, not everyone will be satisfied with today's announcement," Salazar said.

"Wolves have long been a highly charged issue but let us not lose sight of the fact that these delistings are possible because the species has recovered in these areas."

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EU unveils plans to pay fishermen to catch plastic

Trial project aims to provide fleets with an alternative income source income to reduce pressure on fish stocks
Fiona Harvey 4 May 11;

Fishermen will be paid to catch plastic, rather than fish, under bold new plans from the EU's fisheries chief, aimed at providing fleets with an alternative source of income to reduce pressure on dwindling fish stocks.

Maria Damanaki, commissioner for fisheries, will unveil a trial project in the Mediterranean this month, which will see fishermen equipped with nets to round up the plastic detritus that is threatening marine life, and send it for recycling.

The move is intended as a sweetener to fishermen who have bitterly opposed the European commission's plans to ban the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea. Fleets fear they will lose money by not being able to throw away lower-value catch.

Damanaki vowed yesterday to press on with her plan to eliminate discards, citing the strength of public opinion on the issue, whipped up in large part by the Fish Fight campaign waged by the food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Two-thirds of the fish caught in some areas is thrown back, usually dead, because fleets exceed their quota, unintentionally catch juveniles or species for which they lack a quota, or because they prioritise higher value fish and throw away lesser species. About 1 million tonnes are thrown back each year in the North Sea alone.

"Ending this practice of throwing away edible fish is in the interest of fishermen, and consumers," Damanaki told the Guardian in an interview. "It has to happen – we cannot have consumers afraid to eat fish because they hate this problem of discards."

But she acknowledged: "People [in the fishing industry] feel insecure, because this is a change. That is why they need incentives."

Fishermen who clear plastic will be subsidised initially by EU member states, but in future the scheme could turn into a self-sustaining profitable enterprise, as fleets cash in on the increasing value of recycled plastics. Cleaning up the rubbish will also improve the prospects for fish, seabirds and other marine species, which frequently choke or suffer internal damage from ingesting small pieces of non-biodegradable packaging.

In a boost to Scottish fishermen, Damanaki also said she was seeking a legal instrument that would allow the EU to ban imports of fish products – such as fish oils and fish meal – from countries that did not meet high sustainability standards. This would help to level the playing field, she said, between EU and non-EU fleets. It would also deprive Iceland of a significant export market, and cheer Scottish fleets who have complained that Icelandic fishermen have too high a quota of mackerel, putting huge pressure on the shared stock.

This month, Damanaki will also seek to tackle a growing source of conflict with developing countries over fishing rights. At present, several EU fishing fleets take large amounts of their catch from the seas around Africa and the Indian Ocean. They are able to do so because of secretive agreements on fishing rights, struck with developing country governments.

As a result of these, campaigners complain that the EU boats are depriving fishermen in poor countries of their potential catch, and stifling the growth of indigenous fishing industries that could boost developing economies.

On 13 May, Damanaki will hold the first meeting of ministers from developing countries aimed at redrawing these controversial fishing access plans. She said: "There needs to be more transparency. We have to recognise that people have the right to establish their own control mechanisms on their own industry. We have to cooperate to find a way to deal with the problem of overfishing."

But the scale of the opposition Damanaki will face to her key proposals on discards was on display at a hearing in Brussels on Tuesday, when fishing representatives attacked the measures. One said: "The consequence of this will be a much, much smaller fleet." Another said it was not possible to end discarding completely.

An alternative being touted by some member states is to make the phasing out of discards voluntary. But Damanaki rejected this outright, saying it would be no different from the current situation. "We have been talking about discards for more than a decade. Now we need radical reform. Time is running out," she said.

Damanaki has the support of several key member states, including UK, Germany, France and Denmark. She will publish her formal proposals in July, for debate by the European parliament and council.

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Caribbean islands fear climate change threat to tourism

Linda Hutchinson-Jafar Reuters AlertNet 4 May 11;

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (AlertNet) - Regina Dumas, who runs the Coffee River Resort on the cigar-shaped Caribbean island of Tobago, worries that local tourism is suffering from increasingly uncertain weather.

“Last year’s dry season was excessively dry, and this year we’ve had excessive rain,” she says. “When people spend their money to come to the island, they’re disappointed with the erratic weather we’ve been experiencing. It’s just unpredictable.”

The resort offers nature trails, bird watching, a diverse range of flora and fauna, and trips to the rain forest - the oldest in the Western hemisphere.

“We don’t know what to tell our guests when they can’t go out to the trails because of the unseasonable rains or because of intense heat,” Dumas frets.

Tobago, the smaller sister island of industrialised Trinidad, promotes itself as an eco-tourism destination, attracting visitors from around the world to its rainforests, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs, which host a colourful array of birds and fish.

Orville London, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, which administers the island, agrees that the local climate appears to be shifting, bringing larger storms.

“We can no longer be considered to be outside of the hurricane belt,” he explains. “Once there was the perception that we were almost immune from hurricanes, but recent changes have indicated that this is not necessarily the case based on the kind of natural challenges we've had in recent years.”

Besides more extreme weather patterns, London notes that other impacts linked with climate change, such as coastal erosion and coral bleaching, are starting to be felt locally. Studies are being carried out to determine how best the island can prepare itself for global warming.

Buccoo Reef, Tobago’s largest coral reef which attracts snorkellers and scuba-divers, is being damaged by coral bleaching. “That is presenting a serious issue for us, and we have to ensure the bleaching is not made worse by the (changes to) ecology and pollutants that are coming into this area,” London says.


The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Tourism accounts for around 13 percent of the Caribbean’s gross domestic product (GDP), and is an important economic driver. It brings in employment, foreign exchange earnings and foreign investment. But experts say it faces a serious threat from rising sea levels, coral bleaching, increasingly powerful tropical hurricanes and longer periods of drought.

The World Bank estimates the potential impact of climate change on all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries at $9.9 billion a year, or around 11.3 percent of total annual GDP.

Winston Moore, a lecturer in economics at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, fears tourism will be hurt by variable weather patterns and damage to coastal resources, including coral reefs.

“Climate change can also lead to changes in the tourism features of island destinations as the traditional tourist season from December to April becomes drier and hotter,” he explains. “If these (climatic) changes...lead to a significant impact on visitor satisfaction, then a decline in tourism demand is also likely.”


Coral reefs play a key role in the economies of most Caribbean islands. A major resource for local communities, they are also important for the tourist industry. The World Resources Institute estimates that they contribute about one fifth of GDP in the Eastern Caribbean island of St Lucia, through their benefits for tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection.

Climate change is likely to lead to a decline in coral calcification and reef growth as rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause ocean acidification, which reduces the availability of calcium carbonate minerals that are essential to coral growth.

The proportion of reefs likely to be affected ranges from 40 to 80 percent, according to Moore, the author of a recently published book, “The Impact of Climate Change on Caribbean Tourism Demand”.

“There are various climate change scenarios that climate scientist have to consider. The main story here is that it will impact on the majority of corals around the world,” he explains.

The academic says sea-level rise associated with climate change could have even greater implications for holiday destinations, as most public assets including power generation and tourism infrastructure are located close to coastlines.

A report from CARIBSAVE, a partnership between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and Oxford University, estimates that, if sea-levels rise by one metre, over 110,000 people in CARICOM countries will be displaced from their homes. Many more will be put at greater risk from storm surges, and nearly one-third of major tourism resorts and airports will be threatened.

Gail Henry of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation says the region’s heavy reliance on tourism means the expected effects of climate change must be taken into account when planning for the future.

“These impacts add to our inherent vulnerability as small island developing states, and they will undoubtedly impact on various facets of the tourism product such as the coastal areas, biodiversity and availability of resources such as water, which are critical to tourism sustainability,” she says. The sector cannot continue with business as usual, she says.

Loss of biodiversity on sea and land, for instance, will bring the need to develop attractions other than diving, snorkelling and nature-based tourism.

“Where and how we build tourist resorts, air and seaports, roads and other infrastructure will have to be reviewed,” Henry says. “This will be of even greater urgency unless climate change adaptation efforts - such as investing in effective coastal management systems and defences, and curbing or retrofitting tourism developments in coastal or other vulnerable areas - are not explored now.”


In a recent paper for the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), Tom Birch and Murray Simpson said climate change poses a double-edged threat for small islands like Tobago, as it could harm both supply and demand for tourism.

“Rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and more frequent and intense storms will damage the island’s natural assets, such as coral reefs and beaches. This could have a heavy impact on tourism, which will also be affected by climate policy in ‘source’ countries,” they wrote.

Overseas tourists could be put off due to growing awareness of the carbon emitted by long-haul flights or by environmental taxes on aviation, such as that imposed on travel from Britain. That could make Caribbean destinations less attractive for European visitors.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Henry says governments that depend on the natural beauty of their countries to attract visitors must start by understanding how and to what extent climate change impacts will affect them over time, from both a scientific and socio-economic perspective.

They should then cultivate a sustainable approach to tourism development and management, which goes hand in hand with sound environmental policies and regulations, as well as conserving biodiversity.

“Although the tourism industry has proven its resilience over time, climate change adaptation is not an option for the Caribbean - it is a matter of socio-economic sustainability,” Henry says.

Linda Hutchinson-Jafar is the Reuters stringer in Trinidad and Tobago, and editor of online magazine Earth Conscious.

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Renewable Energies To Leap, Costs Fall: U.N.

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 5 May 11;

Renewable energies such as wind or solar power are set to surge by 2050, and expected advances in technology will bring significant cost cuts, a draft United Nations report showed on Wednesday.

The most comprehensive U.N. overview of the sector to date said renewables excluding bioenergy, which is mainly firewood burned in developing nations for cooking and heating, could expand by three to 20 times by mid-century.

"The cost of most renewable energy technologies has declined, and significant additional technical advancements are expected," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a draft obtained by Reuters, based on a review of 164 scenarios.

"Further cost reductions are expected, resulting in greater potential for climate change mitigation and reducing the need for policy measures to ensure rapid deployment," it said. The IPCC is to meet in Abu Dhabi from May 5-13.

It said most scenarios pointed to a "substantial increase in the deployment of renewable energy by 2030, 2050 and beyond."

In 2008 renewable energy production accounted for about 12.9 percent of global primary energy supply and was dominated by bioenergy with 10.2 percent, followed by hydro power, wind, geothermal, solar power and ocean energy.

The projected expansion is likely to continue even without new measures to promote a shift from fossil fuels as part of a U.N.-led fight against climate change, it said.


U.N. talks on a new deal to combat global warming have made little progress. A summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to agree on a binding treaty to combat global warming, which IPCC blames mainly on emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Costs of renewables have been a hurdle. "The levelized cost of energy for many renewable energy technologies is currently higher than market energy prices, though in other cases renewable energy is already economically competitive," the report said.

The draft, written before Japan's nuclear disaster in March, also said renewables by 2010 would probably account for a bigger share of low-carbon energies than nuclear power and fossil fuels from which greenhouse gases are captured and buried.

The 30-page summary for policymakers, part of a Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources, will be published on May 9.

The summary is due to guide governments, investors and companies, including wind firms such as Denmark's Vestas and Suzlon and solar firms such as First Solar or Suntech Power Holdings.

Most of the 164 scenarios showed renewable energies would rise to supply above 100 exajoules (EJ) a year by 2050, reaching 200-400 EJ a year in many scenarios. That is up from 64 EJ in 2008, when world supply was 492 EJ, it said.

The exajoule, or 10 to the 18th power joules, is a typical measure of global energy use.

"An increase of production of renewable energies (excluding traditional bioenergy) anywhere from roughly three-fold to 20-fold is necessary," the report said of the 2050 outlook.

Renewables' share of total energy supply varied widely in the scenarios, reaching up to 77 percent of total energy supply by 2050.

It also said the technical potential of renewable energies -- especially solar -- was substantially higher even than projected world energy demand.

Deployment of renewables has leapt in recent years. About 140 gigawatts of added electricity generating capacity came from renewables in 2008-09 of a world total of 300 GW, it said.

The review of 164 scenarios showed that renewable energies could lead to cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 220-560 billion tonnes from 2010 to 2050. That compares with 1.53 trillion tonnes of cumulative fossil and industrial carbon dioxide emissions in a reference scenario for the same years.

Global renewables investments, in four illustrative scenarios, were forecast at $1.36-$5.1 trillion for the decade to 2020 and $1.49-$7.18 trillion from 2012-30. Real costs would be lower, due to factors including savings on other energies.

(Editing by James Jukwey and Jane Baird)

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