Best of our wild blogs: 10 May 11

Pulau Ubin for kids
from Ubin.sgkopi

Lovely surprises from Cyrene Reef
from wonderful creation

Cyrene (Terumbu Pandan) on 7 May 2011
from Soaring c-eagle

Been to Cyrene: "An ecological jewel"
from Cyrene Reef Exposed!

Been to Cyrene: "Mother Nature's treasure"
from Cyrene Reef Exposed!

Sharing Sentosa
from wild shores of singapore

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'Dog meat' dishes raise a howl

Internet outrage over items; eatery says they're pig innards
Fiona Low Straits Times 10 May 11;

AN EATERY in Jurong East selling 'dog meat' has raised the hackles of netizens after a photo of the menu was posted in online forums on Sunday .

The restaurant's owner Song Yu Ran, 39, who is from China, told The Straits Times that the two dishes are actually made from pig innards.

He has been selling them - to offer something unusual to customers - since the outlet opened three years ago.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said it was investigating and had taken samples of meat from the 70-seater eatery for testing.

The import of dog meat is illegal in Singapore and there are no licensed premises for the slaughter of dogs here. If convicted, the offender faces a fine of up to $10,000 or 12 months' imprisonment or both, for each charge.

In an e-mail statement last night, AVA said: 'Welfare is a major consideration during the treatment and handling of live animals. In the case of slaughter, AVA accepts only internationally acceptable humane methods. There is no known humane method of slaughtering dogs for human consumption.'

The menu at the Song Hua Jiang restaurant features the two 'dog meat' dishes with photos.

The English descriptions read: braised dog meat with tofu and dry cabbage, and dog meat tripe in sauce.

The Chinese words indicate that it is not real dog meat only for the second dish. The phrase used is sai gou rou, which means something similar or comparable to dog meat.

Pictures of the menu are believed to have first popped up in the forum, garnering almost 600 comments as of yesterday evening.

In the pictures circulating online, the braised item is labelled as 'dog meat' in both languages.

Mr Song said the Chinese text for that dish had a typographical error and the English translation was inaccurate because he was not familiar with the language.

However, he stressed that he explains to any customer who orders the dish that it is not real dog meat.

The braised dish costs $14 and the tripe item is $8. He said about 40 plates each are sold a week.

He added that staff had pasted stickers on the menu to block out the erroneous text some time ago but perhaps some of the stickers had dropped off.

Netizens have also posted comments on the Facebook page of animal rights group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), with many calling for investigations.

When The Straits Times visited the restaurant yesterday afternoon, two representative from Acres were there as well.

They had sat at a table and asked to see the menu. Mr Song promptly asked if they were there about the 'dog meat' issue. He asked them to speak to him directly and not to pretend to be customers.

A visibly aggrieved Mr Song said he has been hounded by calls, with many coming in the middle of the night.

'They can lodge a complaint against me if I have done something wrong but they should not be yelling at me if they haven't got their facts right,' he said.

He filed a complaint with the police yesterday evening regarding the calls.

Acres has since posted information on its Facebook page saying that the owner had explained that the dish was actually pork. Though The Straits Times had heard Mr Song explain to the Acres representatives why he had used the words 'dog meat', the post also said: 'The owner, however, could not properly explain why he listed it as dog meat rather than just stating it as pork.'

When asked about this later, Acres executive director Louis Ng said: 'We wrote this because we felt that if the public is told that the eatery just wanted to have an unusual item for patrons to try, it will anger more people.'

Acres later followed up with an e-mail message that stated: 'We are not saying that the owner did not explain his point to us... but... we felt this was not a proper explanation.'

Mr Ng added that Acres will be appealing to AVA to carry out further investigations.

Mr Song told The Straits Times that the eatery had been checked by AVA several times over the last three years when patrons had complained about the 'dog meat' on the menu.

He said AVA had on those occasions found that the meat was pork and told him only to block out the text on the menu.

He added that he did not remove the items from the menu because he wanted to promote an alternative for Chinese nationals who enjoy dog meat.

'I don't encourage people to eat dog meat because I think that is cruel and inhumane. I am trying to provide an alternative for people who have a taste for the dish,' said Mr Song, who likened the items to mock meat sold in vegetarian restaurants.

His eatery, which serves north-eastern Chinese cuisine, gets a mix of Chinese-national and Singaporean customers.

Mr Song has lived here for eight years with his wife and 14-year-old daughter. They are now Singapore citizens but he said he would consider moving abroad after this incident.

'I am a law-abiding, contributing Singaporean trying to run a business here and it makes me sad that I am being attacked this way,' he added.

AVA investigating alleged case of restaurant selling dog meat
Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 9 May 11;

SINGAPORE : The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is investigating an alleged case of a restaurant selling dog meat to patrons.

It has taken samples for testing to ascertain the type of meat used.

The Internet has been abuzz with comments of an eatery - identified as Song Hua Jiang Restaurant - located at Jurong East Avenue 1 featuring dog meat in its menu.

One of its dishes was apparently described as containing "braised dog meat, tofu and cabbage".

AVA said in a statement that under the law, meat can only be imported from AVA-approved sources which have met public health and food safety standards.

Authorities also ensure that local slaughter houses meet standards of safety and welfare in the treatment and handling of live animals for slaughter.

AVA said it accepts only internationally humane methods and "there is no known humane methods of slaughtering dogs for human consumption".

It added there are also no premises licensed for the slaughter of dogs in Singapore.

Anyone caught illegally slaughtering animals for human consumption or importing dog meat could be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed up to 12 months.

- CNA/al

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Tuas Power to decide this year on Phase 2 at Jurong Island

Substantial portion of Phase 1 output already committed to new customers
Ronnie Lim Business Times 10 May 11;

CHINA Huaneng-owned Tuas Power (TP) expects to decide 'sometime this year' on embarking on Phase 2 of its $2 billion clean coal/ biomass multi-utilities facility on Jurong Island, TP's president and chief executive Lim Kong Puay told BT yesterday.

This is because a 'substantial portion' of the steam and power output from Phase 1 of the Tuas Multi-Utilities Complex (TMUC) - currently under construction - has already been committed to new petrochemical customers there, he disclosed.

They include Germany's Lanxess and Taiwan's Dairen Chemicals, each of which is building mega $500 million to $700 million plants there, with TP currently talking to 'a few others', Mr Lim added.

The genco embarked on Phase 1 of TMUC - producing 200 tonnes of steam per hour and 100 megawatts of power - in late-2009, and expects to start supplying customers with utilities like steam from the second half of next year.

Both Lanxess, which is building a state-of-the-art $680 million synthetic rubber plant here, and Dairen, which is investing $500 million in three chemicals plants on the island, have targeted start-ups in the first quarter of 2013.

In total, TP is targeting its TMUC project to provide 'one-stop, third-party utility services to the wide-range needs of approximately 15 petrochemical customers in the surrounding area', the genco revealed in its latest tender, called last Friday, for an EPC contractor to provide the utilities piping connecting TMUC to its new customers.

TMUC is being developed concurrently on two sites about 2 km apart on Jurong Island, the tender showed.

The 14-hectare Site 1 at Tembusu Crescent/Avenue - where the main power and steam will be produced, and including a desalination plant - has sea frontage to allow feedstocks comprising low-ash, low-sulphur coal and tropical biomass, mainly palm kernel, to be shipped in from suppliers including in Indonesia.

Site 2, occupying 8.75 hectares at the island's Banyan sector, houses plants for demineralised water treatment, waste water treatment and high-grade industrial water.

Lanxess' contract with TP, for instance, covers the supply of high-grade industrial water and demineralised water, apart from steam.

TMUC has been designed to produce in total 160 MW of power and 1,000 tonnes per hour of steam, with its seawater reverse osmosis plant designed to supply 20 million gallons of water per day.

TP is Singapore's third largest genco with 2,670 MW of capacity at its main Tuas power station.

The company has been aggressively expanding beyond power generation to supplying multi-utilities to petrochemical and other industries, like Finland's Neste Oil which produces renewable bio-diesel at a nearby $1.2 billion Tuas plant.

The genco is also spending another $470 million to 'repower' the first of two older, steam plants at its Tuas station into a more efficient combined cycle gas turbine plant, making this its fifth CCGT.

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Haze may return to region soon

Lee Yen Mun The Star 10 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: Satellite images recorded 136 hotspots in Sumatra yesterday, indicating a cloud of haze that may affect neighbouring countries soon.

Malaysian Meteorological Department data revealed that as of 5pm, three other hotspots were detected in Kalimantan, two more in Sarawak and one each in the peninsula and Sabah.

A department officer explained that these hotspots were open burnings occurring in real-time.

He, however, could not comment if the hotspots were the cause of the sweltering heat in the country.

The temperature remained at almost the same high level over the past three days.

the highest recorded in Subang and Petaling Jaya topped 35C yesterday and 36C over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Air Pollutant Index (API) retrieved from the Department of Environment's website showed that the air quality in various locations of the country remained excellent.

Its data, updated at 11am yesterday, revealed that 61% of Malaysia enjoyed good air quality while the rest of the country had moderate air quality.

The lowest API was recorded in Miri, Sarawak (19) and the highest at Shah Alam, Selangor (60).

An area's air quality reaches an unhealthy level when its API hits 101, a very unhealthy level at 201 and hazardous when it exceeds 301.

Haze over parts of Klang Valley
New Straits Times 10 May 11;

SHAH ALAM: Hazy weather continued in parts of the Klang Valley as the number of hotspots in the country and neighbouring Sumatera rose from zero to 162 within four days.

Meteorological Department figures show that there are only six hotspots in Peninsular Malaysia while the rests are in Sumatra.

The Air Pollutant Index for Shah Alam rose to an unhealthy level at 5pm yesterday, recording an API reading of 105. The API reading for Banting stood at 90.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Rosnani Ibarahim advised people to stop open burning, which could worsen air quality.

"Now the weather is hot and dry. It is a common phenomenon during April every year," she said yesterday.

Observations along the North-South Expressway Central Link (Elite) and Shah Alam showed hazy conditions enveloping the area, with many residents taking precautions such as staying indoors.

Many parks and playgrounds saw a drastic drop in the number of people coming there due to the hazy and hot weather.

Selangor DOE director Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim said its staff and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage were monitoring fire-prone areas, especially peat swamps.

She said areas along the Elite Highway, Jalan Johan Setia and in Banting and Kuala Selangor were being monitored for fires.

"Although the air quality remains at moderate levels, those with respiratory problems are advised to minimise outdoor activities and exposure to outside air."

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Should Conservationists Allow Some Species to Die Out?

In the battle to save endangered animals, some environmentalists say we should ignore the charismatic pandas and condors and instead practice "conservation triage."
by Isabelle Groc
Discover Magazine March 2011, 9 May 11;

In 1987 wildlife scientists trapped the last of the 22 living California condors, bred them in captivity, and after five years began releasing the birds. A quarter century later, the condor population stands at 381, with 192 living in the wild. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going.

The divisive question facing conservationists is whether the condor’s rescue represents an inspiring success or a waste of limited resources. In October the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one in five vertebrates worldwide is threatened, and more join their ranks every year. But funding for conservation is finite, and one outspoken camp of researchers, led by ecologist and mathematician Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland in Australia, says it is time for the global rescue operation to adopt the mind-set of a battlefield medic: Some endangered species are far more likely to recover than others, so we should identify those and save as many as we can. As for the rest, University of Adelaide ecologist Corey Bradshaw says, “It makes no sense to waste money on the doomed if there is no reasonable chance of lifting their numbers into the thousands.”

With its small population, high costs, and continued dependence on human intervention, the California condor would probably not make Possingham’s priority list. “You could save hundreds of butterfly species with the same investment being put into the condor,” he says. Possingham recently analyzed endangered animals and plants in New Zealand and found that for the same budget required to save a single bird species there, the North Island brown kiwi, six other threatened species could be protected.

Conservation triage, as Possingham and others call it, has some commonsense appeal and gives decision makers numbers to latch onto in a field where choices can seem arbitrary. But the idea of prioritizing species and abandoning some to extinction rankles many conservationists. Focusing on the cheapest wins “may increase the short-term tally of species, but we would end up saving only the most convenient ones,” says wildlife biologist David Jachowski of the University of Missouri. “Rare or declining species are typically poorly studied, so the easiest to conserve might not be the most ecologically important.” Other triage opponents say numbers can be misleading: In the late 19th century, Africa’s southern white rhino population appeared headed for extinction, with just 20 or so remaining, but conservation efforts have brought the species to more than 17,000 today. “Predicting survival is far less certain for a threatened species than for a human patient,” wrote leaders from 10 conservation organizations in a 2009 critique (pdf). 
Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, points out that recovery programs for critically endangered species such as the condor and whooping crane are valuable testing grounds. “These projects teach conservation scientists what works. Pushing the frontier is not cheap,” Pimm says.

Possingham knows that many who work in the field are squeamish about his approach but argues that funding realities make triage unavoidable. “People have to accept that we don’t have enough money to save everything,” he says, and explicitly acknowledging that fact gives conservationists a stronger case for securing more financial support.

Conservationists from both camps have found some common ground. Virtually everyone agrees that successful recovery programs must be grounded in an understanding of why a species is in trouble in the first place. “One of the big lessons of the past is that before you reintroduce a species, you should fix the problem that caused its decline,” says Jeff Walters, a biologist at Virginia Tech. For example, following the ban on the pesticide DDT in 1972, bald eagles made a dramatic comeback from just a few hundred nesting pairs in the continental United States in the 1960s to around 10,000 today. Walters cites the Laysan duck as a currently threatened species with a potentially big return on conservation efforts. Nonnative animals such as cats and rats had driven this Hawaiian bird to extinction on all but one island. A second population recently established in the predator-free Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is growing rapidly. “We can make a big impact investing in this species,” Walters says.

As for the California condors, they probably remain a long way from thriving on their own. Bradshaw and his colleagues recently surveyed studies of 212 vertebrates and found that the typical minimum viable population size required for a species to survive long-term is about 5,000 individuals. But even in the face of long odds, many laboring to save the most endangered animals remain determined not to let go. “We’ve worked with these birds for decades with everybody telling us that it was not going to work,” says wildlife biologist Mike Wallace of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, who runs the condor program. Given enough time—and money—Wallace hopes he can prove the doubters wrong.

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Malaysia: Elephant found crushed

New Straits Times 9 May 11;

GRIK: A female elephant is believed to have died after the roof of an abandoned timber workers' kongsi collapsed on the pachyderm, near Km18 of the East-West Highway, here on Friday.

The animal was found by a 10-man team from the Wildlife and National Parks Department following a tip-off.

Perak Wildlife and National Parks Department director Shabrina Mohd Shariff believed that the elephant died three weeks ago based on its decomposition rate.

"Initial investigations revealed that the elephant had tried to flee from the empty house based on faeces found at several spots nearby."

This is the second elephant death at the highway this year. The first one was on Jan 13, when an elephant was hit by a vehicle while it was crossing Km32 of the highway.

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Officials Seize 1.3 Tonnes of Illegal Ivory at Nairobi Airport

Environment News Service 6 May 11;

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6, 2011 (ENS) - Illegal ivory destined for West Africa and purported to be from two non-existent embassies based in Nairobi was seized last night at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The 115 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 1.3 metric tonnes were packed in 14 metal boxes disguised as diplomatic baggage.

Following a tip from a member of the public, the ivory was detected and seized at about 9:30 pm by a joint security team that included the Kenya Airports Police Unit, the Kenya Revenue Authority Customs Department, and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The contraband, which was destined for Lagos, Nigeria had been brought to the airport by unidentified people.

Out of the 14 boxes, three were labelled as being from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea while 11 were labelled as being from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Brunei.

A joint team of law enforcement agencies is investigating to establish the true origin of the consignments and the suspects behind them. This includes DNA testing of the ivory to determine its actual origin.

According to our records, the number of elephants illegally killed in Kenya in 2010 was 187 while this year it was 80 elephants at the end of April.

International trade in ivory was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, but seizures have risen sharply in the past five years.

In response to the challenges of poaching and illegal trafficking in wildlife trophies, Kenya Wildlife Service is implementing wide-ranging reforms.

Kenya Wildlife Services Director Julius Kipngetich says the Service plans to introduce sniffer dogs at the Port of Mombasa as part of measures to curb the illegal shipping of ivory.

"We are also strengthening linkages with other law enforcement agencies and international cooperation," said KWS Corporate Communications Manager Paul Udoto.

Udoto said KWS would like to express its sincere appreciation to the other law enforcement agencies involved in this operation and the support from the public which led to the seizure.

At the same time, KWS would like to reiterate its call for the fast tracking of the passing of the new wildlife policy and legislation to provide for more deterrent sentences, and inter-agency collaboration to fight the crimes.

Poaching of elephants in central and eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia.

Late night's interception of the ivory shipments at the airport follows a seizure of 2.03 metric tonnes of ivory by Thai Customs officials at Bangkok seaport on March 30. This ivory had been shipped through the Port of Mombasa hidden in a shipment of frozen fish.

The amount of ivory seized in Bangkok may be equated to at least 123 elephants killed, but Udoto says it is not clear "if all the animals were poached in Kenya if at all."

The 247 tusks, some up to two meters long, were found during an X-ray scan of a shipping container labeled as frozen mackerel among 100 boxes in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya river.

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UK animal feed helping to destroy Asian rainforest, study shows

More than a tenth of the world's palm kernel meal, a by-product of palm oil, is fed to British pets and livestock
Fred Pearce 9 May 11;

British cats, dogs, cows, pigs and even goldfish are helping destroy the rainforests of south-east Asia. A new study for the government finds that more than a tenth of all the world's palm kernel meal – a lucrative by-product of the production of palm oil – is fed to British animals.

Palm oil is an ingredient in an estimate third of all products on supermarket shelves, from biscuits and margarine to shampoo and confectionery. And it turns up on garage forecourts in biodiesel. Britain imports more than half a million tonnes of the oil a year. But the study for the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reports that Britain imports even more palm kernel meal, mostly for animal feed.

The report found that while retailers and manufacturers of branded foods are rushing to buy certified "sustainable" palm oil that does not destroy the rainforests, animal feed manufacturers show "little awareness of sustainability". British imports of sustainable palm kernel meal are precisely zero.

The report, Mapping and Understanding UK Palm Oil Use, names three companies responsible for supplying most of the palm kernel meal for animal feed in Britain: the manufacturers AB Agri, owned by Associated British Foods, and BOCM Pauls, plus the commodity trader ED&F Man.

Some companies, it says, excuse themselves by claiming their product is simply a by-product of palm oil production – and oil is increasingly being certified. But the Defra official Sara Eppel, who unveiled the findings at a conference on palm oil at London zoo last Friday, said that didn't wash. "It's not just a by-product," she said, especially in Britain where "we import five times as much kernel from Indonesia as palm oil."

Eppel also reported that the British government was not blameless. It buys a lot of food and other products containing palm oil, yet "government buying standards don't currently cover palm oil sustainability". And proposed rules due this year on food purchases won't include palm oil either.

Most of the world's oil palm is grown on giant plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, where campaigners have documented continuing deforestation to meet growing world demand. The conference heard that plantations cause an 85% loss of biodiversity. Oil comes from the oil palm's fruit, while kernel meal comes from palm nuts.

The good news from the report – compiled by Proforest, a not-for-profit consultantancy based in Britain – is that Britain is importing 40% less palm oil than five years ago. And almost a quarter of what we do import is now certified sustainable by the industry's green watchdog, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

The bad news is that while supermarkets and manufacturers of branded goods are responding to growing consumer concern by seeking out sustainable suppliers, others have not changed their purchasing policies. They include the nation's restaurants, canteens and pubs – and the British government.

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Development Agencies Support Harmful Oil Palm Production

Julio Godoy IPS News 9 May 11;

PARIS, May 9, 2011 (IPS) - Increasing industrial production of oil palm in sub-Saharan African countries, carried out by foreign corporations, is destroying the livelihoods of thousands of Africans and the biodiversity of ecosystems. Despite this, industrialised countries’ governments and development agencies continue to promote such production.

African countries most affected are Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana. But palm oil fields and industrial facilities are located in at least the half of sub-Saharan African countries.

In the vast majority of cases, the industrial production of oil palm is in the hands of foreign corporations, such as the French Bolloré group, the Brazilian petroleum group Petrobras, the Italian company ENI and the Singapore-based Wilmar International. Most of the exploiters are European Union-based companies.

The industrial system of oil palm production in Africa "is based on monoculture plantations where the land only produces palm fruits for industry," according to Ricardo Carrere, an expert in forest management at the World Rainforest Movement (WRM).

The WRM, with a secretariat in Montevideo, Uruguay, is an international organisation promoting local people’s land rights.

"In most if not all cases, land is taken away from local communities with little or no compensation, and bio-diverse ecosystems, mostly forests, are destroyed and substituted by large areas of palm monocultures," says Carrere, author of "Oil palm in Africa: Past, present and future scenarios", a report that the WRM published in 2010.

Carrere told IPS that all the foreign oil palm facilities in Africa are characterised by appalling working conditions. "During the colonial times, slavery and forced labour were the daily toll of Africans in such plantations. In the modern system, the conditions are near-slavery with low-paid labour."

As an example, Carrere mentions the oil palm plantations and industrial facilities managed by the Bolloré group in Cameroon. "The living and working conditions there are abysmal," he comments. "The living quarters are insalubrious; there is no regular access to water or electricity; and the temporary employees earn extremely low wages."

According to Carrere and other researchers, hundreds of subcontracted workers toil in these plantations and facilities for six days a week, sometimes from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock at night, with no social security coverage and earning around two dollars per day.

In his survey, Carrere compared modern, foreign-led industrial palm oil production with the traditional process. "The modern system is even worse than the old one. The new one is characterised by extensive drainage of the land and widespread use of agrochemicals, both impacting on local water resources."

The recent expansion of the industrial plantations of palm oil has been mostly led by growing demand in industrialised countries for so called agro-fuels, falsely seen as an ecological alternative to fossil fuels.

But the local ecological impact of the palm oil production in sub-Saharan African countries is disastrous, according to numerous surveys. The case of the Bugala Island plantations in Lake Victoria in Uganda serves as another illustration.

According to a study by the Kalangala District Forum of nongovernmental organisations, the palm oil plantations there have increased pressure on central forest reserves, substantially contributed to the depletion of forest products, deforestation, soil erosion and the draining of wetlands.

Furthermore, these plantations have had negative socio-economic effects for the communities living on the islands. These consequences include the violation of land rights of indigenous people, the loss of land as a safety net and reduced access for local communities to resources.

The forum also underlines that the plantations have contributed to the sudden rise of the price of land and destroyed the community-based local economy.

Carrere raises alarm about the "crucial role" of national, regional and multilateral institutions in the promotion and development of foreign investments in the industrialisation of palm oil production in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is important to stress that such support has ignored all the accumulated evidence regarding the negative social and environmental impacts of large-scale plantations elsewhere in the developing world, Carrere says.

He stresses that these international efforts have "also ignored the social benefits of traditional sustainable practices in the production of palm oil. As a result, most support has been aimed at the development of the industrial model and practically none has been provided to the traditional system."

Among the international financial and multilateral institutions allegedly involved in the promotion of the industrialisation of palm oil in Africa, Carrere mentions the African Development Bank, the African Investment Bank, the European Union through the European Development Fund, the European Investment Bank and the EU Partnership Dialogue Facility.

Other foreign state agencies alleged to be exacerbating the expansion of palm oil in Africa are the U.S. development agency USAid and the U.S. department of agriculture, Britain’s department for international development (Dfid), Finland’s FinnFund and Germany’s agency for technical cooperation, among others.

United Nations agencies are also implicated, such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development that have intervened in favour of the industrial production of palm oil in Africa.

The foreign oil palm plantations and facilities in Africa have generated legal conflicts in companies’ countries of origin. In France, for instance, the Bolloré group in 2010 brought legal challenges against two press reports on its activities in Cameroon.

The court in Paris ruled that the first report could not be considered defamatory. In the second case, no ruling was handed down, apparently because the Bolloré group decided to withdraw the charges two weeks before the trial was scheduled to take place.

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Newmont Secures Permit to Send Mining Waste Out to Sea

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 9 May 11;

The Ministry of Environment has renewed a decree allowing Newmont Nusa Tenggara to dump its mining waste into the ocean, an official said on Monday.

The company’s previous permit to channel its tailing to the bottom of the sea off its gold mine in West Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara, which had been issued in 2002, expired on Sunday.

“There are some stricter regulations for them to follow, such as the limitation of waste volume dumped per year, the levels of materials, and the company is under obligation to conduct toxicology tests on local people and geo-hydrologic tests,” said Masnellyarti Hilman, deputy of toxic waste management.

The mining company’s spokesman confirmed the deal. “We have received a tailing placement permit renewal for a period of five years,” spokesman Rubi Purnomo told the Jakarta Globe by text message.

He said that the miner would have to meet stricter monitoring requirements, but gave no additional details.

Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said on Thursday that the company was allowed to dump maximum 51 million metric tons of mining waste per year, or a daily average of 140,000 tons.

The agreement also stipulates that if there were an increase in production, the company would be allowed to dump 54 million tons per year or 148,000 tons per day. However, the increased output would have to be reported to the Environment Ministry.

In addition, the company, the local unit of the US-based organization, is required to assess the ecological state of the southern and western coastal areas of West Sumbawa annually, increase monitoring quality and gauge health conditions that include heavy metal contamination in people living near the project.

Meanwhile, Pius Ginting, a campaigner at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said that the ministry had overstepped its jurisdiction by issuing the extension.

“Based on the environmental law and mining law, permits are given in accordance to areas of jurisdictions. If it concerns the district, the permit is issued by the district chief; if it is provincial, it is given by governor; and if it involves provinces then it is given by the ministry,” said Pius. The ministry issuing a permit for a district level operations could be considered against the law, he said.

He said that the West Sumbawa district head had already issued decision to ban the company’s tailing activities to Senunu Bay last month.

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Vietnam says Laos suspends Mekong dam project

Yahoo News 9 May 11;

HANOI (AFP) – Laos has told Vietnam it will suspend work on a controversial dam planned for the Mekong River, official media reported, after Hanoi sought a 10-year deferment of the scheme.

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong informed his counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung "of Laos' decision to temporarily suspend the Xayaburi hydropower project," Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported at the weekend from Jakarta.

It said the two communist leaders met in the Indonesian capital on the sidelines of the ASEAN regional summit.

"PM Dung thanked the Lao Party and government for this important decision", which reflected "deep consideration" of Vietnam's position, the VNA report said.

At a regional meeting last month, Vietnam, which has close political ties with tiny, landlocked Laos, voiced "deep" concerns about inadequate assessments and the risk of damage to its fishing and farm industries.

It called for hydropower projects on the mainstream Mekong to be deferred for at least a decade.

Workers had already begun building roads to the site in northern Laos. Xayaburi is the first of 11 such projects proposed for the mainstream lower Mekong.

"We are glad that the Lao government considered the postponement of this project and commission of a new study... due to strong and wide opposition," said Pianporn Deetes, a spokeswoman in Bangkok for the US-based environmental group International Rivers.

While welcoming the announcement from Vietnam, she said Laos should issue its own statement.

Environmentalists have warned that damming the lower Mekong would trap vital nutrients, increase algae growth and prevent dozens of species of migratory fish -- including the giant catfish -- swimming upstream to spawning grounds.

Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia make up the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental body that deals with all Mekong River-related activities including fisheries, agriculture and flood management.

Laos had not yet informed the MRC secretariat of a formal suspension of the project but "Vietnamese authorities have confirmed the news report".

"We are still waiting for a response from the Lao authorities," the secretariat told AFP in a statement.

More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for food, transport and economic activity, the MRC says.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world and sees hydropower as vital to its future.

Laos agrees to new study on Mekong dam
Yahoo News 10 May 11;

HANOI (AFP) – Laos has agreed to conduct new research into the impact of a controversial proposed dam on the lower Mekong River after suspending work on the project, a senior official said on Tuesday.

"Laos will hire advisers to conduct a study" of Vietnam's concerns about the $3.8 billion Xayaburi project, Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director general of Laos's Department of Electricity, told AFP.

"We will start as soon as possible."

He said the cost and time span of the research have not been finalised, but Thai construction group CH. Karnchang Public Co would be asked to fund it. The firm is playing a leading role in the Xayaburi project.

The official Vietnam News Agency reported over the weekend that Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong had informed his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung that the project would be temporarily suspended.

The report said the two leaders agreed to conduct research, possibly involving international experts, "to seek firm scientific ground for future decisions regarding the issue".

Daovong confirmed suspension of the project while the study takes place.

At a regional meeting last month, Vietnam, which has close political ties with tiny Laos, voiced "deep" concerns about inadequate assessments and the risk of damage to its fishing and farm industries.

It called for hydropower projects on the mainstream Mekong to be deferred for at least a decade.

Neighbouring Cambodia and Thailand have also raised worries about insufficient environmental studies into the dam's likely impact.

Workers had already begun building roads in northern Laos to the site for Xayaburi, which is the first of 11 such projects proposed for the mainstream lower Mekong.

Environmentalists have warned that damming that part of the river would trap vital nutrients, increase algae growth and prevent dozens of species of migratory fish -- including the giant catfish -- swimming upstream to spawning grounds.

More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for food, transport and economic activity, says the Mekong River Commission, an inter-governmental body.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world and sees hydropower as vital to its future.

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Least Developed Countries Set to Enter Global Green Economy

Environment News Service 9 May 11;

ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 9, 2011 (ENS) - Leaders of the world's poorest countries should agree on a common position and send a strong political message to the rest of the world on the importance of investing in least developed countries to eradicate global poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday.

"The priority for the new program of action is to build strong economies that can withstand external shocks," Ban told a summit of the leaders from 48 poor countries in Istanbul at the start of a UN Conference on Least Developed Countries.

Some 10,000 delegates, including 50 heads of state and government, 10 vice presidents, 94 ministers and chairmen of 47 international organizations, representatives of the private sector, scientists and members of nongovernmental organizations, are attending the event, which is chaired by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

President Gul said that in the past Turkey has helped to eradicate poverty in least developed countries and will continue to do so.

"As a member of the G-20 and an accession country to the European Union, Turkey has been undertaking major initiatives to share the burdens of the LDCs in their efforts to eradicate poverty," the president said in his opening speech today.

"While there is a bottom billion living on less than $1 a day, the rest of the international community cannot turn a blind eye to their sufferings. This is an alarming situation - not only in moral terms, but also politically as well," said Gul.

"Nothing would make us prouder than if, through the success of this summit and the following process, Istanbul gets to be remembered as the place where the misfortune of almost a billion people had taken a positive turn. Istanbul will then be the place where the first heartbeats of a new and fair world order are heard. We believe this is possible. And Turkey will do everything in its power to make it a reality."

The conference is intended to chart the development path for the least developed countries for the next decade through the Istanbul Program of Action.

While there were 25 least developed countries in 1971, there are 48 today with a population of nearly 900 million struggling to solve chronic problems of economy, development, environment and human resources.

Ban said developed and emerging economies are facing challenges similar to those bedevilling poorer nations, including climate change and soaring food prices, but least developed countries have limited capacity and resources to address these global problems.

Assistance from developed countries to developing ones is not charity but the "politically correct and morally correct" thing to do, the secretary-general said.

During the five-day conference, Ban said enterprises from around the world will be networking, exchanging ideas and establishing relations that can form an enduring basis for cooperation and opportunity.

"We hope they will go away from Istanbul with the message that doing business in the LDCs is not charity but a wise and profitable endeavor," said Ban.

The 48 least developed countries are poised to jump to a green economy, finds a new United Nations report released today in Istanbul.

With low-carbon profiles, rich natural resources and promising policy initiatives, LDCs can leapfrog over more developed countries that face substantial costs of decarbonization, and costs linked to retiring inefficient fossil fuel technologies, the report concludes.

UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "The shift to a global green economy can put LDCs in an opportune position if the right enabling policies are put in place nationally and internationally - ones that accelerate their development rather than constraining it, ones that value, invest and re-invest in natural assets and low-carbon industries alongside human well-being and social equity."

Steiner points to low-carbon, labor intensive agriculture and community forestry - sustainable practices that have existed for decades in these countries that will be central elements in greening these sectors.

The report cites Nepal's approach to community forest management, which generates employment and income from the sustainable harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products. Sustainable forest management approaches in Nepal have contributed to reversing a trend of decline in forest cover of 1.9 percent a year during the 1990s, to an annual increase of 1.35 percent over the period 2000 to 2005.

The report, "Why a Green Economy Matters for the Least Developed Countries," finds that new opportunities offered by a green economy will help least developed countries meet their Millennium Development Goals - a set of eight goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 with a target date of 2015.

"Refocusing policies and investments to target sectors and areas including renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, tourism and enhanced ecosystem services can lead to the economic empowerment of low income populations, be more conducive to inclusive growth and jobs and make a significant contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the poorest countries," UN agency leaders write in their foreword to the report.

"There are at least four key elements that need to be addressed for least developed countries' successful transition to a green economy," said one of those leaders, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD.

"First, identifying new sources of funding that can be directly applied to transitional efforts; second, creating an enabling environment that is conducive to private investment in green economy markets," said Dr. Panitchpakdi, a former head of the World Trade Organization.

"Third," he said, "taking advantage of trade to create global markets for least developed countries' green goods and services exports; and fourth, designing new and effective mechanisms to transfer green technologies to least developed countries."

Opportunities to leapfrog are being seized where they exist, the report shows. For example, in the aluminum sector, aluminum smelters in Africa are among the most energy-efficient in the world mainly because new production facilities employ the latest smelting technologies.

Bringing electricity to the rural poor is one of the most important contributions that a green economy can make to LDC economies, says the report.

Lack of modern electricity infrastructure in rural regions and access to the development options that electricity opens are persistent impediments to economic development in least developed countries where 77 percent of the population is without access to electricity.

Most affected are the 71 percent of the population of least developed countries that live in rural regions, who rely on biomass burning as the only source of energy.

Solutions are in the works. The successful Grameen Shakti (Energy) Programme in Bangladesh, for instance, provides soft credits through innovative financial packages to make solar home systems available and affordable to rural populations.

By the end of 2009, more than 320,000 solar home systems had been installed under the program, in addition to biogas plants and improved cooking stoves. Grameen Shakti aims to have installed over one million solar home systems by 2015.

"Least developed countries face unprecedented vulnerabilities across a range of challenges," said Steiner. "UNEP is committed to assisting them to reduce these risks, while growing their economies and achieving their sustainable development objectives."

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UN: Renewable energy key in climate change fight

Michael Casey, Associated Press Yahoo News 9 May 11;

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Renewable sources such as solar and wind could supply up to 80 percent of the world's energy needs by 2050 and play a significant role in fighting global warming, a top climate panel concluded Monday.

But the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that to achieve that level, governments would have to spend significantly more money and introduce policies that integrate renewables into existing power grids and promote their benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and improving public health.

Authors said the report concluded that the use of renewables is on the rise, their prices are declining and that with the right policies, they will be an important tool both in tackling climate change and helping poor countries use the likes of solar or wind to develop their economies in a sustainable fashion.

"The report shows that it is not the availability of the resource but the public policies that will either expand or constrain renewable energy development over the coming decades," said Ramon Pichs, who co-chaired the group tasked with producing the report. "Developing countries have an important stake in this future — this is where 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment."

Governments endorsed the renewable report Monday after a four-day meeting. The nonbinding scientific policy document is to advise governments as they draw up policies and to help guide the private sector as it considers areas in which to invest.

Greenpeace and other environmentalists said Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two oil-rich states that don't have an interest in alternatives, successfully watered down the report's language on the cost benefits of renewables — a charge the Saudis denied, saying they only were arguing to stick with the science. Brazil, a major ethanol producer, opposed language on the negative effects of biofuels and hydro as well as the economic potential of other renewables.

The report reviewed bioenergy, solar energy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy and wind. It did not consider nuclear, so IPCC chairman Rajendar Pachauri said the recent nuclear accident in Japan was not discussed nor did it have any impact on the report's conclusions.

The IPCC has said swift, deep reductions in use of non-renewables are required to keep temperatures from rising more than 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2 Celsius) above preindustrial levels, which could trigger catastrophic climate impacts.

Stephan Singer, director for Global Energy Policy at WWF International, welcomed the report but said the IPCC should have gone further. He said its studies have found that the world could be fueled 100 percent by renewables by 2050.

"IPCC delivers a landmark report that shows the rapid growth, low-cost potential for renewable energy — but unfortunately does not endorse a 100 percent renewable energy pathway until 2050," Singer said in a statement. "We need to be fast if we want to tackle pressing issues as varied as energy security and efficiency and at the same time keep climate change well below the danger threshold of 2 degrees."

Greenpeace's Sven Teske agreed. "This is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy center stage," he said. "On the run-up to the next major climate conference in South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark."

Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency which is based in Abu Dhabi, said the report "shows there is a growing global awareness about the potential for renewable energy" which he made clear has taken off in recent years.

From 2009 to 2010, Amin said investment in renewables has gone from $186 billion to $243 billion with China alone seeing a 30 percent increase. He said research and development in the sector has seen "record growth."

"These are remarkable figures for a sector still emerging," Amin said. "Where it points is some of the conclusions that the IPCC is coming to. We are seeing through research and development the technologic possibilities increasing and costs coming down and feasibility of investment in renewable energy increasing by the day. The opportunities are tremendous."

But the IPCC warned that further development of the sector will require significant investment in the next two decades — of as much as $1.5 trillion by 2020 and up to $7.2 trillion from 2020 to 2030.

"The deployment and development of renewables requires development of new infrastructure, otherwise we will not see further growth of renewables," said another of the report's co-chairs Ottmar Edenhofer.

Renewables key for climate, world energy supply: IPCC
Nathalie Gillet Yahoo News 9 May 11;

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Renewable energy could meet nearly 80 percent of the world's energy needs by mid-century and play a crucial role in fighting global warming, the UN's climate scientists said Monday in a major report.

The 194-nation Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said that renewable sources had grown rapidly, were widely competitive with fossil energies and, technically, had almost limitless potential.

But cleaner energy still faces formidable barriers, and governments must boost its development and peel back fossil-fuel subsidies for that potential to be realised, the panel cautioned.

"This report has a huge implication for the manner in which energy is going to be developed and used across the globe in the years ahead," IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said at a press conference.

The thousand-page analysis, unveiled at a May 5-13 meeting of the IPCC, evaluates 164 development scenarios and is designed to guide decision-makers in government and business.

"Renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human wellbeing by sustainably supplying energy and stabilising the climate," said Ottmar Edenhofer, a co-chair of the report.

The price tag will be steep, though. Different projections put it at 1.4 to 5.1 trillion dollars for the coming decade, and another 1.5 to 7.2 trillion dollars for 2021-2030.

But if the benefits of curbing global warming are factored in, Pachauri said, this may be a bargain.

"These costs will still be less than one percent of the global GDP going up to 2050. This is an extremely significant figure -- it shows that the cost ... is within reach," he said.

Six types of renewables accounted in 2008 for 12.9 percent of global energy supply: biomass (10.2 percent), hydro (2.3), wind (0.2), solar (0.1), geothermal (0.1) and ocean (0.002), according to the study.

Fossil fuels make up 85 percent, and nuclear energy two percent.

Once traditional use of firewood and animal dung for heating and cooking is set aside, the clean energy share drops to about seven percent.

While still a small slice of a global energy mix, "growth in renewables has been very impressive," Pachauri said.

New investment in 2010 stood at 243 billion dollars, up from 186 billion the year before, Adnan Amin, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), reported at the press conference.

A majority of the scenarios reviewed show a "substantial increase" -- ranging from three-to-20 fold -- "in the deployment of renewable energy by 2030, 2050 and beyond."

Clean energy's share of future supply varied hugely across different forecasts, with the most conservative projecting a 15-percent share by mid-century and the most ambitious predicting it will cover three-quarters of all energy needs.

The first major report by the Nobel-winning panel since 2007 concluded that there is virtually unlimited technical potential for renewables, especially from solar energy.

"The opportunities are tremendous. We know that the technical potential for renewables is far in excess of demand," said Amin.

Clean sources of power must play a critical role if the UN-backed goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is to be met, the IPCC said.

UN climate talks have remained largely stalemated since the near collapse of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, even as scientists warn that climate change is accelerating.

The report "underscores the irreplaceable potential of renewable energies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Christiana Figueres, the top UN official overseeing climate talks.

The report also said that clean energy solutions could "leapfrog" expensive traditional power sources to reach hundreds of millions of people living without electricity, especially in Africa.

"If you want to widen access to energy services in rural areas, there is a need to integrate renewable energy policies," said Youba Sokona, another of the report's co-chairs.

Green groups and renewable energy industry groups welcomed the report.

"This is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy centre stage," said Sven Teske of Greenpeace International.

Renewables can fuel society, say world climate advisers
Richard Black BBC News 9 May 11;

Renewable technologies could supply 80% of the world's energy needs by mid-century, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a report, it says that almost half of current investment in electricity generation is going into renewables.

But growth will depend on having the right policies in place, it says.

The IPCC is charged with providing analysis on climate issues to the world community, and its conclusions have been endorsed by governments.

The summary of its Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) was released on Monday following a meeting in Abu Dhabi at which representatives of all IPCC member governments signed off the wording.

"With consistent climate and energy policy support, renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human well-being by sustainably supplying energy and stabilising the climate," said Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC working group that produced the report.

"However, the substantial increase of renewables is technically and politically very challenging," he added.

But expansion in renewables is not limited by any notion of a finite supply.

The report concludes there is more than enough to meet the world's current and future energy needs.

"The report clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies could supply the world with more energy than it would ever need, and at a highly competitive cost," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council.

"The IPCC report will be a key reference for policymakers and industry alike, as it represents the most comprehensive high level review of renewable energy to date."

The report analysed 164 "scenarios" of future energy development; and the ones in which renewables were most aggressively pursued resulted in a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions of about one-third compared with business-as-usual projections by 2050.
Policy, briefly

Currently, renewables supply 12.9% of the global energy supply.

However, the biggest single source, accounting for about half of the global total, is the most traditional - the burning of wood for heat and cooking in developing countries.

This is not always truly renewable, as new trees to replace the burned wood are not always planted.

The fastest-growing technology is grid-connected solar electric power, which saw a 53% increase in installed capacity during 2009.

However, the report suggests that solar photovoltaics will continue to be among the more expensive options for some years.

But in situations where there is no grid connection, it and other renewables can be a significant aid to development, contributing to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the IPCC concludes.

Of the various technologies available, bioenergy is assessed as having the biggest long-term potential for growth, followed by solar and wind power.
Climate changer

However, governments will need to step up policies to stimulate renewable investment if the industries are to grow substantially, it says: business-as-usual will not be enough.

Whether or not governments do so will be a major factor in determining whether international climate targets are met.

"[At UN climate talks] in Cancun, at the end of last year, governments agreed to limit the global average temperature rise to 2C at the most," recalled Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate convention (UNFCCC).

"They must reach their goal by making use of renewable energy sources on a very large scale... ambitious national policies and strong international co-operation are together the key to the swift and extensive deployment of renewable energies in all countries."

The Summary for Policymakers agreed in Abu Dhabi gives the top-line conclusions from the full report, compiled by 120 experts, which runs to more than 1,000 pages.

Groundbreaking report underscores advantages of renewable energy future
WWF 9 May 11;

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – A major new report by the United Nations-supported Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) launched today underscores the incredible environmental and social advantages of a future powered by renewable energy over the next decades, WWF said.

The 900-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation compares 164 scenarios on renewable energy and is the most comprehensive analysis ever of trends and perspectives for renewable energy.

“The IPCC and governments of the world signal loud and clear: fossil fuels and nuclear are no real alternatives to renewables,” said Dr Stephan Singer, Director for Global Energy Policy for WWF International.

“As oil and gas within easy reach is dwindling, the world needs to move to clean and sustainable sources of energy and avoid any investment into dirty alternatives.”

Although unique in its epic scope, the IPCC underestimates the potential of deploying renewable energy even faster, especially when combined with top level energy efficiency, WWF said. The organisation’s own analysis, called The Energy Report, shows a pathway to a 100% renewable energy future by 2050. This analysis is the first that also indicates the challenges and research needs to make sure this low carbon development respects development needs of up to 9 billion people.

“IPCC delivers a landmark report that shows the rapid growth, low-cost potential for renewable energy – but unfortunately does not endorse a 100% renewable energy pathway until 2050,” said Singer.

“WWF’s report adds that missing piece – a bold vision with a clear timeline. We need to be fast if we want to tackle pressing issues as varied as energy security and efficiency, and at the same time keep climate change well below the danger threshold of 2 degree global warming.

WWF strongly emphasizes that in addition to the climate benefits, the IPCC report documents the plethora of other advantages clean renewables provide including health and security of supply benefits, new job and technology opportunities for all countries and the potential to provide clean and affordable energy to the more than two billion people in parts of the developing world which either have no or only erratic access.

Meanwhile, more than four days of negotiations that preceded the report’s launch this week in Abu Dhabi produced a Summary for Policy Makers, agreed to by more than 100 governments present in the early hours of Monday 9 May.

“Unfortunately, the Summary for Policy Makers is only a feeble outline and does not in the least match the high quality of the full report,” said Singer. “One needs to turn to the full report to understand the massive job the IPCC has managed to achieve.”

The Summary for Policy Makers which has now been approved by the world’s governments, becomes an accepted basis for planning energy policies, investment and infrastructure for national and regional governments as well as for U.N. agencies and international organisations such as the World Bank.

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Dealing with disasters, naturally

IUCN 9 May 11;

IUCN calls for effective management of the natural environment to strengthen the resilience of communities to cope with disasters. The devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan shows the catastrophic impact that the sheer force of nature can have on communities, no matter how prepared a country is.

More than 2,000 policy makers and practitioners from governments, international organizations and the private sector are meeting in Geneva this week for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to share information on how to reduce the risk of disasters and to plan the way forward.

Environmental concerns are often sacrificed in the process of rapid reconstruction following natural disasters.

“IUCN calls on governments to commit to sound environmental management and whenever possible, natural infrastructure, as a preferred and more economic option to deal with disasters,” says IUCN’s Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “We must ensure that effective environmental assessment takes place during and after disasters.”

Climate change and natural disasters are putting millions of people at risk, especially women and children.

“Vulnerability to disasters is compounded in areas where natural resources have been degraded”, says Edmund Barrow, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme.” Conserving and reinforcing natural resources must be a priority for sustainable recovery strategies—healthy natural environments can provide buffers to extreme events and support more resilient livelihoods.”

Many disasters, such as floods, droughts, and storms, involve water, and climate change intensifies the threat from these hazards.

“Water provides solutions—healthy river basins, wetlands and coasts provide water storage, flood control and coastal defences which increase communities’ resilience to disasters,” says Mark Smith, IUCN Water Programme Director. “Investments in nature should be integral to policies aimed at adapting to climate change and disaster preparedness.”

Ecosystems in decline are increasing the vulnerability of people to disasters, how they prepare for them and how they recover.

“Investments in preventive measures, including maintaining healthy ecosystems, are seven times more cost effective than the costs incurred by disasters,” says Radhika Murti, Programme Officer for IUCN's Ecosystem Management Programme.

IUCN urges delegates at this week's Global Platform meeting to consider the value of environmental solutions in planning for disasters and to recognize and restore nature’s role in reducing the risks.

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Pesticide Endosulfan to Be Banned Worldwide

Environment News Service 5 May 11;

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 5, 2011 (ENS) - Representatives from 127 governments have agreed to add endosulfan to the United Nations' list of persistent organic pollutants to be eliminated worldwide. The action puts the widely-used pesticide on track for elimination from the global market by 2012.

The decision was among more than 30 measures taken by Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants to strengthen global action against POPs at their meeting in Geneva last week.

The governments agreed to list endosulfan in Annex A to the Stockholm Convention, with specific exemptions. When the amendment enters into force in one year, endosulfan will become the 22nd POP to be listed under the Convention.

Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide used on crops worldwide, mainly on cotton, coffee and tea. Endosulfan acts as an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive and developmental damage in both humans and animals.

Momentum for a global ban has been building for years.

"Endosulfan was first proposed for addition in the Convention in 2007. At that time about 50 countries had already banned it; today, more than 80 countries have banned it or announced phase-outs. NGOs have worked very hard to make this happen," said Meriel Watts, senior science advisor, from Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific. "But today's decision is really a tribute to all those farmers, communities, and activists across the planet who have suffered from endosulfan and fought for this day."

In June 2010, the U.S. EPA took action to end all uses of endosulfan in the United States, after concluding that "endosulfan poses unacceptable risks to agricultural workers and wildlife, and can persist in the environment."

In Geneva, the governments decided that a Party to the Stockholm Convention may extend the endosulfan phase-out period by five years but only for a small number uses.

"The conference recognized that financial and technical support is required to facilitate the replacement of the use of endosulfan in developing countries and countries with economies in transition," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the meeting.

"In establishing a consultative process on finance for the chemicals and waste conventions, UNEP has responded to the need of those countries by seeking to make the sound management of hazardous chemicals a development priority of the green economy in which all countries can fully and fairly participate," Steiner said.

"New POPs present new challenges, as we are usually dealing with chemicals that are still widely used commercially," said Jim Willis, the newly appointed executive secretary of the Stockholm Convention.

"Parties have demonstrated that they can find creative solutions to speed the elimination of POPs and protect environment and human health from these dangerous chemicals," said Willis.

Environmental health and justice organizations from around the world who have been working towards a ban welcomed the decision.

"We are pleased with the decision of the global community today to phase out this dangerous chemical that has contaminated our traditional foods in the Arctic. Our people are some of the most contaminated on the planet," said Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik woman from St. Lawrence Island Alaska who serves as director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics Environmental Health and Justice Program. She urged that all uses of endosulfan be ended quickly.

Endosulfan has severely impacted the people of Kerala, India, where its use on cashew plantations has left thousands suffering from birth defects, mental retardation, and cancer. "This is the moment we have been dreaming of," said Jayan Chelaton from Thanal, a public interest research group based in Kerala.

"The tears of the mothers of the endosulfan victims cannot be remedied, but it will be a relief to them that there will not be any more people exposed to this toxic insecticide," said Chelaton. "It is good feeling for them. We are happy to note that this is also victory for poor farmers, as this proves people united from all over the world can get what they demand."

While some agricultural workers in India have resisted a ban on endosulfan, saying it is not harmful, the Supreme Court Monday heard a petition seeking a ban on sale and production of endosulfan across the country filed by the Communist Party of India's youth wing, the Democratic Youth Federation of India.

More than 700 delegates took part in the conference from April 25 to 29. Under the theme, Stockholm at 10: Chemical Challenges, Sustainable Solutions, the conference marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the treaty in 2001.

On other issues, the governments evaluated the continued need for DDT for disease vector control to combat mosquitoes carrying the deadly malaria parasite.

On the basis of current scientific, technical, environmental and economic information, the Parties saw a continued need to use DDT while effective alternatives are being sought and implemented by an increasing number of countries.

Victoria Mupwaya, director of the Environmental Council of Zambia, said, "Despite all efforts, malaria remains one of the world's tragedies with almost a million fatalities every year. All means are needed to combat this vector."

The Stockholm Convention allows the use of DDT for public health interventions for disease vector control as recommended by and under the guidance of the World Health Organization, WHO, because locally appropriate and cost-effective alternatives are not yet available.

The first assembly of the Global Alliance for Alternatives to DDT, held on April 26, agreed with the WHO findings.

Although there is no deadline for the elimination of DDT, the goal of the Global Alliance is to reduce reliance on DDT for disease vector control by strengthening countries' capacities to deploy safer alternatives.

The conference requested that UNEP take over administration of the Global Alliance, in collaboration with the World Health Organization. UNEP was also requested to take over the PCB Elimination Network.

Monique Barbut, chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility, speaking at the "Finance Forum for Sustainable Solutions" on the opening day of the conference, announced the GEF would provide US$250,000 in support to countries to update their national implementation plans in response to the adoption of new POPs to the Convention.

In total, the GEF has funded more than US$1 billion to address implementation of international agreements on hazardous chemicals and waste clusters.

Seven new Stockholm Convention regional centers were endorsed by the conference in Algeria, Kenya, India, Iran, Russia, Senegal and South Africa. The Russian regional center is conditional on the Russian Federation's ratification of the Stockholm Convention.

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