Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 11

Volunteer Log: Jimmy Goh
from Pulau Hantu

Judy Quah’s sunbirds return to nest yet again
from Bird Ecology Study Group

110529 Chestnut Avenue
from Singapore Nature

Pulau Ubin's Wayang
from Life's Indulgences

Damselfly (16b) - Amphicenis gracilis, Male
from Nature Photography - Singapore Odonata

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Losing sight in the haze of fire-fighting

Euston Quah & Helena Varkkey Straits Times 31 May 11;

THE early arrival of the haze this month has renewed concerns about forest fires in the region.

As far back as 1972, South- east Asia has experienced pollution almost every year from burning grass, forests and peat, mostly in Indonesia. This transboundary haze affects the health of some 75 million people and the economies of six Asean nations, with the damage amounting to some US$4.5 billion (S$5.6 billion), more than the combined costs of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and India's Bhopal chemical disaster.

Singapore is extremely vulnerable to the haze not only because it is so close to the fires but also because, as a people- driven economy, anything affecting the health of its workforce will hit labour productivity. And with travel and tourism accounting for almost 10 per cent of its gross domestic product, the country needs to protect its image as a clean and green destination.

Oil palm plantations in Indonesia are a major source of the fires, with plantation owners using cheap and poorly controlled burning methods to clear land for planting. But a large proportion of the land is foreign owned, which makes it hard to allocate blame. The government has authority over and responsibility for all the land in Indonesia. But if foreign investors own a plot of land, should their country be held responsible too? This issue has been at the crux of the haze debate.

The region should go beyond allocating blame and focus more on the causes of the haze. Indonesia is relatively powerless in policing its vast forests because of internal law and enforcement constraints. Plantation owners often deny using fire to clear land, and blame shifting cultivators for starting fires in their small holdings, which later spread to the plantations.

To overcome this deadlock, Indonesia should adopt the law of strict liability, whereby if a fire occurs in a plantation, its owner is responsible whether the fire started there or not. This principle should hold regardless of who owns the land.

At the moment, proof of negligence must be shown, which is susceptible to delays and transaction costs. As for shifting cultivators, they can be brought on board by offering them incentives and payment if the fires are reduced.

Related to the enforcement problems is the complicated nature of Indonesia's decentralised governance system.

The coordination of responsibility for forest fires and haze is spread unevenly across many central and local agencies, with many overlaps. This gives rise to the classic problem of public good and common property, where everyone owns the commons, yet no one is compelled to be fully responsible for it.

But Indonesia is making some headway. As part of the United Nations' Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation project, it has signed a letter of intent with Norway for US$1 billion, linked to a moratorium on opening new plantations on its peatlands for two years, to identify which parts are safe for further development.

But it has been less forthcoming in regional efforts. It is the only country which has not ratified the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which would streamline aid to it in the event of fire and haze. The Indonesian government has been facing opposition on ratification from plantation lobby groups. Jakarta may be concerned that it does not have a good grasp of the haze situation yet, and that committing to the agreement would incur monetary and political costs. In any case, it may see no point in ratification since it will get help from Asean with or without it.

But by paying too much attention to maintaining its lucrative plantations, Indonesia may be underestimating its losses. The central government in Jakarta, located far away and upwind from the source of most of the fires, may not fully realise the effects of the smoke on its own local communities, as well as on tourism and the economy at large. It may also have underestimated the loss of goodwill in the region and internationally, which will hurt its economy and future business cooperation.

Singapore acknowledges that Indonesia is a developing country that faces crippling problems of corruption. Singapore also understands its position as the more affluent neighbour, and is willing to help. But the Republic should be careful not to suffer twice; first from the haze and then from the assistance that may cost more than the initial damage.

Its latest effort in working with Indonesia on haze management is the Singapore-Jambi project, where it 'adopted' a regency called Muaro Jambi to directly help the community manage its land better. Although there were criticisms that the project focused on too small an area and did not engage with large plantations enough, it was able to report zero fires in the Jambi area in 2009 and last year.

Hopefully, this will encourage other regional heads to set up similar schemes. But Indonesia must realise that Jambi's successes represent only a small step forward in a larger challenge, which will require much political will at both the central and local level to overcome.

Cooperation among countries is crucial, but when the root cause lies within one country, it remains for that country to do all it can to bring about a solution.

Euston Quah is professor of environmental economics at the Nanyang Technological University and Helena Varkkey is completing her doctoral studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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Malaysia: Tiger on the prowl

Farik Zolkepli The Star 31 May 11;

MARANG: Two villages here are facing huge problems due to their livestock being killed.

Residents of Felda Rantau Abang and Kampung Gong Che Lah are living in fear of a tiger which is prowling in their neighbourhood.

Cattle herder Sidak Amad Besar, 50, from Felda Rantau Abang said 15 of his cows were missing since last Wednesday.

Initially, Sidak thought that someone had stolen his livestock, but he later discovered that the disappearance of the cattle was the work of a tiger.

“I discovered the carcass of my cows on Saturday and based on the marks on their bodies, the wound were inflicted by a large predatory animal.”

Sidak added that he chanced on an encounter with the tiger which was seen devouring one of his cows.

“I finally witnessed the action of the animal that has caused me a huge loss,” he said and added that he was lucky to leave the scene unharmed.

Apart from Sidak, some villagers in the nearby Kampung Gong Che Lah had also suffered the same fate.

“They were complaining of more than three cows missing since last week.

“I thought the tiger was only prowling around my village, but after hearing the same tales from villagers in Kampung Gong Che Lah, this is becoming a widespread issue,” he said.

Farmer Abdul Razak Omar, 74, said he spotted the tiger roaming around his farm and destroying his crops.

“I got the shock of my life when I saw the huge animal.

“It was so big, I didn’t think twice and bolted,” he said.

Another villager Mohd Zaharudin Husin, 41, said other residents have also sighted the tiger and urged the Wildlife Department to take action before anyone gets hurt.

“I hope the authorities can catch this animal before it attacks us,” he said.

Cows killed by one tiger, says dept
New Straits Times 30 May 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) said the attacks on villagers' cows in Felda Rantau Abang in Dungun was the work of a lone and injured tiger.

Its director, Yusoff Shariff, said the tiger could have started preying on the cows as it could not hunt.

He said there were also complaints of cows being attacked in nearby Kampung Jambu Bongkok, and he believed it could be the work of the same animal.

Although the villagers claimed there were more than one tiger after discovering paw prints of different sizes, Yusoff said checks showed there was only one tiger involved.

"We believed the tiger could have been injured either from a gunshot or a hunter's trap.

"The two settlements are located next to each other and are within the animal's hunting range. We have set up traps at both locations."

Yesterday, the New Sunday Times reported that villagers around Felda Rantau Abang were scared to go outdoors after dark following the attacks on their cows.

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Indonesian government prepares US$5 Million to preserve coral reefs

Antara 30 May 11;

Wangi-wangi, SE Sulawesi (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government prepares US$5 million funds for sustainable preservation and management of coral reefs at the world coral triangle in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi.

"The Indonesian government through President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono provides five million dollars for sustainable preservation and management of coral reefs in six countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI)," CTI spokesman Imran said in Wakatobi on Sunday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Association of District Administrations (APKASI) Imran said there there were two reasons Indonesia wanted to play a major role in preserving coral reefs in the six CTI member countries.

He said the first was that Indonesia has wider coral reefs than those of the other five other countries and was prepared to turn 20 million hectares of mining areas into national marine parks.

And the second, Indonesian waters have the most diversity of coral reefs namely 70 species of the world`s 850 species.

"The Caribbean sea has only 50 coral reefs and the Red Sea only 300," Imran said.

He added that besides having a very rich variety of coral reefs, Indonesian waters, especially in Wakatobi district, have various natural resource potentials for millions even billions of people.

Therefore, coral reefs in Wakatobi must be protected from damage to make them to remain sustainable for a certain period of time.

"The management and utilization of natural resources in Wakatobi waters at the center of world coral triangle should consider the principles of sustainable use," Imran said.

He said that to support the management and utilization of natural resources in Wakatobi waters, the government of Indonesia through the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry would soon establish a Coral Reefs Conservation School in Wakatbi.

The first school in ASEAN and even in the world, was scheduled to be inaugurated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in conjunction with the opening of Sail Wakatobi-Balitung 2011 later.

"The establishment of Coral Reefs Conservation School in Wakatbi is part of the government attention to protecting and preserving the coral reefs from damage," Imran said. (O001/H-NG/O001)


Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Indonesian environmental group calls on president to evaluate oil palm plantation development

Antara 30 May 11;

Pontianak, West Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The West Kalimantan chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to evaluate the massive way in which oil palm plantations were being opened in the country and to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant.

"We hope the government will not force its will in developing oil palm plantations and planning to build a nuclear power plant without paying attention to their social and environmental aspects," said Hendrikus Adam, chairman of the West Kalimantan chapter of WAHLI`s Research and Campaign Division.

West Kalimantan reportedly has around four million hectares of oil palm plantations, exceeding the quota of 1.5 million hectares.

The massive development of oil palm cultivation in West Kalimantan could cause conflicts between indigenous people as owners of traditional land and plantation developers.

"We and the people need certainty and a clear stance of the government in protecting the people`s right to enjoy good and healthy environmental conditions," he said.

According to the local WALHI`s data, there have been 6,632 ecology-related disasters. Data from Oil Palm Watch shows there have been 630 conflicts regarding oil palm plantations and 200 monoculture plantation conflicts up to 2010.

From 1980s to 2009, a total of 229 companies have received licenses to open 3.57 million hectares of oil palm plantations, but only 318,560 hectares have been developed, according to data from the Dayakology Institute and Oil Palm Watch collected from six districts in West Kalimantan Province.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to visit Pontianak on May 30 and 31, 2011.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia Allows Underground Mining in Forests, Minister Says

Yoga Rusmana and Dinakar Sethuraman Jakarta Globe 30 May 11;

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week issued a decree allowing underground mining in some protected forests for coal and minerals, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said.

"The ruling is aimed at improving existing management of forest use for mining," Hasan said at Coaltrans Asia Conference in Bali.

"Miners must have mining and land-use permits from the local administration and forestry ministry to operate in protected forests."

Primary forests and peatlands are excluded from the decree, as the government has imposed a two-year ban on mining and expansion of plantations in those areas, Hasan said.

Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of power station- coal and tin and is rich with other minerals such as copper, nickel and bauxite.


Greenomics questions moratorium map`s accuracy
Antara 30 May 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Greenomics Indonesia has questioned the accuracy of the Indicative Map attached in the Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on Moratorium on New Logging Concession for Primary Forests and Peat Lands.

"Based on the sampling test carried out by Greenomics toward primary forest blocks in the indicative map, at least nine major blocks claimed as primary forests actually have the condition more dominated by secondary forests," Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director Elfian Effendi said in a press statement here Monday.

Greenomics said secondary forests have been claimed as primary forests especially on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.

"There are indications, the Presidential Instruction wants to maximize the area coverage of moratorium in the conservation areas and protected forests to give an impression that the total forest coverage under the moratorium regulation is very large. Allegedly, it has been done by upgrading the status of secondary forests into primary forests," Elfian said.

According to the forestry ministry`s data based on the 2005/2006 satellite image, the primary forets in the conservation areas constituted only 53.32 percent, while the secondary forests 4.68 percent.

The protected forest coverage having primary forests reaches 45.29 percent, while the secondary forests without forests 50.40 percent.

"The data was the condition of around five years ago. The current condition is different because the coverage of primary forests in conserved and protected forests have depleting," he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the long-awaited Presidential Instruction on deforestation moratorium to help curb the climate change impacts and preserve the remaining tropical forests and biodiversity in it.

The news on the two-year moratorium decree was revealed to the press by Agus Purnomo , a presidential aide for climate change affairs, on May 19, 2011.

Deforestation is one of the primary sources of gas emissions causing global warming. With the very high deforestation rate at 1.1 million hectares per year, Indonesia has been accused as the world`s third-largest gas emitter.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Greens Blast ‘Hidden Mining’ Decree
Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 1 Jun 11;

Activists have blasted a presidential decree that allows underground mining in protected areas, saying it will result in the exploitation of forest ecosystems.

Hendrik Siregar, a campaigner with the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), said on Tuesday that the decree signed last month went against the government’s commitment to protecting the environment.

“[Forests] need to be guarded because of their ecological value. No kind of mining, no matter the method, should be taking place in protected areas,” he said.

Under the decree, resource exploitation in protected forests is allowed as long as it is done underground and does not violate the terms of use on the land.

The regulation also requires operators to build infrastructure that supports production activities in the protected area.

To qualify for a permit, applicants must compensate the government with land that is twice the area of the concession they are seeking to mine.

They are also obliged to replant trees and rehabilitate river catchment areas of the same size as their concession. The permits are valid for 20 years and can be extended.

Hendrik said that while the government had touted the geothermal power industry as one of the beneficiaries of this decree, there were no provisions in it specifically mentioning anything about geothermal exploitation.

Dyah Paramita, a researcher with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, said the decree allowed miners to bypass existing prohibitions against mining in protected areas defined by the Forestry Ministry.

“It sets no environmental standards for underground mining,” she said. “This decree wasn’t well thought out. It’s as if the government said, ‘Let’s just put this thing out there first, then we’ll think about the impact to the environment later.’ ”

Dyah also said that with few miners now meeting their obligations to rehabilitate land, there was no guarantee that underground miners would leave forests intact.

She said: “Let’s be frank here — we’re still having difficulties with rehabilitation from surface mining, so how do you expect it to go with underground mining?

“It’s truly regrettable that this decree was issued because protected areas serve a crucial function as catchments of underground water,” Dyah said.

“How do we know that underground mining won’t affect these water reserves? We can’t even fully monitor the impacts of surface mining, so how do you monitor something hidden?”

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Indonesia seizes haul of pangolin meat bound for Vietnam

Reuters 26 May 11;

Tonnes of dead pangolins, an endangered scaly animal, were seized by Indonesian customs on Thursday, foiling an effort by smugglers to ship the meat to Vietnam, officials said on Thursday.

Indonesia's customs office found 309 crates each containing between six to 10 adult and baby pangolins, weighing a total of 7.5 tonnes, at the country's biggest port in Jakarta, said a customs official. It also found 65 kilograms of pangolin scales.

"The most outrageous thing here is they even exterminate the young pangolins, the ones that when curled up are about 20 centimeters long," Rahmat Subagio, the head of the port's customs and excise office, told Reuters.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are meant to be a protected species in Indonesia. The endemic wildlife of the sprawling archipelago of tropical forests, from orangutans to Javan rhinos, is under threat from widespread logging and poaching.

The exporting company had covered up the illegal shipment with frozen smelly fish, but customs received a tip-off and X-rayed the container to discover pangolin shapes.

Local media reported earlier this month that a customs office in northern Sumatra island had also foiled an attempt to illegally smuggle about 1,700 pangolins to Vietnam, where eating the creature is believed to improve health.

A 2010 report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, and conservation group the WWF, said trade in pangolins is well established in Southeast Asia and seized specimens were just a fraction of the actual wildlife trade.

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)

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Philippines Biodiversity Threatened Before It’s Discovered

Kara Santos IPS 30 May 11;

BATANGAS, May 30, 2011 (IPS) - "Every time we go in the water, someone discovers something that's never been seen before," says Dr. Terrence Gosliner, leader of the ongoing 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition.

Gosliner is dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences, which is conducting its largest expedition to date. He describes the richness of marine life in the Philippines as "seemingly endless." Though he has been coming back for over 20 years on various expeditions, he still manages to find at least one new form of life during every dive.

"Many people believe that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has the richest coral reefs, but that’s not true," says Gosliner. "It’s actually the countries in the Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) that have the richest coral reefs in the world.

"For every group of animal that we are studying here, we've found new species already in the first three weeks of the expedition," Gosliner tells IPS as his team prepares to explore the marine resources of the Verde Island Passage, a 1.14 million-hectare area of water shared by various coastal and island provinces.

Past research by scientists suggest that the area is "centre of the centre" of marine shorefish biodiversity. Scientific researchers say that it is home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on earth.

Gosliner estimates that they have already discovered around a hundred new species in all the areas of scientific study in the expedition. But despite being one of the "hottest of the hotspots" Gosliner says that the biodiversity in the Philippines remains relatively unknown. Scientists believe that many new species remain to be discovered in the country.

He adds that coral reefs are highly threatened in most places due to unsustainable harvesting, pollution, rising sea temperature and ocean acidification.

Even as scientists continue their expedition to discover new species, news reports surfaced that an entire reef complex twice the size of Manila was decimated off the coast of Cotabato, in the south of the country.

According to a news report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, officials confirmed that poachers harvested more than 21,000 pieces of black coral and killed 161 endangered turtles and other marine life.

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition is the first expedition to make a comprehensive survey of both terrestrial and marine diversity. Until June, 2011, academy botanists, entomologists and marine biologists will be exploring shallow-water reefs, the deep sea, and terrestrial and freshwater areas of the Philippines for new life and documenting the biodiversity of the island nation.

The expedition aims to come up with an assessment of the Philippines’ biodiversity to help future conservation decisions and policies. The academy is working with government, local schools and conservation groups.

Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, professor at the De la Salle University, one of the expedition’s local academic partners, points out the importance of studying the biodiversity because many species are already threatened even before they are properly documented.

"This site is very near urban areas that do not manage their solid waste," he tells IPS on a small island near the dive site where candy wrappers, old rubber slippers and other debris litter the shoreline. In their underwater explorations, Licuanan says it's not uncommon to find plastic bags and old diapers wrapped around corals and dry cell batteries dissolving on the ocean floor.

Verde Island is also one of the busiest sea lanes, where commercial and industrial ships and passenger ferries from southern islands regularly pass to reach capital Manila.

"The impact of people is very noticeable on the beach and water. Imagine if an oil spill were to happen in the area," adds Licuanan. At present, no infrastructure is in place to contain a major oil or chemical spill and the nearby Batangas Bay is quickly becoming a major refining and petrol chemical centre in the country.

Unlike other countries where marine protected areas (MPAs) are uninhabited, here, rows of diving resorts and communities stretch across the shoreline. Lavish private resthouses and resorts can also be found on small pocket-sized islands.

Because of the threats, environmental groups like Conservation International (CI)-Philippines have been working with local governments and communities to promote the conservation of marine resources of Verde Island Passage.

"We have been able to establish new marine protected areas in coastal communities and provide training and support to locals who make up Bantay Dagat (Sea Watch) to help enforce laws in the MPAs," says Romeo Trono, executive director of CI. According to Trono, there's been a marked improvement of 80 to 90 percent from the 1980s, when the area was known as a major hub for illegal fishing activities, yet the area faces new threats because of tourism.

Now, one of CI's main concerns is to work with other dive resorts and locals in the area in terms of managing their waste.

"It's a challenge to educate people on the importance of biodiversity in promoting healthy ecosystems," he says. "We want to show people how protecting the area can lead to improvement in the quality and quantity of resources in the future."

But aside from discovering new species, Gosliner says that what makes the expedition unique is that the team is also conducting educational outreach activities, while on location, for students, teachers and local government leaders to show the relevance of biodiversity in their lives and the need to protect it.

"Hopefully, we want the results of what we do to help people living in mountain and coastal communities to have a more sustainable livelihood in the future," he tells IPS. "That there's a way of utilising the marine, agricultural and natural resources and the richness of the biodiversity of the Philippines to promote greater economic development and sustainability for local communities."

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Stoves, Seeds Could Save African Forests: Report

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 30 May 11;

Efficient cookstoves and better crop seeds could play a key role in saving forests in sub-Saharan Africa, helping to cut emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide, environmental experts reported on Sunday.

This is important, since deforestation and forest degradation are the second-largest source of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions after the burning of fossil fuels. While forests stand, they take in and lock up carbon dioxide; when they burn, they release it into the atmosphere.

International plans to pay developing countries to stop destroying tropical forests could backfire because they fail to account for one important benefit poor agricultural countries get from clearing forests: charcoal to use as a cooking fuel.

A team of African, British and U.S. scientists and economists looked at what was happening in Tanzania, where the poverty level is high, food supplies are insecure and forest is being rapidly converted to farmland.

If a program simply pays Tanzania not to cut down its forest, the people who need cooking charcoal and farmland may be worse off, even as carbon-holding trees stay standing, said the report's lead author, Brendan Fisher.

But if a climate program added efficient cookstoves that use less charcoal and better quality crop seeds for greater yields, the benefit of keeping the forests intact would outweigh the cost to local people, said Fisher, of Princeton University and the University of East Anglia.


"There might be a chance to store carbon and improve food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa on the cheap," Fisher said by telephone. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Science.

The study aims to build on an international climate mechanism called REDD+ -- short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation -- where developed countries pay developing countries for forest conservation.

Fisher and his co-authors proposed a modification to this plan which they dubbed Smart-REDD, calculating how much crop yields and fuel efficiency would have to increase to compensate for the costs of forest preservation.

They figured Smart-REDD would cost $6.50 per ton of carbon dioxide saved, almost double the $3.90 cost needed to compensate forest users for loss of charcoal and farmland in Tanzania. But $6.50 is still far less than the current price of carbon, about $24 per ton in the European Trading Scheme, the authors said.

Even a doubling of crop yields could be possible with a carbon price of $12 a ton, the team reported.

"From our calculations, it may be possible to link large increases in food production and food security with carbon conservation in extraordinarily biodiverse forests, and all at a pretty low cost," co-author Andrew Balmford of Cambridge University said in a statement.

This would be possible in Tanzania, where agricultural production and fuel efficiency are low and could be improved with better cookstoves and seeds, Fisher said.

It wouldn't be economically practical in parts of Southeast Asia where lowland rainforests are being cut down for timber and agriculture, specifically palm oil plantations. The break-even price for Smart-REDD there would be about $50 per ton of carbon dioxide saved, he said, more than double the European carbon price.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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India Takes Unique Path To Lower Carbon Emissions

Krittivas Mukherjee PlanetArk 30 May 11;

With four times the population of the United States, an economy growing 8-9 percent a year and surging energy demand, India's race to become an economic power has propelled it to No. 3 in the list of top carbon polluters.

India's greenhouse gas emissions will keep rising as it tries to lift millions out of poverty and connect nearly half a billion people to electricity grids. But it is also trying to curb emissions growth in a unique way, fearing the impacts of climate change and spiralling energy costs.

The government is betting big on two market-based trading schemes to encourage energy efficiency and green power across the country of 1.2 billion people, sidestepping emissions trading schemes that have poisoned political debate in the United States and Australia.

"The policy roadmap India is adopting to curb emissions is innovative -- something that will make industries look at making efficiency the center-piece rather than some step that follows an ineffective carrot and stick policy," said Srinivas Krishnaswamy, CEO of green policy consultants Vasudha India.

In the world's first such national market-based mechanism, called Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT), India is starting a mandatory scheme that sets benchmark efficiency levels for 563 big polluting from power plants to steel mills and cement plants, that account for 54 percent of the country's energy consumption.

The scheme allows businesses using more energy than stipulated to buy tradeable energy saving certificates, or Escerts, from those using less energy, creating a market estimated by the government to be worth about $16 billion in 2014 when trading starts.

The number of Escerts depends on the amount of energy saved in a target year.


A three-year rollout phase is set to start in September and will help India curb about 100 million tonnes of carbon emissions, the government estimates.

The rollout is aimed at working out hiccups in the process for companies to measure and report their energy use.

India has already rolled out a renewable energy certificate (REC) trading scheme for wind, solar and biomass power plants. Green power comprises about 8 percent of energy production in India, while coal generates more than 60 percent, leading to a hefty coal import bill.

Trading for the REC scheme, which currently occurs once a month, has picked up as more projects participate, underpinning a government plan to ramp up solar power from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2022, about one eighth of power generation now.

On May 25, a total of 14,002 RECs were traded during the REC trading session on the Indian Energy Exchange valued at $4.6 million, compared with 260 units at the previous session in April.

But concerns remain about how both initiatives will evolve because of a lack of data and trained manpower as well as weak penalties for firms that refuse to comply.

"India has an issue of manpower and data. You look at incomes, industrial activities are growing, the share market might boom but hiring manpower, (building up) capacity and institutions is a long-term game," said Girish Sant, energy analyst at non-profit think tank Prayas.

Some analysts also point to technical gaps in the PAT scheme, including how various units of one company would be graded. There were also limitations that allow REC certificates to be traded only once, limiting the early entry of intermediaries or market makers.

"In order to have an effective cap-and-trade or market mechanism that aids desired reduction in energy use, it is necessary to have targets that are neither too easy nor too difficult to achieve," said leading Indian clean energy project developer and advisory Emergent Ventures in a report on PAT.

But industry observers said it still makes sense for India to opt for a national energy efficiency scheme rather than carbon emissions trading.

"Because the target is intensity, so you are basically asking people to reduce their intensity and that matches the overall target," said Sant of Prayas.

The government has pledged to cut carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic output -- by between 20 and 25 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

Emissions trading would need an absolute emissions cap, something India does not want to do, saying it needs to keep its economy growing and competitive.

Adapting to the national policy and creating a unique market are a function of time and communication, said Vishwajit Dahanukar, managing director of Managing Emissions, a clean energy project developer, advisory and asset manager.

"That's basically it. It's just early days," he told Reuters from Mumbai.

Rival China is also looking at promoting energy efficiency but most of the government's planned efforts focus more on carbon emissions trading to achieve national climate and pollution goals.

In April, a senior Chinese official said the government would launch pilot emissions trading schemes in six provinces before 2013 and set up a nationwide trading platform by 2015, Thomson Reuters Point Carbon reported. The programme would be based on provincial-level energy consumption targets.

The Chinese government is also considering a cap-and-trade scheme for energy savings in its buildings sector, which accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the country's overall emissions.

According to a government directive, the mechanism would create energy saving credits but the programme was still in the early planning stages, with trading some years away.

"As Chinese industry is much more organised and the political system allows stringent monitoring, it becomes a little easier for them to use emissions trading," said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace India's policy officer for climate and energy, told Reuters.

"Also the push back from Indian industry would be much more than China."

(Additional reporting by David Fogarty in Singapore and Ratnajyoti Dutta in New Delhi)

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German Drought Threat To Biodiesel Producers

Michael Hogan PlanetArk 30 May 11;

Drought will sharply cut the rapeseed harvest in Germany, which produces about a quarter of the European Union's crop, and is likely to force biodiesel producers to cut output.

About 75 percent of Germany's rapeseed is used by its biodiesel industry, the largest in the EU.

"The biodiesel producers must seek to find alternative supplies or may face the prospect of cutting their production," said Claus Keller of German commodity analysts FO Licht.

Drought in the past four weeks has caused huge damage to Germany's 2011 rapeseed crop which may slump 22.6 percent or 1.3 million tonnes on the year to 4.4 million tonnes.

"I think a German rapeseed harvest of this size could cause problems for biodiesel producers," said Keller.

A 4.4 million tonnes rapeseed crop would produce about 1.7 million tonnes of rapeseed oil, he said.

"German biodiesel production requires at least 2 million tonnes of rapeseed oil in the 2011 calendar year," Keller said. "This supply will not be present."

Germany' biodiesel industry has some 5 million tonnes of annual capacity, the largest producer in the EU's 21.9 million tonne biodiesel sector, according to the EU biodiesel association EBB. German biodiesel output is largely used for blending with fossil fuels to protect the environment.

Germany generally produces around a quarter of the EU's annual rapeseed crop of about 20 million tonnes. There is concern about drought hitting rapeseed in other EU countries but so far major irreparable crop damage has only been reported in Germany.

Another problem is that Germany has imposed EU regulations ahead of other most other member states which compel raw materials for biofuels to be certified as coming from sustainable agriculture, a move aimed at protecting tropical rain forests.

"The certification will make it very difficult in Germany," said Thomas Mielke, head of global oilseeds analysts Oil World. "It will be a real headache, especially for the biodiesel industry."


Mielke said that no single alternative supply source for consumers seeking to replace lost German rapeseed was currently visible.

"There will certainly have to be larger imports of oils and of biodiesel," said Mielke.

Oil World expects a rise in EU rapeseed imports in the next year from Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Canola/rapeseed could also be bought from Australia and Canada.

There will also be some demand shift to soyoil from South American producers such as Argentina and palm oil from Malaysia and Argentina.

German rapeseed oil consumers are also likely to buy as much as possible elsewhere in the EU, tightening the bloc's supply balance, traders said.

"The German crop problem is likely to become an EU issue as it is likely that German consumers will buy as many supplies as possible from other EU countries," one oilseeds trader said. "Ukraine, Argentina, and the palm oil exporters such as Malaysia and Indonesia are likely to get big new business from Europe in coming months."

Traders are now anxiously watching for signs of rapeseed crop damage in other EU producers.

"If drought also hits crops in the EU's second largest rapeseed producer France this could cause pretty serious rapeseed oil supply problems," Keller said. "Rising rapeseed prices are to be expected and they are rising already."

Euronext European benchmark rapeseed futures have risen about five percent in the last week.

"Rapeseed has suffered damage in Germany and I think we will see a supply shortage in Europe, said Siegfried Hofreiter, head of Germany's largest farm company KTG Agrar. "For rapeseed we will see a seller's market in the new year."

Germany's leading biodiesel producers include Verbio, Biopetrol and U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill.

(Editing by William Hardy)

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German nuclear shutdown sets global example: Merkel

Deborah Cole Yahoo News 31 May 11;

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany could serve as a global trailblazer with its decision Monday to phase out nuclear power by 2022 but France, Europe's biggest producer, said it will not follow suit.

Merkel said the "fundamental" rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy, prompted by the disaster in March at Japan's Fukushima plant, opened new opportunities for business and climate protection.

"We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources," she told reporters.

"We can be the first major industrialised country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities -- for exports, development, technology, jobs -- it carries with it."

Yet neighbour France, while saying it "respected" the German position, insisted it was not ready to give up nuclear energy which Prime Minister Francois Fillon described as a "solution for the future".

"We think that for some decades at least we will not be able to do without nuclear energy," added Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

The German plan, hammered out by Merkel's ruling coalition in marathon overnight negotiations, will see the country shutter all 17 of its nuclear reactors, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid, within 11 years.

"We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel told reporters as she accepted the findings of an expert commission on nuclear power she appointed in March.

"We learned from Fukushima that we have to deal differently with risks," added the chancellor, whose popularity suffered over her earlier pro-nuclear stance.

Seven of the eight reactors already offline are the country's oldest, which the government shut down for three months pending a safety probe after the Fukushima emergency.

The eighth is the Kruemmel plant, in north Germany, which has been offline for years because of technical problems.]

Six further reactors will shut down by 2021 and the three most modern will stop operating the following year 2022.

Monday's decision, which could run into legal challenges from energy companies, means Germany will have to find the 22 percent of its electricity needs that were covered by nuclear power from other sources.

A draft implementation plan to be debated next week would focus on hiking energy efficiency to reduce electricity use, building new power plants fired by greenhouse gas emitting natural gas and coal, expanding the production of wind energy, and improving the supply network from wind farms.

Thorny questions remained unanswered, including finding a permanent storage site for the highly radioactive waste and slashing CO2 emissions.

The decision represents a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who in late 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of the reactors by an average of 12 years. This would have kept them open until the mid-2030s.

That decision was unpopular even before the earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged the Fukushima facility, sparking mass anti-nuclear protests in Germany.

The Fukushima accident has ignited a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with opinions differing widely.

Nuclear opponents slammed the deal Monday and said they would stage fresh demonstrations next month to demand a faster phase-out.

France, meanwhile, said nuclear power allowed the country with its 58 reactors to provide electricity at prices about 40 percent cheaper than other European countries, on average.

"German households, for example, pay twice as much for their electricity," claimed France's Industry Minister Eric Besson.

Sweden said the German decision would lead to a disjointed energy policy that failed to adequately address climate change.

Poland and nuclear-free Austria, however, welcomed the German move.

"This decision by a highly industrialised country will have a very strong signal effect. It shows that scrapping nuclear power is both possible and feasible," said Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich.

And Poland, considering launching its first nuclear power station in 2020, said it would rethink its plans.

The United States and Britain have announced plans to build new reactors as an alternative to producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Italy scrapped nuclear power in 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster, while Switzerland said last week it would phase out atomic energy by 2034.

Despite German U-turn, nuclear here to stay in Europe
Christian Spillmann Yahoo News 30 May 11;

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Fears over nuclear safety after radiation leaks at a Japanese plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami have pushed Germany and Switzerland to call time on atomic energy, but nuclear's days are far from over in Europe.

Including Germany, which will close the last of its 17 reactors in 2022, 14 of the 27 European Union states produce nuclear energy.

The biggest producers are France, with 58 reactors in operation and another two in the pipeline, and Britain, with 19 currently in use and another eight to come on-stream.

The others are: Sweden (with 10), Spain (8), Belgium (7), the Czech Republic (6), Finland (4), Hungary (4), Slovakia (4), Bulgaria (2), Romania (2), the Netherlands (1) and Slovenia (1).

Switzerland, whose government recommends phasing out by 2034, has five reactors, to which must be added 32 in Russia and 15 in Ukraine. Another is also being built in Belarus, which is causing great unease in EU neighbour Lithuania.

While Switzerland's stance was more surprising, having originally announced plans to replace its plants, Berlin's decision showed the way, Austrian environment minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said Monday.

"This decision by a highly industrialised country will have a very strong signal effect. It shows that scrapping nuclear power is both possible and feasible," he said.

"Germany's decision strengthens me in my conviction 'Move out of nuclear energy and into renewables'," he said.

The issue is hot also in Spain, where solar is the big renewable source, in Belgium, and in Scotland, a state-less energy fulcrum that is home to about a quarter of Britain's nuclear capacity, but whose new, separatist majority government does not want any new reactors built there.

Already negotiating control of existing oil and gas revenues off its shores, the Scottish government in Edinburgh instead wants to jumpstart wind, wave and tidal development around a tense referendum on independence set for 2014.

Everywhere, though, the question of electricity supply remains vital.

"In the case of closure, it will be necessary to import energy probably from France, in other words produced by the nuclear sector," underlined Belgium's energy minister Paul Magnette.

"Germany now risks landing in a position with a very uneven energy policy," Swedish environment minister Andreas Carlgren also noted. He pointed out that Berlin will also revert to its coalmines, planned closures for which triggered a wave of strikes.

However, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania each also have new reactors planned -- even if Italy has frozen thoughts of returning to the technology it abandoned in 1987.

Even Japan has not given up on atomic energy, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan confirmed at last week's G8 meeting of major industrialised states in France.

China, an emerging renewables world leader alongside smaller specialist producers such as Denmark, also has 34 nuclear projects slated, 26 of which are already undergoing construction.

EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger is aware that 30 percent of the bloc's energy comes from nuclear generation.

While Greenpeace insists 68 percent of EU electricity needs can come from renewables by 2030 and 99.5 percent by 2050, nuclear output still has priority access to transportation grids.

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CO2 emissions highest ever in 2010: IEA

Yahoo News 30 May 11;

PARIS (AFP) – Carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high last year, dimming prospects for limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday.

Breaching the 2.0 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold sharply increases risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history," the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said.

Moreover, 80 percent of projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from energy sources are "locked in" as they will come from power plants already operating or under construction.

"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 C (3.6 F)," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

UN climate change talks have agreed that average global temperatures should not increase by more than 2.0 C (3.6 F).

To achieve this goal, long-term concentration of greenhouse gases must peak at about 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, barely five percent more than in 2000, scientists say.

This target will slip beyond reach if global energy-related emissions in the year 2020 exceeds 32 Gt, the IEA has calculated.

The rise in emissions over the next decade must be less than the jump between 2009 and 2010, the agency cautioned.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said Birol.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emission that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target is to be attained."

The UN's top climate official said the figures underscored the urgency for political action.

"The IEA estimates ... are a stark warming to governments to provide strong new progress this year towards global solutions to climate change," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UN climate talks, resuming in Bonn next Monday, remain deadlocked on how to achieve the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target.

Even the Kyoto Protocol, whose first round of emissions-cutting pledges for rich nations expires at the end of 2012, may be in jeopardy as key nations say they do not favour renewal.

"The figures mean that the world is very far from achieving the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more that two degrees Celsius," EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement, calling on other nations to set binding targets and emissions trading schemes as has the European Union.

Emerging countries say emission limits will stunt their development and argue that only rich economies can afford green technology which can boost living standards and cut emissions.

The IEA estimated 40 percent of global emissions in 2010 came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) club of advanced countries.

But these only accounted for a quarter of the annual emissions growth. The rest came came from rapidly developing countries, led by China and India.

On a per-capita basis, OECD countries emit on average 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, a voracious burner of coal, and 1.5 tonnes in India.

Global carbon emissions reach record, says IEA

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