Best of our wild blogs: 25 Oct 11

2012 TeamSeagrass dates now open for sign up!
from teamseagrass

Neptune's cup discovered in Singapore!
from wild shores of singapore

Singapore has Giraffes too!
from Macro Photography in Singapore

The birds are back
from The annotated budak

Pinanga vs Nenga. Gems in our forests
from lekowala!

Gardening for birds: 3. Trees
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Golf courses, not history, should make way

Liew Kai Khiun Today Online 25 Oct 11;

The Land Transport Authority's plan to open a major road through Bukit Brown Cemetery, which is of eco-heritage value, has raised debates between conservationists and developmentalists.

One sees the more intangible but longer term cultivation of a collective sense of identity and belonging; the other, the short-term but lucrative demands for growth and prosperity, particularly for this land near expensive residences along Bukit Timah Road.

As the population expands, the contestations for land use will become more pressing, and this debate is crucial in determining the liveability of Singapore for future generations.

While I am heartened by the Government's commitment to "a city within a garden", I am unsure how this can be realised in practice. The approach to Bukit Brown Cemetery seems instead to be turning the country into gardens within the city.

Perhaps, we need a radical rethink of land use in light of the current limitations, and I suggest that Singapore does away completely with golf courses.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, 22 golf courses and three temporary golf sites occupied 88 per cent of the 1,600 hectares of land used for sports and recreation in 2000, or 2.2 per cent of total land area.

To underline the exclusive nature of golfing here, the premium Singapore Island Country Club has four 18-hole courses, a nine-hole course and two driving ranges that stretch from Adam Road to the boundaries of Peirce Reservoir.

All these facilities and land, enjoyed by about 18,000 members.

Although golf courses are located in constrained areas near water catchment zones, military training grounds or flight paths, not only do they occupy huge tracts of land, they are economically unproductive, socially exclusive and environmentally damaging.

If Singapore's policies are based on pragmatism and inclusiveness, golfing should not be considered a practical activity here. Golfers should go to neighbouring countries for their sport.

Given the increasing congestion in public parks like MacRitchie Reservoir and East Coast Park, it is unacceptable that a privileged few have exclusive access to large plots of land in a tiny country with a burgeoning population.

In 1991, plans to convert parts of Peirce Reservoir into an 18-hole golf course were shelved after the Nature Society convinced the authorities of the rich wildlife in the vicinity.

This scenic area has remained a public space and diverse natural habitat that all can enjoy. On similar grounds, if there must be redevelopment in the Lornie Road area, one of SICC's golf courses, rather than the cemetery, should make way.

The recent parliamentary debates put greater priority on cultivating Singapore's soul and on developing a more active citizenry interacting with a more open Government in an inclusive society, as the Prime Minister spelt out when he assumed premiership in 2004.

Singaporeans should ask themselves to choose between saving an exclusive golf course or a culturally, ecologically and historically rich site like Bukit Brown Cemetery, if they are keen on nurturing this Singapore Soul. This is not a difficult choice, even for the wealthy, if we are thinking of wealth and happiness for all Singaporeans for generations.

The writer is an assistant professor at a local university.

Read more!

MND aware of Bukit Brown cemetery's rich heritage

Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE : The Ministry of National Development (MND) has said it is aware of the rich heritage of the Bukit Brown cemetery and is working with civic groups to document graves that will be affected by planned developments.

Plans for a new road running through the old cemetery have drawn some criticism for its lack of sensitivity to the area's history. The Singapore Heritage Society has also said it was not consulted on the plans.

A ministry statement said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) have been working with partners like the Heritage Society, and that discussions have been going on for months.

An advisory committee will guide the process of documenting over 5,000 graves - or 5 per cent of over 100,000 graves - affected by the new road.

It will record the history of the graves, as well as burial rituals.

Documentation work begins this month and will take over a year to complete.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country. We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices.

"Once the decision was taken on the road, we began discussing with key stakeholders. We aim to properly capture the history and memories of the affected graves and to do this before the planned road development begins."

The new road is part of planned redevelopments for the Bukit Brown area, first outlined in a 1991 report.

It requires about 5 per cent of the over 100,000 graves in the area to be exhumed.

Mr Tan met with the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association and the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), as well as academics and grave experts on Monday to discuss the documentation framework.

Commenting on the plans, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and The Peranakan Association said that while they support the move to document the graves, they would prefer the area to be conserved.

The Hokkien Huay Kuan hopes that the area to be affected is kept to a minimum, and called for iconic tombs to be relocated.

The SHS called on interested Singaporeans to step forward and be part of the process.

"There is room for further collaboration and consultation on plans for Bukit Brown Cemetery and the SHS looks forward to being an integral part of the decision-making process," it added.

- CNA/ms

Road across Bt Brown cemetery to go ahead
Govt will properly record the history of affected graves
Royston Sim Straits Times 25 Oct 11;

THE Government made clear yesterday that it is going ahead to build a new road that will cut through Bukit Brown cemetery, but it will commit resources to properly record the area's rich history.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin gave the assurance at a meeting yesterday with more than 10 representatives from stakeholders, such as the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, Peranakan Association and Singapore Heritage Society.

Mr Tan said the new road is necessary to ease growing traffic needs on the Outer Ring Road system, a network of major roads around the city.

'We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country,' he said. 'We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices.'

The existing Lornie Road - next to the cemetery - is insufficient to cope with this growing demand, he pointed out.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced last month that a dual four-lane road will be built by 2016. About 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves will be exhumed.

The Singapore Heritage Society clarified last week that it was not consulted in the decision- making process.

During the two-hour meeting, Mr Tan explained how the LTA had considered other options which were deemed unsuitable.

Widening Lornie Road further would require acquisition of private land and the removal of mature trees which could damage MacRitchie nature reserve, he said.

Another option is to build a viaduct over Lornie Road, but that would raise the question of where to divert existing traffic to.

Building a tunnel or viaduct through Bukit Brown would affect even more graves than a surface road, he said.

Mr Tan, however, assured stakeholders that the Government will properly record the history and memories of the affected graves.

An advisory committee comprising representatives from key stakeholders and government agencies, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and LTA, has been formed.

Dr Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will lead a working committee to carry out the actual documentation work. He was involved in the project to document 3,000 graves at the Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery.

The deadline for documentation of graves is March next year. These graves will be exhumed in the fourth quarter of next year.

Construction of the new road will begin in the first quarter of 2013.

In a statement, the URA stressed that aside from the upcoming road, development in Bukit Brown will not be immediate.

The area south of Bukit Brown around the Police Academy will be developed for public housing in about 10 to 15 years, said a URA spokesman.

The entire area will be developed for housing further in the future. The Straits Times understands that this will not take place till 2030 or 2040.

A Singapore Heritage Society spokesman welcomed the explanation. She said: 'This is really what we wanted to hear all along. It gives us a clearer picture of what's going on. The Government will need to convince everyone this is the best solution.'

The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and the Peranakan Association said they support efforts to document the history and heritage of the site.

Affected Bukit Brown graves to be documented
Ong Dai Lin Today Online 25 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) have partnered the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, Peranakan Association Singapore and Singapore Heritage Society to document graves that will be affected by the new road to be built at Bukit Brown cemetery.

In a joint press release yesterday, the two government agencies said the work and discussions, which have been going on for a few months, will also involve the input of academics and grave experts.

The Minister of State for National Development, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, said: "We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country ... once the decision was taken on the road, we began discussing with key stakeholders.

"We aim to properly capture the history and memories of the affected graves and to do this before the planned road development begins."

It is estimated that the new road will affect about 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves in the cemetery.

A working committee led by Dr Hui Yew-Foong, fellow and coordinator of the Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will carry out the actual documentation work.

The joint statement said the development of the cemetery, which was zoned for residential use in the Concept Plan 1991, will not be immediate and will begin south of Bukit Brown, around the old Police Academy area, in about 10 to 15 years. Ong Dai Lin

Read more!

Inspiring Singaporeans to take ownership of conservation

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE : The new Clean and Green Singapore 2012 campaign wants to appeal to individuals' emotional links with the environment, to encourage more people to do their part for conservation.

The annual campaign will be launched this weekend.

"World Without Fences" won the National Environment Agency's (NEA) Eco-Music Challenge in August.

Produced by NEA, the music video was partially filmed on Pulau Semakau, an offshore landfill with scenic landscaping and vibrant biodiversity.

Organisers of the Clean and Green Singapore campaign hopes the video will appeal to viewers.

Pun Wui Mei, chair person of Clean & Green Singapore 2012, said: "We hope that through this emotional connection, people will actually have this desire, this feel to really care for the environment. That means they will start (taking) action. For example, they can start using fans instead of air-conditioning...all these little ways count."

Organisers hope people will recognise that small individual efforts count towards making a big difference by the community.

They said that while environmental awareness among Singaporeans is high, the challenge is to get them to put this into action.

So they are taking a "ground-up approach" this time round, by getting community groups, non-governmental organisations and schools to share their green efforts with individuals at the campaign's launch carnival, to inspire them to do their part.

Ms Pun said: "Involving the community, involving the community volunteers is also another way of emotional links that we hope to achieve because it is not what the National Environment Agency says, it is not what the agencies want to educate, but rather, this year, we hope to get the community volunteers to be the face, to be the voice.

"By sharing their experiences, we will create this emotional link between the community and the residents. So through this, they can start to translate what they know into actions because people have done it before, so they can do it too."

In conjunction with the Clean and Green Singapore campaign, the National Parks Board (NParks) is adding five new DIY trail guides to the existing 23 over the next two months. These will highlight historical landmarks and interesting flora and fauna. NParks started these trail guides last year and said they were popular among park users.

The new guides will cover Admiralty Park, Changi Point Coastal Walk, Lower Peirce and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The guides can be found on NParks' website, and it said there have been more than 40,000 downloads for the guides in the first nine months of the year.

- CNA/cc/ms

NParks launches teaching aids for schools
Kezia Toh Straits Times 25 Oct 11;

TEACHERS can now use learning packages from the National Parks Board's (NParks') website to teach their students about conservation and biodiversity at parks and nature reserves here.

For example, students in history class can learn about the role of Labrador Nature Reserve in Singapore's maritime and defence history, and how the area was transformed from a thick coastal mangrove forest into what it is today.

Science and geography groups, meanwhile, can use a package on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to learn about migratory birds and other wildlife there.

The lesson plans and worksheets are free to download, and are tailored for pupils and students aged from seven to 16.

The initiative was launched by NParks yesterday, in conjunction with the Clean and Green Singapore campaign.

It will benefit more than 300 primary and secondary schools.

There are currently eight learning packages, but NParks plans to expand this number to 20 by the first quarter of next year. They are also available on the Ministry of Education's 'Edumall' and its national education website.

Students have to cover pre-requisites in the regular syllabus before jumping into the material.

To begin the first lesson in the Fort Canning Park package, for example, students have to have studied the history of Singapore in their history syllabus, and natural vegetation in geography.

'It is linked closely to the regular syllabus, which is helpful because it makes itself so relevant,' said secondary school teacher Grace Tay, 25.

'But with so much material on the curriculum for kids these days, I am not sure I would have class time to cover the extra material.'

The Clean and Green Singapore campaign aims to use grassroots community campaigns to spread the message that individuals need only make a small effort to make a big difference to the environment.

Its activities include a recycling drive and workshops teaching people skills such as making soap from used cooking oil.

The long-running campaign was launched in 1990 as Clean and Green Week, and was rebranded as Clean and Green Singapore in 2007.

Over the years, it has evolved from a government-led campaign to one that reaches out more to the community - for example, by partnering Community Development Councils.

Clean and Green Singapore 2012 will be officially launched this Saturday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at Petir Park in Bukit Panjang.

Read more!

Malaysia: Killer elephant caught

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 24 Oct 11;

KOTA BARU: Rangers from the state wildlife department have captured a female elephant believed to be from the herd of six that killed a rubber tapper in Kampung Serian, Batu 11, Gua Musang, in March.

Weighing about three tonnes and about 35 years old, the elephant was caught by rangers, led by Ismail Awang, at a rubber estate in Kampung Limau Kasturi yesterday.

Department director Rahmat Topani said the rangers had named the elephant "Mek Kasturi", after it was captured while roaming in the village.

"Apart from our suspicion that it caused the death of the rubber tapper, the elephant is also believed to be part of the herd that has rampaged and destroyed many smallholdings in Kampung Serian and Kampung Limau Kasturi over the last two months."

Rahmat said the elephant, the fifth to be captured by the department this year, would be sent to the National Park this weekend.

Rahmat believed five more elephants , including a female from the same herd, were still roaming the area.

On March 5, rubber tapper Lee Che Hassan, 46, set off firecrackers to scare a herd of wild elephants and was killed when one of the elephants attacked him.

He died after the female elephant wrapped its trunk around him and smashed him against a tree.

Lee's case is the third elephant attack in Gua Musang since last year.

On Jan 23, farm worker Bernardus Ngongo Naru, 24, fractured his ribs after an elephant trampled on him.

On Dec 6 of last year, Muhamad Adnan Iberahim, 26, was killed when he was trampled by a herd of wild elephants near Pos Pasik.

Read more!

Deforestation campaigning led to my deportation from Indonesia

It's no coincidence that my expulsion came after witnessing the huge tracts of rainforest cleared by Asia Pulp and Paper
Andy Tait 24 Oct 11;

Last week, I was in Indonesia. I'd travelled there to work with colleagues in Jakarta and Sumatra on our continuing campaign to end the devastation of the country's magnificent rainforests.

But after an extremely intense few days, I left the country prematurely on Wednesday evening. I had been due to stay longer and had a business visa to allow me to do so, but we were receiving advice that if I stayed it was likely to bring more risk to my colleagues working there.

I feel very sad about leaving, not least because the last parting gesture from a group of officials at the airport was to place a large red deportation stamp in my passport. I was not even informed I was being deported. I was stopped while queuing at immigration to leave the country, interviewed for an hour and then rushed at the last moment onto a plane to Singapore. My passport, with its prominent new stamp, was handed to me as I entered the plane. I don't yet know when – or if – I will be allowed back into a country that I have enjoyed visiting so much for nearly a decade.

So, why was I deported? Currently, I work on the campaign to reform the practices of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), an Indonesian company which, as our growing dossier of evidence shows, is still destroying huge tracts of rainforest. I work with our international team across a range of countries to find ways to encourage APP to change and to expose its extraordinary greenwash. I am also in regular contact with some of the major international businesses that have recently suspended contracts with APP. Before this I had been working with my Indonesian colleagues who negotiated with Golden Agri Resources (GAR), which – like APP – is part of the Sinar Mas group. Earlier this year, GAR introduced a new forest conservation policy and this new approach is regarded as the most progressive in the palm oil industry. If fully implemented, it could have hugely positive impacts across the whole sector.

Our work against APP has focused upon asking it to follow GAR's lead on sustainability, something that it is resisting ever more strongly. The weekend before last, as part of this work, I was due to take part in a trip to visit the forests of South Sumatra, to see the forest clearance for myself.

And then things became a little surreal. I was tailed from my hotel in Jakarta that morning by two men, all the way to the airport. There I was stopped and shown a letter, apparently authorising my deportation. The only problem was it wasn't for me – the wrong middle name, wrong date of birth, wrong passport number and no photograph. After much back and forth with my colleagues, the men left. I was allowed to depart for the trip and while a number of "administrative hurdles" were placed in our way en route, we were able to see some of the areas of deforestation caused by APP suppliers.

These are areas the company claims are degraded and therefore suitable for clearing and replacing with plantations. But as soon as you see it for yourself, it's obvious it's not degraded. Our experience is that they are continuing to clear huge swaths of natural forest, much of it on areas of deep peat, and much of it in areas mapped as habitat for the endangered Sumatran tiger.

The more attention the issue gets, the more efforts the company throws at countering it. In Indonesia, this centres on trying to discredit the investigations of organisations like Greenpeace. Now some authorities are stepping in to try and stop those investigations from being conducted. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that, a few short hours after the airport incident, it was reported in the Indonesian media that I was travelling on false documents in the country. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that my boss John Sauven, who had been due to accompany me on the same trip, hadn't even been allowed into the country despite having a valid visa. I'm not a great believer in coincidence.

Around the world, the campaign is more obvious. It comes through a co-ordinated multimillion dollar global PR campaign including a series of TV adverts that have been on heavy rotation on outlets like CNN and Sky.

There is also a newspaper advert that states that, in order to see APP's commitment to conservation, you just need to follow their tracks. Well, last weekend my Indonesian colleagues and I did just that. The tracks that we saw the company leaving are those left by the miles and miles of canals which have been cut through the vast peatlands in order to drain them. Those canals are followed by the tracks of caterpillar diggers bulldozing their way through hectare after hectare of natural forest, clearing and stacking the timber before it's transported to APP mills. The tracks left by APP are the tracks of the destruction on an industrial scale of Sumatra's rainforests.

This house of cards the company has built has already started to fall down. Mattel was the latest in a long line of major international brands to suspend contracts with APP. Others will surely follow. And eventually APP will have to reform. The question for now is how long will it take, and what will be left of the few remaining large areas of rainforest in Sumatra when they do?

I hope to be allowed back to Indonesia again to support the fantastic work that my colleagues there are doing on this campaign. They are on the go 24-7, under extraordinary pressure and stress. Their work supports the commitments of Indonesia's president who has pledged to stop the deforestation. It's clear that if that commitment is to turn into reality, the campaign against APP must succeed, and soon.

• Andy Tait is a senior campaigns adviser at Greenpeace

Read more!

Public supports geo-engineering ideas, study suggests

Mark Kinver BBC News 24 Oct 11;

There is strong support among the public in the US, UK and Canada for more research on geo-engineering technology, a study has suggested.

The survey focused on "solar radiation management", which involves reflecting energy from the Sun away from the Earth's surface, and received support from 72% of respondents.

The internet survey was commissioned by researchers from North America.

The findings appear in the Environmental Research Letters journal.

Writing in their paper, the researchers said the main focus on tackling climate change has been mitigation and adaptation, but the concept of geo-engineering had been gaining attention.

"Deliberate large-scale engineering to reduce or offset climate change driven by greenhouse gases... comprises an array of techniques that can broadly be divided into two very different approaches: carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management (SRM)," they said.

"Most SRM techniques act by increasing the albedo of the atmosphere through methods such as the injection of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere where they would reflect some solar energy back to space, lowering the global temperature."

They added that although the technology had been discussed and researched since the 1960s, there had been no data on public awareness or public opinions on the use of such measures.

The team commissioned internet-based research firm Knowledge Networks to carry out an 18-question survey between November and December 2010 to gauge awareness and attitudes towards the concept of geo-engineering.

Out of 3,105 respondents, two-thirds of which were from the US, they found that 72% approved of more research into climate-manipulating technology.

However, the survey showed that three-quarters of the people questioned thought that the Earth's climate system was too complicated to be "fixed" with just one technology.

The majority of respondents, the researchers added, were also inclined to say that the use of SRM technologies was an "easy way out" of continuing to burn fossil fuels and did not offer a long-term solution.

'Spicing things up'

A pioneering test, by the UK-based Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) project, was originally set to begin an experiment in October but was delayed for six months in order to address concerns voiced by critics.

The Spice team plan to use a balloon and a kilometre-long hose to spray water into the upper atmosphere - a prelude to spraying climate-cooling sulphate particles.

Researchers involved in the project calculates that 10 or 20 giant balloons at a 20km altitude could release enough particles into the atmosphere to reduce the global temperature by around 2C (3.6F).

But opponents, such as the EcoNexus NGO, argue that even testing could have harmful impacts, and that questions of ethics and international law need to be answered.

On its website, EcoNexus lists a number of other concerns, including the lack of certainty over the possible impacts of geo-engineering on biodiversity.

In December 2010, the 193 parties of the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to impose a moratorium on the use of the technique until there was an "adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks".

The ruling, which is not legally binding, is expected to be in force from 2012, although it is not expected to affect research projects in the short-term.

Read more!

Warming Could Exceed Safe Levels In This Lifetime

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 24 Oct 11;

Global temperature rise could exceed "safe" levels of two degrees Celsius in some parts of the world in many of our lifetimes if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, two research papers published in the journal Nature warned.

"Certain levels of climate change are very likely within the lifetimes of many people living now ... unless emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially reduced in the coming decades," said a study on Sunday by academics at the English universities of Reading and Oxford, the UK's Met Office Hadley Center and the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

"Large parts of Eurasia, North Africa and Canada could potentially experience individual five-year average temperatures that exceed the 2 degree Celsius threshold by 2030 -- a timescale that is not so distant," the paper said.

Two years ago, industrialized nations set a 2 degree Celsius warming as the maximum limit to avoid dangerous climate changes including more floods, droughts and rising seas, while some experts said a 1.5 degree limit would be safer.

It is widely agreed among scientists that global pledges so far for curbing greenhouse gas emissions are not strong enough to prevent "dangerous" climate change.

Next month, nations will meet for the next U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa, where a binding pact to reduce emissions looks unlikely to be delivered.

Instead, a global deal might not emerge until 2014 or 2015.

The study found that most of the world's land surface is very likely to experience five-year average temperatures that exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2060.

If emissions are substantially lowered, the two degree threshold might be delayed by up to several decades, it added.

However, even if global temperature rises are kept under two degrees by aggressive emissions cuts, some regions will still not avoid warming and the likelihood of extreme events such as heatwaves is still high in even a marginally warmer world.

A separate study by academics at Zurich's Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the UK's Met Office Hadley Center, among others, said it would be challenging to limit temperature rises to two degrees.

To achieve a greater than 66 percent chance of limiting temperature rise, global emissions will probably need to peak before 2020 and fall to about 44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.

"Without a firm commitment to put in place the mechanisms to enable an early global emissions peak followed by steep reductions thereafter, there are significant risks that the 2 degree target, endorsed by so many nations, is already slipping out of reach," the study said.

Read more!

U.N. Completes Draft Of Green Climate Fund: Official

Nina Chestney and Agnieszka Flak PlanetArk 24 Oct 11;

A U.N. committee has completed the draft design of a fund to help developing countries tackle climate change, paving the way for its launch in 2013, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Friday.

Last year, countries agreed to create the 'Green Climate Fund' to channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change.

An international committee in charge of designing the fund met this week in South Africa, but some organizations accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of hampering the process.

Negotiators from around the world will consider whether to approve the design at next month's U.N. climate summit in Durban, at which hopes have faded for sealing a new globally binding climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol from 2013.

"The Committee ended its work by submitting for consideration and approval in Durban both a draft instrument for the Green Climate Fund and recommendations on transitional arrangements to get it launched quickly," Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"The submissions (...) include a strong signal to engage the private sector and a solid basis to develop country-driven operations through direct access to funds."

"Once approved in Durban, they would allow the fund to grow quite quickly, especially as the financial environment improves, and the way would be open for a fairly rapid set-up of the fund in 2012 and full initial operations in 2013," she added.

The UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said on Thursday that the United States and Saudi Arabia had withdrawn their support for the overall design of the fund due to concerns about some wording of the text.

Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico's special climate envoy, however, told Reuters on the sidelines of a pre-COP 17 ministerial briefing in Stellenbosch outside Cape Town that while there were some concerns about the document from the two countries, he did not see any obstacles to its implementation.

"What is important is that we agreed to forward that document to the COP for action," he said.

"We still need to do a lot of work in identifying the sources (of funding) and combination of public and private sources ... this will take us some time next year."

Host South Africa stressed that the issue of financing has been overshadowed by the global economic crisis.

"I have no doubt that the G20 finance ministers do not need much persuasion; the problems stem from the short-term financial crisis. The green climate fund will have to grow to receive anything close to the $100 billion annually," said Dumisa Jele, chief of staff at the presidency.

At a U.N. meeting in Panama last month, more than 100 of the world's poorest nations accused the United States of blocking talks on how to scale up climate finance.

Some of the poorest nations in Africa and Asia, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, have been urging more direct access to the fund and want to ensure green finance is in place before committing to a binding climate pact.

They argue that national climate change trust funds in developing nations should be able to access the Green Climate Fund directly, rather than going through a third party such as the World Bank, which entails long delays and excessive paperwork.

"Direct access means that you don't have to go through implementing agencies. Many developing countries already have the capability of developing and implementing their own projects, to address their needs directly," Bernarditas Muller, the chief negotiator for the G77 group of developing nations and China, told a briefing in Johannesburg.

"Most important of all, it will allow equal access for developing countries. We need predictable financing to be able to do long-term adaptation and mitigation planning."

(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town, editing by Jane Baird)

Read more!