Best of our wild blogs: 7 Dec 11

10 Dec (Sat): Talk on "Forests of the Sea" by Siti M. Yaakub
from wild shores of singapore

Finally a Common House Snake
from Life's Indulgences

A moment of duckness
from The annotated budak

花腹绿啄木鸟Laced woodpecker@japanese garden星和园
from PurpleMangrove

"Tiny but Mighty: Beccarrii" - a rare seagrass in Singapore
from wild shores of singapore

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Work begins to identify, document graves at Bukit Brown

Hoe Yeen Nie Channel NewsAsia 6 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: Work has begun to prepare Bukit Brown cemetery for a future road.

Contractors hired by the Land Transport Authority have been identifying affected graves while volunteers have also started to document the site.

In the last few weeks, a forest of wooden pegs has sprung up at Bukit Brown.

These pegs are in fact serving notice to the public that the affected graves will be cleared within a year.

Volunteers led by Dr Hui Yew-Foong, Fellow and Coordinator of the Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, have also moved in to document the site. The information is expected to be made available online.

Dr Hui said: "Every grave here is important. Every grave tells a story and every story is worth recording and taking down. We want to reconstruct what life was like in this place in the past; what the social life was like and what was the cultural life."

The volunteers work in pairs - one will jot down the inscriptions on tombstones while the other takes photographs.

The images are captured from right to left and every 45 degrees around the grave so that a 3D image can be created if needed.

It is not an easy task as some graves are overgrown and some tombstones have collapsed.

Time and weather have also worn away the inscriptions but the volunteers pressed on.

Some volunteers, like Michelle Teoh, have family members buried there.

Ms Teoh said: "For me it's very important that my children know about where they come from. By being involved (in the project), hopefully they'll get interested in their great-great-great grandfather."

Some members of the public said that a cemetery needs to be appreciated in its context and want Bukit Brown to be gazetted as a heritage park.

The Singapore Heritage Society, for instance, is working on a policy paper on how this can be done with input from stakeholders.

Ideas that have been proposed include erecting signs to help visitors navigate the site with information boards that explain the history and significance of certain graves.

Dr Terence Chong, an executive committee member of the Singapore Heritage Society, said the society is open to having something similar to Bidadari Memorial Garden.

At the Bidadari Memorial Garden at Mount Vernon Road, the tombstones of 21 prominent Christians, Hindus and Muslims - like Dr Lim Boon Keng, Sir David James Galloway and Haji Abdul Rahim Kajai - can be found there.

While their remains have been cremated, the tombstones serve to remind visitors that the site was once a cemetery.

But Dr Chong noted that "if you were to remove tombs, then the significance of this place would be reduced. And the greenery, as well, is quite important in contextualising the cemetery."

Time is also pressing on Dr Hui and his team of about 300 volunteers.

They have to document several thousand plots before the list of affected graves are made public in March.

The team also plans to record the rituals of ancestor worship, the process of exhumation, as well as the history of the old cemetery village.

With so much to do, volunteers have to work as fast as they can before the bulldozers roll in in 2013.

Members of the public who are looking for someone buried in Bukit Brown can now do so on the website of the National Archives.

The records are in English and the names are listed according to the date of burial.

Members of the public who wish to locate the burial records of their ancestors buried at the Bukit Brown cemetery will need to first determine their ancestors' names and dates of death before searching the uploaded records.

Those who need more information will still have to make a trip to the National Archives near Fort Canning Park.

- CNA/fa

Bukit Brown burial register released online
Straits Times 7 Dec 11;

DESCENDANTS of people buried in Bukit Brown Cemetery will find it easier to search for their ancestors' graves after records were made available online yesterday.

The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) has released information about the site, which is due to have a dual four-lane road built through it.

The Bukit Brown Burial Register includes the cause of death and the date when each person was laid to rest. There are also plot numbers, which 'will assist the public in their search for their ancestors' graves', said a National Heritage Board spokesman.

In July, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced that Bukit Brown would be needed for future housing. Two months later, it was revealed that construction of the road through the cemetery would begin in early 2013. The road will cover 24ha and affect about 5,000 of the approximately 100,000 graves there.

The news was met with a rare show of public resistance. Letters poured in to The Straits Times Forum Page. Most argued that Bukit Brown, with its rich history and biodiversity, should be conserved. Others worried about the graves of their ancestors.

The site was closed as a Chinese burial ground in 1973. Tombs from as far back as 1833 can be found there.

To view the register, visit

Those who wish to locate burial records need to first determine their ancestors' names and the dates when they died. The records are in English and in chronological order based on the burial date.

Those who require more detailed information can visit the NAS' reading room at Canning Rise.

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Indonesia Seeks Interpol Help in Orangutan Killing Inquiry

Fidelis E. Satriastanti & Antara Jakarta Globe 6 Dec 11;

East Kalimantan police are seeking help from Interpol to arrest the manager of a palm oil plantation suspected of ordering workers to slaughter orangutans after he reportedly fled to his native Malaysia.

Aru Mugem Samugem, the general manager of the Khaleda Agroprima Malindo plantation in Kutai Kartanegara district, along with senior estate manager Puah Chuan alledgedly ordered the plantation’s supervisor Widi and two workers to kill the animals because they had taken to eating palm fruit on the plantation.

“[Aru] is a Malaysian and right now we have reasons to believe he escaped to his home country. That is why we are seeking help from Interpol,” said Kutai Kertanegara Police spokesman Adj. Comr. I Nyoman Subrata, adding that Aru did not respond to two court summonses.

Police arrested two workers last month. They later admitted to trapping and shooting 20 orangutans and monkeys since 2008.

The company paid Rp 200,000 ($22) per monkey and Rp 1 million per orangutan, police allege.

The workers’ admission led to the arrest of Puah and Widi. All four of the suspects could face fines of up to Rp 100 million for killing protected species under the 1990 Law on Natural Resource Conservation.

Nyoman said police had uncovered the remains of orangutans, monkeys and bekantans, another endangered primate, that were buried at several locations.

Orangutans have long been extinct in Java and mainland Southeast Asia. Sumatra and Borneo are now their last refuge.

Separately, in East Kotawaringin district in Central Kalimantan, authorities there saved four baby orangutans captured by locals during the last two months.

“All of the baby orangutans are now in our care. They are orphans, and we suspect their mothers had been killed because orangutans never leave their young like that,” East Kotawaringin Natural Resource Conservation Agency chief Ian Septiawan said.

The first baby orangutan, Ian said, was taken from a doctor working for palm oil plantation Windo Nabatindo. The second was held captive by a palm oil plantation employee, the third was found at Sawit Mas palm oil plantation while the fourth was found with locals in Ketapang subdistrict.

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First action plan for world’s blue carbon policy

IUCN 6 Dec 11;

The first policy framework outlining activities needed to include coastal marine areas such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses into the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been presented in a report by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Conservation International (CI).

The report, Blue Carbon Policy Framework, outlines opportunities for including the conservation of coastal areas in the climate change policies and financing processes currently being negotiated in Durban. The study also highlights the need for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the voluntary carbon market to take coastal marine ecosystems into account.

“The oceans and marine biodiversity are crucial in regulating the global climate”, says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Oceans absorb 93.4% of the heat produced by climate change as well as one third of human-induced carbon dioxide. Coastal areas also have an exceptional capacity to store carbon. But currently natural solutions that the marine world offers to climate change challenges are rarely taken into account in international climate change policy.”

The UNFCCC and the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, fostering conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), support the conservation and restoration of terrestrial forests as a way to reduce the effects of climate change. But the importance of coastal carbon sinks, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, is not yet fully recognized by the Convention.

Although coastal ecosystems cover only one to two percent of the area covered by forests globally, improving their management can supplement efforts to reduce emissions from tropical forest degradation. A square kilometer of a coastal ecosystem can store up to five times more carbon than a square kilometer of mature tropical forests. But currently these areas are being destroyed three to four times faster than forests, releasing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the ocean, and contributing to climate change.

“We think this recognition is critical,” explains report co-author Dr. Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International’s Senior Director of Marine Strategic Initiatives and a leading Blue Carbon conservation scientist. “The management of carbon in coastal systems can already be included in a number of UNFCCC and REDD+ components. This plan was produced to help detail what we see as key next steps in terms of a full integration of blue carbon into existing initiatives.”

“We now have scientific evidence that conserving mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrasses and other blue carbon habitats is a very precious tool in our fight against climate change,” says Pierre-Yves Cousteau, IUCN’s Goodwill Ambassador and founder of Cousteau Divers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the marine world. “These muddy coastal areas also help us adapt to the changing climate. They protect local communities from storms and regulate the quality of coastal water. Increased recognition of their importance among the climate change community will hopefully improve the way they’re managed and conserved.”

“We need to convince the broader policy community that blue carbon has a strong scientific basis and that it should be taken into account as a valuable tool in our suite of global efforts to confront and adapt to the impacts of climate change. We also need decision makers to understand that this tool requires adequate funding to maximize the many benefits it provides to people,” adds Pidgeon.

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Malaysia: Murky Sungai Selangor may affect drinking water of 3 million in Klang Valley

Heavy rainfall, high turbidity
The Star 7 Dec 11;

SHAH ALAM: The high-level of turbidity in Sungai Selangor is due to the heavy rainfall experienced over the weekend, state Irrigation and Drainage (DID) department director Mohd Abdul Nassir Bidin said.

He said this phenomenon was normal and the river would clear up once the weather improved.

“There was no sign of a point source which contributed to the murkiness, such as illegal logging, factories discharging waste to the river or a dumping site.

“The high turbidity is normal when there is heavy rainfall in a tropical region like ours.

“The rainwater will flow into the river and the sediment load is quite high,” he told The Star.

He said the oil palm estates and vegetable plantations lining the middle and lower section of Sungai Selangor had also contributed to the murkiness.

However, he said there was no need to be alarmed as this was a natural phenomenon.

On Monday, Syabas warned that some three million people in the Klang Valley may expect water cuts due to the sudden turbidity of Sungai Selangor water plants in Ijok.

The murky waters had caused production to drop by 60% at the four plants, said Syabas.

As a result, extraordinary turbidity of over 6,000 NTU (Ne­­phelometric Turbidity Units) in the morning was recorded compared to 300 NTU on normal days

Meanwhile, the turbidity at Kuala Badong on Sungai Selangor was at 399 NTU as of 5pm yesterday.

DID deputy director Norhisham Mohd Ghazali said the figure was slightly elevated but it could not be considered high unless the mean figure had been derived over a period of time.

The greater the amount of total suspended solids in the water, the murkier the water would appear and the higher the measured turbidity.

The World Health Organisation recommended that the turbidity of drinking water be not more than 5 NTU, and should ideally be below 1 NTU.

'Riverbank collapse caused turbidity'
G. Surach and Predeep Nambiar New Straits Times 8 Dec 11;

THE turbidity in the waters of Sungai Selangor was caused by the collapse of an embankment along its tributary, Sungai Kerling.

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, in revealing this yesterday, said Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (Luas) detected the embankment failure which occurred about 2km from the Sungai Kerling mini hydro-power station.

It was located close to the Selangor-Pahang border.

"According to the report I received from Luas, the collapse (embankment) along the Sungai Kerling was due to natural causes.

"There were no sign that any manmade activities, such as logging and sand-mining, was the cause of the collapse.

"It had been raining heavily and the riverbank gave way," he said after chairing the weekly state executive council meeting, here.

He said Luas would continue to monitor the situation while preparing contingency plans on the matter.

Khalid said Luas had suggested that additional ponds be built to allow water from Sungai Selangor to flow in, from where the water would, in turn, flow into four water treatment plants.

The move would allow for the reduction of turbidity in the water and also ensure undisrupted water flow.

Khalid, however, said the state would only finalise the move once Luas had come up with the full details of the proposal.

Earlier, in Puchong, Khalid had urged the public not to worry unduly over the murky water in Sungai Selangor.

He said the condition of the water posed no threat as the treatment plants were fully capable of filtering out the turbidity and delivering clean water to the public.

Khalid said this after handing over the Air Hitam sanitary landfill in Air Hitam to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council.

Khalid said water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) was capable of handling similar problems at all its water treatment plants in the state.

Syabas' head of corporate affairs Halem Mat Som said that he welcomed the state government's decision to hire an independent regulator and an operations auditor from the international consultancy firm, Halcrow, to look into the cause of the pollution in Sungai Selangor.

"We certainly welcome the call to clarify the cause of the turbidity and the slow production of clean water and hope the move will result in a continuous flow of water to the people of Klang Valley," Halem said.

Syabas had, on Monday, warned that more than three million people in the Klang Valley risked water cuts because of the turbid water, which had affected the water treatment plants in Ijok.

This had resulted in a drop of 60 per cent in clean water production.

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Japan whaling fleet off to Antarctica

Shigemi Sato AFP Yahoo News 7 Dec 11;

Japan's whaling fleet left port Tuesday for the country's annual hunt in Antarctica, press pictures showed, with security measures beefed up amid simmering international protests.

Three ships, led by the 720-tonne Yushin Maru, set sail from Shimonoseki in western Japan on a mission officially said to be for "scientific research", according to local media reports.

In past years, a mother ship has joined them later.

The government's fishery agency declined to confirm the reports, citing security reasons.

"In consideration of safety, we cannot make public the timing of the fleet's departure and its operational plans," Shinji Hiruma, an official of the agency's international division, told AFP.

He only confirmed that in "usual years" the fleet left port in November or December and returned around March.

In February, Japan cut short its hunt for the 2010-2011 season by one month after bagging only one fifth of its planned catch, blaming interference from the US-based environmental group Sea Shepherd.

The fleet aims to catch around 900 minke and fin whales this season, according to a plan submitted by the government to the International Whaling Commission.

Commercial whaling is banned under an international treaty but Japan has since 1987 used a loophole to carry out "lethal research" on the creatures in the name of science.

Japan has claimed it is necessary to substantiate its view that there is a robust whale population in the world. It makes no secret of the fact that whale meat from this research ends up on dinner tables and in restaurants.

Anti-whaling nations and environmentalist groups routinely condemn the activity as a cover for commercial whaling.

In October, Australia and New Zealand renewed their demands that Japan abandon its plan to return to the Antarctic Ocean.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said at the time the plan is "entirely disrespectful of the strong concerns expressed by Australian and New Zealand people for whom the Southern Ocean is our neighbourhood."

During the last whaling season, militant environmentalist group Sea Shepherd pursued the Japanese fleet for months in icy waters near Antarctica, seeking to stop the slaughter, as they had also done for the previous six years.

Activists hurled paint and stink bombs at whaling ships, snared their propellers, and moved their own boats between harpoon ships and their prey.

Japan stopped the hunt after killing 172 whales.

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson told AFP in July that he would continue harassing Japanese whalers if they returned to the Antarctic sanctuary.

Japan's coastguard said on Monday that it will deploy an unspecified number of guards in the fleet for protection against obstruction by anti-whaling activists. It did not give any further details.

Coastguard officers travelled aboard the fleet in the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 seasons, but did not announce their presence beforehand.

"We have decided to beef up security as never before," a coastguard official told Japanese media.

Environmentalist group Greenpeace condemned the annual hunt, saying money spent on protecting the whaling fleet would be better directed to helping the recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast.

Greenpeace said the government was spending an extra 2.28 billion yen ($30 million), on top of its normal $10 million annual subsidy, in helping the hunt this year.

"Not only is the whaling industry unable to survive without large increases in government handouts, now it’s siphoning money away from the victims of the March 11 triple disaster, at a time when they need it most," said Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace's Japan branch.

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Planet Likely to Become Increasingly Hostile to Agriculture

Drought frequency is expected to triple in the next 100 years. The resulting variability and stress for farmers could prove regionally disabling without new policy
Douglas Fischer and Scientific American 6 Dec 11;

SAN FRANCISCO - To get a glimpse of the future, look to East Africa today.

The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region.

That's a taste of what's to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.

"We think we're going to have continued dryness, at least for the next 10 or 15 years, over East Africa," said Chris Funk, a geographer at the U.S. Geological Society and founding member of the Climate Hazard Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Funk and other experts at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco cautioned that East Africa is just one example. Many recent events - discoveries from sediment cores in New York, drought in Australia and the western United States, data from increasingly sophisticated computer models - lead to a conclusion that the weather driving many of the globe's great breadbaskets will become hotter, drier and more unpredictable.

Even the northeastern United States - a region normally omitted from any serious talk about domestic drought - is at risk, said Dorothy Peteet, a senior research scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

A series of sediment cores drilled from New York marshes confirm that mega droughts can grip the region: One spanned from 850 to 1350 A.D., Peteet said. And shorter, more intense droughts have driven sea water far up the Hudson River, past towns such as Poughkeepsie that depend on the river for drinking supplies.

"We're just beginning to map the extent, but we know it was pervasive," she said. "There are hints of drought all the way up to Maine."

Of course, climate change can't be blamed for all the food shortages and social unrest, several researchers cautioned. Landscape changes such as deforestation can trigger droughts, while policy choices exacerbate impacts.

Some hard-hit African countries have the highest growth rates on the planet, and gains in agricultural productivity simply have not kept up with those extra mouths. Per capita cereal production, for instance, peaked worldwide in the mid-1980s, Funk said, and is decreasing everywhere. But no place on the globe is decreasing faster than East Africa.

Simple policy decisions can blunt a crisis. Malawi, in southeastern Africa, gave farmers bags of seed and fertilizer and saw food prices fall and the percentage of its population classified as undernourished drop by almost half over a decade, Funk added. Kenya, in contrast, saw its policies stagnate; prices and malnourishment rates both rose.

Meanwhile, researchers probing the climate in pre-Columbian Central America figure that widespread deforestation had a hand in the droughts thought to have toppled the Mayan, Toltec and Aztec civilizations.

More than 1,000 years ago, "significant deforestation" throughout Central America suppressed rainfall upwards of 20 percent and warmed the region 0.5ºC, said Benjamin Cook, a NASA climatologist.

The forest - and local moisture - rebounded with the population crash that followed European contact, he added. But today the region is even more denuded than during its pre-Colombian peak.

But with the frequency of droughts expected to triple in the next 100 years, researchers fear the resulting variability and stress to agriculture and civilization could prove destabilizing for many regions.

"We should take it seriously," Peteet said.

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Countries setting own carbon emissions rules

Study finds 10 out of 17 major economies taking action at national level
Grace Chua Straits Times 7 Dec 11;

DURBAN (South Africa): As the world debates the set of international rules that govern carbon emissions targets for countries worldwide, individual governments are already setting rules of their own.

A study launched on Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa found that 10 of 17 major economies like China, Mexico and South Korea had passed or were set to enact climate legislation or policy.

For example, China's 12th Five Year Plan set a target of lowering the amount of energy used per unit of gross domestic product by 40 per cent to 45 per cent by 2020, down from 2005 levels.

And South Korea looks set to pass a law requiring major carbon dioxide emitters to be subject to emissions trading rules.

The 17 countries studied, including Australia, the United States, Indonesia, India and those in the European Union, account for some 70 per cent of global emissions.

The study was conducted by Globe International, an organisation comprising Members of Parliament from 16 major economies.

Singapore, which is not a member and not included in the study, accounts for 0.2 per cent of global emissions and has existing green-building and vehicle fuel-economy standards.

It is also planning an Energy Conservation Act, which from 2013 will require major energy users to have energy managers and management plans and targets.

UN conference chairman Christiana Figueres said: 'What this study is showing is that at the national level, these kinds of national legislation are growing.'

Globe president and former British environment minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben, explained that such legislation stems from countries acting in their national self-interest.

For instance, the stable policy environment provides certainty for businesses to invest in a country, and opens the door to clean energy investment and development opportunities.

The flip side is that states without such legislation, such as the US and Canada, are missing out on those opportunities.

The study included any legislation or policy that refers specifically to climate change, or relates to cutting energy demand and carbon emissions, promoting sustainable land use, transport and adaptation to climate impacts.

But Lord Deben said that countries acting on their own are not enough.

Last year, carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels registered a record rise of 5.9 per cent, or half a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the air.

'There is no substitute for an agreement. We need to have a continuance of the Kyoto process,' Lord Deben said, referring to the Kyoto Protocol that sets carbon emissions targets for certain developed countries.

'And we need to have all countries involved in it, and we need to be able to carry forward the decisions and agreements that were made (at last year's UN talks) in Cancun. This is a necessary part of preserving our future.'

Speaking to The Straits Times at the study's release, he noted that Globe plans to track in future studies whether countries have done what they said they would.

But it is difficult to track the extent to which such legislation cuts emissions, as calculations vary, he added.

Separately, smaller, less-developed nations like the Maldives, Colombia and Samoa and selected European nations like Sweden and Denmark discussed on Monday night their plans to become carbon-neutral: to cut and offset their carbon emissions so they have a footprint of zero.

The Maldives and Samoa, both small island nations, have previously announced their bids to be carbon-neutral by 2020.

'Consider health impact of climate change'
Straits Times 7 Dec 11;

DURBAN: Members of the global health fraternity, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday called on negotiators at the United Nations climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, to consider climate change's health impact.

As the climate warms, bacteria are likely to reproduce faster, more pollen from weeds will get into the air, and both mosquitoes and the diseases they carry - such as malaria and dengue - will spread more, warned Dr Hugh Montgomery of Britain's Climate and Health Council, an advocacy network of health professionals.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO's director of public health and environment and head of the WHO delegation to the 17th Conference of Parties meeting, said health services should get adaptation funding to deal with the increased burden of disease.

And countries should focus on emissions reduction measures that promote health, such as encouraging sustainable transport that helps to improve public health as people walk and cycle more.

But if governments delay action on health measures, it would be catastrophic, said Mr Joshua Karliner, an international coordinator for non-governmental organisation Health Care Without Harm.

Health professionals and organisations met at the first Global Climate and Health Summit in Durban on Sunday to discuss these issues.

The summit's declaration called on negotiating governments to deliver a binding agreement by 2014 that 'places the protection of human health as a primary objective of any agreement'.

It also called for global greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to avoid a 'global public health disaster'.


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"Big Three" polluters oppose binding climate deal

Nina Chestney and Barbara Lewis Reuters Yahoo News 7 Dec 11;

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - The world's three biggest polluters China, the United States and India refused to move toward a new legal commitment to curb their carbon emissions Tuesday, increasing the risk that climate talks will fail to clinch a meaningful deal this week.

The European Union is leading efforts to keep alive the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only legal pact to tackle climate change, with a conditional promise to sign a global deal that would force big emitters to change their ways.

But with the planet's biggest polluters digging in their heels, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon acknowledged the almost 200 nations meeting in the South African coastal city of Durban could struggle to strike a deal backed by legal force.

"A legally-binding comprehensive agreement may not be possible in Durban," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the talks. "But this will have to be our priority."

The European Union is pressing for a pact by 2015 which would update Kyoto to reflect the emergence of developing countries such as China as big carbon emitters and impose cuts on them.

A vital clause in the pact which enforces binding cuts on rich nations expires at the end of 2012, but all parties have agreed there is not time to negotiate a complex global deal by then.

"The European Union would like to see things concluded as early as possible," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters when asked if it would accept a date late than 2015.

"We want a legally binding deal. We have really good reasons to want that," she said.

Although the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of next year, the European Union wants a deal agreed by 2015 that would take effect no later than 2020.

Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions need to peak and start falling by 2020 to avoid devastating effects, such as island countries being submerged and agricultural crops failing.


The European Union's condition for signing a deal is that other heavy polluters agree to a road map under which they would commit, at some stage, to binding reductions.

Without that, the bloc says, there would be no meaningful progress for the planet as the European Union accounts for only 11 percent of all emissions.

China, the United States and India together make up nearly half of the world's CO2 emissions and they all have reasons for not wanting to be part of a new global deal.

The trio want to put off any commitment on binding cuts until 2015. That would be after publication of a scientific review of the effects of climate change and work to measure the effectiveness of emissions pledges by individual countries.

Although China has moved toward domestic targets for cutting carbon, Beijin says it is not to blame for previous generations of industrial pollution and cannot allow its fast-developing economy to be shackled by the drive to cut carbon emissions.

Beijing gave positive signals last week that it was prepared to contemplate some form of binding targets but has since consistently refused to be pinned down on what China is prepared to accept and by what date.

The country's lead negotiator Xie Zhenhua told reporters China might be part of a deal if, after 2020, global efforts were in line with "common but differentiated responsibilities."

That wording, lifted from the Kyoto Protocol, places a heavier burden on rich nations for reducing pollution than poorer nations, who have historically been less responsible for the emissions that are changing the planet's climate.

However, the world economy has moved on significantly since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Developed nations are bound by its terms but developing nations are not -- including China, now the world's top carbon polluter.

For its part, the United States is held back by domestic politics at least until after a presidential election next year as Republicans and President Barack Obama's Democrats squabble over every attempt to pass environment legislation.

"We would be quite open to a discussion about a process that would lead to a negotiation for the thing, whatever it turns out to be, that follows 2020, and we are also fully willing to recognize that that might be a legal agreement," U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said.

India says it is a late-comer to industrial development and its economy lags China, making it reluctant to accept binding targets that could curb its growth.

"We believe strongly that we should consider the need of a further legal agreement (...) after assessing the actions of all under the 2015 review and look at the science," Jayanthi Natarajan, India's environment minister, said.

The EU's Hedegaard said she was holding bilateral meetings with all parties, not just the big emitters, in an effort to increase pressure for a solution.

Even without a deal by the end of this week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol will still exist, but would not enforce carbon cuts.

Important agreements would remain in place which enable the monitoring and verification of carbon emissions, which provide practical data that could help form the basis of a future deal.

(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak, Jon Herskovitz, Andrew Allan and Michael Szabo; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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