Best of our wild blogs: 14 Dec 11

Butterflyfishes on oil-slicked Tanah Merah
from wild shores of singapore

黄胸织布鸟baya weaver outside SBWR
from PurpleMangrove

Extreme Makeover – RMBR style
from Raffles Museum News

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Climate deal just a 'plan to make a plan'

NGOs say not enough done to protect world from irreversible change
Grace Chua Straits Times 14 Dec 11;

IT HAS been hailed by some as ground-breaking for getting all countries to agree to work together.

But environmental NGOs, or non-governmental organisations, in Singapore are not enamoured with the outcome of the recently concluded United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

On top of harbouring little hope that the annual conference would yield a legally binding agreement for all nations, they say the deal to work towards such an agreement is hardly ambitious enough to protect the world from irreversible climate change.

'The agreement is fundamentally a plan to make a plan, and it can only be hailed as a success once a legally binding deal has been officially adopted,' said a sceptical Jose Raymond, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council.

More than 190 countries at the talks agreed on Sunday to a road map towards a global, legally binding accord for countries to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions.

If the pact gets the go-ahead as scheduled in 2015, it will take effect from 2020.

Conservation International Singapore senior adviser Michael Totten was slightly more optimistic.

'The good news about the Durban climate negotiations is they didn't break down; the bad news is that action was delayed for years,' he said.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs researcher Henrick Tseng commented that the deal, achieved only after talks stretched into some 30 hours of overtime and ended on Sunday morning at 6am (noon Singapore time), was 'not particularly ambitious'.

Prior to the talks, Mr Tseng had expressed pessimism in view of developed nations' reluctance to commit to a second round of emissions cuts.

Now, again, he was concerned that developed nations might reject further commitments en masse.

'A crisis of confidence in the Durban road map could erupt and the US, China and India will find less incentive to cooperate in forging and binding themselves to a global treaty,' he said.

The three countries are the world's biggest emitters, accounting for nearly half of total emissions. They have been reluctant to commit to cuts: China and India because they feel they need room to develop, and the US because it wants all countries to commit before it will do so.

Environmental consultant Eugene Tay agreed, explaining that there is also the risk that countries may pass an agreement but not ratify it, he said, much like what the United States did with the Kyoto Protocol.

The US signed the Protocol in 1998 but has never ratified it, meaning it is not bound by the legal agreement.

Yet, current science indicates the world is on track for at least a 3.5 degC temperature rise, more than the goal of capping global warming at 2 degC to stave off the impact of climate change.

To address that, Mr Tay said, individual governments should do more. For instance, South Korea is about to pass a law requiring 'cap and trade', the capping of emissions and then trading of emissions allowances.

And Singapore has said it will cut emissions by 7to 11 per cent by 2020, if no global binding deal is reached, and by 16 per cent if one is.

Mr Totten feels business could play a significant role. For example, electronics giant ST Microelectronics announced its plans in 1998 to emit zero net greenhouse gases by last year, and accomplished this through energy efficiency, renewable energy use and carbon offsets.

This is something Singapore is beginning to do as well. A proposed Energy Conservation Act will require heavy industrial users of energy to improve their efficiency and appoint energy managers.

Mr Billet Hoontrakul, director of youth energy-issues group Energy Carta, said: 'We can't afford to wait for governments to come to an agreement. We have to demand it from the ground level.'

The group is trying to make sustainable business attractive to young people as a career, added the 20-year-old, a second-year engineering student at the National University of Singapore.

It is also working on a board game to help young people understand the complexities of climate negotiations and motivate them to act and to call for their governments to do the same.

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JTC seeks operator for Jurong Rock Caverns

2-step selection process for operator of country's first underground hydrocarbon storage site
Esther Teo Straits Times 14 Dec 11;

THE landmark Jurong Rock Caverns project, one of Singapore's biggest infrastructure developments, is taking another step towards completion.

Industrial player JTC Corporation wants proposals from firms keen to operate the first phase of the project on Jurong Island.

JTC will launch a two-stage selection process on Friday to engage an operator for Phase One of Singapore's first underground hydrocarbon storage facility.

It hopes to have the operator in place by the second half of next year.

Applicants will be evaluated on financial stability, experience, capability and track record in the first cut.

Those who make the shortlist will be invited to submit business proposals within two months.

These will be evaluated based on individual merits, with emphasis placed on factors such as fees, technical propositions and proposed commercial activities, JTC added in a statement.

Chief executive Manohar Khiatani said: 'The two-stage request... is to ensure rigour in our selection process so that a capable and qualified operator is engaged to operate and manage the caverns.'

Phase One of the caverns will be completed in stages between 2013 and 2014. The contract for the operator is scheduled to commence in 2013 and will be for a period of 15 years.

JTC's search for an operator began in 2007 when it pre-qualified some players, including terminal operators like Vopak and Horizon Terminals, in preparation for a qualifying tender at the end of that year.

But the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 forced JTC to call off the search.

The Jurong Rock Caverns project was conceived in 2001 and construction started in 2007.

At a cost of about $890 million, the first phase will offer storage for 1.47 million cubic m, or about nine million barrels, of liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil, condensate, and products like naphtha.

The development has already found its first customer in Jurong Aromatics Corporation, which is building a US$2.4 billion (S$3.1 billion) petrochemical complex on the island.

The caverns are made up of storage galleries, each with average dimensions of 20m in width, 27m in height - equivalent to a nine-storey building - and 340m in length.

Underground caverns were pioneered about 40 to 50 years ago, and more than 200 are in use around the world today.

JTC's other projects include wafer fabrication parks, business parks, Biopolis and Fusionopolis at one-north, a chemicals hub on Jurong Island, biomedical parks and logistics hubs for various industries.

Applications for the operator's contract must be in by Jan 13. Further details are available on the Singapore Government's e-procurement portal

JTC to launch 2-stage tender for Jurong Rock Caverns
Channel NewsAsia 13 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE : JTC Corporation is launching a two-stage tender this Friday to engage an operator for Jurong Rock Caverns, Singapore's first underground hydrocarbon storage facility.

The tender is for an operator to manage and operate the first phase of the Caverns.

Located at Jurong Island, Phase One of the Caverns will be completed in stages between 2013 and 2014. The operatorship contract is scheduled to commence in 2013, and will be for a period of 15 years.

Shortlisted participants from the first stage will be invited to submit their business proposals within two months.

Chief executive officer of JTC, Manohar Khiatani, said the two-stage request for proposal is to ensure rigour in the selection process so that a capable and qualified operator is engaged to operate and manage the Caverns.

He said the target was to get an operator on board by the second half of next year.

The Caverns project is the first underground rock cavern for hydrocarbon storage in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Located at a depth of 130 metres beneath Selat Banyan at Jurong Island, it is expected to provide infrastructural support to manufacturers on Jurong Island, and meet the storage needs for liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil, condensate, naphtha and gas oil.

Applications must be submitted by January 13 next year.

- CNA/ms

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Singapore port hits 2b gross ton mark

Record-breaking feat for vessel arrivals hailed as 'new chapter' for port
Jonathan Kwok Straits Times 14 Dec 11;

THE MV APL Washington may look like any other large container ship, but the Hong Kong-registered vessel yesterday made maritime history for Singapore.

The arrival of the ship of 75,582 gross tons at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal marked the first time 2 billion gross tons of vessels have called here in a year.

That would be a significant landmark at any time, but is especially striking amid a slowing global economy.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew hailed a 'new chapter' for Singapore's port and praised its 'strong growth'.

Singapore has maintained its position as the world's busiest port by vessel arrival tonnage, he noted.

He also expressed confidence that the sector would overcome the challenges in the economy and shipping markets, especially with the strong partnership between the industry and the Government.

'Besides growing capacity, our port must also continue to enhance productivity and meet new demands on safety, security and environmental sustainability, and above all, to deliver value and quality service to our customers,' said Mr Lui.

Vessel arrivals have grown steadily since 2004, when Singapore first received 1 billion gross tonnage of vessels in a single year.

Last year, about 127,000 vessels called at Singapore's ports - which include facilities run by PSA and Jurong Port. They made up a total of about 1.92 billion gross tons.

Around 117,000 ships, making up 1.93 billion gross tons, called here from January to last month, setting the stage for yesterday's record-breaking arrival.

Gross tonnage is a way of measuring the size of ships and is the internal measurement of a ship's open spaces. It is commonly used by the industry to measure the traffic of vessels calling at a port.

Singapore is tops worldwide in terms of vessel arrival tonnage, and is also the world's top hub for sales of bunker fuel.

But regional ports have been on the rise as well and Shanghai, boosted by China's trade boom, overtook Singapore last year as the world's busiest port in terms of number of containers handled.

Mr Bill Smart, managing director of Bengal Tiger Line, a shipping line registered here, said yesterday's record reflects the success of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in growing the sector and putting in place infrastructure to attract industry players.

The MPA, a statutory board, is the regulator and planner for Singapore's port and maritime industry.

'It's a good success story,' said Mr Smart. 'Rather than just getting vessels coming, calling and then leaving, they got ship brokers to come here, and the banks and financiers of ships as well. That brought other related businesses here.'

He added that there has been a slowdown in shipping volumes to the West, with a lot of the growth being in Asia, South America and Africa.

Singapore has benefited from the 'hub and spoke' system, with a lot of big shipping lines stopping here, before other lines transfer cargo to other parts of the region, he said.

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Malaysian Nature Society suggests mangrove trees for Gurney Drive instead of reclamation

Aaron Ngui The Sun Daily 14 Dec 11;

GEORGE TOWN (Dec 13, 2011): The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) does not agree with suggestions that the Gurney Drive shoreline be reclaimed, to overcome the siltation and mud build-up at the area.

Its Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar told theSun that planting mangrove trees was a simple and low-tech way to tackle the matter, emphasising that mud build-up along the shoreline was a natural occurrence.

He said the area could be turned into a mangrove forest reserve which could become a tourist attraction.

"The forest will be a natural shelter for birds and other wildlife as well as attracting fish back into the area," he said when asked to comment on the statement by the Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) that reclamation was the solution to stop the build-up of mud along the shoreline of the popular tourist attraction.

"Reclamation is not the solution," he said, adding that any future reclamation should be put on hold until a proper master plan on reclamation in Penang is conducted.

Kanda also called on the authorities to gazette the area as a reserve once the mangrove trees were planted to protect the area for the future.

State DID deputy director Mohd Abu Bakar Othman told a forum on Tuesday that reclamation would allow currents to go smoothly along the curvature of the reclaimed beach.

If the proposal is carried out, an area estimated to be as big as 97ha may be reclaimed along the popular coastal stretch.

Mohd Abu Bakar said the build-up of mud and silt at the Gurney Drive shoreline was due to weak sea currents caused by major reclamation at the nearby Seri Tanjung Pinang residential and commercial project, and pollution due to the 2004 tsunami.

Meanwhile, the state government is mulling over proposals by companies interested in collecting mud from Gurney Drive and other areas like Kuala Muda in Seberang Perai, for the purpose of making bricks for the construction industry.

State Environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said local companies, as well as Japanese and Chinese companies, have expressed their interest.

Although he conceded that collecting the mud would be a temporary solution, Phee said that the mud would have to be removed anyway if reclamation was approved for Gurney Drive.

He, however, added any decision to reclaim land in the area would only be made when a comprehensive hydro-flow plan for the state was completed.

"With the plan, we will know where to reclaim and where not to reclaim," he said when contacted.

theSun reported in September that the state is formulating a comprehensive hydro-flow plan as a reference for future reclamation works.

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Malaysia seizes million-dollar ivory shipment

AFP Yahoo News 13 Dec 11;

Malaysia has seized elephant tusks and ivory handicrafts worth an estimated four million ringgit ($1.3 million) en route from Kenya to Cambodia, a customs official said Tuesday.

The haul is the latest to indicate Malaysia has become an Asian transit hub in the illicit ivory trade, and follows the seizure of hundreds of African elephants' tusks in several busts by Malaysian authorities in recent months.

Customs inspectors seized the container last Thursday in Klang, Malaysia's biggest port, after it was unloaded from a cargo ship.

"The cargo manifest said the container contained handicrafts (soapstone) and it was loaded in Mombasa port in Kenya," Azis Yacub, state customs director of the state of Selangor, where the port is located, said in a statement.

Officials also found carved elephant and rhinoceros ivory.

Azis said the container's final destination was the port of Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

In August, Hong Kong authorities seized nearly two tonnes of elephant ivory worth about $1.7 million in a shipment from Malaysia, which wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC has described as a major hub for illicit wildlife products.

TRAFFIC says that the illegal ivory trade has been rising globally since 2004 largely due to increasing demand in China, where ivory is often ground up and used in traditional medicine.

International trade in elephant ivory was banned in 1990, but since then several auctions of tusks from elephants that died naturally or were seized from poachers have been permitted in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

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Activists urge arrest of Malaysian state governor

(AFP) Google News 13 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR — Environmental groups and activists from Malaysia, Europe and Australia have called on Malaysian authorities to arrest a powerful state governor and 13 relatives accused of massive graft.

Signatories including Greenpeace and the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund released a letter sent to the Malaysian government that urges the immediate arrest of Abdul Taib Mahmud, chief minister of Sarawak state since 1981.

Taib opponents have long alleged systematic corruption and plundering of the rich natural resources of Sarawak, located on the northern portion of Borneo island, by Taib, 75, and his family.

The letter signed by 17 non-governmental organisations and activists, alleged crimes including illegal appropriation of public funds and land, abuse of office, fraud, money-laundering "and conspiracy to form a criminal organisation."

The Bruno Manser Fund, which spearheaded the effort, has said public records in several countries show Taib and his family members have stakes in 332 Malaysian and 85 foreign companies worth several billion dollars.

The letter added that Taib family stakes in 14 large Malaysian companies alone exceed $1.46 billion.

"We allege that only the systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods has enabled Mr. Taib and his family members to acquire such massive corporate assets," it said.

The appeal was sent to Malaysia's attorney general, anti-corruption agency, and inspector-general of police.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said earlier this year it was investigating Taib but its director of investigations, Mustafar Ali, declined comment to AFP on the probe and Tuesday's arrest appeal.

An official in Taib's office also declined to comment. Taib has previously denied such allegations.

The NGOs said immediate arrests were needed to prevent the accused destroying evidence.

Sarawak officials have said the underdeveloped state needs to spur economic growth.

But Taib opponents allege massive graft in awarding Sarawak timber concessions and other contracts, and rapacious development that has seen rainforests felled, questionable dams built, and tribal groups uprooted.

They also accuse the central government of failing to act against Taib because his tight control of Sarawak has kept it a political stronghold of Malaysia's long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Other signatories to the letter included Europe-based forest advocate group FERN, the Borneo Resources Institute, and the Japan Tropical Forest Action Network.

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Indonesia: Restoring Ujung Kulon’s coral, one colony at a time

Deanna Ramsay The Jakarta Post 13 Dec 11;

Dark gray clouds appeared on the horizon as the afternoon progressed, eventually interrupting the work of the visitors to tiny Pulau Badul in Ujung Kulon National Park.

People huddled together under the shelter of two boats, fending off the pulsing showers of the rainy season in Banten.

The planting of coral colonies in the waters surrounding Pulau Badul, a dreamy swath of soft white sand that is the stuff of desert island fantasies, would have to wait until the rain subsided.

Earlier that morning, enthusiastic volunteers had plunged into the island’s aquamarine waters, laden with diving gear and the desire to do a small part to help a unique national park that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ujung Kulon is known primarily for its expanse of lowland rainforest being the last sanctuary for the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros, but the park also encompasses the sea and several islands off the western tip of Java, stretching to Krakatoa.

“The marine areas of Ujung Kulon support some of the richest fish fauna in the archipelago, with both deep water and reef species well represented,” notes UNESCO’s website.

In a small ceremony in the attractive hamlet of Paniis in Taman Jaya, just outside the national park, village head Adsa Wijaya thanked the group of assorted visitors who were about to depart for Pulau Badul to plant coral, and described how some of the coral reef offshore “had been destroyed because fishermen had been using bombs for fishing”.

Standing against a backdrop of striking blue-gray ocean, Adsa described efforts to halt the practice of blast fishing, and said locals were now proud to contribute to the rehabilitation of nearby reefs, as they depend on fishing for their livelihoods and therefore also healthy coral.

Part of their contribution comes from cultivating coral colonies for replanting in Ujung Kulon’s protected waters for a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project that began in 2007.

Timer Manurung, policy coordinator for WWF-Indonesia in Banten, said the December event, called “Build Your Own Reef” and created as an activity for tourists as well, was their sixth, and the plan was to plant 2,500 coral colonies that day.

As participants were readying their gear offshore, Andre Crespo, a coastal and ecotourism officer for the WWF’s Ujung Kulon project, described how the process worked: “We have already prepared the racks below, about 100 are ready, just place the coral in the sand in the rack and leave it. It’s very simple. You don’t need to do anything else.

“Everything was prepared by our colleagues from Paniis yesterday, the [coral colonies] were brought here and immediately taken underwater. They can’t be out of the water too long because it causes stress to the coral.”

And with that, the assorted volunteers jumped into water dotted with ethereal burgundy jellyfish and headed for the ocean floor.

Along the sandy bottom, racks were arranged with bags of two species of soft coral, Sarcophyton sp and Nepthea sp, ready for planting. People in scuba gear worked amid the pacific silence that comes with submersion, slowly and carefully placing the colonies in sand-filled partitions, while those without dive certificates — clad in masks and fins — observed from above, treading water.

Andre said the WWF chose Pulau Badul as their first site for coral restoration because of the damage done to the island’s reef due to its location along the path of fishing boats heading to sea or returning, and because of its proximity to Paniis and the shore.

In 2007, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste agreed to the Coral Triangle Initiative in order to address the threats facing coastal and marine habitats in the region, which include warming oceans, overfishing and destructive fishing and pollution.

As lunchtime approached in Ujung Kulon so did a change of tide. In what had before been crystal waters, the bodies of hundreds of small silver fish, killed in fishing nets and then discarded, someone said, began floating slowly by, crowding the ocean’s surface together with fleets of garbage from somewhere out at sea.

And while Ujung Kulon’s waters fall outside the ambitious plan for conservation in the Coral Triangle, its proximity to the area that possesses 76 percent of the world’s coral species — the highest diversity of coral in the world — and the park’s unique location along the Sunda Strait means the importance of healthy oceans and marine life in the area cannot be overstated.

Chairul Iman, who works for PT Danareksa, which was sponsoring the coral planting that day in cooperation with the WWF, said the experience was unlike anything he had imagined, and that coral transplantation work such as this “provided experience and knowledge about conservation activities”. He described the coral planting as a “breakthrough concept in conservation”.

Timer spoke of the need for “creative conservation” in Ujung Kulon, an endeavor that most certainly must be creative in order to encompass the diversity within Ujung Kulon itself. With local fishermen setting out in their boats to draw livelihoods from the sea and others carving refined Javan rhinoceros crafts to sell to the handful of tourists that make it to this hard-to-reach finger of Java, and conservationists looking to foster more tourist arrivals while continuing to strive to protect one of the world’s most endangered mammals from extinction, being creative in Ujung Kulon certainly means striking the right, and delicate, balance.

As the time approached for the second dive of the day, clouds rushed in. Thick droplets of rain splattered onto the two boats and people ducked for cover, the remainder of the replanting eventually postponed — with Paniis residents to finish later what had been started — a gentle reminder that with all one’s attempts at managing nature, even when trying to restore or protect it, we are still always at its mercy.

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Indonesia: Massive APP greenwash campaign is mostly hogwash, finds new report

WWF 14 Dec 11;

Pekanbaru, Sumatra – The Senepis Tiger Sanctuary – a prominent feature of the massive international greenwash campaign of paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) – is being subject to clear cutting operations by one of the company’s wood suppliers, an investigation by WWF and partners finds.

“The truth behind APP’s Greenwash”, a new report released today by Sumatra-based NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest, estimates that APP, part of the Sinar Mas Group, has pulped more than two million hectares of Indonesia’s tropical forests since it started paper production there in 1984.

According to the report, APP’s continued clear-cutting of forests including elephant, tiger and orang-utan habitat and the immense climate change impacts of draining deep peats to establish high turnover plantations is completely contrary to the image of environmental responsibility it is pushing through front groups and media advertising.

The truth behind APP's greenwash

The truth behind APP’s greenwash details how the company made the same promise on moving to 100% plantation sourcing of timber for major pulp mills four times – missing self-imposed deadlines to stop using native forest timber in 2004, 2007 and 2009.

APP is now announcing it will meet its commitment on timber sourcing by 2015 – a deadline Eyes on the Forest says it expects APP to also miss.

Through field investigations in June and October 2011 and historical satellite image analysis up to June 2011, Eyes on the Forest found that the APP supplier, PT Ruas Utama Jaya has been clear cutting tropical forest inside the Senepis Tiger Sanctuary.

“This is clear proof that the global advertising claims of APP that it actively protects Sumatran tiger are highly exaggerated”, said Anwar Purwoto of WWF.

The investigation shows a tiger sanctuary reality vastly different from the picture being pushed to the world media and through various front groups by APP.

After apparently trying to halt a government-proposed Senepis National Park that would have protected tiger habitat targeted by APP for pulping, the company switched to advertising a leading role in creating the “Senepis Tiger Sanctuary” in 2006, according to The truth behind APP’s greenwash.

The report alleges a very minor additional APP conservation contribution for Sumatra’s critically endandgered tigers - some 86% of the sanctuary is located on the already-protected forests of a Forest Stewardship Council-certified logging concession held by unrelated company PT Diamond Raya Timber.

Now, according to the report, at least one APP supplier is engaged in clear cutting and drainage of the small areas that were APP’s only real contribution to the sanctuary.

"Misleading customers about the brutal reality on the ground"

“It’s appalling that APP is pulping even the small blocks of forest it had told the world it would protect as tiger habitat,” Hariansyah Usman of WALHI Riau said. “This report shows a different picture to this and other, much-touted APP 'conservation projects' ".

“We would like the Sinar Mas Group’s buyers and investors who read this report to realize how APP’s media campaigns are exploiting their lack of knowledge or inexperience about Indonesia and how they mislead their customers about the brutal reality on the ground.”

“APP is interested only in feeding its giant mills with as much tropical forest wood as possible, and hoping that customers and investors will continue to believe conservation commitments and advertisements which past experience shows to be unrealistic.”

In the Netherlands, APP’s print and television advertisements have been judged misleading to the public by the country’s Advertising Codes Commission. Many global buyers, including some of the biggest paper users in the world, have ceased purchasing from APP. However, APP sells office paper, paper-based packaging and other paper products and is increasingly expanding globally into tissue products like toilet paper, including the brand names Paseo and LIVI.

“We urge global buyers and investors to no longer support Asia Pulp & Paper’s continuing shameless destruction of Indonesia’s tropical forests and the homes of Sumatra’s last surviving tigers,” says Muslim Rasyid of Jikalahari, NGOs network. “Join the growing list of other responsible companies that have cut all ties with SMG/APP.”

Indonesian paper firm logging tiger sanctuary: NGOs
Angela Dewan (AFP) Google News 14 Dec 11;

JAKARTA — A coalition of environmental groups headed by WWF accused Indonesia's biggest paper producer Asia Pulp & Paper Wednesday of clearing forest in a tiger sanctuary set up by the company.

The report, "The truth behind APP's greenwashing" by the coalition Eyes on the Forest, published satellite maps showing cleared land within the Senepis tiger sanctuary that Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) established on Sumatra island.

"APP has repeatedly used this tiger sanctuary as part of their sustainability campaign. They have lied to the public and their buyers by saying the area is being conserved for tigers," WWF-Indonesia spokesman Aditya Bayunanda told AFP.

The report also showed maps that indicated 86 percent of the sanctuary was already classified by the government as partly protected, meaning that sustainable selective logging can be carried out.

"We looked at the satellite images and matched that with what was happening on the ground. We always use satellite imagery because companies can't hide from that," Bayunanda said.

Environmental group Greenpeace has in recent years waged highly successful campaigns against APP, the fourth-largest paper company in the world, saying it has destroyed millions of hectares (acres) of tropical forest.

More than a dozen major international companies, such as Barbie maker Mattel, KFC and Walmart, have dropped paper packaging contracts with APP since Greenpeace exposed what it says is the company's unsustainable practices.

APP said the allegations in the latest report were "totally false" and published online a government map indicating that the area it was carrying out logging was outside the sanctuary.

"We have also published pictures of the real Senepis tiger sanctuary which show that it has been preserved as dense, natural forest," APP managing director Aida Greenbury said in a statement.

The tiger reserve sits in Riau province on carbon-rich and biodiverse peatland and is surrounded by vast tracts of destroyed forest, cleared mostly for paper and palm oil plantations.

The sanctuary is home to some of the world's rarest wildcats, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, of which fewer than 400 remain.

WWF said the sanctuary area was not connected by corridors to other forests, so land clearing there put the tigers closer to extinction.

"Riau has lost so much of its lowland forest now that each one left is like a sanctuary for animals," Bayunanda said.

"If this land is cleared, they will have nowhere to go."

Indonesia is home to around 10 percent of the world's tropical forest, and has struggled for decades to control rampant destruction on its lushest islands, Sumatra and Kalimantan, as well as in Papua, the western half of New Guinea island.

The government in May implemented a two-year ban on issuing new permits to clear primary forests and peatland in a carbon-cutting deal backed with $1 billion from Norway.

UN data show that deforestation and forest degradation accounts for 70 percent of carbon emissions in Indonesia, the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The country has pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent from 2009 levels -- or 41 percent with international help -- by 2020.

APP Did Damage Tiger Sanctuary, WWF Maintains
Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 16 Dec 11;

Environment group WWF Indonesia defended a report it had co-sanctioned after wood supplier Asia Pulp & Paper accused the organization of releasing fictitious findings related to the preservation of a tiger sanctuary in Sumatra.

In its report, “The Truth Behind APP’s Greenwashing,” a coalition of environmental groups called Eyes on the Forest accused APP of clearcutting tropical forest inside the Senepis Tiger Sanctuary in Sumatra, which APP advertises globally as part of its purported commitment to tiger conservation. The EoF coalition was headed by WWF Indonesia.

APP said the report contained “false allegations regarding the company’s operations.”

“The serious allegations made by EoF about the Senepis Tiger Sanctuary are wrong in every important regard. The government map, which we have released, clearly shows that EoF’s pictures are from a legal pulpwood concession operated by one of our suppliers and not from inside the sanctuary,” APP managing director Aida Greenbury said.

“We have also published pictures of the real Senepis Tiger sanctuary, which show that it has been preserved as dense, natural forest.”

Greenbury called WWF International to distance itself “from this poorly researched and inaccurate report, which does not help anyone who really cares about preserving the natural environment and wildlife of Sumatra.”

Greenbury said APP had been assessed and certified by many of the world’s leading authorities on sustainable forest management.

Aditya Bayunanda of WWF Indonesia said the group had based the research on the map produced by APP when they established the 5,000-hectare sanctuary in 2006.

“[APP] has boasted that the area will be dedicated for a tiger sanctuary but they destroyed it,” he said. “We are sticking to our findings.”

Aditya said the data used in the EoF report was taken from satellite imagery that was verified by observation on the field.

“There is no way it is fabricated,” he said. “From the satellite image, you can clearly see the deforestation in those areas.”

The report also accuses APP of damaging the environment and contributing to the destruction of tiger, elephant and orangutan habitats.

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Indonesia: Three human-elephant conflicts during 2011 in Way Kambas

Antara 13 Dec 11;

Bandarlampung (ANTARA News) - Way Kambas National Park recorded three conflicts between local villagers and elephants during 2011.

"The human-elephant conflicts did not claim any life but the villagers suffered huge material losses as the animals had damaged wide areas of their plantations," chairman of the Way Kambas National Park Awen Pranata said here on Tuesday.

The national park was planning to increase the number of volunteer security personnel from 60 to 2000 to anticipate similar conflicts next year.

"They are expected to help drive away elephants approaching human settlement areas," he said.

Recently, 16 wild elephants left the South Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS) forest and scared residents of Pemerihan village, Bengkunan Belimbing sub district, West Lampung District.

A member of the Elephant Patrol Team, Ali, said four tamed elephants were deployed to herd the wild elephants back to the forest.

Lampung Province has around 250-300 elephants currently.

Ali estimated the number of elephants in the province had increased because he saw quite number of elephants walking with their babies.


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Biodiversity going from bad to worse

The University of New South Wales Science Alert 14 Dec 11;

A major new scientific review, involving more than 30 scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands sets out our current knowledge of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in the latest special edition of the scientific journal Pacific Conservation Biology.

The special issue, launched at the International Conference for Conservation Biologists in Auckland, also presents options for governments managing complex ecosystems in the face of the threat from climate change.

One of the two main editors, Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre at the University of New South Wales says: “Biodiversity in our region is already severely impacted by habitat loss, pollution, feral animals and weeds and overharvesting. Climate change impacts just make these problems much worse”.

Eight scientific reviews focus on current scientific understanding of climate change in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and also how this varies on land, sea and freshwater environments.

Not unsurprisingly, all papers identify temperature rise and sea level rise as having considerable impacts on biodiversity.

“People and their environments on Pacific Islands have been in the vanguard of global impacts of climate change and this is predicted to worsen as sea levels rise. Beach nesting turtles and seabirds and freshwater wetlands are particularly vulnerable,” says Kingsford.

The other editor, Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and President of the Oceania Board of the Society for Conservation Biology, warns that climate change impacts affect land, marine and freshwater environments in many different ways.

“Temperature rises on terrestrial environments are going to change where animals and plants can live in the future, with some species particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures,” Dr Watson says. “In marine systems, sea level rise and the impacts of temperature and acidification on coral reef systems are of particular concern. Our freshwater rivers and wetlands are also extremely vulnerable to rising temperatures and changes to rainfall beyond the tolerances of many different organisms.”

The consequences of climate change are inevitable, given the lack of effective global initiatives to limit greenhouse gases and so all the papers also canvas adaptation options for environments and governments, according to Kingsford.

“There are some obvious things we can do,” he says. “If we stopped unsustainable practices - such as developing rivers, clearing vegetation and destroying marine habitats - we would make for much more resilient environments.”

Dr Watson says there are many ways of effectively planning for the future: “We should be increasing our national park areas, connecting fragmented parts of the landscape and restoring degraded habitats. For some iconic plants and animals, we may even have to translocate them from places where their tolerances are exceeded.”

The special issue of the journal provides a clear signal to Oceania region governments and communities about the pressing impacts of climate change on biodiversity and the challenges it presents, says Kingsford.

“There are opportunities to mitigate some of these impacts but it requires planning now, not when future generations inherit the problem.”

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Mexican farmers despair over record drought

AFP Yahoo News 14 Dec 11;

Dust blows across once fertile fields in north Mexico, where the worst drought in 70 years has left thousands of cattle dead and destroyed more than two million acres (almost one million hectares) of crops.

"It practically hasn't rained this year," said Ernesto Ruiz, a farmer in Satevo, in the border state of Chihuahua.

"It's sad to see the land like this," Ruiz added, observing the remains of his corn and sorghum fields.

Dry conditions have affected 1.7 million head of cattle, including 50,000 that have died, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

Northern states are suffering the most and seeing record levels of drought, including Chihuahua, neighboring Durango and the northwestern Baja California peninsula, along with their neighbors in the southwest United States.

Mexican meteorological services say the nine worst-affected states represent almost half the country. Southern areas have meanwhile recorded some of their wettest periods on record this year.

The start of winter brought cold temperatures but no sign of rain in many northern areas.

Rainfall could be up to 80 percent less than usual in some areas through the winter, according to the Environment Ministry.

The dire predictions provoked dismay, including among farmers who rely on sophisticated irrigation systems, such as Ever Mendoza.

Mendoza said that a river which once reached the same width as his fields was now reduced to little more than a trickle.

His water reserves were nearly empty and his few remaining crops were low.

"Normally it should grow this high every 22 days after sowing," Mendoza demonstrated with his hand. After a month and a half, the crops were still far below target, he said.

Rural development officer Jose Granillo Vazquez estimated that 70-80,000 families in Chihuahua could be seriously affected by the drought.

"The smaller the farmer, the fewer the resources they will have to confront a risk like this," Vazquez said.

The government is offering subsidies to small-scale farmers to help them survive, as well as sending water to remote villages.

Authorities say they have already paid out more than two billion pesos (around 160 million dollars) in insurance and direct aid.

Many have yet to receive help.

In the northern state of Durango, the drought has also affected drinking water supplies in around 200 communities and authorities are urging the federal government to declare a state of emergency.

Many farmers fear they will have to wait until the start of the rainy season next June for rain -- if it comes.

"If there's no water, nothing is going to grow," Mendoza said.

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Durban Deal May Do Little To Cool Heating Planet

Jon Herskovitz PlanetArk 14 Dec 11;

The world is forecast to grow hotter, sea levels to rise, intense weather to wreak even more destruction and the new deal struck by governments in Durban to cut greenhouse gas emissions will do little to lessen that damage.

Climate data from U.N. agencies indicates that the accumulation of heat-trapping gases will rise to such levels over the next eight years - before the newly agreed regime of cuts in emissions is supposed to be in place - that the planet is on a collision course with permanent environmental change.

Countries around the globe agreed on Sunday to forge a new deal forcing all the biggest polluters for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But critics said the plan was too timid to slow global warming.

For a reduction plan to have a major impact, analysts say, the world's largest emitter, China, needs to be weaned from coal-intensive power sources that are choking the planet with carbon dioxide (CO2) and developed countries must spend heavily to change the mix of sources from which they draw their energy.

But they see little political will to implement these costly plans and argue that the U.N. process showed, in two weeks of talks in the South African city of Durban, that it is bloated, broken and largely incapable of effecting sweeping change.

"The challenge is that we begin the talks from the lowest common denominator of every party's aspirations," said Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the international climate program for Environmental Defense Fund, a U.S. group which campaigns against pollution.

"For this effort to be successful, countries need to be ambitious in their commitments and to refuse to use these negotiations as just another stalling tool," she said.

Domestic political constraints make it unlikely that pledges in Durban for more green projects in the developed world and stepped up aid for developing countries will come to fruition given problems for government funding in Europe, the United States and Japan.


In about 20 years of negotiations, the U.N. process has produced one binding deal on emissions cuts, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It is seen as a fading accord affecting a handful of developed states that now account for only 25 percent of global emissions, and was kept on life-support by the Durban deal.

The latest agreement extends limits on advanced countries that would otherwise expire next year. But it is widely seen as not doing nearly enough to make a dent in emissions.

The pact, known as the "Durban Platform," produced the promise of a new legally binding deal by 2020 and set out a road map to get there. The worry is that by the time any new provisions take effect, they will have been diluted in negotiation to the point of being meaningless, analysts said.

China, the United States and India, the world's three biggest emitters accounting now for about half of all global CO2 emissions, are not bound by Kyoto and would not be bound to any legally enforceable numbers until at least 2020.

The three have been accused by environmental lobby groups for years of blocking tough measures, and all three cite domestic priorities in their defense. The U.S. Senate needs a supermajority to approve global treaties and does not have a broad enough coalition to sign off on a global climate deal.

India and China said curbing their emissions would hurt their fast-growing economies and put hundreds of millions of their people at risk as they try to escape poverty.


But those calling for tighter curbs on emissions say that those populations are being put at greater risk by climate change: "The people of the world are the biggest losers because the governments are kowtowing more to the corporate interests than the interests of the people for more aggressive action," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Myer, a veteran of the U.N. climate talks, called for greater ambition on emissions cuts and financial support for industrial change and for "a more collaborative spirit than we saw in the Durban conference centre these past two weeks."

National envoys to the U.N. climate process and scientists who brief them see a need to limit the global average temperature rise to at least 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times to prevent the most serious climate change. Environmental groups have said even that is not enough.

The United Nations Environment Programme said in a report last month that emissions were on track to grow above what is needed to limit global warming to the 2-degree mark, with analysts warning that delays in cuts for developed states and curbing the furious pace of emissions growth in major developing countries increasingly put the planet at risk.

Myer said: "We are on a path to 3-3.5 degree Celsius increase if we don't make aggressive cuts by 2020.

"And there is nothing to suggest this deal will alter that."

As temperatures rise, so does the damage, which includes crop failures, increasing ocean acidity that would wipe out species and rising sea levels that will erase island states, U.N. reports said.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said global average temperatures could rise by 3-6 degrees by the end of the century if governments failed to contain emissions, bringing permanent destruction to ecosystems.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world's largest disaster relief network, saw the Durban deal as a collective failure to stem the destruction caused by climate change on the world's most vulnerable people.

"It is frankly unacceptable we cannot all agree when so many lives are at stake," Bekele Geleta, the group's secretary general said in a statement.

Selwin Hart, chief negotiator for an alliance of small island states, took some heart, however, that at least there was agreement to keep on talking: "I would have wanted to get more, but at least we have something to work with," he said.

"All is not lost yet."

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney, Barbara Lewis and Agnieszka Flak in Durban; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

Carbon Markets Still On Life Support After Climate Deal
Nina Chestney and Jeff Coelho PlanetArk 14 Dec 11;

Carbon markets are still on life support after a U.N. climate deal agreed in South Africa on Sunday put off some big decisions until next year and failed to deliver any hope for a needed boost in carbon permit demand.

A package of accords agreed after marathon U.N. talks in Durban extended the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact enforcing carbon cuts, allowing five more years to finalize a wider deal which has so far eluded negotiators.

Kyoto's first phase, which is due to expire at the end of next year but now will extend until 2017, imposed limits only on developed countries, not emerging giants like China and India. The United States never ratified it.

Many traders and analysts said the agreement will do little for carbon prices which are at record lows, as the two main European Union and U.N.-backed markets are stricken by flagging investments, an oversupply of emissions permits and worries about an economic slowdown.

"It's a sedative situation, in which a sick market needs a cure and instead of deciding which cure to use, the doctors keep using pain relief to gain more time to make the final prognosis," said Jacopo Visetti, carbon trader at AitherCO2.


The deal gave a positive signal to investors uncertain about the fate of Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which gives developed nations and firms carbon offsets in return for investing in carbon-cutting projects in poor nations.

New investment in the CDM fell last year to just a fifth of its record high in 2007 of $7.4 billion as many clean energy project developers and traders scaled back their activities.

"We are more encouraged than we were last week," said Ian Simm, chief executive at Impax Asset Management, which has just over 2 billion pounds under management and invests in environmental markets.

"It confirms that there will be parts of the world that will continue to accelerate the development of markets for cleaner technology," he said.

But carbon offsets under the CDM, so-called certified emission reductions, were trading just above 5 euros a tonne on Monday, near record lows.

Many observers are doubtful of a rebound in demand for the permits.

"Thanks to Durban, the CDM will live to see another day, but demand for credits for these projects is lackluster," said Jonathan Grant, director of carbon markets and climate policy at PricewaterhouseCoopers.


"Carbon markets are expected to stay in the doldrums, because of oversupply in the (European carbon) market as a result of the recession," Grant said.

The world's biggest carbon market, the EU's emissions trading scheme, caps the emissions of some 11,000 polluting power firms and industrial plants in 30 countries.

EU carbon prices have lost over half their value since June mainly due to economic growth concerns and over-supply, trading around record low levels below 8 euros a tonne on Monday.

Durban's deferral of some key decisions on new market mechanisms until next year left many frustrated.

"(It's) impossible to take any longer-term decisions," said Per Lekander, an analyst at Swiss bank UBS. "You don't know what to do and what (is the) validity of different instruments."

Without major emitting nations spelling out their emission reduction targets, the deal will do little to spur demand in carbon markets, already oversupplied with hundreds of millions of permits and international credits.

"It's an agreement between parties to arrange another agreement. It is more or less like a mother that tells her child 'ok, we will do it,'" said Matteo Mazzoni, carbon analyst at Nomisma Energia in Italy.

Instead, carbon prices are expected to be driven more by European growth prospects.

"It's possible that carbon prices have seen their floor. But the positive momentum given by Durban can only be sustained if the resolution on the European debt crisis continues on the right path," analyst Emmanuel Fages at Societe Generale said. "The uncertainty remains."

Trevor Sikorski, head of carbon research at Barclays Capital, said: "Supply is still the fundamental problem." He estimated a surplus of over a billion EU and international carbon credits during the period 2008-2012.

He expects the EU carbon market to be oversupplied through 2020, though sees some chance of carbon prices bouncing when big European utilities start hedging their sales of carbon-intensive power generation for 2013.

"A sustained increase in prices is probably not going to happen until the end of next year," Sikorski said.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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