Best of our wild blogs: 15 Jun 12

Singapore’s National Climate Change Strategy 2012 – Key Points
from Low Carbon Singapore

Is this a rare species? Unusual blue-plumed bird spotted on tree in Bukit Gombak
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

TeamSeagrass featured in new edition of Semakau Book
from teamseagrass

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Leave wild boars alone, say residents

They say animals aren't a nuisance; others against 'crossbow culling' option
Siau Ming En Straits Times 15 Jun 12;

RESIDENTS living on the fringes of the Lower Peirce forest, where wild boars roam, want the National Parks Board (NParks) to leave the animals alone.

'I hardly see them and they haven't been a nuisance at all,' said Mrs Laura Loke, a 57-year-old retiree who has lived in the area for more than 10 years.

In fact, sightings of the creatures are part and parcel of the charm of living near the forest, said 56-year-old Bernard Teo, a semi-retired businessman.

'When you buy a house here, you should already be prepared to see some of these wild animals; it's all part of nature,' he added.

The duo's sentiments typify the views of 20 residents living in the landed homes along Old Upper Thomson Road that face the forest.

They were interviewed yesterday on the NParks move to look at curbing the growing population of wild boars in the Lower Peirce area. Culling them with crossbows is one of the options being considered.

The issue has also generated a buzz among other people, with several readers living elsewhere writing to The Straits Times Forum page to call for a more humane solution.

NParks estimates that there are 100 wild boars in the forested Lower Peirce area alone. But residents say they are rarely seen, appearing only at night in herds of seven to nine boars.

Occasionally, they can be seen crossing the road separating the forest and landed properties.

'Cars driving down Old Upper Thomson Road sometimes startle them and they would scurry across the road,' said Ms Dawn Chua, a 29-year-old housewife.

The possibility of using crossbows to curb the growing number of wild boars was raised at a meeting NParks had with animal welfare groups last month.

But most of the groups were not in favour of it.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore says it plans to meet NParks by the end of this month to offer a plan that involves rounding up the animals to sedate and euthanise them with chemicals.

The call for 'a more viable, sustainable and humane solution' was also made by retired lawyer Irene Low. The 52-year-old's Forum letter on Wednesday carried 57 signatures.

When contacted yesterday, she expressed her disappointment at the agency's proposal.

'I asked why? The equation is a very disturbing one, we see a wild animal and we kill,' Ms Low said.

Another letter writer, Dr Chong Shin Min, said 'more research is needed to determine the baseline population figure and the roles wild boars play in our reserve ecosystems'.

The area's MP, Mr Inderjit Singh of Ang Mo Kio GRC, said the issue has not been discussed with him.

'But now that it has come up, I will be going down to talk to residents to find out how serious is the situation,' he added.

Additional reporting by Cherie Thio

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Singapore's strategy to fight climate change

S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 14 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has released a national climate change strategy document which outlines the country's plans to address climate change through a whole-of-nation approach.

The key elements of Singapore's climate strategy include reducing emissions across sectors, building capabilities to adapt to the impact of climate change, harnessing opportunities for green growth and forging partnerships on climate change action.

The 136-page document was launched on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change.

Mr Teo said: "Energy efficiency is one of the key strategies because we are an alternative-energy-disadvantaged country because we do not have hydroelectricity (or) nuclear power. Even if it (nuclear power) is an option, it is a very long-term option because of our density."

On reducing emissions, Mr Teo said the inter-ministerial committee will study how Singapore can stabilise its long-term emissions.

At the same time, he urged everyone to play their part to combat climate change.

"What can you do, what can we do, what can I do together? Ultimately how well Singapore does in our response to climate change will depend on the collective efforts across the people, private and public sectors," he said.

Mr Teo added: "Everyone has a part to play whether through lifestyle adjustments or changes in business processes. This could be through buying more efficient appliances, taking public transport, using less air-conditioning or simply switching off the lights when we leave our homes, classrooms or offices."

Isabella Loh, chairman of the Singapore Environment Council, said: "We are encouraging through ownership, through social media outlets as well as through events and programmes and partnering with corporates, to do more outreach whether it is in the school segment or the community. That goes for energy audits and consumer understanding of green products."

It is projected that Singapore's business-as-usual emissions are expected to reach 77.2 million tonnes by 2020. The business-as-usual level refers to Singapore's projected greenhouse gas emissions without policy intervention.

The National Climate Change Secretariat said the manufacturing sector will contribute 60.3 per cent of these emissions, with global manufacturing companies set to scale up their operations in Singapore in the coming years.

Singapore's refining and chemical industries are expected to contribute about half of Singapore's projected 2020 emissions. In view of this, Singapore has put in place various schemes to facilitate the adoption of energy efficient technologies and processes in manufacturing plants.

The building sector is estimated to contribute 13.8 per cent of 2020 emission levels. The National Climate Change Secretariat said the increasing demand for commercial space and more intensive use of space are likely to contribute to an increase in emissions from this sector.

Recognising this, the government has implemented measures and incentives to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

The transport sector is projected to contribute 14.5 per cent to greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Private cars contribute the largest share of 35 per cent of land transport emissions, followed by commercial vehicles, buses, taxis and the rapid transit rail system.

The secretariat said it will step up efforts to increase the attractiveness of public transport and encourage the public to make use of this energy efficient mode of transport.

Under the Land Transport Masterplan, Singapore targets to achieve a 70 per cent public transport modal split by 2020, up from 59 per cent in 2008.

Households will contribute about 7.6 per cent of emissions. That is because growing population size and household incomes are expected to increase the demand for electrical appliances like air-conditioners, televisions, lightings and refrigerators, which contribute to greenhouse gases.

The secretariat said it has put in place awareness programmes to educate households on ways to save energy. It added that it will consider more measures to influence purchasing and energy usage patterns.

The secretariat has published a booklet entitled "The fight against climate change begins with You". Through this booklet, Singaporeans can find out how much money they can save in a year if they adopt energy efficient habits. For example, using a fan instead of the air-conditioner can help them save S$790 a year.

There will also be a series of public outreach programmes from September and a two-part documentary to educate the public on climate change. There are also plans for climate change education in collaboration with the Education Ministry and the Science Centre.

In his message published in the document, Mr Teo said Singapore needs to be pragmatic and practical, yet bold and visionary in addressing the issues surrounding climate change.

He said: "Making adjustments earlier will make the transition easier. Every individual effort such as buying more energy-efficient appliances, taking public transport and using less energy will count."

He said efforts to reduce Singapore's long-term emissions will be challenging as Singapore's small size limits the country's ability to draw on alternative energy like solar, wind or nuclear.

Nonetheless, he said Singapore will enhance energy efficiency efforts and develop low carbon technologies to overcome current constraints.

Singapore is also building up expertise and capabilities on climate science, in partnerships with local and overseas research institutions.

Mr Teo added that Singapore is well-positioned to tap the economic opportunities arising from climate change by creating high-value jobs for Singaporeans and enabling the economy to benefit from green growth.

Asked about the status of the Global Climate Change talks, Mr Teo explained: "It will be difficult because every country has its own interest which it wants to advance. But from being in Durban last year, there was a consensus that we should try to reach a global agreement.

"This is not something which country A does and country B doesn't do. Then all that country A does almost gets nullified by what country B isn't doing. So you do need a global agreement and that consensus on that. But the shape of the global agreement will be a subject of intense discussion.

"On Singapore's part, we have followed the standard methodology and arrived at what our projected carbon emissions would be in 2020 if we just did Business As Usual, and we have made a commitment to reduce that between seven and 11 per cent unconditionally and the NCCS 2020 document maps out what we are going to do."

As for the longer term target of 16 percent, he said Singapore would have to take more energy efficient measures. "One of the things we have to consider is carbon tax...we are still studying whether it is appropriate and what is the best way of doing so. We are looking at the experiences of other countries, as well."


Everyone has a part to play in climate change fight
Puay Leng Channel NewsAsia 14 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has urged everyone to play their part to combat climate change.

Mr Teo made the call at the launch of Singapore's National Climate Change Strategy 2012 publication on Thursday.

The document outlines Singapore's strategies and initiatives to realise its vision to be a climate-resilient global city that is well-positioned for green growth.

"Ultimately how well Singapore does in our response to climate change will depend on the collective efforts across the people, private and public sectors," said Mr Teo, who is also the chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change.

"Everyone has a part to play, whether through lifestyle adjustments or changes in business processes," he said.

Some small businesses and organisations in Singapore are already taking the eco-friendly route, despite some initial heavy investment.

For instance, Densco Electrical Engineering Pte Ltd paid about S$40,000 to install more than 60 solar panels last month.

The factory's director, Chia Joo Meng, estimates that it will save about S$5,000 on energy costs every year.

Meanwhile, the Poh Ern Shih temple at Chwee Chian Road spent over S$350,000 to install an array of eco-features, including solar panels and wind turbines.

Building owners said tapping on alternative energy can help them combat rising energy costs.

Suppliers of solar panels said they have seen a 30% jump in the number of small buildings adopting eco-features, compared to last year.

- CNA/cc/ir

Not watching TV now? Then turn it off
Singaporeans urged to use less electricity as part of national effort to tackle global warming
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 15 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE - As the Government spells out its comprehensive measures to bring down energy consumption across all sectors, households evidently have a vital role to play in what Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean described as a "collective national effort".

Yesterday, as Mr Teo, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, launched a 136-page national climate change strategy document, the National Climate Change Secretariat announced that it will also distribute 10,000 brochures providing eco-friendly tips to schools, public libraries and community centres.

The brochure details the savings that a person can accrue in a year if he adopts energy-efficient habits at home or in the workplace. For example, using a fan at night instead of the air-conditioner will save S$790 a year, while switching off a printer when not in use will save S$134.

Said Mr Teo: "In our daily lives, we can all make choices that help to reduce carbon emissions. This could be through buying more energy-efficient appliances, taking public transport, using less air-conditioning or simply switching off lights when we leave our homes, classrooms or offices."

Currently, households contribute to about 17 per cent of total electricity usage in Singapore. But even as the authorities roll out various initiatives - including the mandatory energy labelling scheme for electrical appliances - households here are consuming more electricity.

A study published in 2010 by the National University of Singapore Energy Studies Institute showed that between 1999 and 2009, total residential electricity consumption increased significantly, by one third, partly because of the growing number of households. Electricity usage per household increased by a compounded annual growth rate of 1 per cent.

While tariffs have risen, the study also showed that households' demand for electricity is highly inelastic to prices, given that electricity bills make up only about 1.3 per cent of household incomes.

It also found that electricity consumption is "highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations": When temperature increases by 1 per cent, electricity usage increases by between 2 per cent and 14 per cent in the long run.

"This suggests that temperature aspects of electricity usage - for instance incorporating ventilation considerations in home designs - could be an effective focus for conservation efforts," the study added.

Time to bring back scheduled blackouts?

In line with the Government's plans to reduce carbon emissions by between 7 per cent and 11 per cent below the country's 2020 business-as-usual levels, households have to contribute between 10 per cent and 16 per cent of the reduction.

Experts TODAY spoke to felt that the target is feasible but they reiterated that consumer habits might be difficult to change.

A concerted public education campaign is needed to make energy conservation a regular topic of discussion, they said.

SIM University's Dr Luke Peh suggested: "Communication can be personalised to household types and allow the public to discover for themselves how easy it could be to save on utility/electricity bills with simple actions."

Nanyang Technological University Energy Research Institute Programme Manager Nilesh Jadhav added: "Consumers need to be more engaged by other means such as social networking, food-court and shopping mall advertising as most of us spend time here. Other ways would be to create a helpline or help desk to call and seek advice on saving electricity."

Mr Jadhav also suggested that domestic helpers should be educated on conserving electricity, while Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore Chairman Edwin Khew reiterated the need to instil environmental awareness from young, starting in schools.

Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Jose Raymond told TODAY that his council had suggested to the authorities to bring back electricity and water rationing exercises. "Due to the relatively shocking nature of such measures, they would be successful in getting a wider dialogue going on energy and resource conservation," he said.

But Mr Jadhav felt that scheduled blackouts "are absolutely not acceptable". "We are a rather developed economy, and quality of life is associated to access to energy when required," he said.

Agreeing, Mr Khew felt such a method is "too draconian". Instead, he suggested that warnings be given to households that are consuming a lot of electricity. "Perhaps audits can be done in such households to show them the areas of high electricity and what can they do to reduce consumption," he added.

Government still studying carbon tax possibility
SINGAPORE - The Government is still mulling over a possible carbon tax - about 19 months after it had first floated the possibility if a global deal on climate change is reached.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told reporters: "We are still studying if (a carbon tax) is appropriate, what is the best way of doing so, looking at the experiences of other countries as well."

To encourage the industry sector to improve energy efficiency, the Government is also considering a contracting model where a third-party energy services company (ESCO) bears the upfront cost of energy efficiency investments.

The ESCO will then take a fixed proportion of the money saved over time by the client.

Alternatively, the client pays for a project proposed by the ESCO, which guarantees a specified level of cost savings.

If the guaranteed level is not achieved, the ESCO makes up the difference to the client.

Why Singapore green targets are 'smaller'
DPM explains disparity with other states: We've been eco-friendly for many years
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 15 Jun 12;

DESPITE its small size, which limits the use of renewable energy, Singapore has been a green country for many years.

That is why its targets for the environment are smaller than those in some other countries, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

'If you were a heavy polluter in the past, you would have a lot more scope to cut emissions. But Singapore has been a very green country for many years,' he said.

He said this at the launch of a book at Ngee Ann Polytechnic on the Republic's green goals and efforts to achieve them. While the strategies outlined are not new, this is the first time they have been consolidated into a book.

The National Climate Change Strategy 2012 also includes the nation's target to trim its projected greenhouse gas emissions - by as much as 11 per cent by 2020.

It will raise this target to 16 per cent if a global, legally binding deal is reached.

By comparison, Taiwan and South Korea have pledged to attain a target of 30 per cent.

Mr Teo said Singapore did not pledge a higher cut because there were already several initiatives in place to protect the environment - it has long controlled its vehicle population growth, for example.

Also, about 80 per cent of its electricity is generated from natural gas, which is more environmentally friendly than coal or oil.

It is currently estimated that Singapore will produce about 77.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2020, if it had done nothing more to reduce them since 2005. Taiwan's emissions by 2020 are estimated at 257 million tonnes even with a 30 per cent cut.

Asked about the disparity in cuts, Mr Teo said that 'different countries have different national circumstances', such as access to sources of renewable energy.

According to the National Climate Change Secretariat, Singapore's size makes it hard to harness solar and wind energy effectively, which requires large infrastructure.

Mr Teo, who also chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said that despite such natural limitations, the Republic's 7 per cent to 11 per cent reduction target can be achieved.

One measure that will kick in next year is an emissions-based vehicle scheme that rewards drivers of fuel-efficient cars. The Government is also studying the possibility of a carbon tax, he said.

Residents can also help - by using energy-efficient devices and public transport and turning off lights not in use. 'Everyone has a part to play - whether through lifestyle adjustments or changes to business processes,' he said.

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Hot weather may fuel dengue cases

Straits Times 15 Jun 12;

THE number of dengue cases fell to a three-year low for the first half of the year, but the current hot weather could push the figures up again.

Heat suits the Aedes mosquito and shortens its growth process, which could send it into breeding mode more quickly, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has warned.

The public should thus be vigilant about preventing the breeding of this mosquito, which carries and spreads the dengue virus, the agency said ahead of Asean Dengue Day, which kicks off today.

In the first five months of this year, 1,529 people came down with the viral illness - fewer than the 1,742 in the first five months of last year and the 1,676 in the corresponding period the year before.

Despite the dip in the number of infections, the public should continue to make sure the Aedes mosquito has no place to lay its eggs by doing what NEA calls the five-step Mozzie Wipe-out.

The steps include changing the water in vases and removing water from flowerpot plates on alternate days.

It was reported last week that temperatures here are expected to soar to 30 deg C at night in the coming weeks. Daytime temperatures could hit 34 deg C.

June is typically the hottest month of the year in Singapore. Average daily temperatures can range from 24.8 deg C to 31.3 deg C.

Studies have shown that warmer weather speeds up the development of mosquito larvae into adults. They reach adulthood in less than 10 days, compared with the usual one to two weeks.

At temperatures of 30 deg C, more female mosquitoes are produced as well. The result is a larger and predominantly female mosquito population, which has to feed in order to breed.

Further, the warm weather helps the dengue virus multiply faster and it will have a shorter incubation period in the mosquito's body.

Dengue is transmitted to humans when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, body aches, pains in the joints, loss of appetite and skin rashes.


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Singapore - The little Nation that could and did - has something to show the world

World's first offshore landfill and more innovative solutions at CleanEnviro Summit Singapore
GlobeNet 13 Jun 12;

GLOBE-Net, June 13, 2012 - Singapore, the tiny Asian nation that has been at the forefront of ecological change for decades, is about to show the world how to deal with a growing environmental problem - the escalation of municipal solid wastes.

Supported by key international organisations like The World Bank and UNEP, CleanEnviro Summit 2012 will be taking place from July 1 to 4 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Under the theme of Innovative Clean Enviro-Solutions for Asia's Growing Cities, the event will highlight such solutions as it draws attention to the role of governance, leadership and technology to meet future environmental challenges, especially in the exploitation of energy, water and waste nexus for a more efficient design of future cities.

Set against the backdrop of a population explosion, rapid industrialisation and urbanization, Asian cities are recognising the urgency of addressing environmental concerns. This need is particularly acute in the area of waste management, which has largely been neglected in favour of the more popular areas of water and carbon emission control.

Indeed, if OECD and World Bank estimates of increased municipal solid waste generation hold true, the waste management systems of most countries in the region will be taxed beyond their limits. (See GLOBE-Net article "Rising Costs of Wastes")

This year's CleanEnviro Summit thus shifts the spotlight to waste-to-resource management in order to achieve a sustainable, affordable and integrated system, for a resource-efficient society and a clean, liveable environment.

It will feature cornerstone events such as the Clean Environment Regulators Roundtable, a platform for high-level policy makers and regulators to share environmental regulatory experience, challenges faced in dealing with environmental pollution and waste management issues, with the express objective of implementing practical change when they return to their respective cities.

The Summit will feature site visits to give participants a better appreciation of Singapore's comprehensive strategies in waste management and resource recovery (Singapore has set a target to achieve a 70% recycling rate by 2030), and learn about the country's initiatives to encourage environmental innovations, technology adoption and the practice of 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle).

The site visits will showcase recycling facilities, waste-to-energy plants as well as the world's first off-shore landfill.

Singapore's only landfill made out of sea space, Semakau Landfill (pictured right) is internationally acclaimed for its unique co-existence with a thriving biodiversity of more than 300 species of plants and animals calling it home.

It was dubbed by the New Scientist Magazine as the 'Garbage of Eden', a 'paradise' for incinerated waste ash and non-incinerable waste which are transferred to the landfill from the incineration plants on the mainland. Come July, Semakau Landfill will be open as one of three fascinating site visits delegates to the CleanEnviro Summit can explore in Singapore.

The Clean Land & Cities - Integrated Solid Waste Management Tour will visit Veolia's recycling plant which incorporates a material sorting facility for an integrated approach to municipal waste recycling, and the state-of-the-art Tuas South Incineration Plant (TSIP.)

TSIP is Singapore's fourth and largest refuse incineration plant. Built at a cost of $900 million, it can incinerate 3,000 tonnes of refuse every day through its six incinerators, nearly twice the amount of refuse currently being incinerated at Tuas Incineration Plant.

TSIP is the first incineration plant in Southeast Asia to use high-quality SiC tiles as refractory materials in the furnace, which are expected to have a longer life span. Another innovation is the use of an advance Digital Control System, designed to increase the operational efficiency of the plant and reduce manpower. The plant's four high capacity rotary bulky waste crushers will help improve efficiency as well.

The Trash to Treasure - Recycling Technology Showcase will give participants a glimpse into cutting-edge recycling technology at Cimelia's facility, followed by a visit to the Keppel Seghers's Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant. Keppel Seghers is the only private operator in Singapore to operate two municipal incineration plants with WTE capability, and treating up to almost half of the total volume of municipal waste sent for incineration in Singapore.

Another highlight of the Summit is the Clean Environment Leaders Plenary Sessions. These high-level dialogues will explore how policies and strategies, as part of a comprehensive and integrated approach to urban planning, would promote the clean environment outcomes and stimulate green growth by engaging the various stakeholders in planning, implementing effective legislative frameworks, and application of technological solutions.

Prominent speakers such as Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore, Dr. Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch in the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics of UNEP, Ms. Pamela Cox, Vice President, East Asia and Pacific of The World Bank and Mr. Jerome Le Conte, Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Environmental Services will be leading discussions on the pressing challenges facing the world today.

CESS_issus _6(0606)_01And if you're looking for the current and latest innovative equipment and technologies in waste management, recycling and resource recovery solutions, go no further than the WasteMET Asia Trade Exhibition, another component of the Summit. This extensive showcase of solid waste management and environmental technology will feature government bodies, trade associations, consultants, plants and equipment companies, cleaning companies, and more.

In the face of global urbanization and climate challenges, the Summit will facilitate dialogue on the latest environmental policy thinking, market trends and technological innovations. It is held in conjunction with the World City Summit and the Singapore International Water Week at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

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Malaysia: Protecting sea turtles

The Star 15 Jun 12;

THREE locations will mark the World Sea Turtle Day (WSTD) celebrations this Saturday and WWF-Malaysia invites the public to show their support for these ancient marine creatures!

It’s three times the fun at Terengganu, Malacca and Sabah with events aimed at raising awareness on the need to protect the endangered species and their nesting beaches.

Four of the seven sea turtle species can be found in Malaysia.

In Terengganu, the campaign themed Telur Penyu: Beli Jangan, Makan Pun Tidak! (Turtle’s Egg: Don’t Buy, Don’t Even Eat!) is jointly organised with Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and will be held at Bazaar Warisan, Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin, Kuala Terengganu from 8.30am to 5pm.

Exciting activities include face painting, exhibitions, pledge signing, a talk by renowned motivational speaker Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj, turtle-inspired performances and a special appearance by the players from Terengganu’s football team, Skuad Penyu.

The WSTD celebration will also be held in the historic city of Malacca, home to the largest po-pulation of Hawksbills in Peninsular Malaysia.

Themed “Malacca Our Home, Hawksbills Our Heritage”, the event is jointly organised with the State Department of Fisheries in collaboration with the Education Department, Tourism Ministry, Malacca Office and other state government agencies.

Held at Dataran Pahlawan at Jalan Merdeka from 11am to 8pm, the public will be treated to a fun-filled day featuring turtle race, face painting, pledge to save turtles using turtle origami and special performances, among others.

Joining the celebration in Semporna, Sabah this year, WWF-Malaysia will organise a two-day and one night camp tomorrow for local children.

With the theme “Celebrating World Sea Turtle Day: Sea Turtle Camp”, treasure-hunt games on the beach based on the turtle life cycle and snorkelling at seagrass beds to search for grazing turtles will be carried out.

And if the participants are lucky that night, they would be able to see a turtle laying eggs during beach patrolling as the nesting season has begun.

Details on these events are available at

Malaysia: Total fun on World Sea Turtle Day
Farik Zolkepli The Star 13 Jun 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: It will be three times the fun when WWF-Malaysia celebrates World Sea Turtle Day this weekend.

Three states Terengganu, Malacca and Sabah will be the focus of the celebration with whole-day events on Saturday to raise awareness on the need to protect the endangered species and their nesting beaches.

Four of the seven sea turtle species can be found in Malaysia, said WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

He said the three states were chosen for their importance in turtle conservation.

“Terengganu is renowned for its turtle population, Malacca for having the largest population of hawksbill turtles in peninsular Malaysia, while Sabah has the Semporna district, which has an important project to empower people to preserve sea turtles,” Dr Dionysius said.

In Terengganu, a campaign to discourage sales and consumption of turtle eggs will be jointly organised by WWF-Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu at Bazaar Warisan in Jalan Sultan Zainal Abidin here.

The activities would include face painting, exhibitions, pledge signing to save turtles, a talk by motivational speaker Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj, turtle-inspired performances and a special appearance by the state's Skuad Penyu football stars.

In Malacca, the event, themed Malacca Our Home, Hawksbills Our Heritage, will be jointly organised with the state fisheries and education departments and the Tourism Ministry, with the support of other state agencies.

The festivity at Dataran Pahlawan in Jalan Merdeka will also feature a host of activities, including a turtle race, face painting, pledge signing and special performances.

In Semporna, WWF-Malaysia will organise a two-day children's camp.

The activities would include a treasure hunt, snorkelling at the seagrass beds to search for grazing turtles and beach patrolling.

For enquiries, log on to

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Indonesia: Mangrove loss threatens community resilience

IRIN 14 Jun 12;

JAKARTA, 14 June 2012 (IRIN) - Millions of hectares of mangrove forests in Indonesia are being lost to agriculture, oil palm plantations and even fish farms, making coastal communities more vulnerable to the force of tropical storms and the loss of livelihoods and products.

“There’s quite a lot of evidence that mangroves reduce wave and wind energy in relation to storms, and also reduce the impacts of coastal erosion,” said Ben Brown, the Indonesia representative of the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), an international NGO that works to conserve and restore mangrove areas worldwide.

“Where mangroves go missing, villages and shorelines are heavily impacted in relation to storms. Some are inundated with tidal waters, whereas years ago, when mangroves were intact, these villages didn’t suffer from these effects,” he told IRIN.

Indonesia has around 17,500 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited by over 238 million people. In 2011 the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected 23 tropical cyclones off the coast, which produced high-speed winds, heavy rains and heightened tidal levels that caused flooding and structural damage to buildings and coastal infrastructure.

Brown said mangroves are adjacent to all major landmasses and big rivers in Indonesia, and mostly found on the coasts of the large islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua.

The island of Java, where approximately 130 million people live, is particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones, according to the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency’s 2010-2014 plan.

In January 2012, local media reported that falling trees, landslides and flooding caused by a tropical cyclone had damaged 2,300 homes and killed 16 people on the islands of Java and Bali.

Community protectors

“Mangroves can be short or tall, so waves will be more or less damaging depending upon the height of mangroves,” said Norm Duke, a mangrove expert based in the TropWATER group at James Cook University, Australia. “The only scenario where they can become overwhelmed is where storm surges are associated with a tsunami, but generally they offer protection that would not be otherwise available.”

The forests also support the livelihoods of coastal communities, the Centre for International Cooperation in the Indonesian Forestry Ministry noted. Mangrove palms are used for roofing material, and mangrove wood can be used to produce high-value charcoal and fuel for cooking and heating. Some communities use the bark of certain trees to treat various diseases and skin disorders.

Mangrove trees shelter the habitats and breeding areas of many fish species from storm conditions, making an often vital contribution to the food security and livelihoods of villagers. “The roots of mangroves tend to be stronger than other vegetation,” said Daniel Murdiyarso of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CITFOR), an Indonesia-based NGO. “This, combined with mangrove leaves giving a particular mix of nutrients to fish farms, means that mangroves can be crucial for protecting villages’ fishery habitats.”

In 2007 the Indonesian Forestry Ministry established two centres for mangrove development. During 2010 and 2011 the centre on the island of Bali put in 8,000 new mangrove plants, and the other centre, in the city of Medan on the island of Sumatra, put in 10,000 plants. A further 12,000 plants are targeted for 2012. But will this be enough?

Under threat

Despite their many benefits, the MAP’s Brown says these coastal trees are vulnerable. “The biggest threat is agricultural expansion. In the 1980s there were 4.2 million hectares of mangroves in Indonesia, but by the end of the 1990s more than half of that coverage had been lost due to agricultural expansion, and the current level is unclear.”

He said the Indonesian government’s Fisheries and Maritime Affairs department has budgeted for the conversion of a further 675,000 hectares of mangrove into land for agriculture to meet short-term economic goals, which would remove a third of the remaining mangroves.

Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, a mangrove researcher based at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium, who has conducted research in Southeast Asia, pointed out that “Mangroves may well protect fish farms but, conversely, they are also being deforested to house fish farms. The question is, how many mangroves can you dispose of without losing their protective function?”

Experts highlight the development of oil palm plantations, urbanization and the effects of pollution as further threats to Indonesia’s mangrove forests, and worry that these will reduce the resilience of communities.

Duke of James Cook University said, “Where mangroves have been cut or damaged through harvesting or other reasons, their capacity to protect coastal communities is compromised.”

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Indonesia's forests of corruption

Michael Bachelard Sydney Morning Herald 10 Jun 12;

As the public servants of Indonesia's Forestry Ministry stand waiting for the lifts, they are assailed by warnings against graft.

"Stop bribes, corruption," says a large sign on level three. "We officers of the Ministry of Forestry are anti-bribes," asserts another.

It would seem patronising if it were not so necessary.

"The forestry sector," said Chandra Hamzah, the deputy chairman of Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission, in 2010, "is a source of unlimited corruption."

The department earns $15 billion a year in revenue from selling forestry permits and the investors with the deepest pockets are those who want to log forests or turn them into plantations. The illegal trade in logging and forest concessions, fuelled by bribes, cronyism and corruption, is invisible but probably many times larger.

On climate change, Indonesia is being pulled in two directions. Politically it appears serious about the task of reducing its emissions, 60 to 80 per cent of which are due to deforestation. The President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has pledged to reduce emissions by 26 per cent without international help, and by 41 per cent if such help is forthcoming.

But economically, the drivers of deforestation have not changed. There is big foreign cash to be earned as a coal and timber producer and the world's largest exporter of palm oil.

Into this messy context five years ago walked an experienced environment project investor, the American Todd Lemons, wanting to establish a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme to sell carbon credits to the world.

By July 2010, Lemons had jumped 11 of the 12 hurdles mandated by the Indonesian bureaucracy, spending $2 million in the process. He believed his 90,000-hectare Rimba Raya project on Kalimantan would be the first to sell carbon credits from Indonesia into the world market. Rimba Raya was intended to produce 100 million tonnes of credits over its 30-year life and he had forward contacts in place with the Russian gas company Gazprom to buy them. All he needed was the forestry minister's approval.

But on the verge of success, he was informed the ministry had halved the size of Rimba Raya, making it unviable. The rest of the land was signed over to a palm oil company, PT Best Group.

The project went into limbo, and, almost two years later, there it remains. Lemons and his business partners declined to comment.

It is understood in business circles in Indonesia that Rimba Raya fell foul of nationalist sentiment by announcing the deal with Gazprom too early.

Hadi Daryanto, the quixotic secretary-general of the forestry ministry, told The Sun-Herald that Rimba Raya was just "a big noise".

"They were here from Singapore, [asking], 'Why you kill the Rimba Raya?' I don't kill. They are stupid. They don't have the licence when they go to market."

Despite the government's support for REDD projects, private schemes in Indonesia have fallen by the wayside. Many of those surviving are run by the public sector, including Australia, but even these are foundering. The flagship program, the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, set up with money pledged in 2007 by John Howard, has been "quietly but drastically scaled back", according to a report from the Australian National University. The area now being worked on is just over 10 per cent of the original target and the Australian Department of Climate Change concedes that getting the support of local people has been difficult.

Norway has also come into Indonesia with $1 billion to try to fix its institutional problems. So far, those problems are so deep, the Nordic country has only been able to disburse $30 million of its money.

Money-makers such as Macquarie Bank and Merrill Lynch-Bank of America have not given up. Macquarie's Brer Adams is armed with a $25 million fund, "BioCarbon" and is hunting for REDD projects in Indonesia, and Merrill Lynch's Abyd Karmali said he was still keen to develop "instruments" to allow his clients to invest in REDD.

But the most prospective private REDD project is run by an Indonesian company, PT Rimba Makmur Utama. At the helm is Dharsono Hartono, an Indonesian who admits he is "crazy" to attempt it.

Born in Indonesia but educated at the US Ivy League university Cornell and a 10-year veteran of international banks in New York, Hartono has the credentials to navigate the tangle of bureaucracy, nationalism and corruption that is Indonesia. But even he has been trying for five years to get through the approvals process.

"To be successful in REDD you need time," he said. "At the moment the market [for REDD credits] is uncertain, the regulation is uncertain, the initial cost is high. You'd have to be crazy to do it."

Hartono's concession covers 200,000 hectares of forest in central Kalimantan, home to perhaps 4000 of the world's remaining 60,000 orang-utans. Just one hurdle remains - approval from the minister. It's the hurdle that tripped Rimba Raya and Todd Lemons. Hartono hopes to clear it, but he is not counting his chickens.

"I have to be realistic. I understand risk. If I'm not successful, I will have to cut my losses. The next 12 to 24 months will be a good test."

Whatever new climate change institutions have been set up in Indonesia, the real power still resides with the old, powerful economic ministries such as forestry.

Hadi Daryanto, the forestry department's secretary-general, says he is supportive of REDD.

In an interview with The Sun-Herald, he likens carbon to electricity - invisible, but a saleable commodity nonetheless. Daryanto also knows exactly how to calculate its economic value. Leaping to his feet and going to a nearby whiteboard, he sketches it out.

"If REDD is to happen, then the solution is about the payment for environmental services and the price of the carbon compared with the logs," he says.

"Logs are priced in the market at $US100 per cubic metre of log. It would have to be $US70 per tonne of carbon to compete.''

Australia's carbon tax will pay just one-third of this amount from July 1, and the European market is paying about one-seventh.

"Who will pay?" asks Daryanto. "If the price is below the [price of a] log, nobody wants to sell. They just cut the trees … It is a question of economics, not a question of conservation."

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Australia Creates World's Largest Expanse of Marine Reserves

Environment News Service 14 Jun 12;

CANBERRA, Australia, June 14, 2012 (ENS) - Australia is poised to safeguard the largest network of marine reserves anywhere in the world, covering 40 percent of Commonwealth waters.

The Gillard Government today released the final marine reserve map, drawn after 12 months of public consultations with marine and tourism business representatives, environmental groups and members of the public through 250 meetings across the country.

Once proclaimed under national environmental law, the conservation measure will increase Australia's marine reserves from 27 to 60, expanding the national network to cover 3.1 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles), by far the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world.

The designated reserves are inhabited by 45 of the world's 78 whale and dolphin species, six of the seven known species of marine turtle, and 4,000 fish species.

"Our aim is to protect our unique marine environment, while supporting coastal communities and marine industries around the country," said Environment Minister Tony Burke today. "Australia can lead the world in marine protection."

The final reserve network map was published just ahead of the UN's sustainable development summit, Rio+20, in Brazil, which Burke will attend with Prime Minister Julia Gillard next week.

"The maps I have released today are most comprehensive network of marine protected areas in the world and represent the largest addition to the conservation estate in Australia's history," said Burke. "This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations."

Together the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve will become the largest adjoining marine protected area in the world, covering 1.3 million square kilometres.

Australian Marine Conservation Society Director Darren Kindleysides said Australians can be proud of this protective action. "As a nation we've come a long way since coral mining was proposed for the Great Barrier Reef and commercial whaling occurred in our waters," he said. "The progress made today shows that as a country we've continued to act to protect what is most special about our oceans. Australia's marine life needs real respite from overfishing and industrial development."

"Some critically important areas like the Coral Sea, the 'Serengeti of the Seas,' will be safeguarded from damaging activities like bottom trawling, oil and gas exploration and seabed mining," said Kindleysides.

"The near-pristine wilderness of our tropical Coral Sea is one of the last remaining places on Earth where populations of large ocean fish and healthy coral reefs still thrive. We can be proud that future generations will be able look back and realise that we protected such globally important seas while we had the chance," he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation praised the government's move. "This world class network of marine reserves is a historic conservation achievement that makes Australia a global leader in ocean protection," said ACF chief executive Don Henry.

But Henry warned that the Coral Sea is not completely protected from oil and gas exploration. "Although the reserve network bans oil and gas exploration in the Coral Sea, the north west region has been left vulnerable to these threats," he said.

"With Australia's magnificent natural endowment of unique marine biodiversity comes a responsibility to protect our oceans from the risks of bottom trawling and oil and gas exploration," said Henry.

Burke said today that the government has been responsive to public concerns. Following "the huge number of submissions received," he said, "protection has been increased for a number of iconic reefs in the Coral Sea Marine Reserve that are important for marine turtles and large ocean predators."

Australia's new national marine network will feature:

The Coral Sea Region, an area of more than half the size of Queensland, that supports critical nesting sites for the green turtle and is renowned for its diversity of big predatory fish and sharks. The network includes protection for all reefs in the Coral Sea with the final proposal adding iconic reefs such as Osprey Reef, Marion Reef, Bougainville Reef, Vema Reef, and Shark Reef included as marine national parks.

The South-West Marine Region extends from the eastern end of Kangaroo Island in South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia. It is of global significance as a breeding and feeding ground for southern right whales, blue whales and the Australian sea lion. Features in the South-West region include the Perth Canyon - an underwater area bigger than the Grand Canyon and the Diamantina Fracture Zone, a large underwater mountain chain which includes Australia's deepest water.

The Temperate East Marine Region runs from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to Bermagui in southern New South Wales, and includes the waters surrounding Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. It is home to the critically endangered east coast population of grey nurse shark, the vulnerable white shark and has important offshore reef habitat at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs and Lord Howe Island that support the threatened black cod.

The North Marine Region includes only the Commonwealth waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea extending as far west as the Northern Territory-Western Australian border. Globally important nesting and resting areas for threatened marine turtle species including flatback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles will be protected, as will foraging areas for breeding colonies of migratory seabirds and large aggregations of dugongs.

The North-west Marine Region, stretching from the Western Australian - Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay in Western Australia, is inhabited by the whale shark, the world's largest fish. This area provides protection to the world's largest population of humpback whales that migrate annually from Antarctica to give birth in the water off the Kimberley.

It is expected that the final marine reserves will be declared before the end of the 2012. Over the coming months, the Gillard Government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package, said Burke.

Large parts of the new marine reserves will be zoned to allow a range of uses to continue as long as they are consistent with the primary objective of protecting the conservation values of the reserves, the government says. Highly protected zones will be included in the network of new marine reserves. These zones will be managed to preserve the area in an undisturbed and unmodified condition, so extractive activities will not be permitted in these zones.

Henry and Kindleysides both said their organizations will continue to work with governments, the community and other stakeholders to improve protection for important areas that have been left vulnerable to fishing or mining, including critical turtle and dugong habitat in the Gulf of Carpentaria, blue whale feeding grounds off Kangaroo Island, coral reefs off the Kimberley coast, as well as the Albany Canyons and Rowley Shoals off Western Australia.

But the minister said it is now too late to change the marine reserve boundaries.

"We now go through one final 60 day consultation period," Burke said. "It's too late for people to say I want this line shifted or I want this zone painted a different colour. The question now is very straightforward. Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?"

Plan for biggest marine park draws fire
Fishermen say it will cost jobs, hike prices; area about the size of India
Jonathan Pearlman Straits Times 15 Jun 12;

SYDNEY - Australia has unveiled plans for the world's biggest marine park but the move has angered fishermen and raised concerns about rising seafood prices.

The series of 60 reserves will cover more than 3 million sq km and limit fishing and oil and gas exploration in waters around the continent. It will include the Coral Sea, surrounding the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef in the country's north-east, and provide enhanced protection of threatened species like the green turtle, dugong and blue whale.

Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke said he wanted the reserves to set a global benchmark for environmental protection and ensure food security. The reserves cover about a third of Australia's marine territory - an area about the size of India.

'This is the biggest step forward the globe has ever seen,' he said. 'This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remains healthy, productive and resilient for future generations.'

But the move drew an angry response from commercial and sports fishermen, who claimed it would cost jobs and lead to price hikes. The area is home to large catches of tuna and lobster - much of which ends up in Singapore, one of the biggest importers of Australian seafood.

A commercial fishing group, the Gulf of Carpentaria Commercial Fishermen's Organisation, said Australia had a plentiful supply of fish and would now have to rely on imported seafood.

'I can't understand it at all and I can't understand the public wanting to eat imported fish over local fish,' said the group's chairman Gary Ward. He said the fisheries 'are the most sustainable fisheries in the world'.

Singaporeans are big eaters of Australian seafood, especially abalone, rock lobster and scallops. A 2010 official Australian report showed Singapore was the fifth biggest importer. It imported A$44 million (S$56 million) of seafood in 2008, slightly less than Taiwan (A$54 million), but well behind China and Hong Kong combined (A$525 million).

The Australian Marine Alliance, which represents commercial and recreational fishermen, said the plan was 'devastating' and would place a heavy burden on coastal communities. It warned the reserves could cost up to 36,000 jobs.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation said the reserves could actually boost fish stocks, pointing to restricted zones in the Great Barrier Reef where marine life has flourished.

'There's plenty of science around that shows that protecting areas of oceans works,' said spokesman Chris Smyth.

As part of the plan, the government has flagged a A$100 million compensation package for commercial fishermen. Responding to concerns about the impact on recreational fishing, Prime Minister Julia Gillard told ABC Radio that 'people will still be able to go and take their young son fishing'.

Australia is surrounded by the world's third-largest ocean territory and has come under heavy international pressure to protect its vulnerable populations of whales, sharks and turtles and its coral reefs. A scathing United Nations report last month warned the Great Barrier Reef's heritage listing could be restated as 'at risk' unless greater care was taken to protect the area, particularly from the gas and mining boom.

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Scientists urge Rio moves on population and consumption

Richard Black BBC News 13 Jun 12;

More than 100 science academies around the world have called on world leaders to take action on population and consumption at the Rio+20 summit.

They say past failures on these issues threaten the natural world and prospects for future generations.

The science academies include the UK's Royal Society as well as its peers in countries at all stages of development.

Preparatory talks for next week's summit have opened but sources report slow progress on unresolved issues.

The science academies' public declaration is particularly notable as experts in both developed and developing countries have joined forces on what used to be a divisive topic.

"The overall message is that we need a renewed focus on both population and consumption - it's not enough to look at one or the other," said Prof Charles Godray from the Martin School at the University of Oxford, who chaired the process of writing the declaration.

"We need to look at both, because together they determine the footprint on the world."
'All time high'

The footprint is getting heavier and heavier, the academies warn.

"The global population is currently around seven billion, and most projections suggest that it will probably lie between eight and 11 billion by 2050," their declaration says.

"Global consumption levels are at an all time high, largely because of the high per-capita consumption of developed countries."

If the billion poorest people are to have adequate access to food, water and energy, the academies say, developed countries will have to reduce their own consumption of natural resources.

They say this can be done without reducing prosperity so long as different economic models are followed.

Failing to make these changes "will put us on track to alternative futures with severe and potentially catastrophic implications for human well-being".

The declaration builds on a recent report from the Royal Society.

The topics of population and consumption are both mentioned in the draft agreement that negotiators are discussing in Rio.

But both crop up in a far weaker form than many observers would like.

As of now, governments are set to agree to "commit to systematically consider population trends and projections in our national, rural and urban development strategies and policies".

But the clause in the draft agreement pledging to "change unsustainable consumption and production patterns" is so far being vetoed by the US and the EU.
Change in thinking

The new report is an indication of how things have changed on the population question.

In decades gone by, developing nations tended to see the issue as a ploy by rich countries to avoid talking about unsustainable consumption.

But Eliya Zulu, executive director of the African Institute for Development Policy in Nairobi who worked on the recent Royal Society report, said perceptions were changing.

"Many African countries are feeling the effects of population growth, and are finding they'll need to deal with it in order to continue developing as well as to address their environmental issues," he told BBC News.

"If you look at a country like Rwanda, it's one of the most densely populated in Africa and the government believes one of the reasons behind the genocide was high population density and competition for resources.

"And the economic downturn that started in the late 1980s made people realise that in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs], you can't do it if your population is growing rapidly."
Talks extension

Dr Zulu also said that evidence accumulated over the last decade showed that overall, African women were having more children than they wanted - which gave politicians an incentive to increase family planning provision.

In the formal negotiations, government delegates convened on Wednesday for intensive talks aimed at securing consensus on key themes.

Currently only about 20% of the draft outcome document here has been agreed.

Preparatory talks had been scheduled to end on Friday this week, but are now set to continue through the weekend and probably up to the point where heads of government arrive for the summit next Wednesday.

Sha Zukang, the chairman of the talks, was optimistic that differences would be resolved in time.

"The determination to work for the common good is encouraging... the whole world is watching us and we cannot afford to let them down," he told reporters.

Rio+20 Earth summit: scientists call for action on population
Joint report by 105 institutions urges negotiators to drop political inhibitions and confront rising global population and consumption
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 14 Jun 12;

The Rio+20 Earth summit must take decisive action on population and consumption regardless of political taboos or it will struggle to tackle the alarming decline of the global environment, the world's leading scientific academies warned on Thursday.

Rich countries need to reduce or radically transform unsustainable lifestyles, while greater efforts should be made to provide contraception to those who want it in the developing world, the coalition of 105 institutions, including the Royal Society, urged in a joint report.

It's a wake-up call for negotiators meeting in Rio for the UN conference on sustainable development.

The authors point out that while the Rio summit aims to reduce poverty and reverse the degradation of the environment, it barely mentions the two solutions that could ease pressure on increasingly scarce resources.

Many in the scientific community believe it is time to confront these elephants in the room. "For too long population and consumption have been left off the table due to political and ethical sensitivities. These are issues that affect developed and developing nations alike, and we must take responsibility for them together," said Charles Godfray, a fellow of the Royal Society and chair of the working group of IAP, the global network of science academies.

In a joint statement, the scientists said they wanted to remind policymakers at Rio+20 that population and consumption determine the rates at which natural resources are exploited and Earth's ability to meet the demand for food, water, energy and other needs now and in the future. The current patterns of consumption in some parts of the world were unsustainable. A sharp rise in human numbers can have negative social and economic implications, and a combination of the two causes extensive loss of biodiversity.

The statement follows a hard-hitting report by the Royal Society in April that called for rebalancing of resources to reduce poverty and ease environmental pressures that are leading to a more unequal and inhospitable future.

By 2050, the world's population is projected to rise from seven billion to between eight and 11 billion. Meanwhile consumption of resources is rising rapidly as a result of a growing middle class in developed countries and the lavish lifestyles of the very rich across the planet.

"We are living beyond the planet's means. That's scientifically proven," said Gisbet Glaser of the International Council for Science, who cited research on ocean acidification, climate change and biodiversity loss. "We're now at a point in human history where we risk degrading the life support system for human development."

The scientific academies stressed that poverty reduction remain a priority, but said action to promote voluntary family planning through education, better healthcare and contraception can aid that process.

"The P-word is not talked about because people are scared of being politically incorrect or alarmist. Even so, the the population dialogue should not just be about sheer numbers of people – that type of dialogue leads to finger pointing," said Lori Hunter, a demographer who was in Rio for a side-event. She said the picture was more complex and touched upon the need to consider factors that shape fertility decision-making. She mentioned that in some areas, scarcity of natural resources leads to larger families as families need labor. There are also high levels of unmet demand for contraception in many regions of the world.

"You need to push the levers that are shaping family size," said Hunter. "Basically, you can't save the environment without reproductive health policies and programmes." She also mentioned that processes such as migration, urbanisation, aging are important in considering the environmental impacts of future consumption.

The draft negotiating text of Rio+20 mentions the need to change "unsustainable patterns of production and consumption" but the US wants to delete passages that suggest developed countries should take the lead.

There is also little recognition in the text that economic growth might be limited by ecological factors. This is partly because although scientists talk about "global boundaries", there is no agreement on where they might lie.

The stock taking of global inventory is still a work in progress, but it may speed up after the launch on Thursday of a new scientific initiative – Future Earth – that brings together academies, funds and international institutions to co-design research related to sustainable food production and changes to the climate, geosphere and biosphere.

The picture might become clearer if proposals at Rio+20 to beef up the UN environment programme are accepted, along with a plan for a "regular review of the state of the planet."

Glaser, who is the lead negotiator for the scientific community at Rio+20, said there was still no agreement on the 80-page text.

"They're negotiating words rather than the issues behind the words. I'm afraid that if there's no miracle, there'll be a relatively low common denominator that just drops all the main areas of contention."

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Experts lament poor ocean progress in 20 years

(AFP) Google News 14 Jun 12;

WASHINGTON — World governments have made little progress in the past 20 years when it comes to their pledges to protect marine life and reduce overfishing, experts said on Thursday.

With ocean health among the top 10 issues at the Rio 20 summit on sustainable development June 20-22, international experts called for concrete action to avoid "empty ocean commitments."

Targets set at UN summits in 1992 and 2002 have largely gone unmet, and implementation "has been difficult, ineffective or practically nonexistent," the authors wrote in the US journal Science.

Contributors came from the Zoological Society of London, Simon Fraser University in Canada, the Pew Environment Group in the United States, the University of British Columbia and the University of Oxford.

"Our analysis shows that almost every commitment made by governments to protect the oceans has not been achieved," said Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation at ZSL.

"If these international processes are to be taken seriously, governments must be held accountable and any future commitments must come with clear plans for implementation and a process to evaluate success or failure."

An international action plan to end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remains voluntary and has not put a stop to the $23 billion per year industry, the article said.

While local level protections of marine biodiversity have improved in some places, the global picture is "bleak" for many forms of sea life, it said.

"Even the most closely watched species -- such as turtles, sharks, and coral reef fisheries -- are not safe."

Problems and politics have complicated efforts to meet the goals that world leaders have set in the past, and so future efforts should be "more nuanced and context-specific to be realistic and achievable," the authors said.

The team made three recommendations: to bring global fishing in line with resources in domestic and international waters, redirect harmful subsidies and instead use the money to fund efforts to halt illegal fishing, and implement "even a minimal" ecosystems approach to protect vulnerable species.

"Rio+20 is a unique opportunity for governments to collectively show courage and leadership to reverse the worsening state of the world's ocean, and to take action to protect the largest reservoir of biodiversity left on our planet," said Susan Lieberman, deputy director of Pew Environment Group's International Policy team.

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Planet Sees Second Warmest May on Record

Wynne Parry LiveScience Yahoo News 15 Jun 12;

Last month, the global average temperature climbed to the second highest for May on record since 1880, according to U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records.

Much of the world, including nearly all of Europe, Asia, northern Africa, most of North America and southern Greenland experienced above average May temperatures. In fact, last month wrapped up the warmest spring on record for the continental U.S., NOAA records show.

The global May record included the combined global land and ocean average surface temperatures for the month, which 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit (0.66 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average of 58.5 F (14.8 C). This record was beat only in 2010, when the global average was 1.24 F (0.69 C) above the 20th-century average.

The Northern Hemisphere saw its warmest May on record — 1.53 F, or 0.85 C above average — while the Southern Hemisphere's May ranked ninth warmest among all Mays on record, at 0.85 F (0.47 C) above average.

Of course, it wasn't unusually warm everywhere. Australia, Alaska and parts of the western U.S.-Canadian border were notably cooler than average.

Snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere was significantly below average in May, according to NOAA records.

Globally, this spring ranked as the fourth warmest. Meanwhile, May brought a slew of temperature records to the continental U.S. after an unusually warm spring and mild winter. [10 Weird Weather Events]

Because of natural fluctuations in weather, climate scientists are loath to connect events that occur over a short-time frame, from a strong storm to an unusual warm spring, to climate change. However, the warming effect of humans' greenhouse gas emissions forms a backdrop for the weather the world is experiencing and shows up as a longer-term trend. It is not a coincidence that the first decade of this century was the warmest on record, according to NOAA's State of Climate in 2010 report.

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