Best of our wild blogs: 6 Dec 12

Saving Bidadari
from Rojak Librarian

Glass act
from The annotated budak

Random Gallery - Gram Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Birding @ Jurong Lake 2012
from PurpleMangrove

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Shell to move gas hub to Singapore

Alvin Foo Straits Times 6 Dec 12;

ENERGY giant Royal Dutch Shell will move its new global integrated gas business from Holland to Singapore as early as next year to be closer to the fast-growing Asian market.

The unit, which is now based in The Hague, covers various aspects of natural gas, from exploration to production, transport and downstream use.

Mr Andy Brown, Shell's upstream international director, told a media webcast yesterday: "We have a new integrated gas business that will be going live next year, once we have all the approvals from the various staff councils. It will be based in Singapore.

"We still see potential in Europe with some growth, but the major growth will come now in Asia.

"It's a big step and demonstrates the depth of our relationships in Singapore in all sectors, in particular the chemicals and refining sectors."

The Straits Times understands the move is likely to result in more investment and new jobs being created here.

A Shell spokesman said yesterday: "We are studying the options of related job opportunities in the region. It is too early to comment on the specifics."

Observers said the move is timely, given that Singapore's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal will begin operations next year.

Last month, Shell said it would expand capacity at its ethylene cracker complex on Pulau Bukom to ramp up production of olefins and aromatics by more than 20 per cent.

The ethylene cracker, which started up in March 2010, is the centrepiece of the US$3 billion (S$3.66 billion) Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex.

Shell hinted yesterday that there will be more projects here lined up in the coming months.

Shell Chemicals executive vice-president, Mr Ben van Beurden, said: "Will there be more in Singapore? Absolutely... Stay tuned, there's going to be a little more news coming in the next few months about things we are pursuing in Singapore, all building off this large integrated refining petrochemical hub we are developing."

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Singapore calls for emissions reductions to achieve climate change deal

Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 12;

DOHA: Singapore has called on countries to show their commitment by pledging emissions reductions in order to achieve a global deal on climate change.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the new agreement must be applicable to all.

"Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution. All parties have to play their part by making a contribution," he said.

Mr Teo was delivering Singapore's national statement at the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday.

"In this regard, developed countries have to show leadership in emissions reductions. Developing countries, too, can and must make a contribution to the process," he said.

Mr Teo said for the new agreement to be applicable to all, it has to be acceptable to all. It has to take into account the unique national circumstances and constraints of parties.

He said this will allow each party to decide how best it can contribute, based on the context and constraints of each country, and provide a greater impetus for universal participation.

"The global agreement is only a means to an end. Ultimately, we need to encourage and incentivize all parties to adopt the right policies early to make the transition to a low emissions development pathway. It is therefore important to provide support to build capacity in developing countries," he said.

Mr Teo said Singapore is committed to play its part in the global fight against climate change.

He said Singapore has made an unconditional pledge to reduce its emissions by 7-11 per cent below business as usual (BAU) by 2020. It has also committed to a 16 per cent below BAU pledge, if there is a legally binding global agreement.

Mr Teo added: "Our vision for Singapore is a climate-resilient global city that is well-positioned for green growth. While climate change poses a challenge, it also offers tremendous opportunities for new economic growth. The global demand for low-carbon solutions will catalyse demand for new skills and technology.

"Singapore has placed priority on developing areas such as clean energy and energy efficiency, green buildings, public transport, smart grids, carbon management, as well as waste and water management.

"As Singapore is a city state with limited access to renewable energy, energy efficiency is core to our efforts to reduce emissions in all sectors. To support this, a new Energy Conservation Act will come into effect in April 2013."

Mr Teo said the global challenge of climate change requires a global response, with the participation of all countries and contributions by all.

"The multilateral rules-based system under the UNFCCC is fundamental to solving the global climate challenge. We need to protect and strengthen the UNFCCC and take it one step further towards a truly global agreement, so that it remains an important platform for global action against climate change," he said.

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: RM1.46m for clouded leopards

New Straits Times 6 Dec 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre recently received RM1.46 million from the Sime Darby Foundation to fund a conservation project on endangered Sunda clouded leopards in the state.

The grant is part of the foundation's Big9 programme that also conserves other animals, including sun bear, orang utan, elephant, hornbill, Malayan tiger, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros and banteng.

Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the project aimed to increase the conservation efforts and public awareness of the wild cat species in Borneo and Sumatra.

"It is also to build local capacity for carnivore field research in Malaysia and to gather essential ecological data.

"The information will enable the development of effective conservation measures to ensure the survival of the Sunda clouded leopards in the fragmented landscape of contemporary Borneo," he said in a statement.

The three-year project will culminate in an international workshop and its result will assist the department to develop a state plan for conservation of the species.

Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said during the period, they would study the species interactions and habitats, especially in the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in east of Sabah.

"We will use state of the art satellite telemetry to see how the species respond to a highly degraded and fragmented areas.

"Our centre will also carry out intensive camera trap surveys tailored to estimate and investigate seasonal and annual variation in density of Sunda clouded leopards."

In addition to that, they will also come up with detailed mapping of habitat corridors through and around oil palm plantations for clouded leopards and their prey.

Dr Benoit said the project would see the development of an education programme primarily for schoolchildren from oil palm plantation areas.

"Education and capacity building have always been a priority for the Sime Darby Foundation, and as such, the project will also include the training of two Malaysian master's students," Goossens said.

The project is also a collaboration with several partners, including Oxford University and Cardiff University of United Kingdom, British Columbia University of Canada and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

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Australia: Tourism has no effect on Ningaloo whale sharks

Courtney Trenwith WAToday 5 Dec 12;

Tourism has not affected whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, a five-year study has found.

Even allowing people to swim with the mammals has had no impact, indicating conservation efforts are working, the Australian Institute of Marine Science-University of WA report says.

The number of tourists participating in whale shark activities at Ningaloo Reef has sharply increased from 1000 to 17,000 since 1993 and now generates about $6 million each season.

The research, the first multi-year study on the effects of ecotourism on whale shark populations, found sharks that frequently encountered tourists were just as likely to return to the reef as sharks that little interaction with humans.

"Our research shows that the code of conduct used by the Department of Environment and Conservation to protect whale sharks is very effective with no detectable impacts of tourists on their aggregation behaviour at Ningaloo across years," the report's lead author, Rob Sanzogni, said.

The reef's ecotourism industry was sustainable in its present form.

Kim Hands, development manager at Ecocean, which was involved in developing the code of conduct, said the findings were good news.

She hoped other countries where whale sharks congregated, including Mexico, would adopt similar regulations.

"Obviously, it's been a good model and worked very well as a great example for the rest of the world," she said.

Conservation organisation WWF’s marine spokesman Paul Gamblin said the report was encouraging and showed the industry was receiving appropriate attention but more needed to be done to assist our neighbours, particularly around the Coral Triangle, including Indonesia and the Philippines.

"Australia has played an important role but needs to up the ante to protect the whale sharks when they leave our waters," he said.

"We need to help support local community tourism projects up there because the whale sharks enter more dangerous waters when they leave Australia."

Mr Gamblin said despite the report's positive findings there were still concerns about the impact of resources projects in waters near Ningaloo Reef.

"It increases our concern about the increasing development of the oil and gas industry which is getting ever closer to Ningaloo, including areas where the whale sharks migrate through," he said.

"There's potential for a spill, the impact of very high levels of underwater noise and drilling is something that we should be very concerned about the tourism industry.

"[Protection of whale sharks] is something that obviously needs ongoing vigilance; we can't take our eye off the ball."

The researchers hope the report will provide a blueprint for similar work on the impact of ecotourism on other marine megafauna such as manta rays and whales.

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Indonesia Approves Landmark Forest Protection Project

David Fogarty PlanetArk 6 Dec 12;

Indonesia on Wednesday approved a rainforest conservation project that sets aside an area roughly the size of Singapore and rewards investors with tradable carbon credits in the first of its kind to win formal backing in the country.

Four years in the making, the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve will protect nearly 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres), much of it carbon-rich peat swamp forest at risk of being felled for palm oil plantations.

Russian energy giant Gazprom and German insurance firm Allianz are backers of the project, the world's first on deep peat.

A senior Indonesian official announced the approval on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan signed a letter last week saying the project had passed all the key steps. Reuters has seen a copy.

"We hope projects like Rimba Raya will lead the way in proving that conservation can address the rural development needs of the communities and also preserve our forests for generations to come," Hasan said in a statement.

Indonesia has the world's third-largest expanse of tropical forests but these are disappearing quickly in the rush to grow more food and exploit timber and mineral wealth. Forest clearance is a major source of greenhouse gases.

By saving the forest and locking away planet-warming carbon, investors such as Gazprom will receive carbon credits they can sell for profit or use to cut their own emissions. Money from credit sales will also fund local livelihood projects.

The project area, in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island, is brimming with rare animal species and adjoins a national park. It is designed to be a sanctuary for endangered orangutans.

Rimba Raya is part of a U.N.-led scheme called reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). The aim is to show forests can pay for themselves and compete with powerful palm oil, mining and timber interests.

It challenges Indonesia's often poor conservation record and lax enforcement where national parks are illegally logged. Palm oil firms have also been found guilty of flouting laws and illegally clearing forest for plantations.

"This is a small but significant step in terms of contributing to the government's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and showing that larger volumes of forest carbon credits can be sold to credible buyers," said Andrew Wardell, program director, forests and governance, at the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia.

But he said REDD projects remain costly to develop and validate.

Over Rimba Raya's 30-year life, the project will generate about 104 million credits, each representing a metric ton (1.1023 tons) of carbon. In total, that equates to 300 million to 500 million euros ($390 million to $650 million) based on current market rates for REDD carbon offsets.


Hasan's comments mark a dramatic swing in Rimba Raya's fortunes.

The project initially met all the ministry of forestry milestones and look set for approval in 2010. But it fell foul of opaque land use rules and pressure from a palm oil firm.

After being approved to cover 90,000 ha, the project in early 2011 was slashed in half, jeopardizing its viability. The ministry cited overlapping claims to the land. The ministry also granted palm oil firm PT Best Agro International 9,000 ha of land previously allotted to the Rimba Raya project.

A Reuters special report last year on the project highlighted the ministry's about-face and the mismatch between the government's green goals and the power of palm oil firms.

After the Reuters story, the project found powerful backers that eventually restored the ministry's support.

These included Indonesian businessman Rusmin Widjaja, who stepped in as a white knight to use his influence and financial backing. Singapore-based Widjaja supplies flight simulators to the Indonesian military but also invests in waste-to-energy projects. He recently told Reuters of his worries about the rapid loss of Indonesia's forests.

"Forests in Indonesia need good governance, need clear rules and this project is a good for Indonesia and the world. That's why I wanted to save this project from disarray," he said.

Central Kalimantan governor A. Teras Narang also offered critical support in letter last month seen by Reuters.

Perhaps most influential, though, is Triwatty Marciano, a special adviser to Rimba Raya and wife of the Marciano Norman, the head of Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency.

Ibu Watty, as she is known, helped resolve differences within the ministry and overcome opposition from PT Best. In a July 2012 letter to the ministry approved by Best President Director Winarto Tjajadi, and seen by Reuters, the firm effectively renounced its claim to any overlapping concessions in return for replacement land elsewhere.

For the project developers, Americans Todd Lemons and Jim Procanik, it marks the end of long and at times bitter process.

"Our mistake was in assuming that the logic of REDD and Rimba Raya was self-evident," said Lemons, CEO of project development firm InfiniteEARTH.

Both men, along with Gazprom, invested heavily in Rimba Raya to ensure it met the toughest verification standards. Credits are expected to start to flow to Gazprom, Allianz and other buyers in early 2013.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Clashes over financing threat UN climate talks

Michael Casey Associated Press Yahoo News 6 Dec 12;

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The world's poorest nations on Wednesday called for significant financing to cope with the impacts of global warming, setting up a potential clash with rich countries that could slow progress on reaching a global climate pact by 2015.

Rich countries, including the United States, said at U.N. climate talks in Doha that they have fulfilled promises to provide more than $30 billion the past three years and remain committed to providing $100 billion a year by 2020. But developing nations want that financing increased gradually starting next year — a commitment the European Union, United States and Japan are not willing to make.

"Obviously developing countries think it should be an upward curve," Brazil's chief negotiator Andre Correa do Lago told reporters. "The best solution would be a straightforward commitment to an increase every year of resources until 2020."

Pa Ousman Jarju, chairman of the 48-member Least Developed Countries at the talks, said it was too early to say the disputes over financing could spill over to other areas of negotiations, including the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire this year, and a work plan to prepare for the 2015 deal.

Among the financing demands from developing countries is a financial roadmap through 2020 as well as the mechanism —whether it be a financial tax or a transport tax — to generate the necessary funds.

"We would we want to see finance on the table as we leave here," Jarju said. "It's not a negotiating tactic. It's part of package that we expect in Doha. ... They understand implications of us not having a finance package. I will not call it a failure as of now because all our delegations are engaged."

The European Union's Peter Betts, sitting on the same panel as Jarju, was unmoved. He said EU member states would make their own pledges — the United Kingdom on Tuesday offered â,7/82.2 billion ($2.87 billion) in climate financing through 2015 and Germany â,7/81.8 billion ($2.35 billion) in 2013 — but that a near-term target of financing from the EU would not be forthcoming at this meeting.

"These are tough financial times in Europe, as I'm sure you have noticed," Betts said. "We, as other developed countries, are not in position at this meeting to agree on a target for 2015."

The American negotiator Jonathan Pershing agreed.

"The commitment in the first part was a voluntary agreement on the part of donor countries to collectively provide something approaching $30 billion and we exceeded that commitment. The second part was to mobilize $100 billion by 2020 and we are working on that," Pershing said. "To me, the question of whether there are new commitments that get announced here is not the right question. The question really is did we do the first one and the answer is yes. Are we working on the second? The answer is yes."

The bickering over financing is the latest clash between rich and poor nations over the past decade that have undermined efforts to reach a deal that would keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 C (3.6 F), compared to preindustrial times. Temperatures have already risen about 0.8 C (1.4 F), according to the latest report by the IPCC and a recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4 C (7.2 F) by 2100.

Earlier in the day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told The Associated press that it was "only fair and reasonable that the developed world should bear most of the responsibility" in fighting the gradual warming of the planet.

Ban's comments echoed the concerns of China and other developing countries, which say rich nations have a historical responsibility for global warming because their factories released carbon emissions into the atmosphere long before the climate effects were known.

"The climate change phenomenon has been caused by the industrialization of the developed world," Ban told The Associated Press. "It's only fair and reasonable that the developed world should bear most of the responsibility."

Many rich nations, including the U.S. and EU countries, are demanding the 2015 pact include commitments from developing nations who are expected to produce the bulk of emissions in the decades ahead. Among them is China, which has overtaken the United States as the world's largest emitter.

"Rich countries will need to do more than poor countries, that is clear," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told The AP. "But all of us will have to do the maximum we can because otherwise we can't cope with climate change."

How to divide the burden of emissions cuts is at the core of discussions to create a new global climate treaty that would apply to all nations. The only binding pact so far, the Kyoto Protocol, only covers the emissions of industrialized countries. Last year, governments agreed to reach a deal by 2015 that would go into effect by 2020.

"This deadline must be met. There is no time to waste, no time to lose for us," Ban said.

"Climate change is happening much, much faster than one would understand," he added. "The science has plainly made it clear: it is the human beings' behavior which caused climate change, therefore the solution must come from us."

Associated Press writer Karl Ritter contributed to this report.

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