Best of our wild blogs: 19 Nov 13

Otter @ Changi Creek Mangrove - 17Nov2013
from sgbeachbum

Guided Walks Friday, 22 November & Sunday, 24 November
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Courtship behaviour of butterflies
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Malayan Birdwing sighted again
from Butterflies of Singapore

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130 students from Asia groomed to champion environmental issues

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 18 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Some 130 students from ASEAN, India and China will be groomed over the next five days to champion environmental issues under a new collaboration.

The STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme is the result of a collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (STEP).

It was launched on Monday by Minister in Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu.

About 80 of the students, aged between 13 and 15 years, are from Singapore.

They will attend lectures delivered by scientists, and take part in workshops.

They will also make study visits to places like the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve and the Tropical Marine Science Institute's St John's Island Marine Laboratory.

Topics of discussion will range from climate change and conservation to sustainability issues.

Most of the students are budding environmentalists, and were hand-picked by their teachers. Some were picked to participate after writing essays on environmental issues, while others were chosen based on their participation in their school's science programmes.

Organisers hope students can go home with a better awareness of environmental concerns affecting their countries and the region.

Krish desai, a 15-year-old student from Mumbai, India, who attends the Cathedral and John Connon School, said: "Sometimes we tend to be lax in the name of development... for (example) setting up industries, sometimes forests are felled, or for mining, sometimes the land is destroyed.

"It completely ruins the climate. What I would like is for a little tighter security... stricter laws -- that if you're felling forests, get it replanted. It's your responsibility. That's what I want for India."

Jonathan Chee of Bukit View Secondary School, said: "I hope that at the end of this week, this programme will ignite passion in terms of environmental awareness.

"If you have a heightened awareness of the environment, it will motivate you to put a step forward and help the environment."

Addressing the students at the RELC Auditorium, Ms Fu said environmental issues cannot be solved in isolation as the issues do not observe physical and sovereign boundaries.

She cited the recent haze problem as an example, and said an approach of global inclusion and shared responsibility is needed.

Ms Fu said: "The youths of today, the leaders of tomorrow, must develop a thorough understanding of the issues. Getting all parties involved -- a globally inclusive process -- is a good way to start understanding the issues.

"Engaging and collaborating with one another could then lead to a solution for global problems."

Speaking to reporters after the event, Ms Fu acknowledged it is not an easy time for many countries politically, especially as many are preoccupied with solving economic problems.

She said many are thinking about reducing spending, rather than expending resources on environmental issues.

She said: "We are in a difficult phase of trying to find a consensus, but I would urge everyone to continue to pursue, because obviously this is an important issue that affects the future of the planet, and we as human beings must be the species that can find options that can ensure our survivability.

"It is us that hopefully have the wisdom -- scientifically, politically and economically -- to find solutions that are tenable for the majority."

- CNA/al

Singapore, Antarctica suffer similar effects of climate change
Stable temperatures at the poles and the equator are making it hard for animals to adapt: Scientist
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 19 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — The Republic and Antarctica may be far apart, but the two are not so different when it comes to experiencing the effects of global climate change.

Stable temperatures at the poles and the equator have reduced the ability of the animals in both regions to cope with rapidly-changing environments, said a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey yesterday. As such, they are likely the first to be affected by climate change.

Already, tropical animals are almost living at their upper temperature limits and it is “quite likely” that many will struggle with climate change, said marine ecophysiologist Simon Morley.

Rising sea and land temperatures may lead to a migration away from the tropics, threatening food sources for those living in the tropics. No one knows what will fill the void left by these animals, he said.

“We don’t know yet, we need to do more research,” Dr Morley added.

Speaking at the launch of the Sunburst Environment Programme to nurture youths as future leaders in protecting the environment, Dr Morley told 130 students from South-east Asia, India and China that the Antarctic peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on earth.

Its mean annual temperature has risen 3°C in the last 50 years and sea surface temperatures have risen by 1°C.

Such an increase has a big impact on animals there, as ocean temperatures only vary between -2°C and 2°C.

Numbers of a shrimp-like crustacean called krill — which larger animals like fur seals and penguins depend on for food — have dipped by 70 per cent since 1976, due in part to the melting sea ice. Some molluscs called limpets have also lost their ability to flip over, leaving them susceptible to predators, which in turn affects the food chain.

Acidification of the oceans and the El Nino effect also pose threats to wildlife, he said.

Dr Morley said youths who want to do their part to slow climate change could become scientists or teachers, volunteer in the environment field and practise simple everyday acts like walking more and not using plastic bags.

The programme is an annual event initiated by the National University of Singapore and Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme.

Officiating the launch, Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu, who is also Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, called for an approach of global inclusion and shared responsibility in finding solutions.

Participants, including 80 Singapore students, will attend talks and visit St John’s Island and nature reserves this week.

Bukit View Secondary student Jonathan Chee Xian Kuan said he hoped to increase his classmates’ understanding of the ecosystem, while 15-year-old Krish Desai from India said he wanted to venture into research and politics to increase food security and tilt laws in favour of the poor.

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‘No unusual level’ of air pollutants in Punggol

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 19 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — The air in Punggol contains “no unusual level” of toxic chemicals or pollutants, checks by the National Environment Agency (NEA) have shown, following two calls to the MediaCorp hotline by residents.

But the callers’ noses were not off the mark: NEA officers detected “foul odour” on two nights when they visited Punggol and Sengkang recently to investigate. “Foul odour which could possibly emanate from palm oil industries was detected on the nights of Oct 30 and Nov 8,” a spokesperson said, in response to queries.

One of the hotline callers, Mr Philip Sheng, said his sleep has been disturbed by a “chemical smell” lingering in the air. On some nights, the odour is so strong that his wife is woken up at 3am or 4am, said the 51-year-old engineer, who moved to Punggol Place last November. Mr Sheng said the smell occurs “almost every day”, beginning around midnight and lasting until early in the morning, and reckoned it could have come from oil refinery operations across the Causeway.

His experience does not seem to be a common one, though: Only one in 10 Punggol residents polled last week by TODAY concurred that a smell pervaded the air at certain times of the day.

Mr Song P C, 68, said a “burning smell” sometimes permeates the air early in the morning and during the evening. “I don’t close the windows at home as I don’t like air-conditioning,” he said. “It’s not very conducive as I would want fresh air when I head out to exercise in the morning.”

Other residents said they have never detected any foul scent in the area, save for a short-lived sewage smell on Nov 8 that was reported on a community Facebook page, according to one resident who declined to be named.

The NEA’s investigations have found “no unusual level of toxic chemicals”. Officers have performed on-site measurements of air quality and collected air samples for laboratory analysis, said the spokesperson. The agency’s air monitoring systems also “did not show any unusual pollutant levels in the ambient air”.

It also ruled out industries near Punggol as the cause of the smell, after inspections of their equipment, processes, operations and records “did not reveal any abnormalities or issues in their operations” that could be behind the “chemical smell as mentioned in the feedback”, she said.

The NEA said it would continue to monitor the area closely. The public may call 1800 225 5632 if they detect smells.

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Vision of clean, green & liveable Singapore to remain in next master plan

Channel NewsAsia 18 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the vision of making Singapore a clean, green and liveable city has remained unchanged since the first concept plan for the city state, and will continue to be upheld in the next master plan for the country.

He made the comments in his blog post on Monday about a recent surprise visit from Mr Henry Wardlaw, who headed the United Nations (UN) consultancy team that drew up the first Singapore Concept Plan in 1971.

Mr Wardlaw, who is 91 and lives in Sydney, had contacted the Urban Redevelopment Authority of (URA) for a short visit to its City Gallery, said Mr Khaw.

"I have seen an amazing and well organised transformation of the city since our work here was finished in 1971," Mr Wardlaw was quoted as saying in the blog.

On his visit to Singapore in the 1960s, he saw disorganised streets.

"The transition that has taken place over the past 42 years is a credit to everyone concerned," said Mr Wardlaw.

Concept Plan 1971 -- the plan that the UN team drew up -- has been reviewed and updated several times to meet changing needs and global circumstances, said Mr Khaw.

"But the underlying philosophy of making Singapore an endearing home and a clean, green, liveable city remains unchanged.

"Very soon, we will unveil details of the next Master Plan for Singapore, to continue the pursuit of this vision," he added.

- CNA/nd

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Indonesia: Time to Count Cost of Riau’s Forest Fires

Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 19 Nov 13;

Warsaw. Indonesia plans to come clean about the scope, causes and costs of this year’s Sumatran forest fire haze, officials promised on the sidelines of an international climate change conference.

“The report, which will be released in December, will reveal what has really happened, we will reveal how large the [carbon] emissions were, what would have happened if we conducted a mitigation plan and what happened without one,” said Farhan Helmy, who is the secretary of the Mitigation Working Group of the National Climate Change Council.

The announcement was made during the 2013 United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Warsaw. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, largely through forest clearing and land-use change. The 2013 fires, which were centered on Riau province, are estimated to have been the worst since 1997, and would have contributed a significant uptick in the country’s annual carbon emissions.

Besides contributing to carbon emissions, which are of long-term global concern, the fires had a more immediate effect on Indonesia’s nearest neighbors.

Farhan said the report will estimate the impact of the smoke haze, which blew north and eastwards, causing severe air pollution in Singapore and Malaysia.

“We will announce not only the impact of the haze on the environment but also the financial losses suffered,” Farhan said.

He said an accurate assessment about the forest fires and resulting haze was crucial to determine the country’s overall policy on climate change issues.

“Everybody has been blaming one another since the 1997 forest fires, and there are differences in data, but we need to agree on one thing, [satellite] hotspots do not always indicate there has been a fire in the area,” he said.

Coming up with precise data on which to base an assessment, Farhan said, was difficult. The team had to calculate the exact size of the burned area to estimate the quantity of emissions.

With a precise and comprehensive assessment, he said, the government will be able to track down the culprits behind the fires, many of which were lit as part of illegal land clearing. The fires were not composed of one burning front, but were a collection of many separately lit fires.

“Once we know what happened and how it happened it’s not that difficult to track down who started the fires,” he said.

In July, the National Police named 24 individuals and one corporation as suspects in the Riau fires.

Farhan said the precise assessment will also provide data that can be used by all state institutions in programs related to climate change and disaster mitigation.

“With this data, we can cut all the unnecessary expenses from inefficient projects due to inaccurate assessment,” he said.

Farhan said there were some significant differences between the 1997 and 2013 forest fires.

“In 1997 the fires happened largely due to El Nino, the land became very dry and without anyone setting the fires, the temperature was already very high, so it was a natural anomaly, while in 2013 there were some strong indications that the fires were caused by people,” he said.

Riau has drawn a lot of criticism from the national government, who accused the provincial administration of a slow mitigation response.

The haze also prompted Asean member states to urge Indonesia to immediately ratify the regional anti-smog treaty.

The Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, brokered in 2002, aims to mitigate cross-border pollution caused by forest fires by obligating parties to prevent burning, monitor prevention efforts, exchange information on the problem and provide mutual assistance. It also required signatories to immediately respond to requests for information.

Indonesia, as the region’s biggest haze contributor, has not ratified the agreement.

Yetti Rusli, special staffer for climate change at the Forestry Ministry, claimed that Indonesia is moving forward with ratifying the treaty, but that educating farmers to drop their traditional slash-and-burn land management practice was a much more pressing issue.

“Taking firm action is one thing, but first we need to ensure that our farmers have a comprehensive understanding that land clearing with burning has very serious consequences — and Indonesia cannot do it alone,” she said.

Yetti said neighboring countries, whose palm oil plantation companies are operating in Indonesia, could easily participate in such education through their Corporate Social Responsibility programs.

“They don’t have to wait for their governments to come up with a national policy, a CSR program is not difficult nor expensive,” she said.

Yetti said ratifying the treaty would force Indonesia to take strict action against farmers who were sometimes not fully aware of the consequences of their actions.

“Once locals have a full understanding about the impact of land clearing by burning, we can move to a stricter approach.”

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Marine Mammals In Brunei Bay Threatened By Human Activities

Amrizan Madian Bernama 18 Nov 13;

LAWAS (SARAWAK) (Bernama) -- The Brunei Bay covering a 250,000-hectare area is among the most important habitats for marine mammals in the Southeast Asian region.

The Brunei River, Kilas River, Padas Damit River and Lawas River flows through the Brunei Bay before ending up into the South China Sea.

The area borders along the mangroves and tropical rainforests of Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

The Brunei Bay used to be a rich source of food for a variety of marine life, particularly marine mammals. It is also home to many endangered species such as the Dugong, turtle and dolphins.

However, of late, unrestrained human activities have threatened the ecosystem and destroyed many of the food sources.

The Institute of Oceanography Sciences (INOS), a research institute under Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), is conducting a detailed study into the effects of such activities on the marine life in the South China Sea, including the Brunei Bay.


Associate Prof Dr Saifullah Arifin Jaaman of INOS said the institute has been collecting samples and conducting research in the waters near Lawas since early this year.

He said previous studies showed that the Brunei Bay was believed to be one of the main sources of food for many marine species.

"Out of the 31 species of marine mammals in Southeast Asia, 27 of them can be found in Malaysia and you can find many of them in Brunei Bay," the scientist told Bernama during a visit to the area recently.

The Brunei Bay provides a rich source of food for marine mammals, especially with the presence of the sea grasses like the Halophila and Halodule that is the favourite diet of the Dugong species.

A UMT study showed that the number of marine mammals in the Brunei Bay is in direct correlation with the amount of food that sustain marine species found in the area.


However, many activities such as shipping, fishing and dredging at the Brunei Bay have disturbed habitats that support marine life.

The dredging for an oil refinery nearby is said to have destroyed sea grass beds, threatening the existence of the Dugong.

"The fishermen in Lawas said that they have noticed a marked decline in the number of Dugong they came across some 20 years ago. It is believed that this is linked to the diminishing sea grass beds which once could be found in abundance in Brunei Bay," he said,

The research in Brunei Bay will serve as the baseline study to measure the effects of pollution due to human activity onto the flora and fauna.

Saifullah Ariffin, who formerly headed the Marine Mammal Research Unit in Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said the number of Dugong in Malaysian waters is currently less than 300.

Besides the Dugong, the number of turtles that make their way to Brunei Bay in search of food has also lessened.


It is clear that enforcement of the laws that govern the preservation of marine life in the Brunei Bay is the key in protecting the ecosystem there, but this is easier said than done.

Prof Madya Dr Wan Izatul Asma Wan Talaat from INOS said what made enforcement difficult was that Brunei Bay borders along several different jurisdictions.

The environmental law expert said that to date, only the Sarawak Forestry Corporation has been regulating the commercial fishing activities along the Sarawak waters in Brunei Bay.

"When a coastal area is shared by several regions with different legal systems like in the Brunei Bay, enforcement and habitat rehabilitation becomes difficult," she told Bernama.

Therefore, the institute needed a detailed study and data on the marine life and habitat at the Brunei Bay to strengthen the legal foundation in protecting threatened marine life.

The research is funded by a RM9 million grant from the Education Ministry.


A local fisherman from Bukit Sari Lawas, Junaidi Ahmad, who is helping UMT with the marine mammal study in Brunei Bay said that the Dugong, once on the fishermen's hunting list is now facing extinction.

"People use to catch Dugong for its meat, which tastes like beef. However, they are harder to find now," he said.

He said marine food sources such as sea grass were the main attraction of marine mammals to the Brunei Bay.

"But a worrying trend that I see now is human activities like logging near coastal areas have disrupted the habitats of marine mammals," he said.


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To tackle pollution, China to drop pursuit of growth at all costs

David Stanway PlanetArk 19 Nov 13;

To tackle pollution, China to drop pursuit of growth at all costs Photo: Aly Song
AA tourist wears a mask while taking pictures on the Bund in Shanghai during a hazy day November 8, 2013. Chinese cities should close schools, cut working hours and stop outdoor activities during the most severe spells of air pollution
Photo: Aly Song

China will steer local governments away from the pursuit of economic growth at all costs and beef up their powers to punish polluters as part of a campaign to reverse the damage done by three decades of unchecked expansion.

In wide-ranging economic and social reforms unveiled last week, the ruling Communist Party said it would put more emphasis on environmental protection when assessing officials, and would also hold local authorities directly responsible for pollution.

The document, which also pledged to relax its "one-child policy" and further free up its markets, said China would draw an "ecological protection red line" that would limit the economic development of environmentally vulnerable regions.

Three decades of industrialization and double-digit growth in China have left the country badly polluted.

With public anger mounting over a series of scandals involving hazardous smog, contaminated soil and toxic water supplies, China has identified the environment as one of the biggest potential sources of instability. But despite a pledge to create a "beautiful China" over the next decade, Beijing continues to struggle to bring polluting state-owned industrial enterprises and growth-obsessed local governments to heel.

The new policy document said China would "correct the bias towards assessing (officials) on the speed of economic growth and increase the weight placed on other indicators such as resource use, environmental damage, ecological benefits, industrial overcapacity, scientific innovation, work safety and newly-added debt."

China already assesses local officials on the way they handle the environment, but with the economy still considered the priority, local authorities stress their green credentials by building ostentatious national parks, wetlands or reforestation projects rather than address the cause of pollution and risk revenues and jobs.

"Before, they were just using environmental protection as another way of generating economic growth and even if something causes a great deal of immediate environmental damage, they would still consider the short-term economic benefits," said Zhou Lei at Nanjing University, who studies the impact of industry on the environment.


The Communist Party document also pledged to improve the way environmental rules are enforced by establishing a more "unified" central government authority and by eliminating administrative overlaps.

Experts expect China to strengthen the powers of the environmental ministry as part of a wider government department reshuffle likely to take place during the annual session of parliament in March next year.

Officials, including vice-environment minister Pan Yue, have complained that the current regime lacks teeth, partly because many crucial environmental responsibilities are dispersed across a wide range of departments.

Next year's reshuffle could see the environment ministry taking on responsibilities currently held by the State Forestry Commission, the Ministry of Water Resources as well as the powerful planning superministry, the National Development and Reform Commission, none of which consider environmental protection a priority.

The pledges made in last week's document will also be bolstered by amendments to the country's environmental protection laws, which are expected to be published soon and will give environmental agencies a range of new powers to fine and punish serial violators, as well as improve the way Beijing monitors pollution across the country.

But Zhou of Nanjing University said the new rules are unlikely to go far enough.

"In my opinion, it is typical Chinese lip service and should not be treated seriously," he said. "What will really solve the current environmental degradation is to systematically re-appraise all the problematic projects and let justice be served regarding all the perpetrators."

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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U.N. talks on new carbon markets break down

Stian Reklev and Michael Szabo PlanetArk 18 Nov 13;

International negotiations on how to set up new carbon markets to cut greenhouse gas levels broke down over the weekend in Warsaw, sources said, after developing nations refused to progress the issue before rich nations increase efforts to cut their own emissions.

More than 9,000 delegates from almost 200 countries are gathered in the Polish capital for November 11-22 United Nations-sponsored meetings aimed at forging by 2015 a new treaty to fight climate change, which would enter into force after 2020.

Sources said negotiators were unable to agree, before the start of high-levels talks beginning on Monday, proposals to develop new carbon markets and link them together through common accounting and transparency standards.

Talks on the issue have been shelved until June 2014, despite agreement in Warsaw expected by many.

A spokesman for the European Union Commission said the negotiations had proved very difficult and that it regretted that progress was not made.

"We remain interested in a political discussion on the role of markets in the 2015 agreement here in Warsaw," he added.

Reaction to the breakdown in talks was mixed.

"The profound lack of progress is obviously disappointing. We hope the parties regroup and find a way to progress the (talks) as soon as possible," said Miles Austin of trade group the Climate Markets & Investment Association.

Meena Raman of green groups alliance Third World Network welcomed the news, "given the grave lack of ambition from developed countries to reduce emissions".

Poorer nations, which bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change, want rich governments to take on more ambitious and binding emissions reduction targets.


Rich nations including the United States, Japan, and members of the EU, favor designing new market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as cheaply as possible.

But developing countries are reluctant to launch new markets when existing ones are not working. They say rich nations support markets as a way of outsourcing carbon-cutting efforts abroad to ensure they don't have to make any reductions at home.

"We need to review the failures of existing carbon markets to assess if they have any role to play in equitable and ambitious mitigation," Raman said.

The Clean Development Mechanism, one market born from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, lets governments and companies in developed countries invest in carbon-cutting projects in developing nations, and in return they receive carbon offsets that they can use against their own emissions targets.

While the scheme has channeled more than $315 billion to developing countries, it is faltering due to a dearth of demand for offsets from countries that are reluctant to raise their ambition under a new global pact.

Environment ministers will discuss carbon markets on Tuesday, but observers said nothing on new markets was likely to be agreed.

"(It's) not a huge loss," said one negotiator from the developing world who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

"We want to see a new market mechanism, but one that's designed to generate substantial net reductions the atmosphere actually sees, rather than a tool that relocates effort in a zero-sum game. So the outcome is disappointing from this perspective."

(editing by Ralph Boulton)

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'Clean up your act,' UN climate chief urges coal industry

Alister Doyle and Susanna Twidale PlanetArk 19 Nov 13;

'Clean up your act,' UN climate chief urges coal industry Photo: Kacper Pempel
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his wife Yoo Soon-taek (R) walk with holocaust survivor and Council for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews chairman Marian Turski(2nd R)
Photo: Kacper Pempel

The U.N. climate chief urged a radical clean-up of the coal industry on Monday to help limit global warming, at an industry meeting in Warsaw condemned by environmentalists as a distraction from the nearby U.N. climate change conference.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N.'s Climate Change Secretariat, told the coal summit that the industry had to change "rapidly and dramatically" to limit high pollution and carbon emissions, including in heavily coal-dependent Poland.

She urged the industry to "leave most existing reserves in the ground", to shut inefficient plants and to capture and bury all emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants, a technology that has proved too costly so far for wide use.

As she did so, Greenpeace activists scaled the Polish Economy Ministry, hosting the coal summit, and unfurled a 15-metre (50 foot) banner asking: "Who rules the world? Fossil industry or the people?"

An international panel of climate scientists says fossil fuel use is extremely likely to be the main cause of a sharp rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution that is now changing the climate.

A group of 27 leading climate scientists working with the panel's data said in Warsaw that there were 3.8 trillion tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) of carbon dioxide trapped in the world's fossil reserves, about 60 percent of it in coal.

They said 1 trillion tonnes would suffice to push the post-industrial temperature rise past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), set by governments as a ceiling to avoid rising sea levels as well as worsening heatwaves, droughts and floods.


The World Coal Association (WCA), co-hosting the conference with the Polish government, says the world cannot abandon coal, which generates about 41 percent of world electricity and is likely to overtake oil as the main source of energy by 2020.

"We want to move beyond the emotional rhetoric, and focus on what we can all do in practical terms," said Milton Catelin, chief executive of the WCA. He said the industry meeting was a "constructive contribution" to the U.N. climate talks.

Environmentalists condemned the summit as a deliberate distraction from the talks involving almost 200 nations at a soccer stadium nearby, which is working on the outlines of a deal meant to be agreed in 2015 to slow climate change.

Poland produces about 90 percent of its electricity from coal and is among the European Union nations most reluctant to implement deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

"The summit can develop clear signals that coal is an important component of climate policy," Polish deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechoci?ski told the start of the two-day coal meeting.

Worldwide, there are plans for almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants to be built, according to the World Resources Institute think-tank.


Godfrey Gomwe, chief executive of Anglo American Thermal Coal, said coal was vital to help 1.3 billion people with no access to electricity in developing nations to escape poverty.

"A life without access to modern energy is a life lived in poverty," he told the coal summit.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said broad coal use was "not going to change overnight", adding: "The most important technology which can provide a longer-range future for coal in a low-carbon world is CCS (carbon capture and storage)."

The 27 climate scientists said CCS was the only way for the world to limit a rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius while still using coal.

They said that renewable energies such as wind and solar power, usually more expensive than coal, were far more competitive if governments factored in the damage to health and to the environment caused by fumes from coal-fired plants.

The World Bank and European Investment Bank have both decided to curb lending to most coal-fired power projects, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is expected to drastically reduce its involvement.

Some institutional investors are also acting. The Church of Sweden, for instance, will not invest in firms that get more than 5 percent of their turnover from prospecting for or developing coal.

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney, Michael Szabo, Agnieszka Barteczko and Stian Reklev; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

A glance at coal and its role in climate change
Karl Ritter Associated Press Yahoo News 18 Nov 13;

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Coal took center stage in the global warming debate on Monday as a high-profile coal industry event kicked off on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference in Warsaw.

Environmental activists were outraged, saying coal is the problem, not the solution to climate change.

Poland, which is presiding over both conferences, says the coal industry needs to be part of the climate discourse because a lot of coal-reliant countries — Poland included — will depend on the fossil fuel for a long time.

Here are some quick facts about coal and the carbon pollution the world is releasing by burning it:


Coal is a fossil fuel that formed over time from the remains of plants that died millions of years ago. It contains energy that those plants once absorbed from the sun.


Apart from being a major contributor to emissions of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas, coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain and air pollution. Governments have been trying to manage the environmental impact of coal burning ever since smoke pollution became a major problem in English cities in the 19th century.


Of all energy sources, coal is the dirtiest in terms of carbon pollution. In 2011, about 44 percent of total energy emissions came from coal, compared to 35 percent from oil and just over 20 percent from natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency.


U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres offered one alternative Monday: leave the coal in the ground. But the reality is a lot of countries with coal resources are not ready to give it up as an energy source. Instead, they are looking for ways to reduce emissions by improving the efficiency of coal-fired plants or adopting technologies that trap the CO2 for storage underground. These technologies are expensive and have so far not been put to widespread use.


Since the industrial revolution coal has been a double-edged sword for humanity, powering economic growth while polluting the environment. Even now that the climate impact is known, coal-reliant countries are reluctant to give it up, fearing it would hurt their economies. Even though China — the world's biggest carbon polluter — is investing in renewable energy, its coal use is also rising because of the huge demand for energy as its economy expands, lifting millions of people out of poverty.


China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of coal. Coal accounted for 68 percent Chinese energy consumption in 2012, according to the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo. The U.S. also is a top coal producer, but domestic coal use is declining as some power plants have switched to lower-priced natural gas.

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Global carbon emissions rise to new record in 2013: report

Reuters Yahoo News 19 Nov 13;

LONDON (Reuters) - Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels will rise to a record 36 billion metric tons (39.683 billion tons) this year, a report by 49 researchers from 10 countries said, showing the failure of governments to rein in the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

The report by the Global Carbon Project, which compiles data from research institutes worldwide each year, was published in the journal Earth Systems Data Discussions on Tuesday.

Its 2013 estimate represents a 2.1 percent gain versus 2012 and a 61 percent increase since 1990, the baseline year for the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the only global agreement that places binding limits on national CO2 emission levels.

The report was published as officials from almost 200 nations are gathered in Warsaw, Poland, tasked with advancing U.N. negotiations on a new pact to curb emissions from all nations due to take effect from 2020.

"Governments ... need to agree how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below 2 degrees Celsius," said the report's lead author, Corinne Le Quere of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Britain's University of East Anglia, in a statement.

She was referring to a rise in the average global temperature from levels prior to the Industrial Revolution. U.N.-backed scientists have warned that a gain above 2 degrees will trigger extreme floods, droughts and storms.

The report shows that the rate of growth in global CO2 emissions is down slightly on the previous year's 2.2 percent increase but is only slightly lower than the average growth of 2.7 percent a year in the last 10 years.

Emissions are increasing because strong growth in coal consumption has outweighed any reductions from the rapid growth in renewable energy in recent years, according to Glen Peters, an author of the report based at CICERO, a climate research institute in Norway.

"While society is seeing many positive developments in renewable energy, this increased production capacity is not simply displacing coal consumption," Peters said in a separate statement. (

(Reporting by Ben Garside; editing by Jane Baird)

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