Best of our wild blogs: 23 Nov 13

Two firms fined for silt-filled water discharge
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Sex and the Birds: 6. Divorce
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Singapore-listed palm oil firm found to violate compliance

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 23 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — Amid charges that it cleared forests in Kalimantan inhabited by orang-utans, Singapore-listed palm oil group Bumitama Agri has found that it fell short of standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and has stopped planting activities by three of its firms.

Bumitama Agri said it is working with the RSPO on a timeline to address compliance gaps.

Investigations by the company showed it had started activities before complying with procedures required under the roundtable’s criteria.

In a statement on Thursday, Bumitama Agri said it had stopped planting activities by PT Ladang Sawit Mas, PT Nabatindo Karya Utama and PT Andalan Sukses Makmur, and would appoint an independent party to audit planting areas managed by these three firms.

Environment group Greenpeace yesterday released photos taken last week of peatland forests cleared in concession areas linked to Bumitama Agri. An area documented was near the Tanjung Puting National Park in central Kalimantan that had been identified as a buffer zone, according to Greenpeace’s analysis.

Another area covered over 1,000ha in Ketapang in west Kalimantan, which the firm said it would stop developing earlier this year when stranded orang-utans were discovered, said Greenpeace.

A Bumitama Agri spokesperson did not comment on Greenpeace’s charge, but said it was “fully committed to managing the environment responsibly and sustainably”.

The company’s subsidiary had said in September it would cooperate with an animal-welfare group and a government body to monitor and help relocate orang-utans within its concession area in west Kalimantan.

Yesterday, Greenpeace’s Indonesia forest-campaign head Bustar Maitar called on Bumitama Agri to commit to a no-deforestation policy and protect the forests and peatland — wetlands which are rich stores of carbon — in its concessions.

Bumitama Agri said that, despite the compliance gaps, the company did not destroy the forest or kill any orang-utans. It is providing seeds to Tanjung Puting National Park — home to one of the largest remaining orang-utan populations — as part of reforestation efforts, a company spokesperson said.

The company was listed on the Singapore stock exchange last year and has over 133,000ha of palm oil plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia.

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Renewable energy can meet 10% of power demand without govt subsidies: SEAS

Nicole Tan Channel NewsAsia 22 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Renewable energy sources can generate up to 10 per cent of Singapore's power demand by 2020, compared to less than 1 per cent today.

According to a white paper released by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), this potential can be achieved without government subsidies but requires an estimated S$4 billion investment from the private sector over the next 12 years.

The association currently has more than 160 members and represents the interests of companies in the sustainable energy industry and other related stakeholders.

Solar energy, biomass and biogas are key renewable energy sources identified as sustainable alternatives to Singapore's growing energy needs.

According to the white paper, solar photovolatics is expected to generate some 4.8 per cent of the nation's 2025 forecasted power needs, while biogas and biomass will contribute to some 2 per cent of the demand.

The white paper suggests that companies invest in adopting the use of such renewable sources,which industry experts say are economically viable.

Edwin Khew, chairman of SEAS, said: “These systems will actually last you for at least 20 to 25 years. So anything beyond four to five years, basically, is where you start getting all your investment back, so you actually make money from the system, so it's extremely viable right now.

“The important thing to note is the cost of energy will continue to increase if you import oil or gas -- it will not, within the future, come down in price. If anything, it will go up.

“So once you have a solar system, the sun is always there... it's free."

But the study said the energy market mechanism first needs to be revised, so that businesses can supply any excess renewable energy they generate to the power grid and even reap the returns on their investment.

Christophe Inglin, managing director of Phoenix Solar and chairman of the white paper committee, said: “Building owners see this as a way of saving money -- they put solar power on their roof.

“You get some industries which have a lot of waste, biowaste which they can then turn into biogas and generate their own electricity. But that's just the start of it.

“So take this to a bigger scale, we'd like to be able to go to bigger projects, and feed (renewable energy) not just into their building, but take this to the grid to sell to third party customers.”

The association will be sharing its white paper findings with the Energy Market Authority, which released its own consultation paper in October on simplifying the regulatory framework for intermittent generation sources.

Both are also working closely with research organisations Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and A*STAR's Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) to find solutions to manage intermittent supply in renewable energy sources.

Just last month, during Singapore International Energy Week , Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran said renewable energy can contribute more to Singapore's energy mix.

He announced that the cap for intermittent sources supplying electricity to the grid has been raised from 350 mega-watt peak to 600 mega-watt peak.

- CNA/nd

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Wildlife organisation demands answers to lingering Lizard King questions

Isabelle Lai The Star 23 Nov 13;

PETALING JAYA: The Government must give solid answers to the alarming enforcement issues raised in an investigative film featuring wildlife crime kingpin Anson Wong, said Traffic Southeast Asia.

Its legal and policy officer Shenaaz Khan said Al Jazeera’s 101 East film Return of the Lizard King had raised “so many doubts and questions about Malaysia’s commitment to fight global wildlife trafficking business”.

“It is time we had some solid answers from the Government,” she said in an immediate response to the film, which premiered yesterday on the Al Jazeera network.

She urged the authorities to provide a credible explanation as to how Wong was seemingly back in the multi-million dollar illegal wildlife trade despite Government promises to the contrary.

Khan pointed out that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel had confirmed that new permits were refused to Wong and his wife, Cheah Bing Shee, while their earlier permits were revoked in 2010.

“This makes Wong’s ‘ask the Government’ response — to the question of how he was able to carry on trading wildlife despite the revocation of his permits — a very worrying one. It requires clarification from the Government,” she said.

Khan called upon the ministry and the Department of Wildlife and Natural Parks (Perhilitan) to declare all permits issued since 2010 to companies linked to Wong and his wife, which were named in the film.

She said the authorities must reveal who approved these permits and what species were traded using those permits.

Based on the revelations in the film, Khan also asked whether any further investigations were conducted into the contents of Wong’s laptop and three handphones, which were confiscated in his 2010 arrest.

She pointed out that Al Jazeera, as a news agency with no enforcement powers and little access to information, had been able to discover such damning details about Wong’s activities.

She said conservation groups and the media had also repeatedly raised such questions, revealed links and urged the Government to investigate Wong over the past three years, to little avail.

“There is no excuse for Government agencies with full enforcement powers not to do more and act on what they find,” she said adding that the rest of the world was reacting to the global wildlife trafficking trade with growing seriousness and offering million-dollar rewards for information on top traffickers.

In George Town, efforts to contact Wong were unsuccessful as his whereabouts remained a mystery.

A family friend said he had lost touch with Wong, while his relatives were not at their shophouse in Pulau Tikus when visited by The Star.

Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said he was not aware if Wong was still involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

“There is no information linking him here to our department. We have not come across or managed any case with regards to his involvement or his return to the illegal wildlife trade,” he said.

Authorities in the dark over convicted trafficker's return
The Star 23 Nov 13;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian authorities are apparently in the hot seat as a new investigative film has revealed that convicted wildlife trafficker Anson Wong is back in business.

Posing as interested buyers, Al Jazeera’s 101 East presenter Steve Chao and his team conducted a year-long investigation which took them to Madagascar, Indonesia and Malaysia as they sought to infiltrate Wong’s network.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel told Chao that he was unaware of Wong’s infamy.

“I do not know who this person is. I have never come across him. Only today was I told of this chap,” he said at the time of the interview.

However, he added that the ministry had done right in cancelling Wong’s business licences and permits.

He said that he would not know if Wong had resumed his activities as people could do things illegally without the ministry’s knowledge.

Asked whether he would go after top-level officials if they were suspected to be Wong’s accomplices, Palanivel said: “I won’t know, because sometimes things can go without my knowledge.”

However, he said he would look into it if anyone was found to be corrupt or accept bribes.

Chao and his team discovered an enclosure housing Serval cats from North Africa when they did a scouting trip to Wong’s Penang residence.

Posing as an interested buyer, he also visited Wong’s wife Cheah Bing Shee in her office where she told him: “We also import animals for sale, including skunks and other creatures.”

All licences and special permits issued to Wong and his wife allowing them to sell or possess wildlife were revoked in September 2010.

However, public records showed that they were allowed to renew several business permits, including for the Bukit Jambul Reptile Sanctuary and air cargo operator Aerofleet.

Chao also discovered Rona Wildlife, a company formed after Wong’s 2010 conviction.

Although it was registered under an unrecognised name, it had trading permits to export the same animals Wong did to the same customers in the United States previously.

Upon visiting the address, located on the upper floor of a shophouse in Penang, he found exotic wildlife such as albino pythons stashed there.

The worker confirmed that his boss was “Mr Wong. Anson Wong.”

When confronted about Rona Wildlife and asked whether he was still in the smuggling business, Wong said he had no comment beyond confirming that he had several companies.

When Chao told him that according to the Government, he was not supposed to be trading in wildlife, Wong responded, “Well, ask the Government.”

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5 Places Already Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

Denise Chow Yahoo News 22 Nov 13;

The effects of a warming planet are likely to be vast and varied — ranging from increased droughts and coastal flooding to reductions in snow and ice. But while most climate predictions look ahead to the potential risks 50 or 100 years from now, there are places around the globe that are already being impacted by global warming.

Here are five places where climate change is already hitting close to home:

Great Barrier Reef

Satellite measurements have demonstrated that the waters of Australia's Great Barrier Reef have warmed by 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 degrees Celsius) on average over the past 25 years. This warming has led to a decline in the amount of seafloor covered in thriving coral.

A 2012 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that half of the Great Barrier Reef was lost in the past 27 years.

Warming oceans, linked to rising emissions of carbon dioxide, increase the risk of coral bleaching — a phenomenon that disrupts the symbiotic relationship between corals and the organisms that live within their tissues and provide food the corals need to survive.

Higher-than-normal ocean temperatures cause corals to expel the tiny animals and algae that live inside them. This turns the corals white and places the reef-building animals — and the entire ecosystem — under stress.

Newtok, Alaska

Newtok, and many other villages in Alaska, are built atop permanently frozen soil, called permafrost. As ocean temperatures increase, Alaska's permafrost melts, causing the ground to erode and many of these remote, coastal towns to sink.

Newtok is located on the western coast of Alaska, on the edge of the rising Ninglick River. The flood-prone town already sits below sea level, and researchers have said the entire village could be underwater within a decade. [What 11 Billion People Mean for Climate Change]

Now, members of the community are hoping to relocate Newtok's 350 residents to higher ground, at a site roughly 9 miles (14 kilometers) away. But there are financial and political barriers. For instance, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that moving the town of Newtok could cost up to $130 million.

Mumbai, India

The Indian metropolis of Mumbai is one of the places at risk of dangerous and costly floods due to climate change, according to a report released earlier this year by the World Bank. Economists at the World Bank examined 136 large coastal cities, and evaluated their coastal defenses and level of protection.

The report identified Mumbai as one of the coastal cities that face a high risk of devastating floods due to global warming. Researchers found the city's existing defenses against flooding and storm surges are only designed to withstand current conditions, not for the anticipated rise in sea levels that will make future floods more devastating.

While coastal defenses are a start, "if they are not upgraded regularly and proactively as risk increases with climate change and subsidence, defenses can magnify — not reduce — the vulnerability of some cities," study leader Stephane Hallegatte, an economist at the World Bank, said in a statement.

The Alps

The Alps, one of the most famous mountain ranges in Europe, have long been a tourism hotspot, famous for their top-notch ski resorts and as a popular year-round destination for outdoors enthusiasts. But climatologists warn that global warming could spell trouble for the sprawling alpine region.

Since the late 19th century, temperatures in the Alps have been steadily rising, from an average yearly temperature of 49.3 degrees F (9.6 degrees C) in the late 1800s to today's average of 51.4 degrees F (10.8 degrees C), according to Gilles Brunot, a meteorologist based at the ski resort Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in southeastern France.

But concerns about global warming's effect on the Alps extend beyond the region's ski industry. About 40 percent of Europe's freshwater originates from the Alps, which stretch from Austria in the East to France in the West, dipping into parts of Italy and Monaco in the South. Climate change is threatening the area's water cycle, which includes patterns of precipitation, snow and glacier cover. [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]

Gansu Province, China

Farmers across China's Gansu Province, one of the country's driest regions, are already struggling to cope with the effects of climate change, as droughts and arid land contribute to the region's vast poverty. The United Nations says warming temperatures are shrinking glaciers in central Asia and the Himalayas, which typically replenish China's rivers.

China recently completed its first National Census of Water, and found that as many as 28,000 of the country's rivers have disappeared since the 1990s. The study did not identify reasons for the loss of the rivers, but the research showed an alarming trend of dwindling water resources throughout the country.

China currently has 2,100 cubic meters (74,000 cubic feet) of water resources per person — roughly 28 percent of the global average, according to Reuters. But as the country's population grows, these supplies could dry up sooner than expected.

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U.N. climate talks bogged down over CO2 cuts, aid, on last day

Nina Chestney and Megan Rowling Reuters Yahoo News 22 Nov 13

WARSAW (Reuters) - Disputes over when rich and poor nations will set greenhouse gas targets and over climate aid to the developing world threatened to sink U.N. climate talks on the final day on Friday.

Negotiators from around 195 countries are working to lay the foundations for a new global climate accord that is due to be agreed in 2015 in Paris, and come into force after 2020, but few concrete steps have emerged from two weeks of talks in Warsaw.

"The Warsaw talks, which should have been an important step forward ... are now on the verge of delivering virtually nothing," said China's lead climate negotiator Su Wei.

Around 800 representatives from 13 non-governmental organizations walked out of the talks on Thursday, exasperated at the lack of progress at the meeting, which is likely to run overnight into Saturday.

It was hoped the conference would at least produce a timetable to ensure ambitious emissions cut targets and climate finance pledges are set in time for Paris. But the selection and wording of issues has been politically sensitive.

Rich countries want to emphasize future emission targets for all, while developing nations say industrialized nations must lead in setting targets and foot most of the bill because they have historically accounted for most emissions.

French Development Minister Pascal Canfin said all should submit initial targets for emissions beyond 2020 by early 2015.

"Warsaw will have been a good launch pad for Paris if each state goes away with the principle of putting commitments with numbers on the table ... by the beginning of 2015 at the latest," he said.

The talks have also been sharply divided over aid. Developed nations agreed in 2009 to raise climate aid to $100 billion a year from 2020 from an annual $10 billion for 2010-12.

Hit by economic slowdown, rich countries are now more focused on their own economies and are resisting calls to firm up plans for raising aid from 2013 to 2019.


Scientists say warming is causing more heatwaves, droughts, and could mean more powerful storms. The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has risen to more than 4,000.

A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in September "sustained and substantial" cuts in greenhouse gases are needed to achieve a U.N. goal of limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times - widely seen as a threshold for dangerous change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders on Thursday to make "bold pledges" for emissions cuts by a summit he will host on September 23 next year but acknowledged many nations would be late.

Many developing nations want that to be a deadline for rich nations to outline initial emissions cuts beyond 2020 but the United States has said it will unveil its plans in early 2015.

A draft document issued on Friday, which still has to be approved by parties, suggested a draft negotiating text be ready at the latest by December 2014 climate talks in Lima, Peru.

Developing nations are also pushing for a new mechanism to deal with loss and damage related to climate change, but developed countries do not want a new institution, fearing that it could pave the way for huge financial claims.

(Editing by Alister Doyle and David Evans)

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