Best of our wild blogs: 6 Mar 14



Does Singapore Need to Have a Government Department That Addresses Sustainable Business? from Green Future Solutions

Mar 14 Sat 8 & Sun 9 Guided Heritage Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage

The charm of Pulau Ubin
from The Tender Gardener

Butterflies Galore! : Blue Jay
from Butterflies of Singapore and Formosan Swift


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Government committed to slowing down population growth: Grace Fu

WOO SIAN BOON Today Online 5 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The Government has embarked on a new “strategic direction” in its population policies to bring about a slower and more sustainable pace of population growth as committed to in the Population White Paper, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu today (March 5).

“Our goal is that Singapore continues to be an endearing home and a good place for Singaporeans to live, work and play,” she said during the Prime Minister’s Office Committee of Supply debate.

Citing statistics released in the annual Population in Brief report last year, Ms Fu said Singapore’s population grew by just 1.6 per cent last year, its slowest pace in the last 10 years and almost half the average rate of 3.1 per cent from 2004 to 2012.

The citizen population grew at a pace of 0.9 per cent to 3.31 million through births and immigration. The total fertility rate was 1.19 — with 31,000 Singaporean babies born last year — still below the replacement rate of 2.1.

“This was fewer than in the 2012 ‘Dragon Year’, but more than in the 2011 – the ‘Rabbit Year’,” said Ms Fu.

Ms Fu also revealed that growth in the foreign workforce in the non-construction sector was halved from 7.1 per cent to 3.5 per cent last year in line with the Government’s tightening of foreign manpower policies. The bulk of foreign worker growth was in the construction sector — which grew by 25,000 last year — to speed up major infrastructure projects in housing and transport.

About 30,000 Permanent Residences were granted last year to “mitigate the shrinking and ageing of our citizen population”, keeping the Permanent Resident population stable at about half a million for the last five years.

Another 20,000 people were granted citizenship. “These (new citizens) were assessed to be to be able to contribute and integrate well into our society,” said Ms Fu.


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Growth v greenery: Where will Singapore's priorities lie?

Euston Quah And Christabelle Soh, For The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Mar 14;

As Singapore grows wealthier, there are calls to reprioritise the environment over the economy. But one question is whether economic growth will be a given in the future.

THE pursuit of economic growth has always necessitated accepting some degree of impact on the living environment. Conversely, the preservation of the living environment will always involve forgoing some measure of economic growth.

This is in line with the basic fundamental economic principle that every choice entails a trade- off, and the sooner and better a society understands this opportunity cost and gains, the clearer and easier for policy makers to make informed decisions.

The tension between the economy and the environment often results in governments having to prioritise one over the other. Many would also argue that there is a clear limit to which natural capital such as green spaces and forests can be substituted for physical capital as in buildings, and infrastructures.

In Singapore, economic growth has historically taken centre stage and has always been the backbone of the country's material progress. There were good reasons for this.

In the early days of independence, Singapore faced existential challenges. Real income per capita, the amount of goods and services that could be purchased with the average income, was only about a 12th of what it is today. The unemployment rate was 10 per cent to 12 per cent.

The post-war population boom also meant that jobs had to be found for the growing number of young people. The late Dr Goh Keng Swee famously recalled that "(In) the first few years, when I went home for lunch, I passed big schools and saw thousands of kids going home at 1pm; I kept on worrying where I was going to find jobs for them."

The emphasis on economic growth then can be easily observed from the policies adopted. Doors were opened and red carpets were rolled out to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The Economic Development Board was set up and specifically tasked to bring in FDI, a crucial mandate that has remained unchanged to today. Simultaneously, free trade agreements were actively pursued to expand Singapore's export markets.

Green considerations

HOWEVER, economic growth was not pursued with the complete abandonment of environmental concerns. Even then, it was recognised that Singapore's small geographical area meant that the living environment was interminably tied up with industrial activity.

As such, the paradigm was that while economic growth was paramount and had to be pursued, some consideration would be paid to the living environment.

An example of this was the land zoning that was carried out. More pollutive industries were located as far away as possible from residential areas.

Also, standards on waste and pollutant discharge were enforced from the start, a policy directive uncommonly observed in developing countries. The planting of trees and general greening of Singapore were also clear efforts to preserve the living environment.

In recent years, with Singapore's increased affluence, the population's focus on the environment has become stronger.

There have been calls to consider reprioritising growth and paying more attention to the living environment instead. The non-material aspects of the quality of life have gained more prominence as comfortable income levels become the norm.

To a large degree, this is unsurprising. As incomes increase, the marginal utility of income (the addition to welfare that extra income brings) decreases, which tips the scales in favour of non-income determinants to welfare.

A worsened living environment, due to population growth outstripping the capacity of physical and social infrastructure has been among the main points of contention.

Furthermore, as the Singapore economy reaches maturation, it has become increasingly harder to achieve high rates of economic growth.

Unlike economies playing catch-up, Singapore can no longer achieve great gains in efficiency simply by adopting best practices from overseas. We have also long since lost the labour cost advantage in the form of a cheap local labour force.

For economic growth to be sustained at the pace enjoyed by developing economies, higher costs have to be incurred, either in terms of greater investments in research and development, or in terms of costs to the living environment, or by importing cheap foreign labour, which in turn raises social costs.

The above factors have led to the view that the time for a paradigm shift is due, with many believing that Singapore's future emphasis should be and will be on preserving the living environment rather than pursuing economic growth.

As things stand, such a shift in policy stance seems to have already happened in other developed economies. The predicted disastrous effects of climate change have focused minds on reducing carbon emissions and preserving the natural environment.

For instance, the European Union already has an emissions trading scheme in place and Australia introduced a carbon tax in 2012. Even China, which has yet to become a developed economy, is taking strong measures to improve the living environment.

Growth worries

FOR Singapore, while the gradual shift towards prioritising preservation of the living environment and away from economic growth may seem to be the choice of some for now, there is little reason to believe that such a shift is permanent in the longer run.

This is because part of the desire to not focus on economic growth stems from taking economic growth as a given. However, with globalisation and increased economic competition, this assumption may not hold true.

Developing economies are doing their best to move up the value-added chain. China's Huawei is producing smartphones that can rival global brands like Samsung and Apple in terms of quality. Shanghai is fast becoming the next global financial hub. Flappy Birds, a recent craze in game apps, was developed by a Vietnamese.

More and more of such instances would mean an increased overlap between goods and services produced in Singapore and by other countries. This increased competition has negative implications for Singapore's economic growth.

Additionally, Singapore may not always be a magnet for foreign labour. As wages and the standard of living rise in developing countries, Singapore will become a less and less attractive destination.

This has a direct effect on the productive capacity of our economy: a smaller labour force means less goods and services can be produced. It will also reduce our ability to attract FDI as the availability of skilled and cheap labour decreases.

Unless local population growth picks up, the shrinking labour force will mean negative growth and decreased incomes. There is a limit as to what capital and technology can remedy or replace labour.

It is possible that as incomes start to fall and unemployment rises, the focus will turn back to the economy. We have seen this in the EU, where the European debt crisis and subsequent recession have pushed climate change down the list of priorities.

Australia has also taken steps to repeal the carbon tax. Threats to economic growth may trigger a similar reaction in Singapore.

As such, it is extremely difficult to predict Singapore's future priorities. Will the Singapore of the future still be one of Asia's most liveable cities? Or will the need to ensure that economic growth continues as top priority result in fewer green spaces and more congestion?

It is not likely that the waste disposal, cleanliness, and pollution standards which Singapore had set and rigorously upheld over the past decades will be abandoned.

But it is clear that if there comes a time in the future to protect jobs, incomes, and employment in a world of uncertainty and immense competition from other countries, we could expect the economy to take priority over greenery, including the need for land conservation and protection of nature.

Experts from a variety of fields are working on a book about Singapore's economy and environment, to be released when Singapore reaches 50 next year.

The book, entitled Singapore 2065 and edited by Euston Quah, will include contributions on a broad definition of the living environment, including population and health.

Its aim is to expand on the discussion started in this article: that the relationship between Singapore's economy and the environment is ever-shifting and should not be taken for granted.

The first writer is professor and head of economics at Nanyang Technological University and president of the Economic Society of Singapore. The second writer is an economics teacher at Raffles Institution.


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Dengue worry: Disused underpass to go

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - A disused underpass near Shenton Way that residents said had been flooded and could breed Aedes mosquitoes will be demolished starting this month, according to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also fogged the underpass and its surrounding area as a precaution, even though it did not detect any mosquito breeding during a site visit late last month.

Those who frequent the area had alerted The Straits Times to the underpass in January, concerned that it could be breeding the dengue-causing insects.

It is located behind the Singapore Conference Hall in Shenton Way and is near the Marina Bay Fire Station, but there are no homes in the immediate vicinity.

Mr Kevin Lim, a 36-year-old civil servant, said he first noticed the flooded underpass in early January when he was exploring the area with friends. It was still flooded when he returned about a week later.

"There were a lot of mosquitoes so we didn't want to hang out there too long," he said.

When The Straits Times visited the underpass in late January, the length of the underpass was almost entirely flooded and there were several mosquitoes.

The SLA said last week that it has carried out anti-mosquito maintenance in the underpass twice a month since 2009.

"The SLA has been using BTI granules - a biological product - that effectively kill mosquito larvae and prevent the breeding of mosquitoes," a spokesman said.

The authority added that demolition works for the underpass will begin this month, when a stretch of the existing East Coast Parkway over the underpass is removed, with the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway.

Meanwhile, the NEA said last week that water was being pumped out of the underpass, although some remained when The Straits Times visited the site last Sunday.

Vegetation surrounding it had also been cleared.

The NEA said that it will continue to work with the relevant agencies, including the SLA and the Land Transport Authority, to prevent mosquito breeding at the site until the demolition works begin.
- See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/dengue-worry-disused-underpass-go#sthash.T96eYZpP.dpuf


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Malaysia lost right to review price of water, says Shanmugam

Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 5 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water.

Foreign Minister K Shanmugam stressed that this was under the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement.

He was responding to recent reports in the Malaysian media that Johor wishes to review the price of raw water sold to Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam said the Water Agreement is guaranteed by the Separation Agreement, which gave Singapore independence in 1965.

He said: "Both Agreements are international treaties which are vital to us, our sovereignty and our security. The terms… cannot be changed unilaterally."

Mr Shanmugam also gave an update on cooperation with Indonesia to fight the haze.

He said a media report on March 4 mentioned that the majority of an Indonesian parliamentary commission was, in principle, supportive of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

And this is welcome news because Indonesia is the only party that has yet to ratify the agreement.

Without Indonesia, the treaty cannot come into force.

Meanwhile, Singapore is also working to resume cooperation efforts in Jambi province, and officials on both sides have met several times.

Mr Shanmugam said: "This could help on the ground by providing technical assistance and capacity building capabilities to equip local farmers with alternative land-clearing methods, sustainable farming and zero-burning practices."

- CNA/gn


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Indonesia: Riau prepares for worst-case

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 6 Mar 14;

The Forestry Ministry and Riau provincial administration are preparing for a worst-case scenario by increasing personnel and equipment readiness ahead of the peak of the dry season, which is expected to last from June through August.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan urged all stakeholders to increase their vigilance in handling the worsening haze in the province.

“The current fires must be prevented from spreading so that we will not be criticized any longer,” Zulkifli said after attending the roll call of a haze mitigation task force at the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru on Wednesday.

“Last year, neighboring countries protested against the haze. The President even had to apologize to them. That must not be repeated this year, as it would cause shame if we had to apologize two years in a row,” he added.

The haze has caused problems not only for Riau residents but also people living in neighboring provinces and countries, principally Singapore and Malaysia.

Last year, the haze issue sparked a diplomatic war of words between Indonesia and the two neighboring countries, forcing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to apologize to Singapore and Malaysia for the pollution caused by forest fires.

In Jambi, thick haze forced airlines to divert their routes due to low visibility at Sultan Thaha Airport on Wednesday.

According to Zulkifli, Riau would witness a number of large expansions of oil palm estates for several years to come, given its flat topography, which was suitable for plantations.

Production forests, which have yet to obtain operating permits, as well as protected conservation areas have been encroached by squatters, due to the growth in the palm oil industry.

Zulkifli claimed that more than 2,000 squatters had been settled in the Giam Siak Kecil biosphere area in Bukit Batu and the Tesso Nilo National Park for the past three years.

“The government cannot just evict them because many would protest that their basic human rights were being violated. But the Riau Fire Mitigation task force has taken stern action by razing their huts and confiscating their equipment,” he continued.

Zulkifli suggested that joint patrols should be intensified so that even the smallest fire could be doused immediately.

“In Brazil, forest patrols are the key to success in eliminating forest fires. The moment a satellite detects hotspots, helicopters are deployed to seek them out,” he said.

“If we can apply that method the moment we see smoke, authorities could catch the perpetrators and financiers and Riau would be free of the fires,” he added.

He also reminded law enforcers to secure scorched areas, be they owned by individuals or companies, as they could be repossessed by the state.

“From now on, the police should cordon off scorched areas and arrest not only those people who set the fires but also those who cultivate the areas, and charge them with violating Law No. 18/2013 [on the prevention and eradication of forest destruction],” said Zulkifli.

Meanwhile, Riau Governor Annas Maamun urged the central government to revise the regulation on setting the emergency response status. As of now, the provincial administration cannot set the emergency response status before half the regencies and cities in the province have agreed a status level.

“There are 12 regencies and cities in Riau, and it’s illogical that we must wait until half of them have set the emergency status before the provincial administration can disburse funds,” he said.

Annas also urged the corporate sector to be more active in mitigating the fires, which have so far destroyed 11,138 hectares of forested area.

“More than 32 million people have suffered acute respiratory illness, schools have had to close, 90 homes have been gutted and 310 residents have been displaced,” he said.

Riau's Giam Siak biosphere reserve core zone set ablaze
The Jakarta Post 5 Mar 14;

The Riau administration’s forestry agency head ,Zulkifli Yusuf, said that the core zone of the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve in Riau was set on fire as a result of illegal logging activities in the area.

“Fires burned the biosphere reserve’s core zone in the conservation forest, which is overseen by the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Riau,” said Zulkifli in Pekanbaru on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara.

Riau Haze Emergency Response Task Force commander Brig.Gen.Prihadi Agus Irianto earlier said Riau fires had burned 3,000 hectares of the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve, which was located in two regencies in the Riau province, namely Bengkalis and Siak.

“Since forest fires have been occurring in Riau, the Giam Siak Kecil biosphere reserve has been the most affected. The fires now have covered 3,000 hectares,” said Prihadi, who is also the chief of the Wirabima Military Command.

The Giam Siak biosphere reserve was initiated as a world conservation area by Sinar Mas Group in 2009. Up till now, it did not have the legal right to manage the reserve’s core zone, however.

Zulkifli said Sinar Mas Group was only responsible for the transition zone it later developed as industrial forests that produced raw paper materials for the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

“Many hotspots have also been found in concession areas belonging to Sinar Mas Group, but I don’t want to speak about it because that is the responsibility of the Forestry Ministry,” said Zulkifli.

Sinar Mas Forestry spokesperson Nurul Huda said both sides should tour the affected areas.

“If the biosphere is under the management of Sinar Mas, of course the company will protect it and be responsible for extinguishing the fires there. But if the fires occur in a location under the authority of the BKSDA, then we will help them put out the fires,” said Nurul. (ebf)


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Jakarta set to ratify haze pact

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Mar 14;

INDONESIA's Parliament is set to agree to ratify a decade-old regional haze treaty, as pollutant levels in parts of Riau remained hazardous for a second month and thick haze continued to spread across much of Sumatra.

A parliamentary committee comprising MPs from eight out of the nine parties met Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and senior officials on Monday, and six of the parties - who make up 363 of the 560 MPs in the House - were in favour of ratifying the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The pact commits member countries to preventing open burning, monitoring prevention efforts, sharing information, and helping one another in tackling the haze.

A draft Bill on ratification will be tabled before a full session of Parliament, likely after the general election on April 9.

Jakarta's earlier efforts to get Parliament to ratify the pact, which was signed in 2002, were thwarted by objections that it infringed on Indonesia's sovereignty.

The issue cropped up again on Monday, with even MPs in favour of ratification saying that the government had to ensure Indonesian territory was not breached.

Professor Balthasar assured them that sovereignty was a top priority, and the treaty would help Indonesia tackle the haze better, including by working with other countries.

He also said the government was not under pressure from any foreign country to speed up ratification.

"Our people are the ones that suffer most from every haze incident. Ratifying the pact is also important as Indonesia must maintain its integrity and credibility in the region," he added.

Parliament's delay in ratifying the pact became a sticking point during last year's haze, which saw pollutant levels reach record highs in Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesia is the only Asean country that has yet to ratify the treaty.


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Malaysia: Haze clearing up in most states

ALIZA SHAH AND PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 6 Mar 14;

GOOD A.P.I. READINGS: DoE to tighten enforcement on open burning

KUALA LUMPUR: THE haze enveloping several states has improved with only Ipoh recording unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 104 as at 5pm yesterday.

Department of Environment (DoE) director-general Halimah Hassan said 24 areas recorded good API readings while another 25 were moderate. On the situation in Ipoh, she said the haze was caused by ozone particles due to the emission of nitrogen gas from vehicles and industries.

She added the ministry had tightened enforcement against open burning with 1,140 cases recorded as of March 4.

Fire and Rescue Department senior officer Yusri Basri said the number of peat fires nationwide dropped from 417 on Tuesday to 345 yesterday.

In George Town, bush fire broke out again on Penang Hill yesterday.

White smoke was visible from the hilltop in the Air Itam area.

Fire and Rescue Department operations chief Azrinnoor Ahmad said the emergency unit received a distress call about 7am.

He and his team members boarded the Penang Hill railway to inspect the hotspot but had to come down after failing to pinpoint the exact location.

Later, when the spot was located, firemen were forced to use an alternative route to reach the secluded spot from the Air Itam Dam.

Azrinnoor said a command post was set up to monitor the bush fire with 13 members sent in to put out the flames.

Several firemen boarded a helicopter to get an aerial view of the hot spot while another team trekked for an hour to reach the hotspot.

Azrinnoor said two teams of firemen took two different routes and managed to reach the spot from hill treks in Air Itam.

The bush fire was eventually brought under control.

In Kuantan, firefighters had to create a firebreak to stop wildfires from spreading towards the Gebeng Industrial Area, where dozens of factories are located.

Gebeng fire station chief Syed Ahmad Jamaluddin Mohamed said 32 firemen had been working round-the-clock since Tuesday to put out the fires.

A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow down or stop the progress of a bushfire or wildfire.

Syed Ahmad said about 20 hectares of forest were affected since the fire started in the area about 9pm on Tuesday.

He said they also received assistance from the Indera Mahkota fire station, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), MTBE Malaysia Sdn Bhd (MTBE) and Kuantan Port Authority (KPC).

He said strong winds had caused the fire to spread towards the industrial area where some oil and gas companies were also located.

"Luckily, we do not have water shortage and can also use the four fire engines provided by the Indera Mahkota fire station, RMN, MTBE, and KPC," he said.

A Pahang Fire and Rescue Department operations centre spokesman said 19 forest fires were reported yesterday with the main ones in Penor and Gebeng here while the rest were in Pekan and Rompin.

He said although they managed to control the fire at the oil palm plantation in Penor early yesterday, the strong winds caused it to spread again and almost reached the LKPP oil palm plantation nearby.

"Our focus is to put out the fire and we have set up an operations centre at the scene," he said.

Peat fires and open burning causing haze
New Straits Times 5 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Peat fires and open burning are the main causes of the haze blanketing the west coast of the peninsula for the past few days.

Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department (operations and management) officer Yusri Basri said the department had been doing its best to put out the fires.

In Selangor alone, he said, 40 fires had been reported since Monday, with 234.4ha of land still on fire.

Firemen are still fighting peat fires in four areas, Bestarijaya, Elite Highway in Cyberjaya, Sungai Besar and Sungai Tengi.

Yusri said the number of peat fires and open burning had been on the rise in the past few days.

"The fires in most areas would probably stop if we get continuous rain, whether natural or through cloud seeding."

In Ipoh, state Environment Committee chairman Dr Muhamad Amin Zakaria said open burning, dust from earth works and vehicle movements had resulted in the haze and Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in Seri Manjung to hit unhealthy levels on Monday.

However, the reading improved slightly yesterday morning.

Amin said the bad air quality in Taiping, which recorded an API reading of 100 on Monday, was caused by the dry spell, open burning and a faulty smoke control system at a factory.

The factory is about 700m from the Department of Environment (DoE) monitoring station.

In Alor Star, the state DoE advised against open burning, saying that those caught face a maximum compound of RM500,000 or jail term of up to five years.

Its director, Mohamad Sayuti Sepeai, said the department had issued seven compounds totalling RM20,300 for burning domestic waste in the open. Each offender was slapped with compounds of between RM100 and RM12,000.

"We will not compromise as such activity has contributed to the air pollution and worsening haze situation in the state," he said.

On Monday, the API reading in Sungai Petani hit 99, a point short of reaching the unhealthy level.

However, the air quality in the state improved slightly yesterday as the API readings went down and remained at moderate levels.

In Pekan, the authorities fear the prolonged dry spell could trigger more bush and peat fires in Pahang, which has the biggest peat swamps in the peninsula.

Compounding the matter is that most peat swamps had dried up, exposing them to natural fire which could spread to other areas and last for weeks.

Hundreds of Fire and Rescue Department personnel have been working around-the-clock to douse fires in the state, which had destroyed large tracts of forests, particularly at dried-up peat swamps.

Villagers in the vicinity have been forced to remain indoors as strong winds drove the smoke over their homes and reducing visibility in certain areas.

In Seremban, Negri Sembilan DoE has activated the Open Burning Preventive Action Plan to deal with the worsening haze.

State DoE director Charanpal Singh said the department was monitoring all landfills in the state to ensure no open burning was carried out.

He said the department didn't want a recurrence of last year's blaze in the 2.8ha Pajam solid waste disposal dump in Nilai.

Charanpal added that DoE officers were patrolling eight dumpsites in the state around the clock, with extra attention given to the Pajam and Lukut landfills in Port Dickson.

"We are also monitoring industrial areas as factories there could contribute to the air pollution and worsen the haze."

Forest fire rages on Bukit Bendera, visible from 5km distance
The Star 5 Mar 14;

GEORGE TOWN: A forested area on top of a hill next to Bukit Bendera here is ablaze and thick smoke can be seen from five kilometres away.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said the department was alerted about the fire at 8am Wednesday.

"A team rushed to the scene but faced difficulties because there is no path to the burning area. They found the site, guided by smoke emitted by the fire.

"The firemen were also forced to bring along water and are using backpack sprayers to combat the fire," he told Bernama.

He said so far, 20 firemen were fighting hard to put out the fire and the number was expected to increase in the evening.

"We have brought the fire under control, so far. A total two hectares of forest have been razed by the fire," he said.

Azmi said the department would seek the aid Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency's Bombardier aircraft if the fire went out of control.

The fire did not endanger the public as it was far away from housing areas at Bukit Bendera, he added. - Bernama


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Malaysia: Heavy rain from March 21 - Meteorological Department

ALIZA SHAH AND BALQIS NASIR New Straits Times 6 Mar 14;

EQUINOX EVENT: Inter-monsoon will cause huge change in weather patterns

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Meteorological Department forecasts heavy rain from March 21.

Its commercial and corporate services division director, Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip, said the inter-monsoon season would cause immense change in weather patterns.

Weather patterns, he said, were highly influenced by the position of the sun, especially during the inter-monsoon, where the sun was closer to the equator.

He said this phenomena, known as the equinox, would cause the atmosphere to be unstable and active.

"Presently, the sun is located in the southern hemisphere, causing more weather changes and rain there," he said, adding that this biannual phenomena occurred in March and September.

The inter-monsoon season, which was expected to end in April, would produce between 200 and 300 millimetres of rain water per month.

Hisham said no heavy rain was expected until the end of this week and there would only be isolated showers nationwide.

He added that cloud seeding would be postponed till next week since the clouds as wind patterns were unsuitable.

"Strong winds up to 20 knots are expected to continue until the end of this week. This situation is not favourable for cloud seeding, in addition to the cloudless situation."

Drainage and Irrigation Department's Water Resources and Hydrology division director Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor confirmed that the amount of rainwater was sufficient to improve water levels at dams to normal.

He said as long as the amount of rainwater was above 200mm, it would enable the dams to supply sufficient water and resolve the water crisis.

Water rationing in Selangor following the dry spell started on Feb 27, affecting more than 60,000 people in 71 areas in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

The disruption was said to be triggered by the closure of the Cheras Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi water treatment plants due to ammonia pollution in Sungai Langat since Jan 28.

The second phase of a month-long water rationing started on March 2 affected some 2.2 million users in the Klang Valley.

The rationing was to reduce the release of water to 200 million litres per day in Sungai Selangor dam, and 30 million litres per day from the dam in Klang Gates, which saw water supply cuts on two-day intervals in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling, Klang Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor and Hulu Selangor districts.

In Kluang, water scheduling was applied after the water level at the Sembrong Timur Water Treatment Plant plunged below average levels.

The water scheduling was introduced on Feb 18 and is expected to last until March 31.

Second cloud seeding fails to improve water levels in dams
New Straits Times 6 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The second cloud seeding carried out on Tuesday did little to improve water levels at critical dams in the Klang Valley.

Drainage and Irrigation Department's Water Resources and Hydrology division director Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor said only Tasik Subang dam showed a slight increase of 0.02m while the other dams recorded a slight drop in their water levels.

"There was no major increase in water levels at the dams in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur since the cloud seeding focused only on the southern part of the peninsula," he said.

Hanapi said even though another five dams -- Klang Gates, Sungai Selangor, Semenyih, Batu and Langat -- recorded a slight drop in water levels, it was not as significant as what had happened during the critical dry spell in last month.

He said the decrease was primarily because of the demand for water had surpassed the amount of collected rainwater in the catchment areas.

The second round of cloud seeding was conducted in parts of Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Klang Gates in Hulu Klang.

The operation, which began at 3.40pm, took an hour covering Alor Gajah and Durian Tunggal in Malacca, which then concentrated on Tampin, Rembau, Seremban and Semenyih in Negri Sembilan, followed by the Klang Gates Dam in Hulu Kelang.

However, it was successful only in Seremban where the rain lasted for more than one hour.

Two-and-a-half tanks of salt solution were used in Malacca and Negri Sembilan while 11/2 tanks were used in Hulu Kelang.


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Malaysia: Surging appetite for wild fish

M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN New Straits Times 6 Mar 14;

INDULGENCE: Food lovers willing to pay big money for exotic freshwater fish

KUANTAN: FOOD lovers are being cautioned that their demand for exotic freshwater fish dishes may encourage local fishermen and outsiders to catch prized species at prohibited areas, such as wildlife reserves or Taman Negara.

It has been reported that exotic food enthusiasts were willing to pay thousands of ringgit to enjoy several types of fish, such as kelah, temoleh and patin buah.

Although patin buah or silver catfish can be bought from fish breeders along Sungai Pahang, the wild ones are more sought after and can fetch RM60 per kg, while the cooked fare could sell between RM200 and RM300 per fish.

As for kelah and temoleh, each fish can reach up to RM1,000, depending on the size.

The two species are mostly found in Sungai Pahang tributaries in Jerantut with their sanctuaries being protected in Taman Negara and other streams that have been gazetted as red zones.

Apart from the upstream of Sungai Tembeling, the latest kelah red zones that have been gazetted by the Pahang Fisheries Department are Sungai Sepia and Sungai Gembir in Jerantut. Within the red zone, the public is only allowed to catch the species using a fishing rod, while other methods, such as casting a net, is forbidden.

However, those who want to catch the kelah in the red zone will have to pay a fee and be supervised by Fisheries Department staff.

A department spokesman said only temoleh (Probarbus jullieni) was under a special protection programme in Pahang and the public was not allowed to catch them from February to April.

Temoleh, known as tamalian in Pahang, is a highly prized fish served at a handful of restaurants in Temerloh and Jerantut.

Although kelah was not a protected species, the spokesman reminded the public that they were prohibited from catching them at Taman Negara and other kelah sanctuaries.

Read more: Surging appetite for wild fish - General - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/surging-appetite-for-wild-fish-1.499023#ixzz2v9GwaoPm


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Malaysia: Joint strategy to blow poachers away

ruben sario The Star 6 Mar 14;

KOTA KINABALU: State authorities are banding together to combat poaching amid evidence that illegal hunters are using explosives to kill wildlife in protected areas.

Describing the problem as a “scourge”, Sabah Wildlife Depart­ment director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said a five-year state-wide anti-poaching and trade strategy was being finalised to enable the authorities to pool resources in combating illegal hunting.

“We will be discussing this when we meet with the other custodians of protected areas and forest reserves, including the Forestry Department, Sabah Parks and Yayasan Sabah,” he said.

He said Sabah’s wildlife faced multiple threats, including habitat loss and overhunting, which resulted in a sharp decline in numbers across Borneo and a huge “shrinkage” in distribution.

“Wildlife is severely hunted, poisoned and now killed by explosives in our protected areas.

“Sabah should not be a place where such barbaric activities threaten its wildlife. We should act now if we want this to stop,” added Ambu.

The latest incident involved a female bearded wild boar found dead in a forest corridor of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on March 2, according to Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens.

“The animal had clearly been killed by an explosive device commonly used by poachers and referred to as boom babi,” he said.

The wild boar was found in the middle of the corridor, which is located less than 100m from an oil palm plantation and only 700m from the field centre.

“One of my students, working on wild boar landscape ecology, found it while surveying the area.

“The belacan-laced explosive device would have been planted inside a food substance and hidden in the soil in order to target and kill a feeding boar,” added Dr Goos­sens.

He said the incident was reported immediately to the Kinabatangan district wildlife officer.

Department senior officer Jimli Perijin said the use of explosives was not only a vicious way of killing an animal but would be hazardous to anyone consuming its meat.

“There might be residual toxic chemicals in the meat,” added Perijin.


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Indonesian Council of Ulema Issues Fatwa to Protect Wildlife

AFP and Jakarta Globe 5 Mar 14;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical body has issued a fatwa, or decree, against the illegal hunting and trade in endangered animals in the country, a move wildlife protection activists have hailed as a world first.

The fatwa by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) declares poaching and wildlife trafficking “unethical, immoral and sinful,” Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, secretary of the council’s commission on fatwas, said as quoted by AFP.

“All activities resulting in wildlife extinction without justifiable religious grounds or legal provisions are haram [forbidden in Islam]. These include illegal hunting and trading of endangered animals,” he said. “Whoever takes away a life, kills a generation. This is not restricted to humans, but also includes God’s other living creatures, especially if they die in vain.”

The country of 250 million people has the world’s biggest Muslim population, but it remains unclear whether the fatwa — which is not legally binding and serves more as a guideline — would have any practical impact.

Indonesia’s vast and unique array of wildlife is under increasing pressure from development, logging and agricultural expansion.

The government does not typically react to fatwas by implementing specific policy changes.

However, a Forestry Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous told AFP the ministry and the religious council would make a joint announcement regarding the fatwa next Wednesday, without elaborating on its content.

The World Wide Fund for Nature called the fatwa the first of its kind in the world, and said the use of religion for wildlife protection “is a positive step forward.”

“It provides a spiritual aspect and raises moral awareness which will help us in our work to protect and save the remaining wildlife in the country such as the critically endangered tigers and rhinos,” WWF Indonesia communications director Nyoman Iswara Yoga said.

The fatwa was the result of months of dialogue between government officials, conservationists and other stakeholders, Asrorun said.

Acknowledging it was not legally binding, Asrorun said in English: “It’s a divine binding.”

He said the fatwa was effective from Jan. 22. It was only made public late on Tuesday.

The fatwa urges the government to effectively monitor ecological protection, review permits issued to companies accused of harming the environment, and bring illegal loggers and wildlife traffickers to justice.

The clearing, often illegally, of Indonesia’s once-rich forests for timber extraction or to make way for oil palm or other plantations poses a severe threat to critically endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, orangutan and elephant. Poachers also target wild elephants for their tusks.

Under Indonesian law, trafficking in protected animals can result in a maximum of five years in jail and Rp 100 million ($8,700) in fines.

Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) wild animal protection coordinator Femke den Haas said the fatwa was unexpected, but she welcomed the positive impact it could bring in efforts to protect Indonesia’s wildlife.

“It can’t do any harm. People often ignored government regulations, but for religious beliefs they do listen, so it could work,” she told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

She said that in a deeply religious country like Indonesia, involving clergy in the campaign to protect the indigenous wildlife could prove significant.

However, she noted that religious reasons were also often cited as a justification for killing animals.

“Religion has a very strong influence here, but sometimes because of religion people feel like they have the right to kill the animals even though the government says it is prohibited,” Den Haas said. “No matter what your religion or background is, you should follow the national regulations. Killing endangered species is prohibited by the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law.”


Indonesian clerics issue fatwa to protect wildlife
(AFP) Google News 5 Mar 14;

Jakarta — Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body has issued a religious fatwa against the illegal hunting and trade in endangered animals in the country, which the WWF hailed on Wednesday as the world's first.

The fatwa by the Indonesian Ulema Council declares such activities "unethical, immoral and sinful", council official Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh told AFP.

"All activities resulting in wildlife extinction without justifiable religious grounds or legal provisions are haram (forbidden). These include illegal hunting and trading of endangered animals," said Sholeh, secretary of the council's commission on fatwas.

"Whoever takes away a life, kills a generation. This is not restricted to humans, but also includes God's other living creatures, especially if they die in vain."

The country of 250 million people is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but it remained unclear whether the fatwa would have any practical impact.

Indonesia's vast and unique array of wildlife is under increasing pressure from development, logging and agricultural expansion.

The government does not typically react to fatwas by implementing specific policy changes.

However, a Forestry Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous told AFP the ministry and the religious council would make a joint announcement regarding the fatwa on March 12, without elaborating on its content.

The WWF called the fatwa the first of its kind in the world, and said the use of religion for wildlife protection "is a positive step forward."

"It provides a spiritual aspect and raises moral awareness which will help us in our work to protect and save the remaining wildlife in the country such as the critically endangered tigers and rhinos," WWF Indonesia communications director Nyoman Iswara Yoga said.

The fatwa was the result of months of dialogue between government officials, conservationists and other stakeholders, said Sholeh, the fatwa commission official.

Acknowledging it was not legally binding, Sholeh said in English: "It's a divine binding."

He said the fatwa was effective from January 22. It was only made public late Tuesday.

The fatwa urges the government to effectively monitor ecological protection, review permits issued to companies accused of harming the environment, and bring illegal loggers and wildlife traffickers to justice.

The clearing, often illegally, of Indonesia's once-rich forests for timber extraction or to make way for oil palm or other plantations poses a severe threat to critically endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, orangutan, and Sumatran elephant.

Poachers also target wild elephants for their ivory tusks, for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

Under Indonesian law, trafficking in protected animals can result in a maximum of five years in jail and 100 million rupiah ($8,700) fine.


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Haze Return Amid Drought Stokes Concern of Repeat Choking

Sharon Chen, Jasmine Ng and Chong Pooi Koon Bloomberg News 6 Mar 14;

Putra Mosque, left, and the Malaysian Prime Minister's office, right, are shrouded by... Read More

Forest fires brought on by drought in Malaysia and Indonesia fouled air quality to unhealthy levels in parts of Southeast Asia, stoking concerns of a repeat of the haze that engulfed the region in June.

Malaysia’s air pollutant index climbed as high as 137 in Port Klang on March 3, with parts of Kuala Lumpur and the states of Selangor and Negri Sembilan recording levels above 100, classified as unhealthy. In Singapore, which had the driest month in February since records began in 1869, the pollution index on March 4 reached 56, considered moderate. The reading in Indonesia’s Riau province city of Dumai topped 700 the same day, the Jakarta Post reported.

The region has been plagued for decades by periodic smog caused by ash drifting from Sumatra, with regular disputes over responsibility. Lawmakers in Singapore, which suffered its worst pollution on record in June, raised concerns in Parliament yesterday on the region’s progress in tackling the haze issue, while Malaysia started cloud-seeding to induce rain.

Southeast Asians “want their local governments or their central government to move ahead and start negotiating rather than after the fact,” said Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore. “Their point being, we’ve watched this movie before, so spare me the car chase and let’s get to the punchline.”
Joint Efforts

Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations approved a joint haze monitoring system in October to identify fires such as those in Indonesia that led to hazardous pollution levels in Singapore and Malaysia last year. The system involves sharing digitized land-use maps and concession maps of fire-prone areas that cause haze, according to a Singapore government statement at the time.

“Progress on this front has not been rapid,” Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said about the haze monitoring system accord in Parliament yesterday. “We have not yet been able to implement the HMS, even though the system is ready, because the other parties have yet to agree to do so.”

Parties representing almost two-thirds of Indonesia’s parliament have agreed to ratify a Southeast Asian treaty on haze pollution, Channel NewsAsia reported March 3. Two parties opposed it, citing concerns that allowing firefighters from other countries would violate Indonesia’s sovereignty, according to the report.

A draft bill on ratification will likely be tabled in parliament after the general election on April 9, the Jakarta Post reported on March 4.
Mask Stockpiles

This week’s haze prompted Yee Jenn Jong, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, to query Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the Ministry of Health’s parliamentary secretary, about Singapore’s readiness to protect its people from the haze.

Ibrahim said retailers have about 280,000 N95 masks in their inventory and there’s a national stockpile of 16 million of the masks made by 3M Co. (MMM)

Mask stockpiles have increased after Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index jumped to a record last year. The PSI reached 401 on June 21, a level deemed hazardous where outdoor activity should be avoided, according to the National Environment Agency.

The dry season started early on the island of Sumatra, and there was no rain in Riau in January and February, Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said on March 4. Parts of the Riau province, Indonesia’s main palm-oil growing area, may get some relief with light showers today and tomorrow, the agency said yesterday. The dry season is expected to increase to cover more than a quarter of the archipelago by next month, with a weak El Nino effect to determine how long it will last, the agency said.
Water Rationing

Cloud-seeding in Malaysia will continue until mid-March, when “the weather pattern will change to inter-monsoon season and we should have natural rain in the country,” Azhar Ishak, director of the Meteorological Department’s atmospheric science and cloud-seeding division, said in an interview yesterday.

Areas around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, started water rationing last month. Singapore, which had a record 27 days without rain from Jan. 13, expects the dry weather to persist through the first half of March. In Riau, officials declared a state of emergency on Feb. 25 through March 12 because of smoke from the forest fires.

In Malaysia, the government is preparing funding to help Selangor state nationalize water assets in the region surrounding the capital. Water rationing, which began in parts of Selangor this week after the drought drained reservoirs, will extend to 431,617 households, the Star reported on its website, citing Malaysia’s water services commission.
Northeast Monsoon

Malaysia supplies water to Singapore, which consumes about 480 million U.S. gallons a day. The nation gets its water from the Malaysian state of Johor and draws on local reservoirs, its water-recycling and desalination plants, according to the national water agency.

Southeast Asia is under the influence of the Northeast Monsoon, which brings dry and stable air from the South China Sea and lessens the likelihood of rainfall, according to Winston Chow, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Singapore.

The dry spell “should end within the next couple of weeks, and we will transition to the inter-monsoon period probably mid-to late March,” Chow said via e-mail.

The challenge for Malaysia and Indonesia is to enforce a ban on using fire to clear plantations. While a push to get the biggest plantation owners to implement no-burn policies has started to take effect, the efforts have been thwarted by owners of small plantations ignoring the law.
Firefighters

Sinar Mas Group, APRIL and First Resources Ltd. (FR) are among companies that are affiliated to or are buyers linked to plantation concessions with fires, according to a March 3 report by World Resources Institute, a non-governmental organization, citing fire NASA satellite data from the previous two weeks. Pulpwood plantations had the most number of fire alerts, while more than half of the fires were burning on land managed by oil palm, timber, and logging companies, it said.

APRIL pledged 600 firefighters, three helicopters and 30 water pumps to help the Indonesian government combat blazes, according to an e-mailed statement on March 4.

APRIL, which said it imposes a strict ban on burning to protect its plantations, also introduced an online service to track forest fires in its Sumatra plantations this week. The company said fires ignited in adjacent forests occasionally spread to APRIL land.
Harsh Punishments

Plantation companies are “no longer doing that, because the consequences are very harsh punishments,” Fadhil Hasan, executive director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, told reporters at a conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 4, referring to burning. “Even if it happens with smallholders, it’s hard to tell where it’s originally started. It’s possible it started from outside the farm then spread into the plantation.”

Malaysia and Indonesia account for 86 percent of palm oil output, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Palm oil, the world’s most-used edible oil, posted its biggest monthly advance since October last month, gaining 10.7 percent. Futures rose 1.5 percent to 2,831 ringgit ($866) a metric ton yesterday, the highest since September 2012.

“The national sport then was PSI watching,” said Varathan, referring to the record haze levels in Singapore last year. “We’re more acutely conscious of the fact that air quality can deteriorate quite quickly and at one stage it was quite alarming.”


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San Francisco moves closer to banning plastic water bottles

Laila Kearney PlanetArk 6 Mar 14;

San Francisco moved to restrict the sale of plastic water bottles on city property on Tuesday, the first such action by a major U.S. municipality and the latest in a string of waste-reduction measures that included a ban on plastic grocery bags.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin phasing out the sale and distribution of water in single-use plastic bottles on city-owned or leased land next fall, and to ban future water bottle purchases with city funds.

"There are incredible, enormous environmental costs of plastic water bottles," said Supervisor David Chiu, who introduced the measure. "It takes 1,000 years for a typical plastic water bottle to biodegrade."

Numerous cities in California and other states, including Maui County and a number of Hawaiian municipalities, have made it illegal for grocery stores to pack consumer purchases in plastic bags, and a bill recently introduced in the state legislature would extend such bans statewide.

San Francisco appears to be the first to try to steer consumers away from using disposable water bottles, which environmentalists say fill landfills and wash out to sea as trash just as grocery bags do.

Chiu, who proposed the measure, said bottled water restrictions would fall in line with a string of actions, including the plastic bag ban in 2007 and aggressive citywide recycling campaigns.

Manufacturing, selling and transporting single-use water bottles also leads to excess reliance on fossil fuels, Chiu said.

"In San Francisco, we've been leading the way in fighting for our environment," Chiu said. The city accounts for tens of millions of water bottles that wind up in landfills, recycling centers or in the ocean each year, he said.

Some sellers of the water bottles have moved to reduce the amount of plastic used, but opponents of their use say that is not enough.

If the ordinance wins approval on a second reading next week and is signed by Mayor Ed Lee, then starting in October, city funds could not be used to purchase bottled water and the packaged beverage would be banned from all indoor events held on public property.

By October 2016, the ban would apply to most outdoor events as well as to food trucks and other mobile vendors selling beverages on city streets.

Non-profit sponsors of events that attract more than 250,000 attendees, including the city's famous gay pride parade, would be allowed to sell and distribute bottled water until January 2018. Afterwards, organizers could apply with the city to be granted an exception and sell bottled water at their functions.

Certain athletic events on city property and the San Francisco International Airport would also be excluded from the ban.

Critics of the measure, including the bottled water industry, say it would make it difficult for people to choose water as a healthy option if they are thirsty at a public event - particularly if sodas or other drinks are still being sold.

"If people are at an event and they don't have a reusable container in front of them, they're going to look for a packaged beverage," said Christopher Hogan, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association who said he knows of no other city to enact such a ban.

"It really reduces people's opportunity to choose the healthiest packaged beverage, which is bottled water," he said.

But Chiu said the city would counter that by making it easier for people refill bottles that they bring from home.

"In contrast, people could just take a refillable water bottle, put it under a tap and fill it up," Chiu said.

The measure will be sent to Lee's desk for final approval after a second procedural vote next week. Lee cannot veto an ordinance if it is twice approved unanimously, city officials said.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)


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Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action: Christiana Figueres

UN climate chief says flooding and heatwaves have raised the issue of climate change to the highest political level
Adam Vaughan and John Vidal theguardian.com 5 Mar 14;

Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia's hottest year on record and the US being hit by a polar vortex have a "silver lining" of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics and reminding politicians that climate change is not a partisan issue, according to the UN's climate chief.

Christiana Figueres said that it was amoral for people to look at climate change from a politically partisan perspective, because of its impact on future generations.

The "very strange" weather experienced across the world over the last two years was a sign "we are [already] experiencing climate change," the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat told the Guardian.

The flooding of thousands of homes in England because of the wettest winter on record has brought climate change to the forefront of political debate in the UK. The prime minister, David Cameron, when challenged by Labour leader, Ed Miliband, on his views on man-made climate change and having climate change sceptics in his cabinet, said last week: "I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces."

Climate change was barely mentioned at all in the 2012 US election battle until superstorm Sandy struck New York, prompting the city's then mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to endorse Barack Obama's candidacy because he would "lead on climate change."

Figueres said: "There's no doubt that these events, that I call experiential evidence of climate change, does raise the issue to the highest political levels. It's unfortunate that we have to have these weather events, but there is a silver lining if you wish, that they remind us is solving climate change, addressing climate change in a timely way, is not a partisan issue."

She added: "We are reminded that climate change events are for everyone, they're affecting everyone, they have much, much longer effects than a political cycle. Frankly, they're intergenerational, so morally we cannot afford to look at climate change from a partisan perspective."

Figueres said that examples of recent extreme weather around the world were a sign climate change was here now. "If you take them individually you can say maybe it's a fluke. The problem is it's not a fluke and you can't take them individually. What it's doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that's becoming the norm. These very strange extreme weather events are going to continue in their frequency and their severity … It's not that climate change is going to be here in the future, we are experiencing climate change."

Figueres was speaking in London before meeting businesses including Unilever, Lafarge and Royal Dutch Shell to urge them to put pressure on governments to take action on climate change, ahead of renewed international negotiations in Bonn next week to flesh out details of a draft climate treaty to be laid out in Lima this year and agreed in Paris at the end of 2015.

"2014 is a crucial year because of the timing of next year, [in 2015] there will be very little time work on the actual agreement. We have to frontload the work," she said.

Peru's foreign minister told the Guardian in January that the Lima meeting in December must produce a first draft of a deal to cut carbon emissions, which will be the first of its kind after efforts to get legally binding agreement for cuts from most of the world's countries failed at a blockbuster meeting in Copenhagen in 2009.

Asked if a bad deal was better than no deal next year, she said: "Paris has to reach a meaningful agreement because, frankly, we are running out of time."

But she dismissed parallels with the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, saying the frequency of extreme weather events, lower renewable energy costs and progress on climate legislation at a national level meant it was different this time round.

"I hope that we don't need too many more Sandys or Haiyans or fires in Australia or floods in the UK to wake us up. My sense is there is already much momentum. We have 66 governments that have climate legislation, we have a total of 500 laws around the world on climate, whereas before Copenhagen we only had 47."

But the grouping of the world's 47 "least developed" countries said this week that they would want far more money to adapt their economies to climate change than the $100bn a year that been so far proposed by rich countries.

"We will want more than the $100bn to agree to a new Paris protocol," said Quamrul Choudhury, a lead negotiator for the group which includes many African and Asian countries. "On top of that we will want a legal mechanism to compensate for 'loss and damage' [compensation for extreme climate change events]. There should definitely be some space in the [final] treaty for that," he said in London.

He called on rich countries to compromise. "The battle lines are drawn. Everyone wants to defend their country and nobody will give an inch, but everyone has to make some sacrifice or we won't have a deal. We need high-level political commitment to raise ambition."

Choudhury, who is also Bangladesh's climate envoy to the United Nations, met British climate negotiators ahead of the Bonn talks. "I am optimistic that the world can avoid another diplomatic disaster like Copenhagen in 2009. There have been major changes since then. In 2008-09 we knew it would be very expensive to reduce emissions. Now we know it does not cost very much. It's not expensive, not a Herculean task. Countries like the UK know they can reduce emissions by 65% without it costing very much at all.

"But even if we have an ambitious mitigation target [to cut emissions] adaptation must be the cornerstone of a new treaty. This is not a zero-sum game. If we treat it like that there will be no Paris protocol," he said.

Figueres later agreed that the $100m proposed in 2009 as compensation for poor countries would not be enough for them to build defences and adapt their economies. "It was a figure plucked from a hat … $100bn is not enough [to meet] the mitigation and not at all for the adaptation costs. The International Energy Agency has suggested it may cost $1 trillion over 25 years just for adaptation. $100bn is a freckle on the map of what needs to be invested."

A major UN climate science panel report to be published at the end of this month will spell out the impacts of climate change on humanity and the natural world. Leaked versions of the report say agricultural production will decline by up to 2% every decade for the rest of the 21st century.


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Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise'

Nearly one-fifth of world cultural heritage sites would be affected by global warming of a further 3C, scientists warn
Adam Vaughan theguardian.com 5 Mar 14;

Famous global landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Tower of London and Sydney Opera House will be lost to rising seas caused by climate change, scientists have warned.

Even with just a further 3C of warming – well within the range to which the UN climate science panel expects temperatures to rise by the end of the century – nearly one-fifth of the planet's 720 world heritage sites will affected as ice sheets melt and warming oceans expand.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at how many Unesco sites would be threatened after 2000 years of rising sea levels, but the authors said the first impacts would "definitely" be felt much sooner without action on flood defences.

"It's relatively safe to say that we will see the first impacts at these sites in the 21st century," lead author Prof Ben Marzeion, of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, told the Guardian. "Typically when people talk about climate change it's about the economic or environmental consequences, how much it's going to cost. We wanted to take a look at the cultural implications."

Marzeion said that in Europe, particularly vulnerable sites included the leaning tower of Pisa, which is not directly on the coast but would be affected by sea level rises as a result of even a low temperature increase because it is very low-lying. He also cited Venice, which "in a sense you can say is being impacted right now" and Hanseatic League cities including Hamburg, L├╝beck and Bremen in Germany.

Other sites that would be affected by rising waters include Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace, as well as the city centres of Bruges in Belgium, Naples in Italy and St Petersburg in Russia, the study says. South-east Asia will have the highest number of people affected by sea level rises, partly because of low-lying, densely populated cities, but also because sea level rises will be the most extreme there.

The UN's climate science panel, the IPCC, said in a landmark report last September that it expects sea level rises of 26-82cm by 2100 although there is no scientific consensus on high rises. There are concerns among some scientists that the IPCC is underestimating sea level rises, with one recent study suggesting global sea levels could rise by as much as 0.7-1.2m by 2100, and 2-3m by 2300.

Marzeion said that by looking at sea level rises over such a long timespan – 2000 years – such short-term uncertainties would be smoothed out. His co-author, Anders Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: "After 2000 years, the oceans would have reached a new equilibrium state and we can compute the ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica from physical models. At the same time, we consider 2000 years a short enough time to be of relevance for the cultural heritage we cherish."

The threat to cultural sites from the sea is likely to be underestimated, the study admits, as it does not take into account temporary rises in sea levels caused by storm surges such as those that battered the east coast of the UK last December. "Essentially those are uncertainties that we cannot quantify, so we made sure we are on the conservative side of the estimates," Marzeion said.

He said the impact on cultural sites brings "an additional dimension" to discussion on climate change, but he does not expect the paper to win over climate change sceptics. "I'm not overly optimistic that culture means more interest in the subject. It's hard to convince people it's a problem if they're not convinced. There appears to be a strong divide between people who feel it is a problem and people who don't."


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