Best of our wild blogs: 10 Jul 14

Only three more days to go now, Festival of Biodiversity 2014
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Singapore Power Shift this weekend!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Chestnut Bob
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Singapore to independently assess impact of Johor reclamation projects

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 9 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Malaysia has provided Singapore with some general information on the two reclamation projects along the Straits of Johor, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on Wednesday (July 9), and the Government will assess the information and conduct its own studies to see how the projects will impact Singapore.

Singapore had raised concerns on the potential transboundary impact, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan highlighting the issue with their Malaysian counterparts.

The concerns come amidst reports that no environmental impact assessments were conducted. Mr Masagos said Singapore was not given prior information on these reclamation projects, and he highlighted some concerns.

The projects could increase the strength of the currents in the Straits of Johor, potentially affecting navigation safety. It could also result in the erosion of the seabed and foreshore defences that support the infrastructure of the Second Link between Singapore and Malaysia. It may also affect the water quality along the Straits, impacting the coastal and marine environment as well as the fish farms in the area.

Mr Masagos said Malaysia provided some preliminary information on the two projects on June 30. It also promised to share all other information, including environmental impact assessments, once internal processes are completed.

"Malaysia has stated that no reclamation works are currently being undertaken on these projects and that it remains committed at fulfilling its obligations under international law and will take all necessary matters to avoid any adverse transboundary impact," he said, adding that Singapore is seeking clarification on some of the information provided and waiting for more to come through.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, MP for Nee Soon GRC, asked if there would be changes in the boundary lines of the two countries after reclamation is completed, and what the course of action would be if Malaysia decided to go ahead with the projects even if they had a potential environmental impact.

Mr Masagos said it was premature to talk about any development at this stage. He said consultation and information exchange must be allowed to go forward before hypothesising, and that the boundary lines between the two countries do not change with any reclamation by either of the countries.

- CNA/xy

KL provides data on Johor Straits reclamation projects

SINGAPORE — Malaysia has provided Singapore with some preliminary general information on the two reclamation projects along the Strait of Johor, Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs) Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

He told Parliament that Singapore was not given prior information on the projects and noted that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and general international law, Malaysia’s obligations include not permitting “reclamation activities of this scale and nature ... so close to the international boundary with Singapore without first conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)”.

In their communications with Malaysia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had requested relevant information on all reclamation and construction work, including the EIA reports and projected timelines for their completion.

Singapore also raised concerns over the projects’ possible adverse environmental impacts, such as the increase in current velocity in the Strait of Johor, which could affect the safety of navigation in the area.

The projects could also result in changes in the morphology and water quality, affecting Singapore’s coastal and marine environment, as well as fish farms in the area.

Malaysia, which is committed to its obligations under international law, has promised to share all other information and suspended all reclamation work on the projects until Singapore has received and studied all the relevant information.

“In the meantime, we will study the information provided and conduct the necessary studies to ascertain how this project will impact Singapore,” Mr Masagos added.

Welcoming Malaysia’s cooperation on the matter, he said: “We have proposed to hold consultations with Malaysia so that both sides can further discuss and exchange information on these projects.”

Singapore gets assurance on reclamation
The Star 11 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Malaysia has assured Singapore that no reclamation is currently taking place for two controversial projects near the Johor Strait, according to Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.

“Singapore is very concerned about the potential transboundary impact on Singapore from reclamation projects in Malaysia that are in close proximity to Singapore,” he said in response to questions from Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Nee Soon GRC) and Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC).

The republic conveyed its concerns on a number of occasions to Malaysia, asking for more information on the reclamation and construction works, he added.

Malaysia responded on June 30 to Singapore’s request for the projects to be temporarily suspended until the republic received and studied information on them.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry then sent a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 1.

Malaysia had also given Singapore preliminary general information on the projects and promised to share all other information once ready, Masagos said.

The major reclamation works first attracted controversy last month, with concerns over their possible impact on Singapore and the environment. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

KL has reassured Singapore over reclamation concerns: MFA
Charissa Yong The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Jul 14;

SINGPOARE - Malaysia has assured Singapore that no reclamation is taking place for its two controversial projects near the Johor Strait, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

It remains committed to fulfilling its obligations under international law and will take all necessary measures to avoid any adverse transboundary impact, he said in Parliament.

"Singapore is very concerned about the potential transboundary impact on Singapore from reclamation projects in Malaysia that are in close proximity to Singapore," he said in response to questions from Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC).

The Republic has conveyed its concern on a number of occasions to Malaysia, asking for more information on these reclamation and construction works, he added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke and wrote to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the matter in May.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who co- chairs the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, also wrote to his Malaysian counterpart the same month.

The issue was also discussed in May at a meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment in Malaysia.

Malaysia had responded on June 30 to Singapore's request for the projects to be temporarily suspended until the Republic receives and studies information on them. The Straits Times understands that Malaysia's Department of Environment was responding to a letter sent by the National Environment Agency.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry then sent a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on July 1.

Malaysia has also given Singapore preliminary general information on the projects and promised to share all other information once ready, Mr Masagos said.

Singapore is seeking further clarifications on some of the information provided, and will study the projects' impact.
"We have proposed to hold consultations with Malaysia so that both sides can further discuss and exchange information on these projects," he added.

The major reclamation works first attracted controversy last month, with concerns over their possible impact on Singapore and the environment.

The first project, a luxury home complex on a man-made island three times the size of Ang Mo Kio, is located near the Second Link. Dubbed Forest City, it is developed by China's Country Garden Holdings and a Johor state company.
The second is a residential project by China developer Guangzhou R&F Properties named Princess Cove.

Singapore was not given prior information on either project, and it is concerned about the effect on the coastal environment and infrastructure, among other problems, said Mr Masagos.

Under international law, Malaysia is obligated to "not permit reclamation activities of this scale and nature to take place so close to Singapore without first conducting an environmental impact assessment", he said.

If damage to the environment has been caused or is imminent, Malaysia has a duty to immediately notify Singapore, he added.

Under a 2005 settlement agreement following a reclamation case, both countries must monitor their environments in the Johor Strait, share information and address any adverse impacts.

According to a Johor official, Forest City developers had voluntarily stopped work for about a week while awaiting approval from the Department of Environment. But a Straits Times check on June 25 found that work on a sandbank was still ongoing, as the developers had asked for more time to wind down operations.

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Malaysia: Johor Government To Table State Environment Act In 2015

Bernama 9 Jul 14;

JOHOR BAHARU, July 9 (Bernama) -- Come next year, the Johor Government is expected to table the state environment enactment to hasten the process of studying nature and determining development in the state.

State health and environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the enactment, however, was still under discussion and studies were being carried out by the Johor Department of Environment and Johor Economic Planning Unit.

Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar has spoken about Johor needing its own environment enactment.

"We are getting the legal adviser's opinion to gauge its suitability with the Malaysian Constitution and laws before Johor implements its own act," he told reporters after hosting a breaking of fast event here last night.

Ayub said the state environment enactment is more on the need for environmental impact assessment (EIA) and detailed environment impact assessment (DEIA) on a land development project that might be implemented. Ayub said any suggestion or application for EIA and DEIA were previously sent to the Federal Government for approval, and was said to cause delay to the point of disrupting the development process.

"So, the proposal to create a state environment enactment hopes to allow the Johor Department of Environment and state government to study the potential of EIA or DEIA and determine whether a project can or cannot proceed," he said.

The Johor Sultan, when officiating the second term of the 13th Johor State Assembly sitting last May, suggested that a state environment corporation be formed under the Johor Environment Enactment as was done in Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak.


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No haze yet? Thank favourable winds and recent rains

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Jul 14;

If you have been holding your breath for the haze to hit Singapore and wonder why it has not, it is because of favourable wind conditions and recent rains.

Over the last two weeks, prevailing winds have blown largely from the south south-west or the south south-east, instead of south-west, which would have transported the haze from Sumatra to Singapore.

Satellite images on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) haze portal showed that winds last month carried a plume of haze caused by fires in Sumatra, Indonesia, north towards the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, giving Singapore a miss. This caused unhealthy levels of haze on June 24 in several areas, including Selangor and Putrajaya.

Recent rains also lowered the number of fire hot spots in Sumatra, the NEA haze portal showed.

Weather researcher Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department said recent rains were normal for the ongoing south-west monsoon, but these could end once the El Nino weather phenomenon - linked to drier weather - kicks in later this year as forecast.

"The prevailing winds are also rather variable for now. They should get more south-westerly as we progress into July, August, September," he said. If so, and if fires are present in Sumatra, the haze may hit Singapore, he added.

In Parliament yesterday, Nominated MP Nicholas Fang asked Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan if the recent weather would prompt a change in the ministry's haze assessment. But Dr Balakrishnan said Singaporeans are well aware that the haze can arrive "unpredictably and very quickly".

"It takes about six hours from the onset of the plume in Riau to be brought across... the narrow straits to us," he said.

The Government has warned that the haze could be imminent for several reasons. The dry season from June to September in Sumatra generally leads to burning as farmers clear land to grow crops. This season's low rainfall could be worsened by El Nino. And the period coincides with the onset of the south-west monsoon, which is likely to carry smoke plumes from Sumatra.

Yesterday, six hot spots were detected in Sumatra. Thundery showers are expected this morning, as well as tomorrow and Thursday. Air quality is expected to be in the moderate range.

Key amendments made to draft Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill

Fine of up to $100,000 for each day, or part thereof, that haze affects Singapore (for a continuous 24 hours or more), up to a cap of $2 million. An additional fine of up to $50,000 a day, or part thereof, for entities that ignore requests by Singapore to prevent, reduce or control haze pollution.

Provides a more specific definition of such entities, which also includes those with agreements or arrangements with landowners or occupiers relating to farming or forestry operations to be carried out on that land.

To avoid being fined when charged, entities have to prove that they had no control over or knowledge of fires on their land started by persons unconnected to them and that they have put in all reasonable measures to prevent such conduct by these persons.

Courts given the authority to prevent individuals from leaving Singapore if they have been served notice.

They could be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to a month if they fail to comply with the notice.

A clearer definition provided for the term "condone" in the Bill. Entities would be considered to have condoned the causing of haze if they failed to prevent, stop or reduce burning started by another person.

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Malaysia: Haze returning to Klang Valley

New Straits Times 10 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The haze is slowly but surely coming back, with some areas in the Klang Valley showing Air Pollutant Index readings (API) ranging from moderate to unhealthy.

Most of the API readings displayed at the Department of Environment showed air quality rising from moderate to unhealthy levels.

As of 3pm yesterday, Batu Muda recorded an unhealthy API reading of 126 while other areas in the Klang Valley and nationwide recorded good and moderate readings.

API readings in hot spots like Shah Alam recorded 88, Port Klang (86), Cheras (80),
Banting (71), Kuala Selangor (79), Petaling
Jaya (76) and Putrajaya (70).

Other locations classified as moderate were Nilai (61), Kampung Air Putih, Taiping (60), SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (60), Port Dickson (59), Tanjung Malim (57), Bakar Arang (Sungai Petani) (56), Bintulu (55), Kemaman (55), Seremban (54), Balok Baru, Pahang (54) and Jerantut (54).

Malaysian Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the haze yesterday was a result of local activities, such as smoke from vehicles and factories, and local burning.

Only Batu Muda in KL records unhealthy API level
The Star 9 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Only one area in the Klang Valley recorded an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading although the haze was visible in several areas.

Batu Muda in Kuala Lumpur recorded unhealthy reading from 1pm to 4pm, with readings as high as 126 at 3pm.

However at 5pm, the levels dropped to a moderate 96.

All other areas nationwide recorded healthy and moderate levels.

As of 8am yesterday, 40 areas recorded good air quality readings and 12 areas recorded moderate air quality readings.

An API reading between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

In a statement, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said the satellite images on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday detected only one hotspot each in Sumatra and Sarawak.

The ministry, however, said the satellite images would not be able to detect the actual number of hotspots due to heavy cloud coverage.

“All the hotspots traced will be investigated and action will be taken accordingly,” it said yesterday.

The statement added that from January to Tuesday, 4,365 cases of open burning were detected with that in agricultural land being the highest with 1,433 cases.

“This is followed by 1,001 cases of bushfires, 897 cases in forest areas, 132 cases in construction areas and 34 in industrial areas,” said the ministry.

It added that 43 investigation papers were opened and compound notices were sent out to those involved in 299 open burning cases.

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Malaysia: Green turtle senselessly killed on Kijal beach

New Straits Times 9 Jul 14;

KEMAMAN: A police report has been lodged after an endangered Green Turtle was found brutally killed and tens of its immature eggs scattered in a leased turtle nesting area of the Kijal beach near here.

Terengganu Fisheries Department director Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim said today the report was made after the lease-holder found the dead turtle at about 11 pm last Monday.

"We believe it to be the work of an irresponsible individual who had ambushed the turtle as it came ashore to nest. The person senselessly slashed the turtle to get at the eggs," he said when contacted by Bernama.

Abdul Khalil said the lease-holder had noticed a Green Turtle coming ashore and had kept watch from afar to wait for it to lay its eggs.

However, after more than 30 minutes, the lease-holder was surprised to find that the turtle did not return to sea and checked only to find that the reptile was dead.

"A closer examination showed that the carapace had been hacked and the immature eggs were scattered all over the sand," he said.

Abdul Khalil said the inhumane act reflected the greed of some people who would go to the extent of killing the innocent animals which were protected under the Fisheries Act to fulfil their objective.

The Fisheries Act provides for a fine of up to RM3,000 or a maximum jail term of three months, or both, for offences of this nature, he said.

Abdul Khalil said this was the third incident of its kind in Terengganu, the first having occurred in 2005 in Geliga, Kemaman, and the second in 2007 on Redang Island. - Bernama

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U.N. climate talks more advanced second time around, says former head

Ben Garside PlanetArk 9 Jul 14;

U.N. climate negotiations have made greater progress towards agreeing a 2015 deal to bind all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions than the lead-up to the previous attempt in 2009, former U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told Reuters.

Envoys from almost 200 nations are aiming to agree this year on the main elements of a text to be signed by their leaders in Paris in late 2015 to tackle the emissions from 2020 that U.N.-backed scientists say are causing more severe droughts, flooding and a rise in sea levels.

"The process is definitely further advanced a year before Paris than it was a year before Copenhagen (in 2009)," de Boer said in an interview in London on Tuesday.

The Dutch diplomat was the public face of the negotiations from 2006 but stepped down shortly after the Copenhagen talks almost broke down despite the attendance of more than 130 world leaders late into the final night.

Late on Monday, the U.N. published several documents on its website meant to help guide negotiators towards agreed wording for the Paris deal, including on what countries need to include in their individual contributions and how richer nations will make good on a commitment to mobilise $100 billion a year to help poorer states.

"There is now greater clarity on the way forward on many of the substantive areas," one document said.

For de Boer, who has led the Global Green Growth Institute advising developing countries since March, December's summit in Lima, Peru, will indicate whether the world will be able to come together on the issue.


"For me, Peru will be the litmus test. Having a clear negotiating text on the table ... will give everyone a much clearer understanding of what the definition of success or failure is.

"One of the major handicaps of Copenhagen was that so many people had so many different definitions of success," he said, adding that in the lead-up to the conference it was clear that a fully-fledged treaty would not be struck.

"Small island states and the European Union were negotiating towards an international legally binding treaty that would contain obligations for pretty much everyone... whereas others, notably the United States and China, were just looking for a political agreement."

Ahead of Paris, nations have agreed that all countries should contribute, but it remains unclear what legal weight any pact will carry, or which should make the strictest contributions.

De Boer said a meaningful Paris deal would require every country to convert their contributions into national law, both to ensure they are met and to help companies raise investment in cleaner technologies.

Rather than the aim of some in Copenhagen to lock in adequate targets from the outset, countries will need to review their initial contributions, including cash from richer nations, every three years or so.

This would ensure they are in line with their previously agreed goal of limiting global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

"I do not expect Paris in one fell swoop to take us to 2C. More steps will be needed," he said.

The U.N. negotiations resume for a week in October in Bonn, Germany before the two-week Lima session in December.


(Editing by Louise Heavens)

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Zero carbon and economic growth can go together, UN study says

The top 15 emitter countries could make deep cuts to emissions while also tripling economic output, according to the study
Oliver Milman 10 Jul 14;

Australia could slash its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and still experience average economic growth of 2.4% a year, according to a UN-backed study.

The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways report, released by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, analysed the 15 countries that account for 70% of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, which includes Australia, the US, Britain and China.

According to the report, compiled by academics from each of the countries, the 15 countries could make deep cuts to emissions while also tripling economic output.

These cuts are needed, the report notes, if the world is to avoid the “catastrophic” impact of failing to keep to the internationally agreed limit of 2C global warming on pre-industrial levels. The study concedes the world is on track to overshoot this.

The study notes that Australia has high per-capita emissions, with coal-fired power providing 69% of electricity generation, higher than most other industrialised countries.

Despite this dependence on fossil fuels, “fundamental changes” to Australia’s energy system could allow it to cut its emissions to zero by 2050 while maintaining economic growth of 2.4% a year, on average. The report points out that Australia’s greenhouse gases have remained stable over the past 20 years, while the size of the economy has doubled.

A further UN report in September will set out the monetary cost of a rapid increase in renewables to cut emissions to zero.

But the newly released study plots a path that involves phasing out coal use almost entirely, shifting electricity generation to renewable sources such as solar and wind, and powering vehicles and buildings with clean electricity rather than fossil fuels such as oil and petrol.

Industrial and farming processes that can’t use such clean technology would be offset by large-scale storage of carbon in soils and trees.

Anna Skarbek, the executive director of ClimateWorks, which provided input to the report alongside the Australian National University, told Guardian Australia that emissions cuts and economic growth could go hand-in-hand.

“Australia has a higher emissions intensity than other countries, but it also has a huge natural endowment in renewable energy sources,” she said.

“Unlike many other countries, we are blessed with multiple renewable sources, as well as a much larger capacity for carbon forestry and biofuels. We can change our focus in energy systems rather than change economic growth. Australia has made successful changes in the past, from gold to wool to wheat, even in the rise of the internet in the past decade.”

Skarbek said the transition would need to start soon to help avoid breaching the 2C limit, a temperature guardrail that has bipartisan support in Australian politics.

“The science is clear – we know that the carbon budget is being rapidly used up and will be near zero by the middle of the century,” she said. “If we plan now we can achieve the transition in this time.”

Frank Jotzo, director of the ANU centre for climate economics and policy, said: “Decarbonisation would mean that the energy system and some aspects of land management look quite different from what they would under a high-carbon scenario.

“But for every declining technology there are new opportunities arising, and most of the economy would simply motor on. Cleaning up the world’s energy system does not stand in the way of economic prosperity.”

The Australian government has a minimum target of a 5% cut in carbon emissions by 2020, based on 2000 levels. Governments will gather in Paris next year to thrash out their emission cut commitments beyond 2020.

A spokesman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, said: “The government will review Australia’s 2020 target in 2015, considering further action and targets on the basis of comparable real global action.”

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