Best of our wild blogs: 24 Sep 14

What is ailing our forest??
from Mountain and Sea

Confusing Species: Crow-billed Drongo and Asian Drongo Cuckoo
from Singapore Bird Group

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Malaysia: Johor Govt Assures Forest City Project Will Not Affect Malay Reserve Land

Bernama 23 Sep 14;

JOHOR BAHARU, Sept 23 (Bernama) -- The Johor government has given assurance that the status of the Malay reserve land, as well as private-owned land, near Forest City site in the Straits of Johor will not be affected by the project.

In fact, State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the welfare of fishermen in the area would also be taken care of through the special fund set up by the state government.

"Johor needs development, but we admit that there are concerns among residents, especially concerning Malay reserve land, because they fear that the land will be sacrificed to develop the area.

"We would like to inform the people that the Forest City project will only involve sea reclamation and not land reclamation. This kind of approach is also being practised in other countries, such as Australia and Singapore."

Ayub said this in response to the commotion which broke out at the meeting between Forest City developers and residents in Kampung Pok, Gelang Patah, last Sunday.


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Look who just flew into Singapore

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Sep 14;

The avian migratory season is here and birds are appearing by the thousand, choosing Singapore as their stopover, much to the delight of birdwatchers.

Each year, approximately 2,000 migratory birds arrive in Sungei Buloh in August and September, taking a respite from harsh winters, said National Parks Board conservation director Wong Tuan Wah.

They make their way here from as far away as Russia, Mongolia, China and Japan. Some fly off again, heading to Australia and Indonesia. Others stay on in Sungei Buloh and surrounding areas to feed and roost until the following March or April.

The intrepid voyagers then journey back to their breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere.

Migratory birds can be seen in other parts of Singapore, but Sungei Buloh offers a wide variety of habitats, including mudflats and mangroves, so it provides an ideal sanctuary, said Mr Wong.

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Municipal Services Office to provide single point of contact for public

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 22 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The new Municipal Services Office's (MSO) immediate focus when it is set up next month is to have a single point of contact for the public to provide feedback and work out a standard method of processing the feedback, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said on Monday (Sep 22).

Ms Fu also provided some details about the MSO, after visiting the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to get a better idea of its key municipal issues.

The eight agencies under the new MSO currently have different operating systems to collate and address feedback from the public.

Ms Fu, who is also Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said the first order of business is to work out a standard protocol of processing all feedback.

"So even if you call a particular agency on a matter that is not relating to that agency, we will have an understanding amongst the public service officers on the way to capture the information, the feedback and the way to handle the feedback and to transfer it to another, the relevant agency and to also start tracking," she said.

Ms Fu said this is to operationalise the Government's 'no wrong-door' policy when it comes to providing feedback on municipal matters.

The MSO will put members of the public in contact with the relevant agency for their feedback or queries, instead of them being shuffled around to multiple agencies before they get the right one.

Ms Fu had previously said the various channels of the agencies will still be open for the majority of the straightforward feedback.

The MSO will also develop a smartphone application to address the public's need for a single point of contact, especially in situations where they do not know which agency to call.

"LTA, for example, says a large proportion of feedback from the public is to do with vehicle or policy-related issues, and that means it is clear-cut, and under the direct purview of the LTA. Only a small percentage is to do with municipal issues," Ms Fu said.

She added that when it comes to the maintenance of road infrastructure, there could be some cross-boundaries between the LTA, Housing Development Board (HDB) or town councils.

"This is one example where we could use technology like the app. If the public can tell us, take the picture, and really do not need to find out whether this is an LTA or HDB land, and we can then go on to solve the problem by the relevant agency," Ms Fu said.

Ms Fu intends to visit all eight agencies to get a better idea of the issues on the ground and where the MSO can make the most impact.

- CNA/dl

Municipal office to help guide response across govt agencies
Laura Elizabeth Philomin Today Online 23 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — When a public service officer receives a complaint from a resident in future, the officer would be expected to know how the case should be handled — even if it falls outside his agency’s purview — and to follow up on the outcome, under a new standard protocol the Municipal Services Office (MSO) intends to develop.

The public will be able to submit feedback to the MSO through a new one-stop mobile application serving as a single point of contact to handle complex municipal issues that could involve multiple agencies. It would also allow users to send in pictures and tag their locations.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu, who has been tasked to head the new MSO, shared these details during a visit to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) office yesterday, one of a series of visits she is making to better understand the scope of work the MSO could cover.

Acknowledging that different government agencies have their own ways of addressing public feedback, Ms Fu said a standard protocol is meant to facilitate better coordination among the participating agencies despite having different systems.

“So even if you call a particular agency on a matter that’s not related to that agency, we will have an understanding amongst the public service officers on the way to capture the information and the way to handle the feedback, to transfer it to the relevant agency and also to start tracking,” she said.

The tracking mechanism that would be put in place, she said, should guarantee that the public receives an answer at a stipulated time, ensuring the effectiveness of the process and operationalising the “no wrong door” policy. No timeline was given as to when the standard protocol and the app would be rolled out.

The establishment of the MSO, which comes under the Ministry of National Development (MND), was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in August, in response to laments among residents that complaints and feedback can end up bounced between agencies instead of being quickly resolved. The office is meant to be the place to turn to mainly for complex cases in which the public is unsure who to call.

Even before the MSO sets up its office on Oct 1, it has already received feedback and has begun processing them, said Ms Fu. More straightforward cases are being redirected to the relevant agencies, with the MSO taking charge in more complex cases.

Apart from the LTA, Ms Fu has also visited the Singapore Police Force and will make site visits to all the other agencies working with the MSO, such as the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and PUB.

The LTA said the bulk of feedback it receives is on vehicle-related issues such as the Certificate of Entitlement and only a small proportion deals with municipal issues relating to the upkeep of facilities. Ms Fu gave an example of maintenance of road infrastructure as a municipal issue the MSO could work on with the LTA, which could also involve town councils and the HDB.

Stressing the role of the MSO as a coordinator and arbitrator to solve bottlenecks and deadlocks, Ms Fu said: “It’s important for the MSO to identify the areas (that) impact the public most. What we want to do is, given the limited time and resources, apply our attention to those that would bring most benefit to the most people.”

Municipal services unit to launch app, establish protocol
Tham Yuen-c The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Sep 14;

A new one-stop office, to handle municipal matters that involve multiple government agencies, will open its doors on Oct 1, with plans for two major initiatives.

One is the establishment of a standard procedure for public agencies to receive, handle and track feedback on such matters, to ensure complaints are handled within a stipulated time.

Second, it will introduce a smartphone app for people to report these problems.

Both moves by the soon-to- open Municipal Services Office (MSO) were announced yesterday by Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, who will head it.

But their launch dates have not been finalised yet, she added.

The office, the setting up of which was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally last month, is to ensure that public agencies better coordinate to provide services that involve more than one of them.

It will come under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Initially, the office will work with eight agencies: the Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority, national water agency PUB, National Parks Board, Housing Board, Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore Police Force, People's Association and National Environment Agency.

Yesterday, Ms Fu visited LTA's headquarters in Hampshire Road, off Kampong Java Road, to find out how the various agencies handle feedback on municipal issues.

She told reporters: "(We want to) identify the areas where we can make the most improvement within the shortest time... and bring the most benefit to the most people."

Previously, she had been to the police headquarters in New Phoenix Park in the Novena area, and in the pipeline are visits to the other public agencies the MSO will be working with.

Ms Fu said her topmost priority at the moment is to produce a "standard protocol" so that no matter which agency a person approaches, the feedback will be sent to the right party and tracked.

"Tracking is very important... (so that) the member of the public will have an answer by a stipulated time," she said.

The impending app will let people report municipal problems directly to the MSO, without having to deal with an extra layer of bureaucracy, said the MND in a statement yesterday.

To illustrate this, Ms Fu said a person who wants to report that some road infrastructure has not been maintained can simply take a picture and send it via the app to the MSO.

He would not have to worry about whether the road is under the LTA or HDB, she added.

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Singapore clears key hurdle in joining nuclear materials pact

Channel NewsAsia 23 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The Republic took another step towards being party to an international pact looking at the physical protection of nuclear materials - the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM).

Resident Representative of Singapore to the IAEA, Mr Foo Kok Jwee, deposited the country's instruments of accession and acceptance of the CPPNM and its 2005 Amendment, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said in a press release on Tuesday (Sep 23).

By doing so, Singapore will become party to the CPPNM 30 days from Sep 22, which was the date Mr Foo deposited the instruments with the IAEA. This completes the accession process announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in March this year, according to the press release.

Before this hurdle could be crossed, Singapore's Government had to review its policy, technical and legal considerations to ensure the city-state was ready to fulfil its obligations to the CPPNM. The Amendments to the Radiation Protection Act were passed in Parliament in July as a precursor to depositing the instruments of accession and acceptance, MEWR said.

"As an international hub, Singapore’s economy, trade and security can easily be affected by a nuclear accident elsewhere. In addition, Singapore recognises the threat of nuclear terrorism and the consequences from the explosion of a nuclear/radioactive device," the ministry added.

"Thus, by acceding to the CPPNM and its 2005 Amendment, Singapore reinforces its role in the global effort to promote nuclear security."

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia will continue to cut carbon emissions, Najib tells UN climate summit

mergawati zulfakar The Star 24 Sep 14;

NEW YORK: Malaysia will to continue to act to cut carbon emissions through new policies involving climate change and green technology.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) said Malaysia had taken a clear step towards a cleaner future, resulting in a more sustainable economy and balanced energy mix.

"Six years ago, in Copenhagen, I announced that Malaysia would cut the emissions intensity of our GDP by 40% by 2020.

"But this progress came at a cost. In allocating finite national resources, we have had to make painful decisions. Sometimes, we have had to choose between adaptation and mitigation.

"Malaysia has spent nearly US$2.6bil (RM8.4bil) in the last decade adapting to more frequent floods. This is money we could have invested in green industries, or used to slow climate change," he said at the Climate Summit at the United Nations Tuesday.

The summit drew more than 120 heads of state and government to announce their vision and commitments on actions to reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilise financing for climate action.

Najib, however, expressed disappointment that despite Malaysia fulfilling its commitments to cut emissions, it has yet to receive any assistance from parties which had promised to assist developing countries on ways to tackle climate change.

"Malaysia will continue to cut its emissions intensity without getting the support but we are doing it for the sake of the people and our planet.

"Malaysia shows that economic growth need not depend on emissions.

"We stand ready to work with other fast-developing nations to argue for greater ambition in 2015; and to show that economic development and climate action are not competing goals, but common ambitions," he said.

Rich nations should do more, Najib tells UN Climate Summit
A JALIL HAMID New Straits Times 24 Sep 14;

NEW Y0RK: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the UN Climate Summit on Tuesday that Malaysia is committed to cut carbon emissions but said rich nations should also keep to their promises.

He said at the one-day summit ahead of the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly that Malaysia was on track to cut the emissions intensity of the gross domestic product by 40 per cent by 2020 as promised.

He said the pledge made at the 2009 Copenhagen UN climate change conference was made on the understanding that parties would honour their commitments to assist developing nations in financing and technology transfer.

“They did not. Yet Malaysia continued to cut its emissions intensity, for the sake of our people – and our planet.

“This time must be different. This time, all countries should commit to an ambitious deal to reduce emissions. And they must follow-up that commitment with consistent action,” he said in a speech.

Najib said since 2009, Malaysia has implemented new national policies on climate change and green technology.

“We (also) passed a Renewable Energy Act establishing a feed-in-tariff for renewables. We made adaptation and mitigation central to our water resource management. And we gazetted new forest reserves, reaffirming our commitment to a pledge we made at the Rio Earth Summit,” he said.

He said Malaysia had also taken steps towards a cleaner future besides having a more balanced energy mix.

“But this progress came at a cost. In allocating finite national resources, we have had to make painful decisions. Sometimes, we have had to choose between adaptation and mitigation.

”Malaysia has spent nearly US$2.6 billion in the last decade adapting to more frequent floods. This is money we could have invested in green industries, or used to slow climate change,” he said.

Najib said Malaysia would continue to act on climate change by having new policies to promote energy efficient vehicles, a new corporate greenhouse gas reporting programme, a building sector energy efficiency project and a low carbon city framework.

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KL and Jakarta drawing up trans-boundary haze pact

The Star 24 Sep 14;

BANGI: Malaysia and Indonesia are drafting a memorandum of understanding to tackle trans-boundary haze, says Natural Resource and En­­vironment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

“The haze in Malaysia comes main­ly from Sumatra, as well as from some domestic peat fires

“We are looking into a bilateral agreement to address open burning, and share experiences and expertise on the matter,” he said after launching the International Ozone Day event at Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysia France Institute here yesterday.

Palanivel said the Government would crack down on offenders involved in open burning by seeking to impose stiffer fines.

There are currently nine hotspots in Malaysia, with one each in Kedah, Johor and Sabah, two in Terengganu and and four in Pahang.

On the Ozone Day, Palanivel said Malaysia was working to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

“Beginning January next year, the import of ozone-destroying hydrochlorofluorocarbons will be reduced by 10% from the congealing point in 2013.

“This is a challenge for the industry, which has to change the technology to make products that use alternative material that do not affect the ozone layer and the environment in general.

“We all have a responsibility to protect the ozone layer by using products that do not contain ozone-depleting substances,” he said.

The United Nations said on its website that the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer, had so far “been successful in meeting some of its targets on phasing out ozone-depleting substances”.

“As a result, the abundance of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere is declining and the ozone layer is expected to recover around the middle of this century,” it said.

MoU to tackle haze
New Straits Times 24 Sep 14;

BANGI: Malaysia and Indonesia are in the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding to tackle transboundary haze, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, adding that the MoU would provide for the two countries to share experience, expertise and information on how to handle the matter.

Palanivel said he was waiting for the appointment of Indonesia’s new environment minister before visiting Jakarta in November or December.

He spoke to reporters after opening the International Ozone Day at Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysia France Institute (UniKL MFI) here yesterday.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said discussions were ongoing between Environment Ministry senior officials of the two countries to draw up the MoU.

She said the focus of the MoU would be on the prevention of open burning and forest fires. Bernama

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Malaysia: Water tariff in Johor to go up by at least 10%

The Star 24 Sep 14;

JOHOR BARU: Water tariff in Johor is expected to go up by between 10% and 12% in the next few months due to the high cost of treatment.

The increase, said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Develop­ment Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad, was unavoidable, adding that this would take place either at the end of the year or early next year.

“We received a proposal from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) for a 22% increase about a year ago,” he said after launching a seminar on the water services industry here yesterday.

“However, we put this on hold as we were looking at ways on how we could deal with this situation without burdening the consumers, especially with the rising costs of living.”


Since the last water tariff increase in 2010, Hasni said the rate for electricity had gone up twice.

“Electricity plays a major factor in the operational costs of water treatment plants,” he pointed out.

At present, domestic users in Johor pay 60 sen for the first 20 cubic metres of water, RM1.65 for between 20 and 35 cubic metres of water and RM2.96 for over 35 cubic metres of water.

Johor, said Hasni, had also written to the Federal Government requesting for its RM1.3bil loan for the financing of water projects to be converted into a grant.

Most of the RM1.3bil, he said, was spent on rural infrastructure, which should be financed by the Federal Government, like in other states.

Johor to raise water tariff
Halim Said New Straits Times 24 Sep 14;

JOHOR BARU: WATER tariff in the state may go up by 10 to 12 per cent starting next year in a move to safeguard its water resources.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the increase was inevitable as the cost to safeguard its water resources from pollution had doubled over the years.

He said the last revision was in 2010, adding that the new tariff would allow the state government to better manage and protect its water resources and assets from constant pollution by agricultural activities.

“The new proposed tariff had been submitted to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) for review recently as SPAN had proposed a higher tariff for the state to impose,” he said after launching a Water Services Industry 2014 seminar at Persada Johor International Convention Centre here yesterday.

He said SPAN had pushed for the state government to raise the water rates to at least 22 per cent since last year in order for the state to better maintain its water resources.

“Our concern is if the rise in the new tariff will be too much for Johoreans to bear as the increase in living cost will definitely affect their livelihood. The Sembrong and Machap dams, for instance, face the threat of severe pollution due to modern agriculture in Kluang, resulting in rising costs.”

Hasni said the state government was addressing pollution by coordinating with the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj), Drainage and Irrigation Department, Forestry Department and the Land Office.

He added that the approval of amendments to the Water Enactment 2014 by the state legislative assembly would increase the effectiveness of water resource management enforcement agencies.

“The amendments will empower Bakaj directors to act against those who pollute water supply, including issuing compounds and empowering civil servants to help overcome the pollution in water resource areas.”

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Indonesia: Continuing fires combatted with artificial rain in Sumatra

Ansyor Idrus The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network AsiaOne 23 Sep 14;

The South Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has since last week been working with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to create artificial rain as part of an effort to extinguish forest and peatland fires across the province.

Officials said the artificial rain was being used in an attempt to combat the fires, as firefighting from helicopters was no longer enough to douse the flames. It has not rained for some time in a number of regencies in the province, and incidents of fire are increasing.

South Sumatra BPBD head Yulizar Dinoto said the artificial rain was part of wider assistance provided by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). The rain is created by cloud seeding technology; Indonesian Military (TNI) Air Force Hercules planes create water droplets that then turn into rain.

"We have carried out cloud seeding since Sunday over Ogan Komering Ilir regency and the outcome is positive, as the number of hot spots has dropped drastically," said Yulizar in Palembang on Monday, adding that during each operation, the planes will scatter 4 tons of salt over the clouds.

The BPBD revealed that there were previously 21 hot spots in Ogan Komering Ilir. After the cloud seeding operation, the number of hot spots dropped to two, according to satellite images. The BPBD is focusing on making artificial rain in Ogan Komering Ilir because the region is dominated by peatland.

"Peatland fire is difficult to put out," said Yulizar.

South Sumatra Forestry Agency head Sigit Wibowo said the current forest fires had so far destroyed more than a quarter of the total peatland area of 1,400 hectares.

"We admit that we are struggling to deal with the peatland fires because the flames aren't visible from above," said Sigit.

He said his office had applied insulation to certain ground areas to prevent the peatland fires from spreading.

Sigit confirmed that the peatland fires could only be totally doused by applying artificial rain for two successive days.

The forest fires in South Sumatra have not influenced flight activity at Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang as the BPPT has installed a ground mist generator that changes haze into water mist. Three of the devices have been installed at the airport.

However, on Sept. 18, the haze caused a motorboat carrying 40 passengers to hit a tree on the banks of the Musi River. A passenger was killed and dozens of others injured in the accident.

Meanwhile, the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) urged the provincial administration to revoke the operating licenses of plantation companies that could not prevent fires starting on their estates.

"We deeply regret the annual forest and peatland fires in the plantations and it seems that the provincial administration has neglected this issue," said South Sumatra Walhi director Hadi Jatmiko.

Based on data released by Walhi, 1,173 hot spots were detected by satellite in the province from August to September 2014, of which 169 were located in plantations and 531 in industrial timber estate (HTI) concessions.
- See more at:

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ASEAN biodiversity and climate change: SOS

Jamal M.Gawi Jakarta Post 23 Sep 14;

Located strategically in the tropics with a total population of more than 600 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.3 percent in 2013, a strong regional entity and forming the unique Indo-Malayan region ASEAN is not only geopolitically important but also to host one of the most diverse ecosystems comprising 20 percent of the world’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

ASEAN is also home to 25 million hectares of inimitable peatlands representing 60 percent of the world’s total tropical peatlands, which play a pivotal role in supporting economic development, biodiversity conservation, carbon sinks, food security and livelihood.

However, these invaluable biodiversity and peatland resources have been subject to consistent loss over time. The key drivers of biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia include ecosystem and habitat change through uncontrolled development, rising temperatures and instant weather disruption caused by climate change, changes in species dynamics caused by invasive alien species, over-exploitation of natural resources and widespread poverty in some ASEAN member states.

Meanwhile, peatlands in ASEAN are declining rapidly through uncontrolled burning and mismanagement, responsible for 90 percent of transboundary haze and emitting 1.5-2.0 billion tons of CO2 per year or equivalent to 6-7 percent of global fossil fuel emissions.

While carbon emissions contribute to climate change, there is ample evidence that climate change also affects biodiversity.

According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, climate change is likely to become one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss by the end of the century.

Climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either by shifting habitat, changing life cycles or developing new physical traits.

The study on climate change vulnerability in Southeast Asian nations found that the whole of the Philippines, the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, almost all the regions of Cambodia, North and East Laos, the Bangkok region of Thailand, West and South Sumatra and West and East Java in Indonesia are among the most vulnerable regions to climate change impact on the economy, environment (including biodiversity) and the social life of the population.

Those threats to biodiversity are rooted deep in the interactions of a number of factors. First, most of the ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHPS) are not well managed.

Illegal activities such as illegal logging, encroachment, wildlife poaching and trade, illegal road construction and illegal land clearing for agriculture and settlements have been frequently heard of inside ASEAN-protected areas.

Second, a closer look at the drivers of deforestation reveals that most of the threats to biodiversity conservation, such as infrastructure and agricultural expansion, mining, energy and other development activities, originate from outside the protected areas. Therefore, it is crucial to mainstream biodiversity conservation into development plans, as outlined in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Third, on biodiversity database and research, there are urgent needs for (1) gathering basic ecological data; (2) making long-term studies to understand the effects of habitat loss on biotas and their resilience; (3) maintaining biotic sustainability in regenerating and degraded habitats; (4) assessing socioeconomic and climate-driven biodiversity loss; and (5) understanding and integrating indigenous conservation regimes and knowledge into conservation planning.

Fourth, in addition to the weak institutions responsible for biodiversity conservation and protected area management in most ASEAN member states, the regional institution established to look after biodiversity conservation, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), is still struggling to prove itself as a center of excellence in biodiversity conservation.

A lack of funding, experts and coordination are among three of the most acute issues. The Environment Division of the ASEAN Secretariat is also facing similar problems.

ASEAN, through different initiatives, policies and strategies, has initiated several important activities to protect rich biodiversity and peatland areas from further destruction.

Although ASEAN has had some successes in the past, biodiversity and peatland degradation remain a serious threat due to the inconsistency of some ASEAN member states in supporting biodiversity conservation and the complicated coordination issues at the regional level.

Although the establishment of ACB was supported by all ASEAN member states, until now Indonesia and Cambodia have not ratified its establishment. Not all countries that have ratified the ACB establishment are contributing to support the ACB’s operation and the biodiversity trust fund to support future biodiversity conservation.

The Environmental Division of the ASEAN Secretariat tasked to support efficient coordination among ASEAN member states has not been able to move the process ahead smoothly. On the climate change issue, ASEAN is also not very united. Singapore has expressed its view more often individually or through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), stressing the urgency of the rising sea level. Brunei Darussalam has not joined any group.

Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar belong to the Least Developed Countries’ group within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC’s COP). ASEAN middle-income developing countries have also split along less formal alliances, proving the split of interest between members.

Some observers have long seen the ASEAN way of solving problems as another form of the ASEAN paradox. This slow or motionless attitude in dealing with complicated issues should not be tolerated when dealing with the serious threats to biodiversity, either from climate change or other driving forces. ASEAN institutions need to move faster and more harmoniously, for example, in dealing with peatland fires in Indonesia.

ASEAN’s leadership role is needed to support Indonesia in dealing with this issue by using high level diplomacy instead of leaving this sensitive issue to be dealt with by Singapore and Indonesia only, which has proven to be ineffective.

The future of ASEAN biodiversity and climate change depends on how ASEAN’s formal and semiformal structures like the ASEAN Secretariat, universities, research institutions and NGOs are able to work together.

While ASEAN’s non-intervention policy should be respected, it should not hamper the formal and informal efforts to deal with biodiversity loss and haze, which have serious economic, health and conservation implications.

ASEAN countries differ in their state of development and democracy and consequently in the way they address biodiversity conservation and climate change issues. Some poorer members need special attention.

Here lies the challenge to creating a more prudent cooperation system that will benefit all parties. Collaboration with a similar institution such as the EU has proven to be effective and mutually beneficial. While the EU fulfills its global biodiversity commitment, ASEAN could benefit from its funding and technology.

Finally, while strategic cooperation is important, ASEAN should be more independent in the future.

ASEAN structures responsible for biodiversity and climate change issues under the ASEAN Secretariat and other related ASEAN bodies and structures should be encouraged to undertake more responsibilities to solve common problems.


The writer is a biodiversity conservation and governance specialist, who has a PhD in environmental studies from the University of Indonesia.

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Climate Change Will Be Solved in Cities--Or Not at All

As world leaders gathered at the U.N. to talk about global warming, mayors set about actually doing something about climate change
David Biello Scientific American 23 Sep 14;

In the 1980s, the Chinese city of Shenzhen had some 300,000 mostly impoverished inhabitants. Today that city, the first to experience China's reforms and economic opening, has more than 15 million residents and also hosts another first in China's history—a carbon market. Shenzhen's market to reduce global warming pollution covers some 620 manufacturers and other industries that collectively grew by 9 percent in 2013. The buying and selling of permits to emit carbon dioxide pollution resulted in a drop of 500,000 metric tons in the manufacturing sector and swapping cleaner energy for coal reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 2 million metric tons for the entire city.

"If you can know Shenzhen can do this then you can believe Chinese government can do this as well," says Tang Jie, vice mayor of one of the largest megacities in China, who says the overall goal is to have total pollution peak as soon as possible. "In 2020, our city will leap over the emission peak. If Shenzhen can make this peak, I think maybe in 10 or 15 years the whole of China can peak."

As Shenzhen goes—and Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai, all Chinese cities with new carbon market experiments—so goes China. And as China goes when it comes to spewing carbon dioxide into the sky, so goes the world—China is the world's largest emitter of global warming pollution and thanks to a growing coal habit the 1.2 billion Chinese now emit as much per person as the roughly 500 million citizens of the European Union.

As world leaders gather at the U.N. on September 23 to reiterate or reveal pledges for action to combat climate change, it is in cities that such actions are actually happening. That could be alternative fuel vehicles in Jinan, China, a program to share electric cars in Paris, or rapid-transit buses in Curitiba, Brazil. Or it could be a massive program to retrofit old buildings here in New York City. At the U.N. summit, 228 cities representing 436 million people committed to avoid more than 2 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas pollution per year going forward under a new global "Compact of Mayors." And 25 cities pledged to cut methane pollution seeping out of garbage dumps.

At the same meeting, the U.S. and China reiterated previous pledges. The U.S. will cut CO2 pollution by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, according to U.S. President Barack Obama while China will reduce carbon intensity by as much as 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, says Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. "Nations are not delivering," says Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro and chair of the C40 group of cities committed to fighting climate change. "How can there be any argument against prioritizing cities?"

Cities around the globe are growing fast—more than half of the world's 7.2 billion people now live in one city or another, a number expected to swell to more than 6 billion people living in cities by 2050, mostly in Africa and Asia. Cities now deliver fully three-quarters of global economic activity, totaling more than $50 trillion. And it is citizens of cities who are responsible for at least half of all greenhouse gas pollution—through demand for heating and cooling, food, lighting, entertainment and transportation. As a result, city action (or inaction) on climate change may determine the ultimate outcome of global warming. "The future is in the cities," says Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Decisions surrounding how the world urbanizes will also shape the future climate. Sprawling Atlanta emits 10 times as much greenhouse gases as compact Barcelona simply because of transportation needs, the World Resources Institute notes. If emerging cities follow the Atlanta model the world will be a lot hotter. At the same time, as cities struggle to counter climate change, they will also have to solve problems like urban poverty and inequality. "If we miss it in the next 15 years, we will create another lost generation," says Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements.

The C40 group of cities—now 69 cities now that have banded together to combat climate change—has released research showing that city actions to reduce pollution from buildings, cars and garbage could cut greenhouse gases by nearly four gigatonnes in the next two decades—and eight gigatonnes by 2050—in addition to any national policies. More importantly, mayors have more direct control over such policies in their cities. "We have strong constituencies we can't hide from—we don't want to hide from," says Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City. "We are held accountable in a way that national leaders are not."

At the same time, cities are competing to be as livable as possible. While Beijing may have a carbon market and mandates to remove coal-burning from city limits, Melbourne in Australia plans to have zero net emissions by the end of the decade. By 2025, Copenhagen hopes to be the world's first capital city to become carbon neutral—a goal already achieved by the nearby island of Samso. As Paris mayor Ann Hidalgo puts it, cities are going through a "transition ecologique." Commenting on her city's electric car sharing program, she says, "If cities say we don't want fossil fuel cars then industry will provide." A new Urban Electric Mobility Initiative announced at the U.N. aims to increase sales of electric vehicle for use in cities to at least 30 percent of all new vehicle sales by 2030.

City governments not only have the means to slow climate change, but also the motivation—they face the brunt of global warming threats, such as sea level rise. Cities are on the "frontlines of this war," Paes says. "The victims are city residents."

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 delivered a foreshadowing of climate change to come in New York City. Downtown was inundated and dark, and even the U.N. building itself flooded for the first time in its 70-year history in the city. "Climate change is the defining issue of our time," says Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General. "It's not a distant threat."

New York City has already cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent since 2005, thanks to efforts initiated by former Mayor Bloomberg—now U.N. envoy for cities—and continued under de Blasio. While national leaders still speak in generalities of signing a global climate deal in Paris in 2015 with targets to be negotiated, mayors of cities in almost every country continue to implement practical programs that reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

New York City, for one, is prepared to go further than the U.S. The city has committed to cutting greenhosue gases by 80 percent by 2050, and released a plan to get there. The centerpiece is refurbishing old buildings to use less energy because old and new construction together are responsible for 75 percent of New York City's emissions. "The failure to reach that goal dooms us all," de Blasio says. "If we don't get it right now, at some point it will be too late."

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Ending deforestation is smart policy: officials

Lisa Anderson PlanetArk 23 Sep 14;

Policies to end deforestation are essential for curbing climate change and can also support economic development, top government and business officials said.

"Putting a stop to deforestation is the smart thing to do," Justine Greening, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development, told a panel discussion in New York on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit.

"Without action, the world will get hungrier, poorer and more dangerous in the years to come. There is no point building a health clinic for poor people in Bangladesh if it will get washed away by the next floods," she said.

Deforestation is the world's second largest source of planet-warming gases, and a threat to the livelihoods of over a billion indigenous people who depend on forest resources, experts say.

Cutting down forests reduces their capacity to store carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and also destabilizes slopes, worsening the risk of landslides.

The meeting at the Ford Foundation assembled representatives of business, governments and indigenous people to call for an end to deforestation.

Greening announced that Britain will invest $137 million over the next three years in governance reform to end illegal logging. It will also provide $97 million for programs encouraging businesses to end deforestation in their supply chains and commit to sustainable natural resources.


Global food and care products giant Unilever is one of a growing number of companies that have pledged to do so.

"By 2020 we're not going to sell anything anymore if it comes as a result of illegal deforestation," said Unilever CEO Paul Polman.

Noting that around half of deforestation is due to the need to cultivate more food crops, Polman said companies like his must source commodities - particularly palm oil, soy, beef and timber - in a way that doesn't harm forests.

"Sustainable growth in terms of fighting climate change does not have to go against economic development," said Polman.

"We are the first generation who has ever had to deal with climate change. It is our choice if we want to be the last generation," he added.


Governments must also take measures to guarantee the rights of indigenous people whose land is threatened when it is leased to corporations that clear forests to make way for farming and ranching, said Daniel Azeredo Avelino, chief federal prosecutor of Brazil's Para state.

Satellite technology has allowed Brazilian prosecutors to identify remote areas where deforestation is occurring, particularly in the Amazon where much indigenous land is located, he said.

Forest leaders will say on Tuesday they plan to use cutting-edge technologies like drones and a new mapping system for tracking deforestation in real time to ensure promises made at the New York climate summit are kept.

But advocating for the land rights of indigenous people has become a dangerous undertaking when it conflicts with commercial interests, several speakers noted at Monday's panel discussion.

Earlier this month in Peru, four indigenous activists campaigning to safeguard forests, including Edwin Chota, were believed to have been killed by illegal loggers, said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. That is why discussions to end deforestation are so important, he added.

"We want to save the forests, but there is no protection for the people who save the forests," said Abdon Nababan, secretary general of Indonesia's Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago.

(Editing by Megan Rowling)

More nations commit to fight climate change by restoring forests
IUCN 23 Sep 14;

New York, 23 September 2014 – World leaders announced new pledges to restore over 30 million hectares of degraded forest lands today at the UN Climate Summit in New York. The commitments come from Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, and Uganda, among others, and more than doubled the number of hectares contributing to achieving the Bonn Challenge—a global goal to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

These announcements came alongside an extension of the global restoration target to at least 350 million hectares—an area greater than the size of India—to be restored by 2030. This new target was unveiled at the Summit today in the New York Declaration on Forests. The Declaration, signed by IUCN, as well as more than 100 countries, corporations, indigenous peoples and civil society also calls for a halving of deforestation rates by 2020 and an end to global deforestation altogether by 2030.

“The courageous leadership demonstrated by these countries towards achieving the Bonn Challenge, and by the wide range of global leaders in support of the New York Declaration on Forests, underlines that nature-based solutions such as forest landscape restoration can play a vital role in our fight against climate change and addressing the fundamental need to reduce emissions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN.

IUCN estimates that meeting the 150 million hectare Bonn Challenge target alone could add approximately US$ 85 billion to national and local economies and remove an additional one billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Today's pledges by countries in Africa and Latin America to combat deforestation and more than double restoration targets will bring significant climate benefits. At the same time, such inspiring initiatives will contribute significantly to poverty reduction, economic development and food security across countries and regions."

The restoration pledges and the New York Declaration on Forests arrive in preparation for next year’s climate talks in Paris, which are largely expected to result in a new global climate deal. Progress in New York signals significant support for ramping up restoration of lost and degraded forest lands as part of the post-2015 Paris climate agreements and development agenda.

“Restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees, said Bianca Jagger, IUCN Ambassador for the Bonn Challenge, and Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation. “People and communities are at the heart of the restoration effort, which transforms barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile working landscapes.”

“The New York Declaration on Forests is a milestone as we enter the restoration generation,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “It’s a triple win that can bring more water and food security, improve livelihoods, and help tackle climate change. We look forward to working with leaders to help ensure that they deliver on these commitments that will benefit people and the planet,”

Restoration pledges to the Bonn Challenge represent commitments from the highest level to start actual restoration work on the ground in support of each nation’s or organization’s individual objectives.

“IUCN-led work on forest landscape restoration began in the field and is now back in the field,” said Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature-Based Solutions at IUCN. “What started as a grassroots approach to address local needs and challenges has now captured the attention of public, private, and civil society leaders around the world. These leaders are now initiating action on the ground to simultaneously meet local needs and international climate change commitments.”

Details on individual pledges will be available after the national announcements at the New York Climate Summit on September 23 at

UN climate summit pledges to halt the loss of natural forests by 2030
New York declaration on forests could cut carbon emissions equivalent of taking all the world’s cars off the road
Press Association 23 Aug 14;

Governments, multinational companies and campaigners are pledging to halt the loss of the world’s natural forests by 2030.

A declaration announced as part of a UN summit on climate change being held in New York also pledges to halve the rate of deforestation by the end of this decade and to restore hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land.

Backers of the New York declaration on forests claim their efforts could save between 4.5bn and 8.8bn tonnes of carbon emissions per year by 2030 – the equivalent of taking all the world’s cars off the road.

The UK, Germany and Norway have pledged to enter into up to 20 programmes over the next couple of years to pay countries for reducing their deforestation, which could be worth more than £700m.

Companies such as Kellogg’s, Marks & Spencer, Barclays, Nestle, the palm oil giant Cargill, Asia Pulp and Paper and charities including the RSPB, WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have signed the declaration.

The declaration’s supporters say ending the loss of the world’s natural forests will be an important part of limiting global temperature rises to 2C, beyond which the worst impacts of climate change are expected to be felt.

It comes after analysis suggests that land use change such as deforestation accounts for around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, with carbon dioxide released when trees are felled and burned to free up land for agriculture or development.

“Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today,” the declaration says.

“Action to conserve, sustainably manage and restore forests can contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation, rule of law, food security, climate resilience and biodiversity conservation.”

Signatories to the declaration are committing to a number of steps to halt forest loss, including backing a private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from producing agricultural products such as palm oil, soy, paper and beef by no later than 2020.

They are also seeking to support alternatives to deforestation which is caused by subsistence farming and the need for wood fuel for energy and reward countries that reduce forest emissions.

The countries, businesses, charities and indigenous groups are also committing to restoring 150m hectares (370m acres) of degraded landscapes and forest areas by 2020, and speed up restoration so that another 200m hectares are restored by 2030.

Restoration of 350m hectares by the end of the next decade – an area greater than the whole of India – would have benefits for the climate by storing carbon and take pressure off primary forests.

The declaration is a key announcement at the UN climate summit, attended by more than 120 leaders including David Cameron, which aims to drive action ahead of talks in Paris next year when it is hoped a new global climate treaty will be agreed.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who convened the summit, said: “The New York declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually, and it doesn’t stop there.

“Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – the actions agreed today will reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve the rule of law, secure the rights of indigenous peoples and benefit communities around the world.”

John Lanchbery, the RSPB’s principal climate change adviser, said many of the companies which had signed up alongside the wildlife charity and other conservation organisations had historically played a role in tropical deforestation.
He said they had either been directly involved in forest clearance or involved in supply chains that caused significant deforestation.

“Some have been a major part of the deforestation problem. They must also, however, be a major part of the solution. Signing up to the forest declaration shows their intention to change their ways and reduce deforestation dramatically.

“We welcome their willingness to change, although we will continue make sure that they really do,” he said.

Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the companies that has been attacked by green groups over deforestation in Indonesia, but which last year outlined a “forest conservation policy” committing to ending loss of rainforests, has signed the pledge.

Aida Greenbury, APP’s managing director of sustainability, said: “We have shown through our own zero deforestation policies that ambitious targets to protect the world’s remaining forests can be agreed, implemented and achieved by companies operating in emerging economies.

“Our view is that wherever a company is involved in the forest supply chain, they should be implementing these policies immediately. There is no time to waste.”

But Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, which has not signed the declaration, said there was a need for strong laws to protect forests and people, and warned that the pledge was missing ambitious targets and tangible actions.

“Halting the global loss of natural forests by 2030 and eliminating deforestation from agricultural commodities by 2020 at the latest would mean that years of continued forest clearance still lie ahead of us.

“While we are celebrating announcements on paper today, forests and forest peoples are facing imminent threats that must be averted if we want the declaration to become reality,” he said.

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Philanthropies, including Rockefellers, and investors pledge $50 billion fossil fuel divestment

Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 23 Sep 14;

Philanthropies, including Rockefellers, and investors pledge $50 billion fossil fuel divestment Photo: Hector Mata
Bulldozers move trash atop of a 300-feet tall hill at the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center in Simi Valley, California May 8, 2008.
Photo: Hector Mata

The Global Divest-Invest coalition will announce new pledges and members one day before 120 heads of state address the United Nations on how their countries will contribute to a global effort to halt a dangerous rise in temperatures.

Since the divestment movement launched three years ago, some 650 individuals and 180 institutions, including 50 new foundations, which hold over $50 billion in total assets, pledged to divest from fossil fuels over five years using a variety of approaches.

One of the signatories is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Stephen Heintz, an heir of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, said the move to divest away from fossil fuels would be in line with his wishes.

"We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy," Heintz said in a statement.

Since January 2014, commitments by campuses, churches, cities, states, hospitals, pension funds, and others in the United States and abroad doubled, from 74 to 180, according to philanthropic giving consultancy Arabella Advisors.

One of the higher profile education institution divestments came in May, when Stanford University said it will no longer use any of its $18.7 billion endowment to invest in coal mining companies.

While some smaller liberal colleges have made divestment announcements, some larger institutions have been reluctant.

The University of California voted last week to maintain its investments in fossil fuels, frustrating a student-led effort to divest its portfolio in oil, natural gas and coal.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-Apartheid figure who has been a strong voice on the need for economic divestments, will add to Monday's announcements in a recorded video announcement in which he will call for a freeze on all new fossil fuel exploration.

"We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow," he said.

(story refiled to widen distribution, and fix spelling of "heir" in fourth paragraph)

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Michael Perry and Bill Trott)

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TV dwells on disaster in covering climate science : study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 23 Sep 14;

The review of coverage by leading television news shows in Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, Germany and India found that they most often framed reports about the science of global warming in terms of crisis.

The report, by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, said disaster scenarios were played up over themes of scientific uncertainty, risks of global warming or opportunities for solving the problems.

"For television, which is driven by pictures and the need for strong, engaging narratives in a short space of time, disaster-type approaches are going to be very attractive," author James Painter told Reuters.

Some scientists say the media focus on disaster may warp public understanding of climate change and complicate decision-making on effective solutions. A Yale University study in July found that only one in 10 Americans understand that more than 90 percent of scientists blame man-made emissions, rather than natural variations in climate, for causing global warming.

Television news is often the most trusted media. The news bulletins in the Reuters study, including the BBC in Britain, CCTV-1 in China and Jornal Nacional in Brazil, reach a combined daily average audience of about 50 million people.

The study examined reporting of three U.N. reports on climate change in the past year that included the finding that it is least 95 percent probable that human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950.

Scientists who wrote the reports focused more on how to manage risks of global warming than on disaster, Painter said. In a 32-page summary for one of the reports about the impacts of climate change, for instance, the word "disaster" occurs 14 times and "risk" 231 times.

Other research indicates that viewers can feel helpless when presented with impending catastrophe, Painter said.

"Emphasizing more hopeful messages, such as the opportunities of low-carbon development, is also seen by some scholars as more 'helpful' for personal engagement from some sectors than a narrative of catastrophe or disaster," it said.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Climate Change Is 'Single Biggest Risk' to Global Economy

Tanya Lewis Yahoo News 24 Sep 14;

NEW YORK — Addressing climate change is not only crucial for preserving the environment, it also makes good economic sense, some politicians and business leaders say.

Governments must set policies to curb carbon emissions, and companies should develop "green" technology and sustainable business practices, a panel of experts said here yesterday (Sept. 22) at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Former president Bill Clinton founded CGI in 2005 to bring together global leaders to find and implement solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

"Climate change poses not just a massive risk to the environment, it's the single biggest risk to the global economy today," said Henry Paulson Jr., former U.S. Treasury secretary and the current chairman of The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. Paulson was one of the featured panelists. [6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change]

And action has to start with governments, said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, another of the panelists. "There is no reason to think confronting climate challenge is not good economics," Thorning-Schmidt said. Green technology "is not only good for the climate, it's also good for jobs," she added.

Denmark has succeeded in tackling carbon dioxide emissions without sacrificing economic growth. This balance has been achieved, the prime minister said, by setting a target for sustainability, and creating a stable, long-term political framework. Once there's that framework, companies will start investing in green technology, she said.

One example of how this can work is the Swedish furniture giant IKEA, which is already taking steps to make its business greener. "We would like to grow business within the limits of the planet," said Peter Agnefjäll, president of IKEA, and a panelist.

IKEA has committed to sourcing its cotton responsibly. The company also plans to obtain 100 percent of its wood from better sources, and this week it announced that 100 percent of its plastic would be from recycled or renewable materials, Agnefjäll said.

The company's research shows that customers would like products to be produced in a sustainable way, but they're not prepared to compromise on appearance or cost, Agnefjäll said. Still, investing in greener practices is paying off, he said.

And it's not just businesses that stand to benefit from protecting the climate — citizens will see improvements in their daily lives when they can enjoy clean air and water, Thorning-Schmidt said.

But much of the political action needs to be at the city — not the national — level. After all, cities account for more than 70 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, experts say.

To address these concerns, the mayors of three major U.S. cities pledged a commitment yesterday to developing plans and programs to address climate change at the local level.

Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor Annise Parker of Houston and Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia announced their commitment to the newly launched Mayor's National Climate Change Action Agenda, a plan to curb emissions in cities and promote sustainability. The mayors are all members of President Obama's climate task force.

As part of the commitment, each city will develop specific goals for reducing greenhouse gases, design ways to measure these goals and come up with initiatives to implement them, Garcetti said in a news briefing yesterday.

The CGI meeting comes on the heels of the People's Climate March, a 300,000-person demonstration that flooded the streets of Manhattan Sunday (Sept. 21), in advance of the UN Climate Summit, which is taking place today at the United Nations headquarters.

"It really feels like a moment of action on climate change," Garcetti said, and "cities can indeed move the world forward."

U.N. puts spotlight on climate change
Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 24 Sep 14;

U.N. puts spotlight on climate change Photo: Mike Segar
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is applauded at the opening ceremony during the Climate Summit in the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 23, 2014.
Photo: Mike Segar

With crises from Islamic State to Ebola competing for attention, the United Nations on Tuesday will zero in on climate change, giving leaders from 125 countries a platform to explain how they plan to address the issue.

A huge march to call for international action on climate change, which brought as many as 400,000 people to the streets of New York on Sunday, set the tone for the summit spearheaded by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The private sector also helped create a buzz around the summit, with corporate chief executives like Apple's Tim Cook and Ikea's [IKEA.UL] Peter Agnefjäll declaring a variety of voluntary measures to reduce their carbon emissions.

Among the most highly anticipated speakers on Tuesday will be U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has sought to make U.S. leadership on climate change a legacy goal.

The White House announced on Tuesday that Obama would issue an executive order to require federal agencies to ensure their international development programs and investments are designed to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Secretary of State John Kerry hinted on Monday at what else Obama is expected to highlight when he takes the podium.

"Over the past five years, the United States has actually done more to reduce the threat of climate change domestically and with the help of our international partners than in all of the 20 years before that," he said.

He added the United States was on track to meet its international pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 because of Obama's climate policies.

Leaders who will be absent from Tuesday's gathering include Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who represent the first and fourth biggest greenhouse gas polluters.


The summit is meant to add political momentum to a U.N. process to negotiate a climate-change agreement in Paris by 2015.

By holding the high-level gathering almost 16 months before the Paris deadline, Ban has ensured that climate change will be at the forefront of every leader's agenda, EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters in an interview.

"With all the outreach we need to do in this area, it is crucial that all the foreign ministries are taking this up," she said.

She said the fact that foreign ministers, including Kerry and France's Laurent Fabius, discussed climate deal negotiations on Sunday in a meeting of the world's 17 biggest emitting countries was a sign that the issue had become a policy priority.

But Hedegaard and Fabius highlighted what could be a roadblock to a Paris pact - agreement on the legal basis of the final deal.

U.S. negotiators have acknowledged that a deeply polarized Congress is unlikely to ratify a legally binding U.N. treaty.

"We have to have a legal agreement, otherwise it will be just words," Fabius said on Monday.

Ban said there was a greater sense of "anxiety" around the issue than at previous gatherings in New York in 2007 and Copenhagen in 2009.

On Monday, he summed up the risk of countries failing to cement a climate deal.

"If we cannot all swim together, we will sink," he said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

New approaches to food systems needed to cope with climate change
FAO Director-General addresses UN Climate Change Summit
FAO 23 Sep 14;

23 September 2014, New York - Overcoming climate change is central to achieving a sustainable future for the planet's growing population, and food security must lie at the heart of that effort, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said here today in a speech at the UN Climate Summit.

"We cannot call development sustainable while hunger still robs over 800 million people of the opportunity to lead a decent life," he said, referencing the latest UN report on world hunger, released last week, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.

The report found that while the number of people who experience chronic hunger was reduced by 100 million over the past decade, today 805 million people still go without enough to eat on a regular basis.

While in the past, efforts to feed the world focused on boosting agricultural output to produce more food, today's challenges – including climate change – demand a new approach, Graziano da Silva said.

"We need to shift to more sustainable food systems – food systems that produce more, with less environmental damage – food systems that promote sustainable consumption, since nowadays we waste or lose one third to half of what we produce, " he said.

Noting that hunger persists despite the fact that the planet produces enough food to feed all of humanity, Graziano da Silva said: "Producing enough food for all is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for food security."

"People are not hungry because food is not available, but because they do not have access to it," he added.

Climate change has a direct bearing both on agricultural production and on people's ability to access food, the FAO chief said – and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with these challenges.

"FAO welcomes the commitments being made to address climate change. FAO can support them as part of our capacity-building projects at country level.

"We are ready to work with you to successfully address the impacts of climate change on food security. This is a necessary step to the hunger free world and sustainable future we want," he added.

Multiple options for adapting

"There are many alternatives to address climate change and ensure sustainable food security," Graziano da Silva said. "We need to keep all the doors open to face the adaptation needed to cope with the climate change and assure food for all in the near future."

One valuable approach, he noted, is what is known as "climate-smart agriculture" – adjusting farming practices to make them more adaptive and resilient to environmental pressures, while at the same time decreasing farming's own impacts on the environment.

Graziano da Silva welcomed the launch today at the UN Climate Summit of a new Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture, a broad coalition of stakeholders, including governments; farmers and food producers, processors and sellers; scientific and educational organizations; civil society actors; multilateral and international agencies and the private sector.

The Alliance will work together to promote sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and incomes; build greater resilience of food systems and farming livelihoods; and achieve reductions or removals of greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture.

Graziano da Silva also highlighted "agro-ecology" as a promising approach to moving food production onto a more sustainable path.

The approach uses ecological theory to study and manage agricultural systems in order to make them both more productive and better at conserving natural resources.

Last week, FAO hosted a major event on the approach at its Rome headquarters, where participants called for UN-wide initiative on agro-ecology in order to help sustainably promote food security, address climate change, and build resilience.

"There are many paths to food security and sustainable development. Governments need to choose the solutions that best respond to their specific needs," Graziano da Silva said.

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