Best of our wild blogs: 14 Nov 14

Creature of the Month – Green Crested Lizard
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

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IPCC Chairman urges Singapore to do more to address climate change

Channel NewsAsia 13 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: In a joint statement on Thursday (Nov 13), the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) said the Singapore scientific community has undertaken various studies and initiatives to improve the understanding of climate change and its impact on Singapore.

For example, Singapore's first National Climate Change study involved scientists and experts from the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute and the Institute of High Performance Computing of A*STAR.

The statement was a response to comments made by Rajendra Pachauri, the chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the UN.

In an exclusive interview with 938LIVE, Dr Pachauri had said he would like to see a much stronger involvement by Singapore. "Singapore is also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and I would like to see a much stronger involvement of the scientific community over there in this decision-making."

Dr Pachauri also spoke of the need for outreach efforts by Singapore, where "the findings of the report are sent out and received all over the world".

"In that regard, I think Singapore has a stake in ensuring that there is global action on climate change. I would have been very happy if some support was provided to the IPCC for carrying out this outreach exercise," he said.

MEWR and NCCS said the Government is also taking steps to strengthen Singapore's capabilities on climate science. Last year, the Centre for Climate Research Singapore was established. It is the first research centre in the world dedicated to the study of tropical weather and climate of the region.

In tandem, a Climate Science Experts Network was set up to undertake joint educational and research efforts with local universities and research institutes. Some Singapore-based scientists and experts were also involved in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report as authors and reviewers.

MEWR and NCCS pointed to the collaboration between Singapore and the IPCC, which resulted in a regional outreach event in July last year to raise awareness of the main conclusions of the report and to promote dialogue among the stakeholders on the implications of the report.

The agencies added that Singapore will continue to support IPCC in its endeavour to provide a clear and up-to-date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. Singapore also welcomes the IPCC to form partnerships with local research institutions and non-governmental organisations to explore avenues for collaborations.

- 938LIVE/xy

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Sembawang Shopping Centre flooded

Janice Lim Channel NewsAsia 13 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Heavy rain fell over many parts of Singapore on Thursday (Nov 13) afternoon, causing flash floods in several areas, including Yishun Avenue 2 and Avenue 5, Macpherson Road, Lorong Ong Lye and Lorong Gambir. National water agency PUB said the floods subsided in less than half an hour.

There was also mild flooding at Sembawang Shopping Centre. The mall's Assistant Centre Manager, Mr Adrian Lai, said in a statement that the heavy rainfall over a short period of time caused rainwater to overflow from a floor trap in a service area on Level 1 of the mall.

"This floor trap helps channel rainwater collected in the Splash Park on Level 3 of our mall to the external drainage, and could not cope with the excess rainwater," he said.

Mr Lai added that mall security noticed an overflow of water measuring less than one centimetre at about 4.50pm. "We immediately redirected shoppers away from the affected areas, mobilised our staff to mop up the floor and put dryers in the common areas," he said. The mall resumed normal operations at 6:30pm, after it was cleaned up.

Daiso, which was just beside the service area, was worst-hit. Security officer, Mdm Kwong Ai Gek said the store was flooded when she arrived at 4.50pm.

Ms Joanne Tan, who is in charge of the Esprit outlet nearby, said floodwaters entered the shop around 5pm. By 6.30pm, much of the area was cleaned and none of Esprit's goods were affected.

B&B Furnishing Centre, which is located just beside Daiso saw its carpets soaked. The mall's management has provided them a blow dryer.

Mr Tan sent in video of the clean-up. "When the rain started, water started flowing in. I was shopping and was wondering: Why is there so much water?" he said.

He said the flood water subsided by 6pm.

Several Facebook users sent Channel NewsAsia photos of fallen trees in northern Singapore.

Muhd Easera shared pictures of a large tree that blocked a bus.

Tan Wei Yu sent photographs of an uprooted tree near a playground at Woodlands Drive 40.

Kelvin Yanto Ong spied a fallen tree at Woodlands Circle as well.

A Meteorological Service Singapore spokesman said the highest rainfall in Singapore as of 6pm on Thursday was recorded in the Yishun area, at 92.4mm.

The highest daily rainfall total recorded this month was last Saturday, with 160.8mm of rain at Ulu Pandan.

Heavy rainfall leads to flash floods in several areas
Straits Times 13 Nov 14;

PUB followed up with a series of tweets about more flash floods at MacPherson/Harvey Roads (pictured) as well as Lorongs Ong Lye and Gambir. -- PHOTO: PUB SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - The heavy rainfall this afternoon has resulted in flash floods in various areas across the island.

The Land Transport Authority tweeted about a flash flood at Yishun Ave 5 at about 5pm. PUB followed up with a series of tweets about more flash floods at MacPherson/Harvey Roads as well as Lorongs Ong Lye and Gambir.

Within 20 minutes the flash floods had subsided at the latter locations. But PUB's tweets at 5.18pm warned of high flood risk at Ang Mo Kio Ave 3/Mayflower Avenue.

- See more at:

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Jakarta asks Singapore to help develop infrastructure

The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network AsiaOne 13 Nov 14;

The Jakarta administration has asked Singapore to help provide technical assistance for big infrastructure projects like low-cost apartments and liquid-waste management.

Acting governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said after receiving a Singaporean business delegation accompanied by Singapore's Ambassador to Indonesia, Anil Kumar Nayar, at City Hall on Wednesday that the city needed technical assistance from countries like Singapore, a city-state that is a development success story.

"Singapore has advanced in many fields, including land reclamation. We can get much knowledge from them," he said.

The city is to carry out a giant waterfront city project dubbed the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) that includes land reclamation and construction of 17 artificial islets.

Ahok said after the meeting that the Singaporean business delegation would come again in the near future with more detailed proposals. "They will examine what kind of technical assistance they can provide," he said.

"We have also sent our officials to Singapore several times to learn how to manage big infrastructure projects," he said.

On Tuesday, Ahok also received a US delegation at his office and asked that country for help to develop LNG-fueled power stations and electric vehicles in the capital.

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‘Autumn’ in Singapore at East Coast Park

Today Online 13 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — We might not have the four seasons in Singapore, but it certainly looks like autumn in parts of East Coast Park.

A post on the National Parks Board (NParks) Facebook page earlier today (Nov 13) shared some images of trees covered in red and yellow leaves, reminiscent of autumnal trees in the northern hemisphere.

The Ketapang, or Sea Almond trees, are located at Area D, and in the post NParks said that “the leaves might shed soon”, just like trees in the autumn time.

The NParks added that these coastal trees native to Singapore, have glossy leaves that turn from dark red to yellow before shedding. After shedding, the leaves grow back, forming a purplish foliage.

With an edible fruit pulp and a kernel that tastes similar to almonds, hence the name Sea Almond, it’ll be hard to miss these trees if you happen to be in the area.

NParks is also encouraging Singaporeans to share their photos with the hashtag, #sgautumn.

Shedding trees make it look like autumn in Singapore
Phoebe Low The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Nov 14;

For the past few weeks, Singaporeans have been enjoying the beauty of autumn in the tropical country.

The sudden increase in rainfall recently caused the leaves of the Sea Almond Tree (Terminalia catappa) and the Malayan Crape Myrtle Tree (Lagerstroemia floribunda) in certain parts of the island to turn red and yellow, resulting in autumn-like scenery, much like what you see in countries with four seasons.

The beautiful foliage has been spotted along Everton Road, North Buona Vista Road, in the vicinity of the Singapore General Hospital and at East Coast Park.

WildSingapore, an online local nature guide, attributes the change to the trees shedding their leaves, which causes them to turn red or yellow. This happens twice a year.

While the colour change is rare among trees in the tropics, the monsoon period this month has led to cooler temperatures that speed up the shedding process.

Last week, the National Parks Board (NParks) posted on its Facebook page pictures of trees covered in red and yellow leaves at East Coast Park.

It has also asked Singaporeans to share images of their sightings on its Facebook page or Instagram feed @nparksbuzz using the hashtag #sgautumn.

And many people have done so, with most noting the beautiful transformation to be most prominent at East Coast Park.

Filipina Yvonne Zafara, 51, who has been visiting the park daily with her family during her week-long vacation here, says: "I think the red leaves are very nice even with the heavy rain in the past few days. I don't see this often in the Philippines. I may come back to Singapore again just to see them."

Housewife Lau Wai Kuen, 46, who goes to East Coast Park weekly with her family, says she has not seen the trees yet, but will check them out.

"The red leaves will make it feel like it's autumn and it's quite exciting. It will be a nice feeling since it's something different."

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Malaysia to ink new MoU with Indonesia to tackle haze

MARTIN CARVALHO The Star 13 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indonesia to implement measures to curb peat soil fires that have contributed to trans-border haze.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit said the initiative was aimed at assisting the country’s Indonesian counterparts in Riau, Sumatra in preventing peat fire outbreaks during the annual dry season.

"The time frame under the present MoU will end this year and we will be signing a new agreement soon.

"I will personally travel to Sumatra for the purpose and also to evaluate peat conditions there," he said in answer to a question by Dr Michael Jayekumar Devaraj (PSM-Sungai Siput) in the Dewan Rakyat, Thursday.

Dawos said that outbreaks of peat soil fires, particularly in the Riau province, were common during the dry spell owing to ground surface water loss.

He said that extensive peat soil studies done in Sarawak three years ago would also provided Indonesia with better know-how on dealing with the problem more effectively.

"As a preventive measure, we have helped authorities in Riau to build 10 check dams aimed at maintain ground surface water for peat soil," he added.

He said there are plans to assist Indonesia in tackling the haze problem under the proposed MoU.

Earlier this year, fires razed some 21,000ha of dried peat land swamps in Riau with 1,243 hot spots detected at the height of the fires on March 2.

MoU with Indonesia on peat fires to be renewed

MALAYSIA is set to renew a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indonesia soon to enforce measures to curb peat soil fires that contribute to trans-border haze.

“The timeframe under the present MoU will end this year and we will be signing a new agreement soon,” Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit said.

He said there were plans to help Indonesia tackle the haze problem under the coming MoU.

“I will travel to Sumatra for this purpose and also to evaluate peat conditions there,” he said when questioned by Dr Michael Jayekumar Devaraj (PSM-Sungai Siput).

He said outbreaks of peat soil fires, particularly in the Riau province, were common during the dry spell due to ground surface water loss.

He added that extensive peat soil studies done in Sarawak three years ago would provide Indonesia with better know-how in dealing more effectively with the problem.

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Malaysia: RM1mil in losses from mini tornadoes in Kedah

OH CHIN ENG The Star 14 Nov 14;

ALOR SETAR: The mini tornadoes that occurred in Kedah recently have damaged more than 100 properties, causing losses of around RM1mil.

The state received reports of four such twisters since the first one took shape in Pendang on Oct 14, said Kedah state executive councillor Datuk Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah.

“The damaged homes have been surveyed, and repair works would resume as soon as possible,” he told reporters during a visit to Kampung Nonang in Jalan Batas Paip here yesterday.

The most recent mini tornado hit Kedah on Wednesday.

It destroyed more than 20 premises, carried a car away, ripped off a goat pen and caused fear among residents. There were no fatalities.

Housewife Che Tom Ahmad, 55, whose house was damaged the most, said she was “emotionally disturbed”.

“I couldn’t sleep because I will recall that scary moment on Wednesday every time I close my eyes,” she said.

“I shake with fear whenever I hear even a gust of wind,” said Che Tom.

“And, I pray hard that the tornado would not happen again.”

The state government promised to provide counselling to the traumatised villagers, said another state exco, Datuk Suraya Yaacob.

“Doctors from the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital psychiatric department will be speaking to the villagers,” she added.

This is the first time the department is being roped in to assist in a disaster, she said.

“I will ensure that the students who are sitting for their SPM will not be stressed more than they already are.”

The big clean-up in Kajang – again
The Star 14 nov 14;

KAJANG: Barely two months after a flash flood hit parts of the town centre, shop owners and traders around Pasar Besar Kajang are once again counting their losses.

Another round of floods struck Jalan Haroun on Wednesday.

“Water rose slowly but did not enter the shop,” said salesman Nordin Ahmad, 32, who works in a textile shop.

“We are used to this. It happens frequently.

“In fact, we continued selling carpets and resumed our business two hours after the waters subsided.

“The authorities cleared mud from the road within an hour, except at the Kajang wet market,” he said, adding that a river nearby overflowed onto the road in September.

Business owner Lee Kim Tuan, 67, said he spent about RM2,000 constructing a foot-high wall in front and at the back of his record shop that has been operating for more than 20 years.

“I built the barrier last year. I was afraid that the water would enter my shop,” he said.

“There are still many businesses that have not built such barriers, but I had no choice but to take the necessary precaution,” said Lee, adding that flood waters only reached the doorstep of his shop now.

Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) public relations head Kamarul Izlan Sulaiman said the flash flood occurred because the river overflowed its banks.

“A clean-up crew was on-site to clear up the rubbish, silt and mud,” he said, adding that everything was in order by midnight.

Kamarul said the council was working with the Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Depart­ment for a long-term solution, including upgrading works at Sungai Jelok.

“We expect the project to help ease the heavy flow, and hope­fully reduce flash floods in the area.”

Kamarul said that for the time being, MPKj would step up on the cleaning of drainage to ensure no blockages occurred.

“We appeal to the people not to throw rubbish irresponsibly.

“It is a contributing factor to the flash floods,” he said.

Orange level flood warning at few districts in Terengganu
ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 13 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: State Security Council's portal have issued an orange level warning that heavy rains will be prolonged in six districts excluding Kemaman, from today until Saturday.

As at 4pm today, the portal have stated that several main rivers in the state were higher than the normal level and they are Sungai Besut in Jambatan Keruak is at 28.89m compared to normal level at 28.50m, while the danger level is at 35m.

Sungai Besut in Kampung La was recorded 0.41m higher than a normal level that is 14m while danger level at 19.20m.

In Setiu, Sungai Setiu in Kampung Besut is 15.04m compared to normal level at 13.30m and danger level is 18.40m.

Sungai Chalok in Jambatan Chalok is 6.50m compared to normal level at 5m and danger level at 9m.

Sungai Nerus in Kampung Langkap is 0.10m's higher than a normal level at 17m while the danger level is 21.50m.

The portal said that Sungai Dungun in Jamatna Pasir Raja is 34.48m compared to normal level at 34 while danger level is 37.50m.

The same river in Kuala Jengai is 0.89m's higher from the normal level of 14m, while danger level at 21m.

In Kemaman, Sungai Cherul at Jambatan Banho is 10.56m compared to 10m at normal level and 19m at danger level.

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Malaysia: ‘It will take RM1 billion to save Cameron Highlands’

New Straits Times 14 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Saving Cameron Highlands will take at least a whopping RM1 billion.

Former Cameron Highlands member of parliament Datuk S.K. Devamany said the amount was needed to seize the vast plots of land which were being illegally cleared as well as for reforestation.

“Urgent rehabilitation is needed to save Cameron Highlands. Reorganising land use and ownership, reforestation and enforcement need a long-term action plan.

“It is not going to be easy but there is (still) hope if the Federal and state governments are committed to the cause,” he told the New Straits Times here yesterday.

Devamany, who was the MP between 2004 and May 2013, said his heart ached when he saw the massive destruction on the highlands.

“All the aerial photos taken by helicopters by the numerous agencies are so vivid.

“Back then (in parliament), I constantly lamented that Cameron Highlands was being raped repeatedly... look what has become of it now,” said the current Perak State Legislative Assembly Speaker, who until today, remains passionate about the subject.

During his tenure, Devamany had also conducted numerous researches on the impact of development on the Orang Asli community.

Besides the huge allocation,
Devamany proposed that a new act be passed in parliament for preservation of the highlands.

He said under a new act, special powers for land management
and enforcement must be enacted within Federal laws, adding that Federal intervention was vital at this stage.

“At present, land management and enforcement for the highlands is very much a state affair and the system is totally abused. There are too few officers enforcing a mountain of that magnitude. Corruption is rampant. There are a few ‘mafias’ controlling the highlands.

“During my tenure, (the Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands, or Reach, and I) had proposed for Federal powers for protection, preservation and enforcement.”

Cameron Highlands generates RM2 billion per annum. Some 30,000 tourists visit the highlands a week.

The NST reported yesterday that Cameron Highlands was headed for a catastrophe “of an unimaginable scale” in five to 10 years if illegal land clearing continued unabated.

It is estimated that about 6,000ha of land in Cameron Highlands were encroached by farmers for illegal land clearing.

Last Wednesday’s mud floods and landslides, which claimed five lives and injured four others, ripped through Bertam Valley, Ringlet and Kuala Terla.

Excessive land-clearing activities and unplanned development on the highlands have been blamed for the incident. Reporting by Audrey Dermawan

‘Yellow letters’ bane of Camerons

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: AS experts warn of the end of Cameron Highlands, authorities who could reverse the travesties in the hills have made a desperate cry for help.

Arguing their case against accusations that they had been closing one eye as the highlands continued to be ravaged by illegal land clearing, these law enforcers, who said they would have discharged their duties more effectively if they were allowed, want the cans of worms of the administration in Cameron Highlands to be ripped wide open.

They are willing to go to great lengths to expose the deeply entrenched multi-level corruption and abuse of power that had contributed to the extensive damage.

For starters, they made available to the New Straits Times an example of an all-powerful document, one of the root causes of environmental problems besieging the highlands.

This document is widely known among not only those in power but those tasked to execute it as surat kuning.

Letters like these are the very bane of enforcers, who had on many occasions, had them shoved in their faces, ultimately forcing them to authorise the land to be “legally” ravaged.

Such letters, which always come without a letterhead, would be addressed to the district officer (DO).

The copy given to the NST showed the sender, allegedly a senior official in the Pahang palace, specifying the exact tract of government land in Kampung Raja he had wanted the Cameron Highlands district office to approve for development.

Kampung Raja was one of the three main areas in Cameron Highlands that was hit by mudslides on Nov 5. It was also near this area that a 13-year-old died on that ill-fated night.

The official, with lineage to the Pahang royal house, said in the letter, “the administration had received an appeal from an applicant to develop a 0.277ha of land and that the businessman would build 16 units of storage (for produce) and that the latter had submitted his application for the purpose.

“... Your (the district officer’s) co-operation and kind assistance in giving this request special consideration is sought and duly approved,” he said before signing off with his royal titles.

The NST has learnt that the issuance of new Temporary Occupation Licences had been frozen since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Pahang palace through an official, said they would not comment on the Cameron Highlands issue and that they would leave it to the state government to handle.

A former DO who served in the highlands “confessed” that all letters pertaining to land matters were kept in a “confidential file” in the DO’s office.

“Only the DO and his secretary have access to the documents,” he said, adding only the DO had the authority to approve such letters.

Another former Cameron Highlands DO said not all surat kuning he received during his tenure in the highlands were from the palace.

“When I receive them, I will check their authenticity with my connections in the palace, including the secretary.

“I verify who exactly the letters were from. However, I don’t usually entertain such letters and had never received any threats for sitting on them,” he said, adding that other district officers had also received these surat kuning.

Meanwhile, authorities looking at plugging the problem of land clearing in the highlands said many farmers considered the land that they had been cultivating as their “god-given right”.

“Say, for instance, the father was given a hectare. When the son joins the business, they will illegally develop the surrounding land areas, ultimately expanding their farms.

“That is why we are seeing farms that cover buffer zones and those that even dip into rivers.

“These irresponsible and greedy parties do everything they can to minimise their costs to rake in high profits. You see them dumping farm waste into the river,” one exasperated officer said.

Meanwhile, those probing the shenanigans going on in Cameron Highlands said there were only a handful of individuals said to have links with the palace that had been exerting their so-called power.

“The sultan has nothing to do with this... In many cases, the good name of the palace is dropped in the hopes authorities would keep a safe distance out of fear or respect,” one source said.

Another set of sources said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had, since 14 years ago, been pushing for various enforcement agencies and local councils to stop illegal land clearing in the highlands.

“They were told to do joint operations, share logistics and intelligence information, and work with the graft busters.

“They did carry out enforcement but it was short-lived and before you knew it, not only were these farmers back in business, they were more aggressive.

“They have brought in more illegal workers into their farms to push up production.

“The problems they have created are manifested in the kind of carnage we are seeing in Cameron Highlands,” they said.

The NST was told that the MACC had led more than 100 joint operations since 2000.

While the law enforcers entrusted with preserving the highlands cited “interference” for their inaction, to the MACC, the enforcers were not serious in arresting the problem.

“Their hands are not entirely tied. The authorities can enforce the law if they wanted to. So what if they are transferred for going against the grain? If everyone of them stood their ground, how many transfers can be forced?

“There are just too few of the good ones but lots of bad apples who are in cahoots with these greedy farmers.

“What have they done in the past 14 years? Look at the farms mushrooming on steep hills and river reserves, even first-timers to the pristine highlands will know these are illegal sites. What are they doing?” the sources asked.

Their assessment is supposedly shared by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (he also oversees the National Security Council), who was reportedly miffed by the excuses that the law enforcers gave, that they were forced to bow to certain quarters and feared repercussions, including by syndicates.

An enforcement officer who attended a meeting on the Cameron Highlands issue in Putrajaya last week spoke of how Shahidan
sarcastically told a group of media personnel to feel free to bring backhoes to Cameron Highlands as the law enforcers there were “scaredy-cats”.

“The lax enforcement has resulted in farmers to be more daring in opening up larger, newer sites and this has resulted in dwindling forest reserves in the highlands,” said the sources.

“Weak enforcement had made them bolder in unleashing their illegal workers to carry out illegal farming, especially during the weekends and public holidays.

“You know that they operate on these days ... Yet, you don’t rotate your roster to ensure there is no room for this to happen,” they said.

The sources pointed out one fact — that some of the agencies involved were even equipped with the right equipment, including satellite monitoring systems, for effective enforcement.

“They must have detected illegally opened areas that are bald and barren, and could have done something about it... But they choose not to.”

The highlands have seen recurring disasters over the years with the latest on Nov 5, where five perished in landslides.

An operation in the highlands involving all relevant agencies, including the armed forces, is ongoing.

Now, in its sixth day, the main focus appears to be the hunt for illegal immigrants.

Premises where they had been employed have remained closed, with many of them believed to
be hiding in the surrounding jungles.

“For as long as the operations are going on, they will not come out. This is the first time in my 10 years here that I am seeing a major operation against illegal foreign workers,” said one of the law enforcers.

“I strongly hope by the time the enforcers leave this place the foreign workers won’t be back.” Additional Reporting by Tharanya Arumugam

Development plan ignored
New Straits Times 15 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: AUTHORITIES believe there are no less than 6,000 hectares of illegally-cleared land here, three times more than stated under a comprehensive development plan for the highlands issued in 2003.

The plan had promised sustainable use of land, allowing agricultural activities to be carried out under a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL).

The huge extent of illegal clearing was blamed on licence holders who blatantly expand their farms beyond the permitted acreage. The authorities and environmentalists are talking about ravaged hills that had expanded beyond the size of Putrajaya. They include forest reserves.

“Imagine the football pitch in Bukit Jalil Stadium, then imagine 8.4 million of them put together. That is the size of the land encroached on by greedy farmers in the highlands. It is hard to imagine,” said an official involved in investigating the root causes of the environmental problems besieging the highlands.

He, like many others the New Straits Times had engaged in probing into the goings-on in the administration of the highlands, was not sure if the development plan, which was supposed to last until next year, had even been observed.

Malaysian Institute of Integrity president Datuk Dr Mohd Tap Salleh agreed with the NST that if there was going to be any seriousness in arresting the on-going encroachment problem in the highlands, a thorough audit of the highlands’ administration, including the issuance of farming permits, must be quickly carried out.

“Action must be taken against officers who issued TOLs on prohibited areas, regardless of whether they did so under duress or not. There is the 2003-2015 Cameron Highlands Local Plan, so those checking on what has been going on can refer to it to see how TOLs are given,” Tap said.

The NST yesterday front-paged an expose on interference in the administration of the highlands by influential figures, including those using the Pahang palace’s name to push recommendations for land development.

It revealed a highly-confidential document known in the highlands’ business circle as a surat kuning. The NST yesterday tried to get palace officials to comment but they refused.

However, in the evening, Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, issued a statement to the NST. He agreed with the NST’s suggestion that the state should have an auditing system to cross-check the development of land against what was set in the highlands’ development plan.

“We have the local plans in every district council, in which areas of land categories used are identified and marked. All development programmes need to tally with these plans. Perhaps with the auditing system as suggested, we can improve further.”

He, however, denied that the surat kuning from palace officials was among the root causes of problems in Cameron Highlands.

“This is not true and it’s not fair to the officials. It’s normal for many applicants to get testimonials and recommendations from whom they think can lend support to their applications. The palace officials are merely doing their duty just like a state assemblyman or penghulu (village headmen).

“Testimonials and recommendations from all, including palace officials, are looked into but in the end, the state authorities will decide based on merit,” Adnan said, adding that as menteri besar, he would ensure that all decisions made were fair.

He blamed the influx of illegal foreign workers here as the root cause of destruction as illegal farming would become rampant with a massive presence of these workers.

“Illegal cultivation has become rampant due to the availability of cheap foreign labour. The state has no means to curb this widespread illegal cultivation as it lacks the manpower and facilities to do it,” he said, adding that he welcomed fair reporting, saying it was the state government’s policy to be open and transparent.

“I welcome constructive criticism that can help the state improve and enhance the efficiency of its government machinery.”

However, Adnan found it hard to believe claims that there were 30,000 illegal immigrants here, saying that the number had been “excessively bloated” as operations to nab them had so far only netted 190.

Based on Immigration Department records, he said there were 11,016 legal immigrants here.

The NST was told by enforcers that they believed many illegal immigrants had gone into hiding in the surrounding jungles, waiting for the crackdown against them to wind down.

Meanwhile, the cabinet yesterday agreed to form a joint committee to oversee the implementation of short- and long-term rehabilitation plans for Cameron Highlands.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the committee would be jointly chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Adnan.

“The committee will be responsible for preparing an action plan to rehabilitate the highlands,” said Najib after opening the 2014 Umno Johor Convention in Johor Baru.

The NST had, in its report, also quoted experts as saying that the highlands here was headed for a catastrophe “of an unimaginable scale” in five to 10 years time if illegal land clearing continues unabated.

Environmental group Permata Greenland said the Pahang government must act decisively in revoking TOLs issued to farmers who breached their licence conditions, including those going beyond the permitted acreage in cultivating their land.

“They don’t respect the government’s terms and conditions, and are ungrateful and greedy. The damage they cause will take years to reverse,” said its deputy president, Dr Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir.

She added that the land must then be swiftly rehabilitated and reforestation works be carried out.

The extensive environmental damage to the highlands had been blamed for the carnage seen in recent years. The latest, on Nov 5, claimed five lives and injured four others when mudslides ripped through Bertam Valley, Ringlet and Kuala Terla.

An audit by the Auditor-General carried out two years ago showed that 991.4ha of areas bordering TOL lands had been illegally encroached. This acreage audited involved just three areas — Ulu Tenom, Ringlet and Tanah Rata.

Auditors had also concluded then that the overall management of highland development activities and its impact to the environment were “less than satisfactory” due to the lack of proper preservation of hill slopes, which had led to serious siltation in Tasik Ringlet.

It also mentioned farms that encroached into forest reserves in the area. The size of Cameron Highlands is 77,100ha, of which 6,000ha of it had been cleared illegally. The economy here generates about RM2 billion per annum. Some 30,000 tourists visit the highlands in a week.

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Malaysia: Safeguarding the future of nature and people in the Coral Triangle through marine protection

WWF-Malaysia 13 Nov 14;

Sydney, Australia – Coral Triangle countries are helping to avoid a natural and humanitarian toll in the Indo Pacific by conserving ocean habitats that are critical for the food security and livelihoods of more than a hundred million people, delegates at the World Parks Congress will hear today.

The Coral Triangle is a 6 million-km2 marine area that directly sustains and protects more than 120 million people in coastal communities across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste.

“As a source of food, income, and protection from severe weather events, the ongoing health of the Coral Triangle’s marine ecosystems is critical,” said Ms Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

“We applaud the leadership of Coral Triangle countries in taking on the responsibility of conserving and managing the region’s marine resources for the benefit of the people that depend on them,” added Ms Ishii.

Ms Ishii will be addressing a Coral Triangle side event at the World Parks Congress today, together with the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, who will be speaking on behalf of the development partners to the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), an initiative that includes all six Coral Triangle nations.

Development partners to the CTI-CFF include the US and Australian governments, the Asian Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and the Coral Triangle Center.

“Since it came together in 2009 to form the CTI-CFF, the six Coral Triangle countries and partners have collectively demonstrated notable achievements in the sustainable management of critical coastal and marine ecosystems essential to support food security and livelihoods in the Coral Triangle,” said Prof. Ir. R. Sjarief Widjaja, Chairman of CTI-CFF Interim Regional Secretariat, hosted by the Government of Indonesia.

“We are delighted that the partners remain committed in their support and cooperation to secure the large-scale changes required to halt and reverse the threats facing this precious region.

“The CTI-CFF is vigorously pursuing institutional strengthening measures by establishing a permanent secretariat and encouraging neighboring countries and partners to join this multi-stakeholder partnership to help move positive outcomes forward in an unprecedented scale,” added Prof. Widjaja.

The Coral Triangle is part of an area that has emerged as one of the planet’s economic hubs. Fast population and economic growth have fuelled unsustainable coastal development and boosted demand for expensive marine resources such as tuna, shark fin, turtle products, and live reef fish.

In addition, climate change could see coral reefs disappear from the Coral Triangle by the end of the century and the ability of the region’s coastal environments to feed people could decline by up to 80 per cent.[1]

The CTI-CFF this year launched a plan to establish a system of marine protected areas in the Coral Triangle that will safeguard both people and nature as the threats of climate change, overfishing, destructive fishing, and pollution increase.

“Establishing a system of marine reserves in the Coral Triangle that are connected, resilient, and sustainably financed is one of the main goals of our work,” said Mundita Lim, who leads the CTI-CFF’s technical working group on marine protected areas.

Ms Lim is also the Head of Secretariat of the Philippines’ National CTI Coordinating Committee, and is Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines.

“These marine protected areas are designed in such a way that they will generate significant income, livelihoods, and food security benefits for our coastal communities, as well as conserve the region’s rich biological diversity,” she said.

The Initiative reaches out to varied constituencies in the region such as fishers, businesses, local governments, women leaders, and scientists who are pivotal in planning and managing marine and coastal resources effectively.

The Malaysian government has made a commitment to gazette close to a million hectares of ocean in the state of Sabah by 2015 and will showcase the progress of its efforts at the World Parks Congress.

Tun Mustapha Park is an important marine area in the Coral Triangle threatened by overfishing, destructive fishing, and pollution. This site’s rich marine biodiversity creates productive fishing grounds that support more than 80,000 people in coastal and island communities in the area. Fishing is the economic driver of the area with approximately 100 tonnes of fish - valued at USD200,000 - caught each day.

“With the impending gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park, the Coral Triangle stands to gain yet another marine protected area, along with other flagship sites including the Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia, the Turtle Islands Park in Malaysia, and the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary and Tubbataha Reefs National Park in the Philippines,” Ms Lim said.

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More than a third of natural world heritage sites face 'significant threats'

Report says invasive species, tourism, poaching, dams and logging most pressing threats but climate change may eclipse all
Oliver Milman 13 Nov 14;

More than a third of the planet’s natural world heritage sites face significant threats such as invasive species, logging and poaching, and climate change is a looming menace to prized ecosystems, according to a major new assessment.

The first ever analysis of all 228 natural world heritage sites found that 21% have a good conservation outlook, with 42% deemed to be “good with some concerns”.

However, 29% have “significant concerns” and a further 8% are listed as “critical”, which means they are deemed to be “severely threatened” and require urgent attention to avoid their natural value being lost.

The IUCN World Heritage Outlook, released at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, found that 54% of world heritage sites are well managed, but 13% are seriously deficient in protecting species and landscapes.

The report cites invasive species, the impact of tourism, poaching, dams and logging as the most pressing threats, although climate change may soon eclipse all of these factors.

“In terms of current threats, the most pressing is invasive species but climate change is the most serious potential threat,” said Elena Osipova, world heritage monitoring officer at the IUCN. “We’ve already seen the impact of climate change and the problem is that climate change can increase the impact from other threats.”

Most of the 19 critically threatened world heritage sites are in Africa, including the Virunga national park, which contains around half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The Everglades national park in Florida is also on the critical list, mainly due to the area’s declining water quality, introduced pest species and vulnerability to climate change.

Three key Australian sites are listed as being a significant concern – the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and Queensland’s wet tropics. The declining state of the Great Barrier Reef has become a contentious political issue in Australia, with the government agreeing to a Unesco plea to stop dumping sediment in the ecosystem’s waters.

Machu Picchu in Peru, Tanzania’s Serengeti and the Sundarbans national park in India, home to an endangered population of tigers, are also considered to be of significant concern.

The best-ranked world heritage sites, with few threats, include Australia’s Lord Howe island, Mount Etna in Italy and the Dorset and east Devon coast in the UK.

Cyril Kormos, vice chair of the IUCN world commission on protected areas, said the assessment wasn’t intended to be political but should help countries manage world heritage sites better.

“This is something we all need to ensure the success of,” he said. “If we fail to protect the most valuable, iconic protected areas on the planet, we fail as a conservation community. “

A separate report unveiled at the World Parks Congress, a once-a-decade conservation event organised by the IUCN, found that the world is broadly on track to meet targets on the expansion of protected areas.

The United Nations Environment Program’s Protected Planet report found that 15.4% of the planet’s land and inland water areas and 3.4% of oceans are now formally protected. A total of 6.1m square kilometres has been placed under protection since 2010 – an area almost the size of Australia.

Targets agreed by more than 190 countries state that at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and 10% of its oceans must be protected by 2020.

The report states that while this target is likely to be met, other problems present themselves. Specifically, many protected areas are poorly managed, aren’t located in areas of important biodiversity and aren’t well connected, which means animals and plants can’t spread and flourish.

Conservation officials at the congress also pointed out that the 17% target was essentially a political one, with scientists advocating up to 50% of the world’s surface to be protected in order to save threatened species and safeguard critical habitat that provides water.

Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said there needed to be a greater appreciation of the economic benefits of protected areas, citing a Finnish study that found that for every euro invested in nature, the community benefited by 10 euros.

“We look at these things as a cost to the taxpayer, without looking at the multiplier in the economy,” he said. “The dividing line between private and public funding is very anachronistic. Most of the forests in Europe are under private ownership, for example.

“The private sector is not just multinational mining enterprises; some can be important co-investors. They are an under-utilised and under-appreciated contributor to how to finance protected areas in the future.”

New UNEP report unveils world on track to meet 2020 target for protected areas on land and sea
15.4% of terrestrial areas, 3.4% of oceans protected, but further progress needed to cover and effectively manage areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services
IUCN 13 Nov 14;

Sydney, 13 November 2014 – The world is on track to meet a 2020 target on the expansion of protected areas, but more work is needed to ensure areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are prioritized for protection under equitably managed conditions, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released today at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress.

Produced by UNEP's World Conversation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in partnership with IUCN, and funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Protected Planet not only monitors global efforts to support and expand protected areas, but supports governments toward faster progress with recommendations for action.

The report finds that 15.4% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 3.4% of the global ocean are now protected—highlighting growing global awareness of the need to safeguard the natural resources that will play a crucial role in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals.

Protected areas are essential to the conservation of species, ecosystems and the livelihoods they support, and also play a key role in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change—for example, by reducing risks from natural hazards and providing a carbon sink through forests, 7.8 million km2 of which are in protected areas.

The report, the second in a series tracking progress toward meeting Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, finds that 1.6 million km2 of new protected areas have been designated since 2012. Since 2010, the total additional global coverage equates to 6.1 million km2—an area approaching the size of Australia.

Target 11 calls for effectively and equitably managed conservation areas covering at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and 10% of marine areas—especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services—by 2020.

Protected Planet 2014 finds that the physical coverage aspect of the target is likely to be met, but highlights a lack of progress in other areas, such as: ensuring protected areas are appropriately located in areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are effectively and equitably managed, and are well-connected.

The report warns that without further concerted global action on appropriate targeting of areas to come under protection, integrated and improved national planning, and assessments of how protected areas are effectively and equitably managed, the overall target will not be met.

“Protected areas not only provide us with a vital ecological safety net but also play a vital economic role through the valuable ecosystem services they provide, from supplying water and timber, to sustaining tourism,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “As we work toward a comprehensive climate agreement, with the next meeting shortly taking place in Lima, and shape the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, it is crucial to expand protected areas in a targeted manner—thus supporting efforts to tackle climate change, and protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem services that sustain all of us.”

“This report shows that the will to do so is present,” he added. “We now need to build support and funding to ensure protected areas are effectively and equitably managed and cover enough important sites for biodiversity and ecosystem services-including marine protected areas.”

“Ten years ago, the IUCN World Parks Congress in Durban gave birth to the idea of global protected area targets,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “Today in Sydney, we are proud to launch the Protected Planet report, which shows how well we have advanced in reaching our goals.

We are committed to making sure that our promises are not empty. What we need to see behind those figures are protected areas that are well and equitably managed, healthy, strong and able to deliver the full range of benefits that are essential for the survival of biodiversity and the wellbeing of people around the world.”

The protected area coverage was calculated using the August 2014 version of the World Database on Protected Areas. The database underwent a major update in 2014, based on the overwhelmingly positive response to a CBD request for parties to the convention to submit an update to UNEP-WCMC to compile the UN List of Protected Areas. By August 2014, 124 countries had submitted new data and 15 were in the process of submitting.
Terrestrial protected area coverage has increased by about one million km2 since 2010, 126,000 km2 of which came since 2012. In total, 20.6 million km2 of terrestrial and inland water areas are now covered. To cover 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland waters, 2.2 million additional km2 of protected areas are needed.
Just over six million km2 of marine protected areas have been added since 2010, with 1.5 million km2 of this total coming since 2012. In total, 12 million km2 of the global ocean is now covered.

While marine areas are lagging terrestrial areas in attaining the target, real progress has been made in areas within coastal waters and national jurisdiction—reaching coverage of 10.9% and 8.4% respectively.

However, only 0.25% of seas beyond national jurisdiction are covered by marine protected areas, demonstrating a gap in conservation efforts and highlighting the urgent need to overcome challenges in establishing such areas where national governance systems do not exist.

To meet the 10% in areas within national jurisdiction, a further 2.2 million km2 of marine areas will be required. In addition, 21.5 million km2 in the high seas need to be protected for the target of 10% to be attained.
Recent increases at sea are mainly due to the establishment of huge areas in waters around Australia, New Caledonia and Britain’s South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In 2014, New Caledonia designated all of its jurisdictional waters as a marine protected area, encompassing an area of about 1.2 million km2, the largest protected area in the world.
If these areas were removed from the global marine statistics, coverage would be halved to only 1.8% of the global ocean area and 4.4% of jurisdictional waters.
Lack of progress in other areas
Protected Planet 2012 highlighted a raft of challenges revolving around management and governance of protected areas, and issued 13 recommendations on how to expand protected areas and better track progress.

Of the priority actions identified, only two were judged by Protected Planet 2014 to have shown good progress: enhancing national reporting to the datasets used to track global progress, and accelerating the targeted expansion of the global protected area network in terrestrial, inland water and marine areas.

Limited progress was recorded on the other recommendations—which included calls for improved understanding of the benefits of protected areas in supporting biodiversity and ecosystem services, better funding, strengthening local community engagement, and improving the connectivity of protected areas and their integration into surrounding landscapes.

The lack of sustainable financing is a particular area of concern—even though previous UNEP studies have shown that the overall economic benefits of protected areas greatly exceed the cost of managing them.
The financial investment required to establish and effectively manage an expanded protected area network to cover important sites for all wildlife groups by 2020 was estimated in 2012 to be US$ 76.1 billion per year, the report says.

The report issued key messages and recommendations in these areas of concern to assist policy makers in ensuring the target 11 is fully met. These include:

Coverage of biodiversity and ecosystem services

In 2013, 22% of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and 23% of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites were completely covered by protected areas, and on average less than half of each site was protected. Targeted expansion of protected area networks is needed to include some of these and other key areas on the land, and especially the seas. In addition, coverage of most ecoregions and species is not sufficient. Having a protected area network that adequately covers all important aspects of biodiversity and ecosystems services will require more than 17% of the land and 10% of marine and coastal areas.

Effective management

Effectively managed protected areas conserve biodiversity and habitats. However, by 2013 only 29% of the total area of nationally designated protected areas had been assessed for management effectiveness. Lack of effective management remains one of the largest problems facing the current global protected area system. More management effectiveness assessments, plus a greater focus on measuring biodiversity and social outcomes, are needed.

Equitable management
There is weak reporting and little available data on equitable management, both of which need to be strengthened to provide meaningful assessments of how equitable protected areas and other kinds of conservation areas are managed.

Available evidence on corridors indicates they have a positive conservation benefit. Despite a growing number of large connectivity projects, there is little knowledge of the level of connectivity between conservation areas across the wider landscapes and seascapes. Connectivity principles should be better incorporated into national planning and climate change adaptation programmes.

Benefits to people and nature

Protected areas deliver numerous benefits for people and nature and need to be recognized as a proven and cost-effective natural way to deal with global challenges such as water provision, food security, disaster-risk reduction, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. This should be fully acknowledged by integrating protected areas into national planning and decision-making processes across all sectors.
Role in the Sustainable Development Goals
Protected area coverage has been used as one of the indicators to track progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Protected areas, as vital elements of the landscape and models of sustainable development, could play an important role in the establishment and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). When the SDGs are agreed, the contribution of protected areas to each goal should be assessed to inform indicator development.

The full publication, Protected Planet Report 2014: Tracking progress towards global targets for protected areas is available at

The UN List of Protected Areas is available here: (ENG) (FR)

Positive outlook for two thirds of natural World Heritage sites, says IUCN
IUCN 13 Nov 14;

Sydney, Australia, 13 November 2014 (IUCN) – Over 60% of natural areas inscribed on the World Heritage List are likely to be well conserved over time, while others face critical threats such as invasive species, impact of tourism, poaching, dams and logging, according to the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2014 report released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The report by IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the first global assessment of natural World Heritage and the first to recognize conservation success in the world’s most iconic places. It is based on expert assessments of all 228 natural World Heritage sites. Up to now, only about half of the listed sites have been regularly monitored through the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

According to the report, 21% of natural World Heritage sites have a good conservation outlook, 42% are classified as ‘good with some concerns’, 29% face significant concerns and 8% of the sites are assessed as ‘critical’. Out of the many values that these sites possess, biodiversity is found to be facing the highest level of threat.

“World Heritage sites have the most prestigious international designation and those who manage them should demonstrate exemplary leadership for all protected areas,” says Julia Marton Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN. “Thanks to the IUCN World Heritage Outlook, we can see which sites have been successfully conserved and encourage the World Heritage Convention to secure the long-term protection of all the sites under its umbrella.”

The IUCN Outlook aims to track overall trends and changes occurring within the sites, taking into account threats, protection and management, and the state of World Heritage values, such as biodiversity, ecosystems and geological features.

World Heritage sites with a good conservation outlook include Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – recognized across the globe as a symbol of Australia – and Mount Huangshan, whose astounding landscapes has captivated artists and poets in China for centuries. The natural features of these sites are in good condition and should be protected over time, provided current conservation measures are maintained. Other sites assessed as ‘good’ include the iconic Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Namib Sand Sea.

The Great Barrier Reef, whose fragile reef ecosystem and marine biodiversity are at risk, has been assessed as a site of ‘significant concern’. Calls for stronger responses to the threats it faces have already been made by the World Heritage Committee. Some sites, however, have been off the Convention’s radar despite serious issues that are not being adequately addressed. For example, the report identifies concerns about the impacts of fishing on the conservation of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which is home to the Komodo Dragon.

Affected by severe threats, 19 sites have a critical outlook and need urgent, large-scale intervention to protect their values. Many of them are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites ‘in danger’, such as Selous Game Reserve, where poaching has dramatically reduced the number of elephants. But not all sites facing severe threats are danger-listed, including Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, whose exceptional role in protecting Monarch Butterflies during winter is threatened by deforestation and agricultural activities.

“World Heritage stands for excellence in management and the new World Heritage Outlook is a call for action so that all listed sites unequivocally demonstrate the best in conservation,” says Cyril Kormos, Vice Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. “This new platform is not just about checking how things are going. It also promotes new ways to care for our natural World Heritage, so that sites facing critical issues can achieve a positive outlook.”

The report shows that 54% of the assessed sites are well managed, while there is serious concern about the quality of management in 13%. Effective management is often key to securing a good conservation outlook despite high threats faced by the sites. For example, Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles faces serious threats from invasive species but its outlook is ‘good with some concerns’ thanks to a carefully planned management approach.

Natural World Heritage sites are globally recognized as the world’s most important protected areas, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their unique natural values, such as the scale of natural habitats, intactness of ecological processes, viability of populations of rare species, as well as exceptional natural beauty.

The report is available online for free and its next edition is planned for 2017. All site assessments can be accessed on

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Bolt from the blue: warming climate may fuel more lightning

Will Dunham PlanetArk 14 Nov 14;

Rising global temperatures may cause a big jolt in the number of lightning strikes in the United States over the rest of the 21st century in the latest example of extreme weather spawned by climate change, scientists say.

Researchers forecast on Thursday that lightning strikes will increase by about 50 percent by 2100 in the continental United States because thunderstorms will become more explosive in the coming decades thanks to a warming planet.

This increase could lead to more wildfires because lightning already triggers half of these blazes in the United States, the researchers said. Lightning also kills dozens of Americans annually, with that risk expected to rise.

Considering factors including precipitation levels, cloud buoyancy and warming air, the scientists predicted a 7 percent increase in the number of lightning strikes with each degree Fahrenheit global average temperature increase (12 percent for each degree Celsius).

The 11 different climate models used in the study pointed to an increase of 7 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) between now and 2100.

"There are about 30 million strikes per year in the contiguous U.S. now. So, in 2100, we would expect about 45 million per year," said climate scientist David Romps of the University of California, Berkeley and the U.S. government's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who led the study published in the journal Science.

"For every two lightning strikes in 2000, there will be three lightning strikes in 2100," Romps added.

The researchers said rising temperatures breed lightning because the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere - the fuel for thunderstorms - increases exponentially as the air gets warmer.

"As the planet warms, there will be more of this fuel lying around, so when thunderstorms get triggered, they will be more energetic. This increase in thunderstorm energy is the primary reason for the projected increase in lightning strikes," Romps said.

Many experts blame weather intensity in recent years on global climate change they attribute to human activities.

"The body of research attributing trends in extreme weather to human influence is certainly growing rapidly," said University of California, Berkeley climate researcher Jacob Seeley.

"We are pushing our climate system into uncharted territory, and that means we're going to see phenomena that are extreme compared to what humans have experienced thus far during the relatively short amount of time we have been flourishing on this planet," Seeley added.

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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China-US climate pact 'heartening' but short of what's needed: IPCC

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 13 Nov 14;

A deal between China and the United States to combat global warming is "heartening" although it falls short of the action needed to avert the worst impacts, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists said on Wednesday.

China said 2030 would be peak year for its soaring greenhouse gas emissions, the first time it has set a maximum, and the United States said it would cut emissions by more than a quarter from 2005 levels by 2025.

The accord by the two, by far the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, is largely symbolic. But it erodes a divide between rich and poor nations over their respective responsibilities for tackling climate change that has prevented a global deal for years.

"This is a heartening development," Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told Reuters. "This is a good beginning and I hope the global community follows this lead and maybe builds on it."

He acknowledged that the deal fell far short of a road map toward zero net emissions by 2100 that an IPCC report on Nov. 2 indicated was needed to avert the worst.

The IPCC said unchecked climate change could have "severe, widespread and irreversible impacts" on human society and nature with heatwaves, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

The United Nations welcomed the pact as a spur to almost 200 nations which have agreed to work out a U.N. climate accord at a summit in Paris in late 2015.

Developing nations say rich countries, which have burned the most carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution, must do far more to cut emissions. Rich nations, meanwhile, say emerging economies led by China have to accept both caps and cuts.

Cooperation between China and the United States chips away at the distinction.

"It breaks down the artificial divide that has bedeviled the negotiations. That wall is now crumbling," Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

The new U.S. goal for 2025 works out as a 16 percent cut in emissions from 1990, the U.N. benchmark year. Emerging economies have often called for cuts of 25 to 40 percent in rich nations' emissions by 2020, from 1990 levels.

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