Best of our wild blogs: 28 Nov 14

Small-scale restocking of fluted giant clams in Singapore
from Neo Mei Lin

A Southern Islands’ Tour – Kusu, St John’s and Lazarus
from Remember Singapore

Lesserus Island
from The annotated budak

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Singapore firms 'can take pole position on urban solutions'

Jacqueline Woo The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 14;

Singapore's growing expertise in the area of devising policies and processes for sustainable urban living could put local firms working in the sector in pole position for contracts overseas, according to Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Ms Fu told the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development yesterday that there is "business potential in exporting such solutions to the region and beyond".

She cited the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Mark Scheme, which has been adopted in Indonesia and China.

"This allows some of our architects and engineers, consulting businesses... to bring their experiences (with the certification framework) out to the region as well," added Ms Fu, who is also the Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

The BCA Green Mark Scheme was launched in 2005 to recognise best practices in environmental design and performance.

Ms Fu pointed to Singapore's potential role as a "test bed for smart urban solutions", adding that collaborations among the Government, the private sector and research institutions are expected to raise the country's capabilities in domains such as water, energy, mobility and other urban solutions.

The minister also urged businesses to do their part, along with the Government, in ensuring that economic development does not come at the expense of the environment.

"Environmental sustainability has to feature in business decisions and be discussed in boardrooms," she said, noting that the exponential increase of the urban population and global development has come with an "irreversible" impact on the environment.

"(But) companies that understand the environmental impact of their activities derive competitiveness from it," added Ms Fu.

She also said that "a well-executed environmental strategy will bring about stronger consumer branding, better relations with stakeholders and greater readiness for a resource-constrained future".

The three-day forum at Marina Bay Sands, which ends today, was organised by five partners, including Singapore-based media firm Global Initiatives, online publication Eco-Business and the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore. The Straits Times was an official media partner.

Last night, 10 companies were honoured at the inaugural Sustainable Business Awards in Singapore. The event was organised by Global Initiatives and PricewaterhouseCoopers to recognise companies that have instilled sustainable best practices in their long-term business strategies.

Unilever Asia was crowned overall winner for its robust approach to sustainability and its commitment to enhancing livelihoods, caring for the natural environment and improving health and well-being across its supply chains.

Other winners included telco SingTel for its fair workforce strategy and Loola Adventure Resort in Bintan, which was cited for its commitment to land use, biodiversity and the environment.

Developer City Developments was also recognised for its work in evaluating and measuring the most significant environmental impacts of its work.

- See more at:

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A car-lite Singapore: How to get there?

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 14;

A new sustainable blueprint to guide Singapore's development over the next 15 years was launched earlier this month, to create a better home, a better environment and a better future. That better future, however, includes curtailing the dream of many Singaporeans - owning a car.

One priority of the ambitious $1.5 billion Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 is reducing the number of private cars on the roads. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained: "We have to rely less on cars on the road, because we can't keep building roads; more roads for more cars."

Roads already make up 12 per cent of land use, compared to housing at 14 per cent.

Fewer vehicles would also reduce land needed for carparks, and improve the quality of life. Air quality, for example, would be better, with fewer polluting emissions from the tailpipes of private cars.

PM Lee said the Government would aim for a "car-lite" Singapore by providing more transport options, such as an expanded MRT network, buses and bicycle paths.

But experts said infrastructure gaps need to be plugged, and, in a country where the car is king, laws and attitudes towards them changed. More is also needed to help people move seamlessly from one form of transport to another more easily.

Beefing up alternatives

Last year, about 63 per cent of trips during peak hours were by public transport such as buses and trains.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan recently said that cycling makes up 1 to 2 per cent of transport.

The Government wants public transport to make up 75 per cent of peak-hour trips by 2030, and has outlined plans to achieve this.

From the year 2012 to 2016, it will have added 800 buses to the fleet - a 20 per cent increase - and from last year to 2030 it will have expanded the rail network from 178km to 360km.

It will build an island-wide cycling path network of more than 700km by 2030, including both park connectors and cycling paths in Housing Board towns.

It is also conducting a year-long study to shed light on why and how Singaporeans walk, and what would encourage them to do so more often.

The Economic Development Board and Land Transport Authority (LTA) plan to co-lead a project involving the pooled sharing of electric cars.

While the agencies would say only that the project is in the planning stages, The Straits Times understands the Government had considered rolling out up to 1,000 electric cars under such a scheme as recently as two years ago.

The LTA has said "car sharing can help those who need to use a car for a few hours or over a weekend, and allow convenient access to it without people having to own or maintain one".

The authority will pilot a bicycle-sharing scheme next year, possibly in the city centre and Jurong Lake District.

But transport experts said the devil is in the details.

When three Straits Times reporters rode 180km over three days last October to test cycling paths for commuting, they found snags that could dissuade users.

An 11km stretch that people who live in Ang Mo Kio and Bishan can use to go to work at the Upper Paya Lebar Road factories, for example, had six overhead bridges, three of which did not have ramps. People have to haul their bikes up and down the stairs.

Some park connectors were actually existing pavements, which meant cyclists and pedestrians had to jostle for space.

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy transport researcher Paul Barter said the cycling network needs to be not just comprehensive but also enjoyable and seamless so people can ride almost anywhere efficiently.

"You want people to be able to travel at speeds that let them cover 7km to 8km in half an hour. But it also has to be safe enough for your 10-year-old child," said the adjunct associate professor.

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Indonesia cracks down on deforestation in symbolic u-turn

Indonesia’s new president announces plans to protect rainforest and peatlands, signalling a new direction for country with worst rate of deforestation in the world
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Nov 14;

Indonesia’s reforming new president is to crack down on the rampant deforestation and peatland destruction that has made the nation the world’s third largest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

Joko Widodo signalled the significant change of direction for Indonesia when he joined a local community in Sumatra in damming a canal designed to drain a peat forest. Halting the draining and burning of peatland will also tackle the forest fires which have trebled since 2011 and can pump smoke across the entire region.

Indonesia suffers more deforestation than any other country, including Congo and Brazil where new data shows deforestation is dropping. One study estimated 80% of the deforestation in Indonesia was illegal, with most of it being cleared for palm oil and timber plantations.

During his visit to Sungai Tohor village, in Riau province, Widodo announced a review of plantation company operations: “If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem because of their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated. It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforest to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm.”

Widodo also said he would strengthen legal protection for peatlands, which store massive amounts of carbon and rarely burn if left undisturbed.

“Peatlands can’t be underestimated, they must be protected because they constitute a special ecosystem,” he said. “This [drainage] canal dam is very good and must be made permanent. What’s best is for peatland to be given to the community to be managed for sago [palm starch similar to tapioca]. Community management is usually environmentally friendly, but if it’s given to companies it is turned into monocultures like acacia and oil palm.”

Greenpeace welcomed the move and said it hoped it would lead to better forest and peatland protection in Indonesia, where the campaign group said existing laws are “weak and poorly enforced”.

“Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UN climate negotiations in Lima, Peru,” said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s international executive director.

Indonesian President to review licenses of companies converting peatlands
Antara 27 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo has said he will review the licenses of companies that have converted peatlands into monoculture plantations as they can damage the countrys ecosystem.

"I have told the minister of environment and forestry to review the licenses of the companies that have converted peatlands into monoculture plantations if they are found damaging the ecosystem," he stated in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Thursday.

He noted that during his field inspection in Riau province, he had found sago plantations damaged because of the development of monoculture plantations.

He said the green cover seen from the sky must be verified whether they are tropical rain forests or monoculture plantation forests.

President Joko Widodo has reaffirmed his intention to stop land and forest destruction in various places such as Sumatra and Kalimantan.

To prevent the tropical rain forests in the country from vanishing, we will continue the moratorium on concessions for plantations such as oil palm plantations, he stated.

Environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya has hinted that the moratorium on industrial forest concessions will be continued while an evaluation of problematic licenses is carried out.

"License moratorium will continue. No new licenses will be issued with regard to internal evaluation," she emphasized while inspecting the measures to prevent land and forest fires in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra, on Tuesday.

She revealed her office was studying the reports about forest concessionaires that have caused problems as well as concessionaires that have been neglected by concession holders.

She cautioned that the situation could trigger forest fires and encroachment as well as illegal logging.

The Association of Indonesia Forest Concession Holders (APHI) has asked President Joko Widodo to evaluate the benefits of moratorium saying it will not be effective to curb deforestation, especially land and forest fires.

"Thirty-four percent of fire spots from February to March 2014 were found in the forests that are under moratoriums. I wish the government would reveal the map to show the condition of forests before and after imposing moratoriums. We must not be naive or feel proud, because I am convinced the real condition is even worse," APHI chairman for industrial plantations Nana Suparna remarked in Pekanbaru on Tuesday.

The government has over the past three years stopped issuing forest concessions through Presidential Instruction Number 10/2011, which has been extended through Presidential Instruction Number 6/2013.(*)

Jokowi Pledges to Act Against Forest Fires
Kennial Caroline Laia Jakarta Globe 27 Nov 14;

Meranti Islands, Riau. President Joko Widodo on Thursday verbalized his preference for farms owned by people, rather than corporations, to curb the haze crisis that stems from peatland fires in Riau and elsewhere in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

During a visit to Sungai Tohor village in the Meranti Islands district, one of the regions in Riau often hit hard by forest fires and haze, Joko said people’s farming had a minimal impact to the environment, when compared to corporate monoculture plantations.

“The best thing to do is to give the land to people so they can use it to plant sago. What’s made by people is usually environmentally friendly. They won’t do any harm to nature,” the president said on Thursday. “However, if we give the land to corporations, they will only switch it to monoculture plantations.”

Residents of Sungai Tohor and other surrounding villages said several pulpwood plantation companies operating in the area burned land, causing haze while damaging local people’s sago plantations.

Joko said corporate-run monoculture plantations such as those consisting of oil palms and pulpwood were the main cause of environmental damage in the district.

He said he had ordered Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to review concessions for plantation companies in Riau and elsewhere in Indonesia.

“If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem with their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated,” Joko said. “It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforests to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palms.”

Siti, who was visiting the Sungai Tohor site along with Joko, said she would terminate licences of companies whose activities damage the ecosystem.

“We will work on this matter. There are so many things to do starting from technical matters, spatial planning and water management, to law enforcement and environmental education for people and corporations,” she added.

Joko also said on Thursday that the government would employ a new approach to manage peatlands, vast expanses of which can be found in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Fires on these two Indonesian islands, which often cause transboundary haze problems affecting neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, begin on peatlands as it is drained and subjected to slashing and burning to give way for the cultivation of commercial plants.

Local farmers and big corporations have for years been placing the blame on each other for igniting fires on peatlands, which cause recurring haze crises.

Corrupt officials, meanwhile, have been blamed for lax law enforcement that allows the fires and haze crises to recur every year, increasing economic costs as airports are forced to close, which disrupts flights, as well as harming local residents’ health.

Carbon time-bomb

Environmentalists also have lamented the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air, contributing to global warming and climate change. They describe peatland as a so-called “carbon time-bomb.”

According to Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based NGO engaging in wetland conservation and restoration, peatlands contain twice as much carbon stock as the entire forest biomass of the world (550 gigatons of carbon). Wetlands says Indonesia has the dubious honor of being responsible for the highest CO2 emissions from peatlands due to logging and drainage — amounting to around 900 megatons per year.

Indonesia’s environmental ministry has said peat fires contributed to 25 percent of the country’s carbon emissions between 2000 and 2005, second only to deforestation.

The new approach Joko says he wants to adopt deploys use of canals and water gates to control water levels in peatlands to prevent them from burning easily. Canals also allow farmers to optimize soil conditions to grow plants without having to first set fire to the land.

A pilot project was completed last year in Central Kalimantan under the supervision of the government-run Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund.

Joko, in a symbolic gesture, installed a water gate on a canal surrounding a plot of peatland in Sungai Tohor.

“This canal [water gate] is initiated by our people, and is a positive step, therefore it should be followed up by the government, permanently,” he said.

“It will keep peatlands wet. That’s the key [to manage peatlands]. They will be wet all the time so they won’t easily catch fire, intentionally or unintentionally.”

Minister Siti said her office would also educate local farmers how to build ditches and install water gates through peatlands to make them fire-resistant.

“We’ll work on this as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Environmentalists applauded Joko’s “ blusukan asap .” “Blusukan,” a Javanese term meaning impromptu visits, usually to constituents by officials. It has become trademark activity of Joko that has contributed to his popularity and later landed him the presidency. “Asap” is an Indonesian term meaning smoke or haze.

Joko in fact made the Riau visit after Sungai Tohor villager Abdul Manan began a petition in late October against the haze crisis that has often plagued Riau, asking for Joko to come and see for himself the sites in the center of the crisis.

The petition, called “Blusukan Asap,” was registered at and has been signed by 27,900 people as of Thursday.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, hailed Joko’s Riau visit as proof of the president’s commitment to solving ecological problems.

Walhi executive director Abetnego Tarigan, though, added that the president must soon follow up the visit with “concrete actions” in the form of firm law enforcement.

“Among concrete actions that President Jokowi can immediately do is ordering the termination or review of concessions for companies proven to have been involved in forest and land fires,” Abetnego said, referring to the president by his popular nickname.

“Law enforcement must continue legal action against companies that have been named suspects, as well as develop investigations into companies that civilians have filed reports against,” he added.

International environmental group Greenpeace, meanwhile, voiced its support for the canal initiative, saying that clearance and drainage creates dry peatlands, laying the foundation for forest fires that can burn for days or even months.

Permanent protection

Greenpeace considered the initiative as proof of Joko’s commitment to protecting Indonesia’s peatlands.

“The country’s existing peatland regulations are weak and poorly enforced. We look to Jokowi now to take clear action to stop expansion by industry into peatlands, to crack down on illegality and to support the permanent protection of peatland landscapes,” Longgena Ginting, the country director of Greenpeace Indonesia, said in a press statement.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo also extended his praise.

“I welcome President Joko Widodo’s vision for peatland protection, which has the potential to slow Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Naidoo said.

“Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UNFCCC climate negotiations in Lima, Peru.”

Greenpeace said when left in its natural state, peatland rarely burns. However since draining began, the number of fires recorded in Indonesia by satellites has sky-rocketed, reaching 6,644 in 2011 and climbing further to 21,467 fires so far this year.

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Indonesia: Solving forest fires a matter of will, says Jokowi

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 27 Nov 14;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has issued an ultimatum demanding that all stakeholders show a strong will to resolve land and forest fires in Indonesia, especially in Riau province, where the issue has persisted for the last 17 years.

“There is no new solution to the issue as everyone understands what must be done. This is a matter of whether we are willing to resolve the issue,” Jokowi said during a visit to Pekanbaru, Riau, on Wednesday.

Jokowi reiterated he had received reports from all quarters, including the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, relevant ministries and regional administrations as well as conservation institutions, which said that all were familiar with the issue.

He said he had immediately gone to the field to understand the reality.

“If we master the situation in the field, making decisions is easy,” said the President, who is also a graduate of Gadjah Mada University’s School of Forestry.

Asked whether the government would revoke the licenses of companies faced with environmental management problems, Jokowi said he had delegated the matter to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

“Direct your query to the minister,” said Jokowi.

Jokowi and his entourage arrived at Rusmin Noerjadin Airport, Pekanbaru, around noon on Wednesday and directly departed for Sungai Tohor village in Meranti Island regency, one of Indonesia’s outermost areas, via helicopter.

He was expected to fly to the location taking a route that passed over the Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan regency and the Zamrud Lake Nature Preserve in Siak regency.

However, less than 30 minutes into the flight, the weather worsened and forced the Air Force’s Super Puma helicopter that was carrying the presidential entourage to return to Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru.

Jokowi, who is on a visit to Riau with First Lady Iriana and two of their children, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep, will stay the night in Pekanbaru.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jokowi held a meeting with Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan and a number of regents and officials. The meeting took place at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport’s VIP lounge.

Jokowi also canceled a visit to Bawah Market in Pekanbaru. Traders, students and local residents who had waited for Jokowi’s arrival at the gateway starting at noon, then dispersed.

“Pak Jokowi canceled his visit to Bawah Market and stayed overnight at the Pekanbaru Hotel. We don’t know about tomorrow’s agenda,” Antara news agency quoted Riau provincial administration spokesman Jefry as saying in Pekanbaru.

Riau University Disaster Studies Center director Haris Gunawan said forest fire prevention through peatland conservation in Riau was part of an effort to resolve the prolonged haze issue.

Haris said one conservation effort concerned preventing the peatland from drying up and allowing it to remain wet.

“Many residents and plantation companies dry up the peatland by making canals, causing the peatland to dry and easily catch fire, [or it is easy for others] to intentionally set fire to it,” said Haris.

Wet peatlands cool forest fires: Jokowi
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 28 Nov 14;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered the local administration of Meranti Island regency in Riau to restore the drainage in peatlands to prevent peatland fires, a project that may see nationwide implementation.

The move was made after he visited a fire-affected community in Sungai Tohor village, East Tebing Tinggi in Meranti Island, where he got his hands dirty by joining locals in damming a canal to re-wet the peatland.

“I have told the Meranti regency to continue building dams in the canals. Dam construction is very important because it can control water and keep the peatland wet,” Jokowi said before leaving for Jakarta.

He said if damming efforts can stop peatland fires in the following year, it would be implemented it in other provinces such as in Jambi, South Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Acting Riau Governor Andi Rachman said he would immediately follow up the order as the president had promised a special allocation funding (DAK) to finance the construction of other dams in the province.

Jokowi said he had also asked the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar to evaluate companies that cause environmental impacts from the conversion of peatland areas to monoculture plantations.

The inspection was scheduled on Wednesday but bad weather delayed the plan and forced Jokowi and his entourage to spend a night in Pekanbaru.

Environmental activists welcomed Jokowi’s moves to protect peatlands.

“We look to Jokowi now to take clear action to stop expansion by industry into peatlands, to crack down on illegality and to support the permanent protection of peatland landscapes,” Longgena Ginting, Greenpeace Indonesia’s Country Director, said in a statement.

Deputy head of the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) Irsyal Yasman claimed his members have applied water management technology that could adjust the height of water according to the land contour.

Meanwhile, President Director of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Kusnan Rahmin also claimed that the company’s approach to managing peatland concessions was based on the best available science.

“We manage water levels through water management by building integrated canals in accordance with a scientific approach. It protects the peatland. We have installed an automatic water gate to control the water,” he said in a statement.

He said effective peatland management required a ‘total landscape’ approach, which involves protection and buffering of central peat domes to guard against drainage impacts.

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Malaysia: Labuan marine park dept continues its turtle conservation efforts

Borneo Post 28 Nov 14;

LABUAN: A total of 5,628 sea baby turtles were released into the wild, off Labuan waters since 2011, said Department of Malaysia Marine Park Labuan director Anuar Deraman.

The number was of the 7,381 eggs collected mostly in Kuraman Island, one of the three marine parks in Labuan.

“The success in the turtle conservation and protection was after the gazetting of three marine parks, Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil and in collaboration with Petronas Cari Gali Sabah,” he said here yesterday.

He said the marine parks had become the nesting sites for two endangered species of turtles, namely hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata) and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas).

To help avoid further extinction of the species, he said the department had developed a turtle hatchling site in Rusukan Besar Island.

Anuar said Kuraman Island had recorded the most number of turtle landing so far this year with ten nests found on the island, while Rusukan Kecil and Rusukan Besar had five and two nests respectively.

Anuar also said Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Labuan (MMEA) was working closely to monitor the illegal activities within the waters of marine parks.

“We are also conducting education and awareness programmes in schools and for the broad spectrum of community on marine biodiversity conservation,” he said.

He said the turtle conservation and protection exercise in the marine parks was being transformed into an eco-tourism product of Labuan to support the efforts of Labuan Corporation and Tourism Ministry. — Bernama

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Coral Triangle could be last bastion for planet's beleaguered reefs

Johnny Langenheim The Guardian 27 Nov 14;
Major reef system in south-east Asia could be unusually resilient to climate change, Catlin Seaview Survey suggests

If humans are driving earth’s sixth great extinction event, coral reefs will be one of the first and most visible ecosystems to succumb. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the ocean could be largely devoid of reefs as climate change and our relentless plundering of the sea set in motion geological changes not seen for millions of years.

But according to the Catlin Seaview Survey, a multi-year project to map the world’s coral reefs, there may be evidence that certain reefs in the Coral Triangle could resist longer than others. The project is using cutting-edge camera technology and a big-data approach to establish baselines for key indicators like health, diversity, decline and resilience.

The sponsor, Catlin, is an international insurance company specialising in property and casualty insurance. It says insurers should take a lead role in improving understanding of the potential for changes to the environment.

“Studying coral reefs provides a better understanding of short-term risks on a local scale,” says Catlin Insurance Group chief executive, Stephen Catlin. “But, more importantly, [it] gives us better information about the long-term risks of climate change on a global scale. As insurers, we need to be ahead of the game.”

Coral reefs represent just 1% of our oceans but support 25% of the species that live in them. This makes south-east Asia’s Coral Triangle bioregion the global epicentre of marine biodiversity on the planet, with 75% of all known coral building species, 6 out of 7 of the world’s turtle species and more than 3,000 species of fish. 120 million people depend on these reefs for their livelihoods – if they disappeared, the attendant loss of food security would drive economic migration on a massive scale.

Over the last few months, Catlin Seaview Survey scientists have been assessing reefs in hotspots throughout the Coral Triangle, which encompasses the territorial waters of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. They believe the bioregion could become one of the last refuges on earth for coral reefs.

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U.S., British data show 2014 could be hottest year on record

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 28 Nov 14;

This year may eclipse 2010 as the hottest since records began in the 19th century, a sign long-term global warming is being stoked by rising greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said.

The period of January to October 2014 is already among the warmest ever recorded, and a warm ending to the year could easily make it top, according to U.S. and British data.

Skeptics who doubt the necessity of a shift away from fossil fuels to stop the Earth's climate from heating up point out that world average temperatures have not risen much since 1998, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions.

But the final ranking for 2014, due next year, may influence public and business perceptions about the severity of climate change. Almost 200 governments are due to agree a U.N. deal to combat global warming in Paris in December next year.

"2014 is more likely than not to be the warmest year," Tim Osborn, a professor at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told Reuters, saying manmade greenhouse gas emissions are tending to push up temperatures.

He said there were many uncertainties about where 2014 would rank because of natural variations in temperatures late in the year. Also, a big volcanic eruption might spew out ash that dims sunshine, cooling the planet.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will publish a preliminary ranking for 2014 on Dec. 3, during annual U.N. talks in Peru which will prepare the Paris accord.

Promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union have made a global deal more likely, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures despite new scientific warnings of powerful storms, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.

Of the WMO's three main data sources, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks January-October 2014 as the warmest such period on record, NASA as the second-warmest and the British Met Office and University of East Anglia as the third-warmest.

NOAA says 2014 is on track to be the warmest on record. The rankings differ partly because scientists use different estimates for places with few thermometers, such as the Arctic.

"It probably is a bit premature to say 2014 will be the warmest year on record," said Michael Cabbage, spokesman for NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The British data place 2014 third, fractionally behind 2010 and 1998, which both cooled toward the end of the year.

Despite a slowdown in the pace of warming since 1998, the WMO says 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have been in this century.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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UN climate change deal must have legally binding targets, says EU

Arthur Neslen The Guardian 27 Nov 14;

An international deal on global warming must have legally binding targets, Europe will argue at a UN climate summit in Peru next week.

The Lima conference is intended to deliver the first draft of an accord to cut carbon emissions and stave off dangerous climate change, which is expected to be signed at a UN conference in Paris next year.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior EU official in Brussels said that the bloc had not abandoned its position that any agreement on emissions cuts needed to be mandatory.

“Legally binding mitigation targets are definitely something that the EU is pushing for,” the official said. “This is one of our key asks. We’re yet to be convinced that you could have a sufficient rules-base and certitude by alternative approaches. But it is no secret that some other countries are in a different place.”

“The current agreement prototype includes options within options, and has a broad range of views of what constitutes legal force,” the source said. “We need to see Lima bring about more convergence, more focus to the text and allow zooming into the really big political crunch issues, as time is short.”

Claims by major countries that they could not impose economy wide targets were “disingenuous” and liable to stall the negotiating process over how commitments should be differentiated between developed and developing countries, the official added.

The comments came as French president Fran├žois Hollande said on Thursday that the Paris summit had a “duty to succeed.” He said: “I have been asked when I became an environmentalist” and the answer was “when I arrived in power.”

“Because, at some point you have to leave your mark, and the mark we will leave together is a historic climate agreement...”

The US says it wants to put a ‘buffet option’ on the table in Lima, building on a New Zealand proposal that would contain some legally binding elements but allow countries to determine the scale and pace of their emissions reductions, even if this calls into question the aim of keeping temperature rises below 2C, the level that countries have agreed to limit warming to.

In Brussels earlier this month, the US special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern told journalists that while negotiations on the issue were ongoing, a ‘hybrid approach’ to legal enforcement offered the best chance of striking a deal agreeable to all.

“Proposals that would involve, in effect, a kind of designated burden-sharing on how reductions should be split up among countries of the world has extremely little chance of political viability,” he said. “Countries are not going to buy into that.”

Stern confirmed that a footnote to the US submission at a climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 offered a 42% CO2 reduction by 2030 – higher than the 30% cut by 2025 announced by president Obama in China this month – but added that an 83% decrease by 2050 remained Washington’s objective in both cases.

The EU has gone further, setting out a stall for a legally binding 40% drop in emissions by 2030, but measures this against carbon output in 1990, rather than the US’s preferred 2005 baseline.

How to account for emissions commitments and monitor, report and verify (MRV) their implementation has taken on a correspondingly greater import.

“MRV provisions and accounting rules will be a core demand for the new agreement,” the EU official said. “Unless you have that, it will be difficult to validate that our partners are delivering on their commitments, so we need to really work with partners to ensure that we can come back on a regular basis and review our aggregated effort.”

While accepting that a binding deal could easily become a campaigning issue in the next US elections, the official said that Republicans could be persuaded to accept climate science if shown that a low carbon transition was possible.

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