Best of our wild blogs: 2 Dec 14

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2015
from Green Future Solutions

Sunless Sungei Sunbirds
from Winging It

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Cycling city by 2030... or 2020?

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Dec 14;

The Government has set a 2030 target for turning Singapore into a cycling nation, complete with a network of 700km of bicycle paths.

But former Housing Board planner and cycling enthusiast Maria Boey thinks that is too long. She believes it can be done by 2020, six years from now, if "we put our minds to it".

The 64-year-old, who was with the HDB for 26 years and had a hand in designing Tampines, Singapore's first cycling town, suggests starting with education, then marking out bike-only lanes in the city on Sundays and allowing cyclists to use pedestrian footpaths responsibly.

"We could do it in less than six years," said Madam Boey, vice-president (landscape architecture) at building consultancy Surbana, especially with the Government embracing cycling as a viable mode of transport.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong this month said new initiatives to encourage cycling would soon be piloted in towns such as Ang Mo Kio and Tampines.

To date, the Government has committed about $59 million towards cycling infrastructure in Tampines, Taman Jurong, Yishun, Sembawang, Pasir Ris, Changi-Simei, Bedok and Marina Bay.

Madam Boey's timeline has its doubters, but experts agree that her suggestions, such as teaching cycling in primary schools, are a good start.

"Some kids nowadays grow up not knowing how to ride bikes. We have to prepare them to use the new infrastructure," she said.

In the Netherlands, where nearly a third of all trips are made on bikes, final-year primary school pupils sit a cycling examination that has a practical test and a multiple-choice section on traffic rules.

Transport consultant Jair Smits from Dutch engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos believes a similar scheme will help ingrain a safe cycling culture. "It helps kids get familiar with traffic signs and networks," said Mr Smits, who took the test as a child.

Setting aside cycling lanes on some city roads on Sundays would not require any "drastic change", said Madam Boey, who has been cycling since she was a schoolgirl in Batu Pahat, Malaysia.

"This could even become a heritage trail for tourists," said Madam Boey, who organised such a ride in the city centre last Sunday for a group of 34 local and foreign city planners as well as cycling enthusiasts.

Transport researcher Paul Barter believes this is doable, saying roads like North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road can be turned into dual-directional bike paths.

"Some of these roads are over-engineered for the capacity, you could easily take away a lane and not have traffic jams," said the adjunct associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Madam Boey also suggested amending the Road Traffic Act to make cycling on pedestrian footpaths legal, saying that "cycling on roads can be dangerous".

Mr Francis Chu, the co-founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSG, said: "You could put in a rule that makes cyclists responsible in cases of accidents, to ensure they give way to pedestrians."

Residents' cycling habits can be studied so that footpaths commonly used by cyclists can be widened, and divided for walking and cycling, said Madam Boey.

Experts agree that the Government needs a more comprehensive plan if it hopes to achieve its vision of a cycling nation, which Dr Barter defines as one in which 10 per cent of all trips are made on bikes. Currently, this stands at 1 to 2 per cent.

Mr Chu said the upcoming 700km bike network, which includes park connectors meant for leisure, is a fifth of Singapore's 3,452km-road network. That means cyclists would be able to get to only 20 per cent of the places they could with a car.

Whether Singapore could become a cycling city like Copenhagen and Amsterdam would be a test of political will, said Mr Scott Dunn, director of development for global engineering group Aecom.

"A lot of money is going into rail, bus routes for public transit and other road projects, but there is not as much money going into cycling programmes," he said.

Experts point out that the North-South Expressway, expected to be completed by 2020, will cost $8 billion on its own - 135 times the $59 million for cycling.

Mr Dunn believes recreational cycling could well become a way of life in the next three to five years, but it could take up to 20 years to become a common transport choice. Madam Boey is more optimistic.

She points to Tampines as an example. In the middle of the neighbourhood off Tampines Avenue 3 is the estate's "green connector" - a 1km-long bike path running between housing blocks which she designed in the 1980s. The 1.5m-wide shady, tree-lined track leads to the town centre. Today, it is a busy lane well-used by residents on their bikes.

She said: "Cycling infrastructure was quite unpopular last time because there were not too many cyclists. But if you build it, people will use it."

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New breed of urban farmers turning flats and corridors into farms

Chai Hung Yin The New Paper AsiaOne 2 Dec 14;

You can find kai lan, xiao bai cai (little cabbage), kangkung and even tomatoes growing in these planter boxes which line a 10m long corridor outside this HDB flat in Tampines.

Mr Derrick Ng, 33, a hawker, can get about 5kg of vegetables each time he harvests.

That is enough for him to feed his family, share with neighbours and even use the vegetables in the fish soup he sells at his stall, also in Tampines.

He has recently planted sweet potato leaves.

With that, Mr Ng hopes to create a permanently verdant corridor.

"That's the magic of sweet potato leaves. The more I harvest, the more the leaves will grow. The whole corridor will be forever green," he says.

Farming at home happened by chance for Mr Ng, who grew up in the concrete jungle.

He began experimenting with growing vegetables at home in 2010 because he wanted to "provide good food for my family".

He explains: "My son, then three, kept falling sick and was always on cough syrup and antibiotics."

When he heard about food therapy - the practice of eating natural foods to boost immunity - he turned to buying organic food and vegetables for his son.

But it was not sustainable financially as the price of organic food was constantly rising, he says.


The same year, he quit as a regular in the army and started researching on farming.

At the same time, he took over his father's fish soup stall.

He first tried planting vegetables in his kitchen, complete with indoor lighting at different frequencies and plants imported from overseas.

"But it was very costly and not sustainable. The need for artificial sunlight means using energy, which created a bigger carbon footprint," he says.

He then experimented with shifting his farm outdoors, using recycled polystyrene boxes as his planters.

It worked. Mr Ng says: "And sunlight is free."

From four planter boxes, he expanded to eight, then 16 and now 30.

He can harvest 12 times a year. Vegetables usually take 30 days to grow.

He has had parents with young children visit his urban farm, even though they were not residents there.

"Greenery is therapeutic - it creates a less stressful environment for the neighbours," he says.

His neighbour, Mr Quah Sin Chuan, 37, finds it interesting that Mr Ng grows his vegetables organically.

He even offered the corridor space outside his flat for Mr Ng to expand his farm.

Mr Quah says: "I'm okay, as long as it doesn't block the way. I don't know how to farm and if there's greenery, it is quite nice.

"He always offers us organic vegetables."

Mr Ng hopes to extend his farm to cover the entire stretch of corridor outside two other neighbours' units.

And he is happy to share his labour of love with his neighbours and promote the kampung spirit.

He tells them to pick the vegetables whenever they need them for cooking: "If you want to throw a hotpot party, just go to the corridor and pick, as long as you don't destroy the plant.

"Show love to them because they are feeding you."

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Singapore to adopt Euro VI emission standards for petrol vehicles

Channel NewsAsia 1 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Starting September 2017, petrol vehicles in Singapore will have to comply with the Euro VI emission standards, the latest engine emission standards set by the European Union (EU).

The move will further reduce NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) and fine particulates – in particular the PM2.5 - from vehicular emissions and help to improve Singapore’s ambient air quality, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Monday (Dec 1).

The EU’s vehicular emission standards impose strict rules on tailpipe gas emissions of new vehicles sold in EU member states. They have also been progressively implemented in Singapore and other countries. Currently, the standard for petrol vehicles in Singapore is Euro IV.

“NEA has been in consultation with the automotive industry since early 2014 on the enhancement of vehicular emission standards, in order to provide the automotive industry with sufficient lead time to develop motor vehicles that are able to meet the emission requirements,” the agency said, adding that by September 2017, there will be an adequate supply and range of Euro VI vehicle models for consumers to choose from.

NEA also said that starting September 2017, it will accept petrol vehicles using Port Fuel Injection (PFI) technology that have achieved Japanese emission standards (JPN 2009) as being equivalent to meeting Euro VI emission standards.

This announcement comes as Singapore had pledged to cut carbon emissions by 7 per cent to 11 per cent below 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) levels, and in case of a binding international agreement, by 16 per cent below BAU.

- CNA/cy

Petrol vehicles to adopt Euro VI emission standards from September 2017
Today Online 2 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — New petrol vehicles here will have to meet the stricter Euro VI emission standards from September 2017, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday.

The new standards will help ensure improved air quality by reducing the emission of harmful NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) and fine particulates, said the NEA. The current standard for petrol vehicles here is Euro IV, which was imposed in 2006.

In a statement, the NEA said it has been in consultation with the automotive industry since the start of this year to allow it enough time to adapt to the new emission standards. “Industry players had been informed that the stricter standard was expected to be implemented from the second half of 2017. By September 2017, there will be an adequate supply and range of Euro VI petrol vehicle models for consumers to choose from,” the NEA said.

The NEA will also accept petrol vehicles that use Port Fuel Injection technology, which meets Japanese emission standards (JPN 2009), as vehicles that have met the Euro VI emission standards.

In previous media reports, car dealers had asked to be given three years’ notice before the Euro VI standards are implemented to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2006. At the time, Japanese carmakers were caught off-guard when the Euro IV standards were rolled out for diesel vehicles, leading to a lack of vehicles and a plunge in Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices. As a result, thousands of automobile owners in Singapore extended the lifespan of their ageing vehicles, many of which are still on the road today.

Mr Ron Lim, general manager of sales and marketing at Tan Chong Motor, said the Euro VI standards will not be a problem as long as cars that use the JPN 2009 standards are also accepted. “Cars (manufactured in) Europe will definitely be Euro VI compliant, so we won’t have a problem with European cars,” he told TODAY.

The Singapore Vehicle Traders Association’s immediate past president Ricky Tay said car prices might be pushed up a little, but he does not foresee sales being affected. “Cars that are Euro VI compliant will be of a higher grade, and the car computers will also have to be upgraded. COE premium prices and the total debt servicing ratio for Euro VI compliant cars will also affect car prices,” he said.

The Euro VI emission standards are the latest set by the European Union (EU), which imposes strict rules on tailpipe gas emissions of new vehicles sold in EU member states. These regulatory guidelines have been progressively implemented in Singapore and other countries.

The NEA’s announcement follows Singapore’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 7 per cent to 11 per cent below 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) levels, and in case of a binding international agreement, by 16 per cent below BAU.

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Malaysia: Peat soil challenge for Pan-Borneo Highway builders

ANDY CHUA The Star 2 Dec 14;

SIBU: There is a need to handle peat soil with proper care in the construction of the proposed RM27bil Pan-Borneo Highway so as to avoid cost overruns, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof.

He said contractors under the Public Private Partnership Unit (Ukas), which has been tasked to speed up the implementation of the highway project, would need the expertise on soft soil development to carry out the project.

Fadillah said as the cost in the upgrading and construction of the highway would be huge, contractors would need to work with research institutes and experts to find a better solution for peat soil areas along the route.

“The launching of the Peat Technology Research Institute by University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) is thus timely so as to be able to provide solutions and advice to industry players in the handling and manage­ment of peat soil for construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects,” he told reporters after launching the institute and the Peat Technology, Opportunities and Challenges seminar here yesterday.

The Pan-Borneo Highway project co­vers a distance of 2,239km from Sematan, in Sara­wak’s Lundu division, to Serudong in Tawau district, Sabah.

Singling out Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, which is a main road leading to the Sibu airport, Fadillah said the ministry spent up to RM20mil in the last two years to upgrade it, but its condition was not improving due to its location in a soft soil area.

He said other federal and state roads in the town were also affected by peat soil.

He said the country already had a number of soft soil experts but what was needed was to translate their knowledge and apply it with experts of universities and research institutes, including industry players.

“By having more institutes on peat soil research, we can do tests. If we can get new technology and solutions for the Sibu airport road, that will be an achievement,” he said.

Malaysia is the ninth country in the world with the highest total peat land area covering 2.6 million hectares.

Of this, 80% was in Sarawak, 13% in peninsula Malaysia and the rest in Sabah, he said.

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Indonesia: Riau’s People, Budgets Burned Out by Persistent Peat Fires

Kennial Caroline Laia Jakarta Globe 2 Dec 14;

Siak, Riau. A parched landscape marred by the remnants of fire that swept through here — burnt branches and half-cut blackened trees amid dried grass — frames the road near the Zamrud National Park’s protected forest.

In Indonesian, zamrud means “emerald,” but that toponym is belied by charred grays and browns.

On the right side of the our view stretches a long canal that collects water from the landscape that used to be a peat swamp forest near Dayun village in Siak district, in Sumatra’s Riau province.

Now drained of the water that once sustained the richly biodiverse peatland that flourished here for centuries, monoculture plantations stretch for thousands of hectares to the horizon in their place, threatening the ecosystem, people’s health and their livelihoods.

“We Riau people often welcome our guests by saying ‘welcome to the jerebu [haze] country,’ ” says Riau University peat researcher Haris Gunawan, referring to the severe smoke from area’s nearly constant forest and brush fires.

“People in Riau don’t want to have to greet visitors like that,” Haris says. “But the fact is, that’s the ultimate truth of our life here.”

For 17 years, nobody in Riau has talked about the problem, besides the roar of cars and trucks passing through plantation areas,” he adds.

“Since 1997, when the government granted operating concessions to corporations here, there hasn’t been any talk about a comprehensive solution to solve this problem. There’s also been a lot of misconceptions about the peatlands themselves, that is not the main cause of Riau’s haze,” Haris says.

“But in fact, the way companies in Riau operate is far from the healthy way. They have been draining the peatlands by creating canals to more easily burn the peatlands’ vegetation.

“This should be solved by experts who really understand peatland matters. There’s no way to solve Riau’s fires except by people who really do understand the root of the problem,” Haris says.

Forest crimes

Virtually all of Riau’s forest and brush fires are started by arsonists, according to Haris. For 17 years, he says, Riau has been suffering from forest crimes committed for the sole benefit of a few irresponsible parties.

“Once altered, tropical peatlands are very susceptible to repeat fires. And these fires keep burning,” Haris says.

Stamping out the problem of peat fires requires enforcing the existing laws, Haris says.

Under the direction of the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), firefighting team Manggala Agni is supposed to be the most reliable party in terms of extinguishing fires. However, according to Yusman, the head of the Manggala Agni branch in Siak district, the firefighters are hampered by lack of funding.

“The most common way of intentionally lighting fires is by burning mosquito coils in the afternoon with a splash of gasoline in a woodpile. Once the fire catches the woodpile, it starts burning the surrounding area, creating massive haze that disrupts people’s health here,” Yusman says.

“We are responsible for preventing such things from happening. We hold alternating patrols once a week in our operational area,” Yusman says, adding that there are 60 firefighters under his command in Siak district.

Although his team is adequately staffed, Yusman says, it is underfunded to monitor for forest fires, particularly in the conservation areas.

“Honestly, our budget to operate in the surrounding forests of Riau is really low. This year, we only received Rp 500 million [$40,700]. It isn’t enough,” Yusman says.

“We’re short in our logistic capabilities. However, we always do the best we can to prevent fires, and to extinguish them when fires strike.”

Haris agrees, saying law enforcement is in the forests also need to be improved.

“Manggala Agni needs to be strengthened with added personnel and logistics improvements. Moreover, every person must be equipped with vast knowledge on fire prevention,” Haris says.

“Manggala Agni also needs to cooperate more with local communities and institutions to get more information about detecting fires early.

“Canals must be restrained permanently. Rogue companies must be disciplined. And people must be educated on how to cultivate the land without having to change the peatland’s characteristics.

“It is enough for companies. Now is the time for the people to use the land,” Haris adds.

Between February and April this year, fires burned nearly 2,400 hectares of biosphere conservation areas and 21,900 hectares nationwide, contributing to some 58,000 diagnoses of respiratory ailments and thousands of children displaced from schools.

Blind eye

National forest campaigner Zenzi Suhadi from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) says one of the main causes of fires is lax government monitoring and law enforcement, which corporations with forest concessions have come to take for granted.

“This puts people in danger,” Zenzi says.

“Why are these fire happening? Because government and law enforcement have intentionally turned a blind eye to those who benefit from them. If the police were serious in handling this, fires wouldn’t have been happened in the first place,” she adds.

Forest and peat fires can only be prevented if the laws are enforced, Zenzi believes.

“Regulatory reviews review and license evaluations should be included as government priorities,” Zenzi says.

“The law may be deceived, but the environment doesn’t lie.”

Hope rises

Although skeptical that peat fires will be stamped out in Riau, Haris says President Joko Widodo’s visit to burned-out Sungai Tohor village in Riau’s Meranti Islands offers some hope.

Joko visit the village last week in response to a letter from lifelong resident Abdul Manan, also known as Cik Manan.

“I asked the president to visit us because I wanted to show him the condition of our village. I wanted to show him how the peatland in our village has been severely drained due to corporations’ activities here,” Manan says.

“I really hope that after his visit, his promises will be implemented. Our lives depend on this land, because we plant sago. That’s our source of income,” Manan says.

“Haze is like vicious cycle here. It’s an endless matter. But with our new president, our hope has started to grow beyond the haze in our lungs,” Haris says.

Akiat, a sago farmer in Kepau Baru village, says the government should immediately revoke the licenses of corporations that operate near their village.

The Jakarta Globe could identify at least two corporations operating in the area surrounding Kepau Baru: Lestari Unggul Makmur, which is associated with Asian Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) and Raja Garuda Mas (RMG); and Nasional Sago Prima, a subsidiary of Sampoerna Agro.

“Besides having to breathe in the haze for several months every year, our sago has also decreased in quality. Most land has burnt down. We hope the government can express their concerns by pushing these corporations to compensate us for our loss,” Akiat said.

Joko has pledged action against forest fires. “We cannot underestimate peatlands’ importance to our country. Be it two meters or four meters, it has its own function in our ecosystem. We have misunderstood peatland as wasted areas, but the truth is, it is an important ecosystem,” Joko said.

“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,” Joko said.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has said the government will reevaluate corporate concessions, adding that the government will take necessary actions to protect people’s livelihoods against disruption by irresponsible concession-holders.

Siti has also said her ministry will do everything in its power to prevent fires, including improved spatial planning, water management and law enforcement, as well as educating people and corporations about the environment.

“The people have high hopes for Joko. I am sure he is an outside-the-box leader. He can solve this,” Haris says.

“Fires in Riau are a complex problem, but they only need one simple solution: All it takes is water. All we have to wait for is the government’s commitment,” Haris added.

“While Riau dried out, there’s still hope we can hold on to Meranti Island. It hasn’t yet been severely burned. If the government supports it, we can save the island.

“Also, it could be an example for this country and the world that we’re not totally drained.”

The reporter traveled to Siak district at the invitation of Walhi, Greenpeace Indonesia, Yayasan Perspektif Baru and

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Indonesia: Tree planting movement to support food sovereignty program

Fardah Antara 30 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attended a national commemoration of Indonesian Tree Planting Day (HMPI) 2014 and National Tree Planting Month (BMN) held in Tempursari village, Wonogiri District, Central Java, on Nov 29.

Some 37,000 tree seedlings were planted, including a teakwood tree by Jokowi and Magnolia alba, also known as the White Champaca, by First Lady Iriana Widodo, at the venue of the commemoration ceremony.

"Preserved Forests to Support Food Sovereignty, Water and Renewable Energy" was the theme of this years HMPI and BMN activities, according to Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya.

"We invite and encourage the public to preserve the ecosystem in order to improve the quality of the environment and to provide food, protect water and to obtain renewable energy," the minister explained about the theme.

The government has empowered inhabitants living surrounding forest areas to increase their income through community-based forestry programs, according to Nurbaya.

The government has so far allocated 328 thousand hectares for community forests, 318 thousand hectares for rural forests, 194 thousand hectares for peoples tree forests, and 280 thousand hectares for people partnership forests, that involve 3,700 community groups across the country.

Under the HMPI and BMN activities, some 1,3 billion trees were planted in 2010, 1.5 billion trees in 2011, 1.6 billion in 2012, and 1.8 billion in 2013. This year, some two billion trees were expected to be planted.

President Jokowi on the occasion presented awards to governors, district heads and mayors who came out as winners in a national "one billion tree planting" contest 2013.

Simultaneously, thousands of trees were also planted at various locations in Indonesia on the same day during the tree planting day/month commemoration.

In Batam, Riau Island Province, some 500 trees were planted by local officials, military personnel and students.

"Today, the tree planting activity is just a symbolic one, because, we have, in fact, planted trees throughout the year. Tree planting has many benefits," Head of the Batam maritime affairs, fishery an forestry office Suhartini said in Batam.

The local authorities have also planted trees to rehabilitate a protected forest measuring 915 hectares in Batam.

In West Papua Province, the local administration has planted a total of 200 thousand trees since January 2014, according to a local official.

The trees were planted as part of the provinces One Billion Tree Planting Movement activities, Hendrik Runaweri, head of the West Papua forestry and plantation office, said in the provincial capital of Manokwari.

The trees were planted in various districts and cities, in particularly in Remu protected forest in Sorong City and in mangrove forest located in Tambrauw District, he stated.

The movement was aimed at rehabilitating forest and arid areas to support food self-sufficient program in West Papua Province, he explained.

The provincial administration has also encouraged inhabitants of West Papua to plant trees as many as possible and to protect forest.

"Forest preservation can improve the quality of the environment, provide raw materials for the forestry industry and absorb carbon dioxide in the air, which will finally help mitigate the impacts of climate change," he stated.

Meanwhile, the State Enterprises (BUMN) Ministry has planned to plant 3,000 trees along the East Flood Canal located in eastern Jakarta.

"The BUMN ministry is committed to preserving the environment," BUMN Minister Rini Mariani Soemarno said in Jakarta, Sunday.

The trees will be planted along a four-km-long flood canal to help strengthen the soil construction and prevent abrasion.

"Today, some 800 trees are planted, and the remaining 2,200 trees will follow soon," the minister stated when observing HMPI and BMN 2014.

The trees will be monitored and taken care by PT Bakti Usaha Menanam Nusantara Hijau Lestari through the state enterprise Perhutani for three years to come, to make sure that they will grow well.

"BUMN is an agent of national development, so all state enterprises will help preserve the environment across the country," she added.

"Lets work, work and work as instructed by President Joko Widodo, to improve the performance and preserve the environment," she stated.

In line with the Presidential Decree No. 24/2008, the government had declared November 28 as the Indonesian Tree Planting Day (HMPI) and December as the National Planting Month (BMN).

In a ceremony organized in West Java, on December 8, 2009, the then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged the nation to plant 4 billion trees by 2020 and 9.2 billion trees by 2050.

"If we can plant at least half of what we have targeted, we can reduce carbon emissions by 46 billion, by 2050. The figure is indeed pessimistic, but if we can plant more trees, more CO2 can be captured, and this will be our contribution to the world," Yudhoyono noted.

West Papua plants 200 thousand trees since January 2014
Antara 30 Nov 14;

Manokwari (ANTARA News) - The West Papua administration has planted a total of 200 thousand trees since January 2014, according to a local official.

The trees were planted as part of the provinces One Billion Tree Planting Movement activities, Hendrik Runaweri, head of the West Papua forestry and plantation office, said here, Sunday.

The trees were planted in various districts and cities, particularly in Remu protected forest in Sorong City and in mangrove forest located in Tambrauw District, he stated.

The movement was aimed at rehabilitating forest and arid areas to support food self-sufficient program in West Papua Province, he explained.

The provincial administration has also encouraged inhabitants of West Papua to plant trees as many as possible and to protect forest.

"Forest preservation can improve the quality of the environment, provide raw materials for the forestry industry and absorb carbon dioxide in the air, which will finally help mitigate the impacts of climate change," he stated.

Meanwhile, the State Enterprises (BUMN) Ministry has planned to plant 3,000 trees along the East Flood Canal located in east Jakarta.

"The BUMN ministry is committed to preserving the environment," BUMN Minister Rini Mariani Soemarno said in Jakarta, Sunday.

The trees will be planted along a four-km-long flood canal to help strengthen the soil construction and prevent abrasion.

"Today, some 800 trees are planted, and the remaining 2,200 trees will follow soon," the minister stated.

The trees will be monitored and taken care by PT Bakti Usaha Menanam Nusantara Hijau Lestari through the state enterprise Perhutani for three years to come, to make sure that they will grow well.

"BUMN is an agent of national development, so all state enterprises will help preserve the environmental across the country," she added.

"Lets work, work and work as instructed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), to improve the performance and preserve the environment," she stated.

Indonesia State Enterprises Ministry plants 3,000 trees
Antara 30 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The State Enterprises (BUMN) Ministry has planned to plant 3,000 trees along the East Flood Canal located in east Jakarta.

"The BUMN ministry is committed to preserving the environment," BUMN Minister Rini Mariani Soemarno said here on Sunday.

The trees were planted along a four-km-long flood canal to help strengthen the soil construction and prevent abrasion.

"Today, some 800 trees are planted, and the remaining 2,200 trees will follow soon," the minister stated.

The trees will be monitored and taken care by PT Bakti Usaha Menanam Nusantara Hijau Lestari through the state enterprise Perhutani for three years to come, to make sure that they will grow well.

"BUMN is an agent of national development, so all state enterprises will help preserve the environmental across the country," she added.

"Lets work, work and work as instructed by President Joko Widodo, to improve the performance and preserve the environment," she stated.

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Vietnam farmers bristle at Laos's planned Mekong River dam

Thanh Nien News 1 Dec 14;

Residents of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have raised objections to the Don Sahong hydropower dam that Laos plans to build on the Mekong River's main stream.

The objections came in late November after the Hanoi-based Green Innovation and Development Center, the Center for Biodiversity and Development at Vietnam Rivers Network, and local authorities finished a nearly two-week survey in communes in Can Tho and the five provinces of Ca Mau, Soc Trang, An Giang, Kien Giang, Vinh Long.

The 758 respondents were all residents of Vietnam's Mekong Delta, who received leaflets about the discussion.

All reported having never heard of the planned dam before, but all concluded that Vietnam people would gain nothing from the dam.

The delta's roughly 20 million residents will face many difficulties because of it, according to documents provided by the survey organizers.

An expected drop in alluvium will render the downstream soil unsuitable for cultivation and ultimately lead to erosion, undermining riverside construction.

Drought and salinization will become more severe during the dry season, they said.

Combined with the depletion of fisheries and other wildlife, the dam is expected to upend millions of livelihoods, they said.

A large number of rural Vietnamese citizens will be forced to migrate to cities for factory jobs, creating a population and employment crisis there.

Although construction of the first dam, Xayaburi, has begun and many others planned along the mainstream Mekong, this was the first time people in one country have been asked how they felt about a project in another Mekong-river country.

In September of 2013, Laos announced plans to build the Don Sahong project right in the middle of a migratory fish pathway, around two kilometers from Cambodia and 420 kilometers from Vietnam.

The final report is scheduled to be submitted at the region’s ministerial meeting next January.

In November 2012, Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion Xayaburi dam project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors. Opponents said the 810-meter (2,600 feet) dam would unleash massive ecological damage on a river that feeds around 60 million people.

Environmental groups have called on the Vietnamese government to convince their Laos counterparts to abandon the project.

They further called on the residents of nearby countries to speak up on their behalf.

"Things are now shifting, and the strong determination of many Civil Society Organisation in the entire region to protect the right of the affected people and the environment is paying off," Marc Goichot, who works for environmental group WWF's Greater Mekong program on sustainable hydropower, told Thanh Nien News.

In June, a Thai court agreed to hear a lawsuit against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies for agreeing to buy electricity from the Xayaburi project. Thailand plans to buy around 95 percent of the electricity generated by the massive mainstream dam.

PanNature, a Hanoi-based environmental group, called a conference to oppose the damming of the mainstream Mekong, last September, as China began work on 15 hydropower projects on the river, while Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia planned another 11.

Experts said that in the best case scenario, the dams will destroy the region’s rice paddies and aquaculture which are its major strengths, causing an annual loss of up to US$1 billion.

The worst case scenario is a dam breach that would release 30 billion cubic meters of water into the downstream river basins.

"Because of both Xayaburi and Done Sahong projects, the Mekong has been identified as a hot spot worldwide. Vietnam, as the downstream most country, has probably the most to lose, but millions of people in Cambodia Laos and Thailand are also at risk," Goichot said.

"The threat to the Mekong delta are real and already on going; the delta is already sinking and shrinking; Xayaburi dam will only significantly exacerbate this trend with huge environmental social and economical, repercussion for the people of Vietnam."

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Countries’ economic power does not predict conservation performance

IUCN 1 Dec 14;

Gland, Switzerland, 1 December 2014 – Some countries are doing better than others at conserving their share of global vertebrate biodiversity, and the factors of success are not related to economic wealth.

A new study conducted by conservation scientists from the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and BirdLife International provides the first assessment of the performance of individual nations and regions in meeting their responsibilities for global biodiversity.

The study reveals that countries with the highest economic capacity are not performing better than others. Contrary to expectation, a country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product does not explain effectiveness at reducing biodiversity loss. Instead, success appears to result from sound policy implementation.

“We were surprised to find that two of the world’s wealthiest nations – the United States and Australia – are among the worst performers,” said lead author Ana Rodrigues, Researcher at CEFE. “This was even more striking given that developing countries such as Brazil, India, Peru and Madagascar have done proportionately much better at holding their commitments towards avoiding global biodiversity loss.”

Almost all regions and countries were found to have contributed negatively to global biodiversity trends for birds, mammals and amphibians, as measured by the IUCN Red List Index, but these losses were mainly concentrated in certain areas. Indeed, eight countries – Australia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and the United States – are responsible for more than half of the global deterioration in the conservation status of vertebrate species.

Nonetheless, a handful of countries stand out for having tipped the overall balance from species sliding towards extinction to a net improvement in the status of the species for which they are responsible by setting some of them on the road to recovery. The best performers were five small island developing states, which have achieved net improvements in vertebrate conservation status.

“That nations such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tonga have been able to reverse the extinction crisis in their countries demonstrates how effective conservation actions like invasive species eradication, biosecurity, management of protected areas, and ecosystem restoration can be,” explained co-author Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). “A key to the success that these five countries have had is the implementation of consistent conservation actions over several decades. Conservation rarely achieves success through short-term projects, but requires a long-term approach, something that donors should take note of.”

The study also reveals that the major threats to biodiversity differed substantially between areas. The impacts of overexploitation for food, traditional medicine and the pet trade have been most marked in Asian countries, particularly in China and Indonesia. Unsustainable agriculture and logging are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia, while invasive species are a major threat in the United States, particularly Hawai‘i, and in Australia. In the tropical Andes and Central America, the invasive chytrid fungus is a leading cause of amphibian declines.

After the world’s nations failed to meet the 2010 Biodiversity Target, ‘to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss’, governments agreed on a new ambitious strategic plan for biodiversity. Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, states that ‘by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained’.

“Meeting Target 12 will require focused, long-term conservation investment in countries with large shares of responsibility for global biodiversity,” said co-author Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International. “Each country needs to invest more in conserving the species for which it is solely or largely accountable, focusing on the most important sites for biodiversity, such as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, and other Key Biodiversity Areas.”

The study by Rodrigues et al., Spatially explicit trends in the global conservation status of vertebrates was published in PLOS ONE on 26 November 2014.

The study is available here:

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Climate change adaptation comes of age in U.N. talks: TRFN

Megan Rowling PlanetArk 1 Dec 14;

Climate change adaptation comes of age in U.N. talks: TRFN Photo: Mariana Bazo
People walk near the Hualcan glacier in the Huascaran natural reserve in Ancash November 29, 2014. Peru is home to 71 percent of the world?s tropical glaciers, which are a source of fresh water for millions, but 22 percent of glaciers have disappeared.
Photo: Mariana Bazo

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Peru, where two weeks of U.N. climate talks begin Monday, melting glaciers and more extreme weather such as hot spells and flash frosts are already harming crops and incomes, and keeping people in poverty, aid workers say.

"From the Andes to the jungles, communities are doing what they can, but their efforts will never be enough without ambitious global action to tackle climate change," said Milo Stanojevich, CARE International's Peru director.

The Lima negotiations are tasked with settling on the key elements of a new global climate deal due to be finalised in Paris in a year's time, and working out how to make bigger reductions in planet-warming emissions before that deal comes into force in 2020.

Governments also need to boost support for the poor who are already struggling with climate change impacts, including wilder weather and rising seas, CARE urged.

In recent weeks international attention has focused on new goals announced by the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, to curb their carbon pollution.

But at the same time, there is a quieter push underway to secure more of the limelight for efforts to adjust to the unavoidable effects of climate change. These include building more resilient infrastructure, putting in place disaster warning systems and teaching farmers to harvest rainwater.

"We are no longer in a situation where just cutting emissions is enough. We also need to adapt to climate change where possible, and where it isn't possible, countries need to be compensated in some way," said Sam Smith, leader of WWF's global climate and energy initiative.


Developing nations - from the Pacific through sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America - have long called for adaptation initiatives to receive more funding, arguing they should garner half of climate finance flows.

In 2013, funding for adaptation accounted for just 7 percent of global investment in tackling climate change. And since 2003, adaptation got only around 17 percent of spending approved by government-backed climate funds for developing countries.

But there is growing confidence among experts that the tide is turning - not least because the fledgling Green Climate Fund, which aims to become the main global climate finance mechanism, plans to direct half its resources to adaptation over time.

Saleemul Huq, director of the Bangladesh-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said richer countries now understand adaptation is an issue for them too, following costly weather disasters like Superstorm Sandy, which battered the United States in 2012, causing losses of $50 billion.

"What the U.S. will have to spend to adapt will dwarf what poorer countries will have to pay," he said. "These are mind-boggling amounts."

Gone are the days when talking about the need for adaptation was seen as letting polluting nations off the hook. Now there is a strong push among many developing countries and civil society groups for a global goal on adaptation in the 2015 deal.


Quamrul Chowdhury, a veteran Bangladeshi negotiator who represents the least developed countries, said adaptation should no longer be treated as the "step brother of mitigation". Instead the two should have equal status as "twin brothers", he said.

The Paris accord should also address how to plug "the existing adaptation deficits", bearing in mind that adaptation will have a limit if ambition to mitigate climate change is not stepped up, he said.

"Where adaptation stops, climate-induced loss and damage begins," he noted, adding that a mechanism for loss and damage established at last year's climate talks in Warsaw should also be integrated into the 2015 deal.

Huq said adaptation is harder to measure than emissions cuts, making it challenging to set a firm goal. One solution is to stipulate how much finance should go to adaptation, he noted.

Richer countries are wary of including any such targets in a new global deal, although they promised in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and develop cleanly.

It is still unclear how they plan to get there from the current level of finance for developing nations, which fell to $34 billion in 2013, $8 billion less than in 2012.

Liz Gallagher, climate diplomacy program leader with environmental think tank E3G, said the Lima talks should kick start a process for working out how finance will be ramped up to $100 billion a year.

"We can't let that $100 billion be an issue left until Paris - it will break Paris if it is ... it needs to be reconciled over the coming year," she said.


Another potential hot topic in Lima is whether countries should include adaptation efforts in their contributions to the new deal. Those contributions are supposed to be put on the table early next year but some industrialized nations have argued the offers should cover only emissions reductions.

But for less developed countries, they are a way of linking their current and future plans for adaptation with the amount of financial and technical support needed to implement them.

This will vary according to how much effort is made to keep global temperature rise to an internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees Celsius or less, they argue, and should be subject to the same review process as mitigation efforts.

"If these negotiations do not help countries to deal with the real impacts of climate change, and only prioritize emission targets, they will have failed the very people this agreement is meant to protect," said Harjeet Singh, manager for resilience and climate change at ActionAid International.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering)

At climate talks, UN calls fossil fuels 'high risk' investment
Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 2 Dec 14;

LIMA (Reuters) - Falling oil prices show the "high risk" of fossil fuel investments compared with renewable energies, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Monday at the start of 190-nation talks on a deal to slow global warming.

The Dec. 1-12 meeting in Lima opened with hopes that a U.N. deal to slow climate change is in reach for 2015, helped by goals set by China, the United States and the European Union to cut greenhouse emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N.'s Climate Change Secretariat, dismissed suggestions that a tumble in the price of oil to a five-year low on Monday could brake hopes for a shift to renewable energies as a cornerstone of the climate deal.

Oil price volatility "is exactly one of the main reasons why we must move to renewable energy which has a completely predictable cost of zero for fuel" once wind turbines or solar panels were built, she told a news conference.

"We are seeing more and more the realization that investment in fossil fuel is actually a high risk, is getting more and more risky," she said, welcoming a decision by Germany's top utility E.ON to spin off power plants to focus on renewable energy and power grids.

Still, other experts said the oil price fall could slow some investments in renewables and may make fossil fuel exporters such as Russia and Saudi Arabia reluctant to make concessions at the climate talks, fearing they could undermine their earnings.

"It's hard to tell what the total net impact will be here," Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said after Brent crude fell as low as $67.53 a barrel, its lowest level since October 2009, before rebounding to settle at $72.54.

Delegates in Lima are due to work out elements of a deal due to be agreed at a U.N. summit in Paris next year as part of a U.N. goal to limit average world temperature rises to 2 degrees (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.


Temperatures have already risen by about 0.9 C (1.5F) and a U.N. panel of climate scientists says there are risks of irreversible impacts, ranging from damage to coral reefs to a meltdown of Greenland's ice that would raise sea levels.

"The window for action is rapidly closing," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told delegates, warning of worsening disruptions to food and water supplies.

His panel says it is 95 percent probable that man-made emissions are the main cause of warming. And 2014 may eclipse 2010 as the warmest year on record.

The talks have been boosted after the United States last month agreed to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels and China agreed to set a cap on its soaring emissions by around 2030.

The European Union also aims to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels. That means that nations accounting for more than half of world emissions have set already goals.

"There is probably more of an opportunity here than there has been in a very long time," U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern told a briefing in Washington.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, extra reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington,; Editing by Tom Brown, Bernard Orr)

UN climate talks begin as global temperatures break records
Matt McGrath BBC News 1 Dec 14;

A key UN climate meeting in Peru has opened with negotiators attempting to advance a new global agreement.

One hundred and ninety-five nations have committed to finalising a new climate pact in Paris by 2015's end.

The process has been boosted by recent developments, including a joint announcement on cutting carbon by the US and China.

The two weeks of discussions have started amid record-breaking global temperatures for the year to date.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), the global average temperature over land and ocean from January to October was the hottest since records began in 1880.

Speaking at the opening ceremony in Lima, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that the conference had to make history.

"2014 is threatening to be the hottest year in history and emissions continue to rise, we need to act urgently," she told the negotiators.

"We should be able to lay the foundations for a strong agreement in Paris and raise the level of our ambitions so that gradually over the long term we are able to achieve climate neutrality - this is the only way to truly achieve sustainable development for all."

Forward momentum

Delegates will attempt to build on the this year's positive momentum that has seen a new political engagement with the process.

In September, millions of people took to the streets of cities all over the world in a demonstration of popular support for a new approach.

Days later, 125 world leaders attended a meeting called by the UN secretary general, where they re-affirmed their commitments to tackle the problem through a new global agreement.

The chances of that happening were increased by November's announcement from the US and China, with the Chinese signalling that their emissions would peak around 2030.

The European Union also contributed to the positive mood by agreeing climate targets for 2030.

There has also been good news on climate finance. The UN's Green Climate Fund (GCF) secured over $9bn in commitments at a recent pledging conference in Berlin.

Now in Lima, the negotiating teams will try to boost these advances and maintain a momentum that will survive to Paris. But observers say there are many "formidable challenges" ahead.

"Ultimately this is not a problem that can be solved by just the US, China, and the EU," said Paul Bledsoe, senior climate fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the US.

"There's a whole series of countries - Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia - who have not made commitments (to cut emissions) and we don't know yet how robust their commitments are."

Form and function

One key element of the puzzle that needs to be resolved in Peru is the scale of "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDC).

By the end of March next year, all countries are expected to announce the level of their efforts to cut carbon as part of the Paris deal.

But, as yet, there is no agreement on what should be included or excluded from these INDC statements.

"Developed countries want a narrow scope for those guidelines, but developing countries are pushing for finance and adaption in them," said Liz Gallagher from the think-tank E3G, and a long-time observer of the UN talks process.

"That seems to be a tactical move to make sure that finance and adaptation get more political attention than in the past - for me that's where the big tensions in Lima will be."

As well as the INDC discussion, there will be strong debate about what needs to be included in the final text. Parties are likely to clash over the long-term goal of any new agreement and its legal shape.

Many countries, including the US, have signalled that they will be unable to enter a legally binding deal on emissions cuts.

There will also be pressure for countries to come up with significant contributions in the period up to 2020 when a new deal is likely to come into force.

There are concerns that the scale of division between the interests of richer and poorer countries could lead to stalemate.

"I believe the developing countries need to be careful who they allow to speak as their leadership," said Paul Bledsoe.

"I don't believe that petrol states like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela are the appropriate leaders for the interests of less rich countries, most of whom do not have fossil resources.

"It is important that the great majority of developing countries who don't have fossil resources don't get gamed by those who do."

Many attendees believe that the concerns about temperatures, and the engagement of political leaders, as demonstrated in recent months, will be positive for the process.

"I think, this top-down pressure will force countries to think they can't always retreat to their old school lines," said Liz Gallagher.

"Whether that will be positive or negative, I think that disruption to the negotiation dynamic is helpful at this stage.

"I think the countries' 'true colours' will start to come out a bit. That's useful for the public to know."

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