Best of our wild blogs: 15 Dec 14

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2015
from Green Drinks Singapore

A paddle through the Jalan Gemala Nature Area
from The Long and Winding Road

Bush Cricket (Holochlora sp.) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Popularity of hybrid vehicles picks up

Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Dec 14;

In the last five years, the number of petrol-electric hybrid passenger cars has doubled to about 5,700, while hybrid taxis have gone from just four in 2009 to around 1,500 now, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Observers cite various reasons for the sharp uptake - such as the availability of more models and a growing awareness among end- users - but the single biggest motivator may well have been pump prices.
The start of the trend coincides with the sharp and steady rise in pump prices. From less than $1.60 per litre in 2009, the cheapest 92-octane petrol went past $2.20 last year before settling to $1.96 in recent weeks.

Seeing how a Toyota Prius C hybrid is nearly 40 per cent more fuel-efficient than a Toyota Vios, the savings offered by the Prius would more than offset the rise in pump prices from 2009 to last year.
But fuel savings is not the only reason why procurement manager L.C. Ng, 58, bought a Toyota Prius five years ago. "It's a wonderful car - very smooth and very quiet," he said.

"So quiet in fact that I have to be extra careful in carparks, because people are not aware that there's a car behind them."

The fuel economy - of 19km per litre - or double that of his previous car, does not hurt either, he said.

Cabby Yong Yoong Siong, 57, who drives a Toyota Prius from Prime Taxis, cited almost the same reasons. "I get about 22km per litre," he said. "The (diesel) Hyundai Sonata I once drove managed 9km to 10km per litre. Even though diesel is cheaper, the Sonata would still be costlier to run."

He added that the Prius is quieter and more comfortable than a diesel cab.

The incentive for taxi companies is twofold: they save on annual diesel tax of about $5,000 per cab; and they enjoy a carbon rebate of up to $30,000 per cab.

Prime Taxis was the first to roll out hybrid cabs in 2009. But the firm with the largest fleet of such taxis is SMRT. It has about 1,000 hybrid cabs, which make up one-third of its fleet. By next March, it aims to add 300 more.

Despite the surge in popularity, hybrids still make up a small percentage of the total vehicle population. Figures from LTA show the number of petrol-electric models represents 0.9 and 5.3 per cent of cars and cabs here, respectively. Still, those numbers are a big rise over the 0.46 and 0.02 per cent of their respective cohorts in 2009.

Going by how the price gap between hybrid and conventional vehicles has narrowed, observers believe hybrids will continue to grow in popularity.

For instance, a Toyota Prius C is priced around $120,000, just 8 per cent more than a Toyota Vios. Back in 2009, a Toyota Prius (the smaller Prius C was not available then) was 37 per cent costlier than a similar- sized Toyota Corolla.

SIM University adjunct professor Chong Chee Leong, who teaches sustainability, said the adoption of hybrid cars is a development in the right direction, but one that has been quite slow.

"We need substantial converts for the envisaged environmental impacts to be realised," he said.

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Possible new animal adoption centre revealed at ACRES charity carwash

Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: There could soon be a new community animal adoption centre and dog run at East Coast Park.

The idea is being discussed by the Kembangan-Chai Chee grassroots and the Ministry of National Development (MND) and it is hoped this rent-free space will encourage more in Singapore to adopt rather than buy a pet.

This initiative was announced by Manpower Minister and MP for Marine Parade GRC Tan Chuan-Jin, who, together with Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, joined over 60 volunteers at the first-ever ACRES Charity Carwash on Sunday (Dec 14).

The goal was to raise funds to wipe out animal cruelty in Singapore. It cost owners a minimum donation of S$25 to get their car washed and S$35 for their van to be cleaned. The money will go towards ACRES' outreach efforts, wildlife rescue and its animal crime investigation unit.

More than 150 cars were washed at the event, with about S$10,000 raised.

Mr Tan also said discussions are underway to see if the Pilot Cat Ownership Project currently in Chong Pang can be extended to the east as well. It is also hoped that various animal welfare groups will be able to use the adoption centre.

"We do have a lot of people who do like pets and animals, but we also have a lot of people who are uncomfortable,” said Mr Tan. “So the key thing is really to find and to create a common space, to encourage people to co-exist, with animals in our midst.

“We're still discussing with MND on what is possible, I'm keen to explore the possibility of dog runs in the area and we're also looking at perhaps, rather than just a dog run, we could … have on a weekly or fortnightly basis some of the different animal welfare groups coming together and promoting greater awareness.”

ACRES executive director Louis Ng added: "There are a lot of groups out there that always have adoption drives or urge people to go to the shelters, which often are not in very popular areas, so they're more or less isolated. We wanted to bring this into an area where a lot of people frequent, somewhere like East Coast Park, so that we can make the adoption of animals a mainstream thing and provide a venue where there's a dog run, there is a dog adoption centre, a cat adoption centre, a rabbit adoption centre.

“There's an area where animal welfare groups can gather and give talks to the public. It's not really just about adoption. Say someone who is afraid of cats, we're going to build a nice area where they can go in, the volunteers will be there and maybe they can socialise with the cat to increase tolerance of these animals, which I think is the key word in today's context."

Animal adoption centre, dog run could feature in East Coast Park
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 14 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE – East Coast Park could become a haven for animal lovers, potential adopters of pets and those seeking interactions with dogs, cats or rabbits, if discussions between Kembangan-Chai Chee grassroots organisation and the Ministry of National Development bear fruit.

Talks are ongoing on an animal adoption centre and a dog run for East Coast Park, Member of Parliament for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency Tan Chuan-Jin and chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) Louis Ng revealed today (Dec 14).

The idea is to “build a common space for people to co-exist with animals in our midst”, said Mr Tan who, together with Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee and other volunteers, helped to raise S$10,000 at ACRES’ charity carwash at The Grandstand in Bukit Timah.

Discussions are also taking place with the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) on extending the Love Cats pilot project in Chong Pang, where residents are allowed to keep one cat per flat, to the Marine Parade area, said Mr Tan.

Mr Ng, a volunteer in Mr Tan’s Kembangan-Chai Chee ward, said the idea was mooted about two months ago and details on the timeframe, site and size of the proposed centre are not available yet. Having an adoption centre in a popular park, however, could increase adoption rates and provide a venue for animal welfare groups to gather and reach out to the wider community, he said.

Animal welfare groups urge aspiring pet owners to adopt instead of buy, but animal shelters are often not in popular areas, said Mr Ng. “A lot of people are saying, let’s focus more on adoption, let’s pass some legislation. But I think rather than always legislating, let’s make this a community norm, so people will always know every weekend in East Coast Park, there are dogs, cats, rabbits (up) for adoption. It becomes very mainstream and very part-and-parcel of our lives in Singapore.”

Having enclosed areas in the centre, where animals are free to move about, can also help change people’s minds about keeping animals in cages, he said.

The CWS and House Rabbit Society of Singapore are aware of the idea and have submitted designs for the centre. CWS chief executive Joanne Ng said the centre would enhance adoption efforts and increase interaction opportunities with cats – at its adoption drives currently, the cats are mainly in cages.

CWS’ proposal was of a space the size of a one-room flat big enough for about 10 cats and three humans, with glass or acrylic walls. The see-through panels would allow people outside the room to see how each cat socialises with humans, she said.

Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo supported the idea of the adoption centre and its accessible location. Aside from the dog run, the centre should have rooms to hold discussions with potential adopters, as well as a holding area for the animals, he suggested.

ASD, Animal Lovers League and Save Our Street Dogs would still be shooting for a joint national adoption centre – which the groups proposed to the MND earlier this year – to house all their animals and provide space for more, he added.

East Coast Park may get pet-awareness hub
Janice Tai My Paper AsiaOne 15 Dec 14;

East Coast Park is being earmarked as a spot where visitors can interact with dogs, cats and rabbits as they roam freely. If they get on well, they could even take animals home to keep as a pet.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin revealed yesterday that such a facility is being considered, in an effort to encourage people to co-exist with animals and adopt pets rather than buy them.

Speaking on the sidelines of a charity car wash event at The Grandstand, the MP for Marine Parade GRC said: "East Coast is a great family area and we are trying to see whether we can have dog runs, and get different welfare groups to come together and promote greater awareness of animal welfare issues.

"We do have a lot of people who like pets and animals, but we also have a lot of people who are uncomfortable, so I think the key thing is to find and create the common space."

As part of a larger push to encourage people to adopt animals, he said that his grassroots leaders are also in discussion with the Cat Welfare Society to see if it can extend a pilot project in which residents are allowed to keep cats in Housing Board (HDB) flats from Chong Pang to Marine Parade.

HDB bans cats from its blocks as they can cause disturbance to neighbours.

Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said the new rent-free animal adoption centre would not just be about increasing the animal adoption rate in Singapore.

"It is an area where we can learn about animal behaviour and increase our tolerance of these animals in our community," said Mr Ng, who has joined the People's Action Party and volunteers in the Kembangan-Chai Chee ward under Mr Tan.

"If you see dogs or cats in the community, but you are scared of them, here's an area where you can go and our volunteers will be there to assist you in overcoming your fears."

Details such as the timeframe and possible site for the project are not yet known, as Acres and Kembangan-Chai Chee grassroots leaders are still in talks with the Ministry of National Development. If realised, it will be the first hub of its kind.

Student Ross Lam, 18, who volunteers at an animal shelter every week, said: "Many of our animal shelters are in far-flung areas such as Pasir Ris Farmway, and people hardly go there.

"By having this at a popular public area, people can see the animals running freely instead of in cages, and perhaps they would be more open to adopting them after they learn how to approach them or look after them."

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Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says hopeful of future climate deals

Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 14;

LIMA: More than 170 countries agreed on Sunday (Dec 14) the first steps to a new pact to combat climate change, which came at the end of the United Nations Climate Conference in Lima, Peru.

Under the accord, governments will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gases by March next year. These plans will form the basis of a global agreement due at a summit in Paris in a year’s time.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan attended the Lima conference. In a Facebook post, he said “after protracted, many almost all night negotiations, the conference closed successfully with some last minute minor surgery to the text.”

Dr Balakrishnan doubts that initial contributions by all countries will be adequate for solving the enormous problem. But he added that it was “a start” and hopes that more can be done collectively in the future.

The minister said though Singapore may be tiny, the country’s negotiating team did more than their fair share to facilitate a successful agreement. He said Singapore will always have to work harder, usually quietly behind the scenes, to prove its value and relevance to the world.

- CNA/ec

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More HDB blocks to have solar panels

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Solar panels will be installed at 680 HDB blocks and three HDB-owned commercial and industrial properties by end-2016. It's part of the HDB's Solar Capability Building Programme - which aims at harnessing solar energy for use at more residential blocks. The solar panels will provide an alternative and renewable energy source for Singapore and are key to HDB's sustainable development efforts.

Jurong East, Marine Parade, Sembawang and Tampines are the four towns that will benefit from the latest round of solar panel installations. This is on top of the 200 blocks islandwide that will be fitted with solar panels by the end of this year.

HDB's latest and largest solar leasing tender to date was awarded to Sunseap Leasing in October. The tender also covers three commercial and industrial properties owned by HDB - HDB Hub at Toa Payoh, Woodlands Civic Centre and Eastlink Industrial Building.

Under the tender, Sunseap Leasing will bear the full cost of the solar panels - which are installed on the rooftops of the blocks. For previous tenders, HDB had funded a portion of the cost to kick start the solar leasing programme.

Sunseap Leasing's business development manager, Shawn Tan, said: "We don't collect any upfront money from our client. We come in, supply and install solar panels and sell this energy to our clients at a discounted rate of what they are currently paying to a traditional grid source."

HDB said that as larger tenders are being called, there will be economies of scale. "Based on the current sustainable business model of solar leasing, HDB will not be funding any portion of the upfront cost for future projects to install solar panels."

The solar energy that is generated will be used to power services in the common areas of the HDB blocks, and these include the lifts, staircase lighting and water pumps.

Sunseap Leasing's Mr Tan said: "The direct benefit will essentially be that the building itself will draw less power from the traditional source, as it is drawing power from a renewable source of energy. That translates directly to a reduction of carbon footprint.

"Because there's a reduction in the energy you draw from a traditional source, the tariff we charge the town council is at a discounted rate. So when they use solar energy to replace the traditional source of energy, there's some form of savings in their utility bills."

The town councils only pay for the energy that is consumed. HDB says the savings can help town councils offset the rise in energy costs, which in turn benefits residents. If it happens that no solar energy is harnessed, these common services will then fall back on the usual electricity source.

HDB said it is moving toward using solar energy on a wider scale and aims to implement the solar leasing business model in more HDB towns islandwide. It added that it will also continue to test the various types of solar energy technology to determine what is most suitable and efficient for Singapore's climate conditions.

- CNA/ir

More Housing Board residents to benefit from solar power
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - Residents in some 680 Housing Board blocks in four residential towns, including Jurong East and Marine Parade, will be able to tap the sun’s energy for their electricity needs by 2016.

And, for the first time, the Housing Board would not have to pay any upfront cost for the installation of the systems that convert sunlight into electricity.

Instead, the full cost of these systems, called solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, will be paid by Sunseap Leasing, the solar firm that won Housing Board’s Oct 27 tender to install the solar PV systems in Jurong East, Marine Parade, Sembawang and Tampines.

“Prior to this, HDB had funded a proportion of the cost for solar leasing tenders called earlier, to kick-start the solar leasing programme,” a Housing Board spokesman said in a statement. She added that for future solar panel installation projects, the HDB will not be funding any portion of the upfront cost due to the “current sustainable business model of solar leasing”.

The town councils of these estates will pay Sunseap for the power generated and consumed for services in common areas.

Under the latest tender, Sunseap will also install solar PV systems at three Housing Board-owned commercial and industrial properties: Woodlands Civic Centre, Eastlink Industrial Building in Bedok, and HDB Hub in Toa Payoh. The upcoming installations would supply 38 megawatts-peak (MWp) of solar power – the largest solar leasing tender awarded by the Housing Board since 2009. The HDB has, to date, committed to providing 54 MWp of solar PV, which will be rolled out progressively. This is enough to generate electricity for 14,000 four-room flats.

By 2020, it hopes to increase this to 220 MWp, by installing solar PV systems at some 5,500 blocks.

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UN members agree deal at Lima climate talks

BBC News 14 Dec 14;

United Nations members have reached an agreement on how countries should tackle climate change.

Delegates have approved a framework for setting national pledges to be submitted to a summit next year.

Differences over the draft text caused the two-week talks in Lima, Peru, to overrun by two days.

Environmental groups said the deal was an ineffectual compromise, but the EU said it was a step towards achieving a global climate deal next year in Paris.

The talks proved difficult because of divisions between rich and poor countries over how to spread the burden of pledges to cut carbon emissions.

'Not perfect'

The agreement was adopted hours after a previous draft was rejected by developing countries, who accused rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to fight global warming and pay for its impacts.

Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the summit, told reporters: "As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties."

Miguel Arias Canete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said the EU had wanted a more ambitious outcome but he still believed that "we are on track to agree a global deal" at a summit in Paris, France, next year.

UK climate change minister Ed Davey said: "I am not going to say it will be a walk in the park in Paris."

He described the deal as "a really important step" on the road to Paris.

"That's when the real deal has to be done."

There was a good deal of optimism at the start of these talks as the recent emissions agreement between the US and China was seen as an historic breakthrough. But that good spirit seemed to evaporate in two weeks of intense wrangling between rich and poor here in Lima.

It ended in a compromise that some participants believe keeps the world on track to reach a new global treaty by the end of next year.

None of the 194 countries attending the talks walked away with everything they wanted, but everybody got something.

As well as pledges and finance, the agreement points towards a new classification of nations. Rather than just being divided into rich and poor, the text attempts to reflects the more complex world of today, where the bulk of emissions originate in developing countries.

While progress in Lima was limited, and many decisions were simply postponed, the fact that 194 nations assented to this document means there is still momentum for a deal in Paris. Much tougher tests lie ahead.

Climate deal heralds historic shift

The talks, which began on 1 December, had been due to end on Friday but ran over into the weekend
The final draft is said to have alleviated those concerns with by saying countries have "common but differentiated responsibilities".

"We've got what we wanted," Indian environment minister Prakash Javedekar told reporters, saying the document preserved the notion that richer nations had to lead the way in making cuts in emissions.

It also restored a promise to poorer countries that a "loss and damage" scheme would be established to help them cope with the financial implications of rising temperatures.

However, it weakened language on national pledges, saying countries "may" instead of "shall" include quantifiable information showing how they intend to meet their emissions targets.

The agreed document calls for:

=An "ambitious agreement" in 2015 that reflects "differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" of each nation
=Developed countries to provide financial support to "vulnerable" developing nations
=National pledges to be submitted by the first quarter of 2015 by those states "ready to do so"
=Countries to set targets that go beyond their "current undertaking"
=The UN climate change body to report back on the national pledges in November 2015

Environmental groups were scathing in their response to the document, saying the proposals were nowhere need drastic enough.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: "The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it's very weak indeed."

Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, said fears the talks would fail to deliver "a fair and ambitious outcome" had been proven "tragically accurate".

At UN climate talks, a crack in rich-poor barrier
KARL RITTER Associated Press Yahoo News 15 Dec 14;

LIMA, Peru (AP) — A last-minute deal that salvaged U.N. climate talks from collapse early Sunday sends a signal the rich-poor divide that long held up progress can be overcome with a year to go before a landmark pact is supposed to be adopted in Paris.

Still, it remains to be seen whether governments can come up with a new formula for how countries in different stages of development should contribute in a way that keeps global warming from reaching dangerous levels.

"This issue will be contentious and it will need to be worked through all the way to Paris," U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said after the marathon talks in Lima finished, more than 30 hours behind schedule.

The U.N. talks were still far away from reaching any agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to a level that scientists say would keep global warming in check. But the Paris agreement would be the first to call on all countries to control their emissions.

The U.S. and other developed nations say that means tearing down the firewall in negotiations that compels only rich countries to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Though it was agreed in 2011 that goals set in Paris would be "applicable to all," many developing countries worry they will be required to take on emissions controls that stymie their economic growth. In Lima they angrily rejected a draft text that made no mention of different responsibilities and capabilities to fight global warming.

"We are in a differentiated world. That is the reality," Malaysian negotiator Gurdial Singh Nijar told delegates. "Many of you colonized us, so we started from a completely different point."

Despite the tough rhetoric, the conference ended Sunday with a compromise based on a groundbreaking U.S.-China deal on emissions targets last month.

The Lima decision noted the principle in the 1992 U.N. climate change convention that countries have "common but differentiated responsibilities" to tackle climate change. But like the U.S.-China deal, it added that this should be seen "in light of different national circumstances," suggesting countries' responsibilities change over time as they develop.

"It sounds like a tiny thing, but it's very important," said Nathaniel Keohane, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "I think we're starting to see the plates move."

How to interpret what it means in practice is going to be critical over the next year as countries firm up their emissions targets for the Paris agreement.

Asked about the implications of the Lima deal, Chinese negotiator Su Wei repeated China's mantra that the purpose of the Paris agreement is to "reinforce and enhance" the 1992 convention, not rewrite it.

"This paragraph may represent a compromise that both sides can interpret as they choose to," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Yet the joint announcement with the U.S. signaled that China is ready to assume a bigger role in the global response to climate change. For the first time, the world's biggest carbon polluter set a fixed target to peak emissions by 2030.

Showing signs that it, too, anticipates the end of a binary view of the world, Brazil put forth a proposal of "concentric circles" with different expectations for developed, emerging economies and least-developed countries.

The final agreement in Lima didn't address Brazil's proposal, though it noted that climate action plans by least-developed countries and small island nations should reflect their "special circumstances."

All countries are supposed to present their plans to control emissions before the Paris agreement next year. In Lima, negotiators listed things that countries "may" want to include in their pledges, such as time frames, base years and methods for calculating emissions.

China and other developing countries blocked a proposal for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against each other. Instead, the U.N. climate agency will prepare a report analyzing the "aggregate" effect of all pledges a month before Paris.

Meanwhile, rich countries resisted any firm commitments of money to help poor countries tackle climate change, though many separately announced pledges to a Green Climate Fund set up for that purpose.

Environmental groups worried the outcome of the Paris talks will be a purely voluntary system where both developed and developing countries propose weak voluntary actions without regard to the deep emissions cuts scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

Emissions keep rising every year because cuts in rich countries aren't enough to offset fast growth in China, India and other emerging economies. Meanwhile, climate impacts ranging from sea level rise and increasingly freakish weather are becoming more noticeable as warming continues. This year could go down as the hottest on record.

"Political leaders at the U.N. talks need to be reminded that they can't negotiate with the climate," said Mohamed Adow, a climate change expert at Christian Aid. "Otherwise we're in danger of sleepwalking into a failed deal in Paris."

Deal salvaged at UN climate talks in Peru
KARL RITTER Associated Press Yahoo News 14 Dec 14;

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Climate negotiators salvaged a compromise deal in Lima early Sunday that sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but rejected a rigorous review of the greenhouse gas emissions limits they plan.

More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.

They argued all day Saturday over the wording of the decision, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

The final draft alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have "common but differentiated responsibilities" to deal with global warming.

"As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties," said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations.

The momentum from last month's joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly in Lima as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The goal of the talks is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change's impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru's environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference center on the grounds of Peru's army headquarters.

It also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a "loss and damage" mechanism agreed upon in last year's talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.

"We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world," Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they "may" instead of "shall" include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.

Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

"I think it's definitely watered down from what we expected," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: "The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it's very weak indeed."

Chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern acknowledged that negotiations had been contentious but said the outcome was "quite good in the end." He had warned Saturday that failing to leave Lima with an accord would be "seen as a serious breakdown" that could put the Paris agreement and the entire U.N. process at risk.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the U.N. talks reflect a wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries led by China and India as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem is "everyone's responsibility, because it's the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country's share."

According to the U.N.'s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming —defined in the U.N. talks as exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 19th-century averages.

It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.

Scientific reports say climate impacts are already happening and include rising sea levels, intensifying heat waves and shifts in weather patterns causing floods in some areas and droughts in others.

The U.N. weather agency said last week that 2014 could become the hottest year on record.

U.N. talks agree building blocks for new-style climate deal in 2015
Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici, Reuters Yahoo News 14 Dec 14;

LIMA (Reuters) - About 190 nations agreed on Sunday the building blocks of a new-style global deal due in 2015 to combat climate change amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to limit increases in global temperatures.

Under the deal reached in Lima, governments will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of March 31, 2015 to form the basis of a global agreement due at a summit in Paris in a year's time.

Most of the tough decisions about how to slow climate change were postponed until then. "Much remains to be done in Paris next year," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

The texts, agreed two days into overtime after two weeks of talks came close to collapsing, appeased emerging economies led by China and India, concerned that previous drafts imposed too heavy a burden on emerging economies compared to the rich.

"We've got what we wanted," said Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javedekar, who said the text preserved a notion enshrined in a 1992 climate convention that the rich have to lead the way in making cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

It also satisfied rich nations led by the United States who say it is time for fast-growing emerging economies to rein in fast-rising emissions. China is now the biggest greenhouse gas emitter ahead of the United States, the EU and India.

U.S. Special Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern said that a joint U.S.-China deal last month to curb emissions had helped show new ways to bridge a standoff between rich and poor. "The announcement of a few weeks ago came in handy here," he said.

"This is a good document to pave the way to Paris," EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told Reuters at the end of the talks about limiting more floods, desertification, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Some environmental groups, however, said the deal, reached at a tent city on a military base in the Peruvian capital, was far too weak.

"We went from weak to weaker to weakest," Samantha Smith of the WWF conservation group said of successive drafts at the Lima talks.


The idea of a U.N. deal with obligations for all nations marks a shift from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obliges only the rich to cut emissions.

Christiana Figueres, the U.N.'s climate chief, said Lima found a new ways to define the obligations of rich and poor. "That is a very important breakthrough," she said.

"What we are seeing is a new form of international cooperation on climate change where all countries participate with a new set of rules," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute think-tank.

The U.N. Climate Change Secretariat says that the combined pledges by all nations likely in Paris will be too weak to achieve a goal of limiting warming to an agreed goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Under the Lima deal, national pledges will be added up in a report by Nov. 1, 2015, to assess their aggregate effect in slowing rising temperatures.

But, after opposition led by China, there will not be a full-blown review to compare each nation's level of ambition.

And the text lays out a vast range of options for the Paris accord, including the possibility of aiming for zero net global emissions by 2100 or earlier in a drastic shift from fossil fuels towards renewable energies such as wind and solar power.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ralph Boulton and John Stonestreet)

Lima climate deal: what was agreed – and what wasn't
UN climate talks wrapped up in Peru with a modest agreement about the building blocks of a deal due to be agreed in Paris next year
Reuters The Guardian 15 Dec 14;

Greenhouse gas plans

All countries will be asked to submit plans for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, known as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” or INDCs, to the United Nations by an informal deadline of 31 March 2015, as the core of a Paris deal.

But there will be few obligations to provide details and no review to compare each nation’s pledges – as had been demanded by the European Union – after China and other emerging nations refused.

The text says INDCs “may include” details such as base years and yearly targets, far weaker than a former draft that said nations “shall provide” such details.

INDCs will be published on the website of the UN climate change secretariat, which will prepare by 1 November 2015 a report of the overall climate effect of all the INDCs in slowing warming.

Who does what?

The text invites actions by all nations to combat warming, blurring a distinction in a 1992 climate convention that split the world into two camps of rich and poor – under which the rich had to lead the way.

Many emerging economies, such as India, insisted on that continued split. But the United States and other rich nations said the world had changed and that developing countries also had to curb their rising emissions.

The diplomatic formula encompassing the rival demands ended up in the text as: “Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”


Donations to a Green Climate Fund, due to help developing nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, fractionally surpassed a UN goal of $10bn, helped by donations by Australia and Belgium.

Lima reiterated a goal for developed nations to mobilise $100bn a year, in public and private funds, in climate aid for developing nations by 2020.

Developing nations wanted rich nations to set a clear timetable for scaling up funds year by year. But a text merely “requested” that developed nations “enhance the available quantitative and qualitative elements of a pathway” towards 2020.

‘Elements’ of a long-term deal

The talks agreed on a 37-page document of “elements” that will form the basis of a negotiating text for Paris next year. But the range of options is very wide.

One option, for instance, is to set a long-term goal of a cut in greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero by 2050,” requiring a drastic shift from fossil fuels in coming years. Another long-term option for the same section would merely require “low-emission development strategies.”

Many developing nations want help to adapt to climate change, for instance helping farmers to grow drought- or flood-resistant food. One option, for instance, says: “Establish a global goal for adaptation” – another the opposite: “No global goal for adaptation.”

‘Loss and damage’
Developing countries vulnerable to extreme weather successfully won a mention of “loss and damage” – for instance, compensation for super typhoons – in the text, although the United States had pushed not to include it.

Lima deal represents a fundamental change in global climate regime
The agreement removes the longstanding division of the world into developed and developing countries and paves way for a model of unity
Michael Jacobs The Guardian 15 Dec 14;

It was the agreement that everyone wanted, yet no-one much liked. This year’s annual UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru, finally concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning, more than 24 hours after the scheduled close, after fierce argument in the final days.

Negotiators from 196 countries patched together a compromise which keeps the show on the road towards to a new global climate agreement in Paris next year, but in doing so left almost everyone unhappy with one element or another.

Many of the critics, however, have missed the point. The Lima deal is weak in many respects. But it also represents a fundamental breakthrough in the shape of the global climate regime.

The Lima conference had two goals. The first was to agree an outline text of the 2015 Paris agreement.

This was achieved – but only by creating a huge 37-page document which includes every possible option which countries may want to see in next year’s deal. Taking to heart the old maxim “why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?”, delegates parked the text early in the conference and did not attempt to negotiate between the options. That process has been left to the five sessions of talks scheduled for 2015, starting in February. Given the divergence between the positions included, it will be a huge task to make the draft fit for conclusion in Paris in December.

The second goal was to agree the rules under which countries must bring forward their national commitments – or in the jargon, ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) – during 2015.

Here the compromises were sharply felt. Developing countries wanted these contributions to include plans for adaptation to climate change as well as emissions cuts, and for developed countries to include financial support for poorer nations. They got no commitments to new money, and inclusion of adaptation plans will be optional, not compulsory. Developed countries wanted all countries to provide standardised information on their emissions targets and plans, to ensure transparency and comparability.

The key elements were agreed, but only in the form of guidance, not as requirements. The EU and the United States’ proposal that countries’ plans be subject to some kind of assessment was dropped from the final text. But the aggregate effect of all countries’ plans will be calculated, allowing evaluation next year of whether the world has done enough to limit average global warming to the agreed goal of under 2C. (It will almost certainly have not.)

For many of its critics, particularly in the environmental movement, these compromises have made the Lima agreement too “bottom-up” in form. It gives countries too much latitude to make whatever commitments they want, relatively unconstrained by a common set of rules imposed “top down” by the agreement. Such critics worry that this will make it harder to get countries to cut emissions further when it becomes clear that their collective efforts are not enough, and may even allow some to use irregular accounting methods.

What the Lima agreement does do, however, is end the longstanding division of the world into only two kinds of countries, developed and developing. Ever since the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992, countries’ obligations have been defined according to their level of development in that year. The rich so-called ‘Annex 1’ countries have had compulsory obligations, while poorer ‘non-Annex 1’ countries have simply been required to make voluntary efforts.

Over the last twenty years that binary distinction has looked more and more obsolete, as the larger developing countries such as China and Brazil have emerged as economic superpowers and major emitters of greenhouse gases. For this reason, the developed world has long wanted to break down the “firewall” between the two historic groupings, and replace it with a form of differentiation between countries’ obligations more in keeping with the modern world. But the developing countries and China have insisted that it must remain.

No longer. The Lima agreement creates obligations on countries but makes no mention of the distinction between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 groups. Rather, it uses a new phrase drawn from the recent agreement between the US and China, that countries’ responsibilities will be based on “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in light of different national circumstances.” The firewall has been breached.

In theory, the Lima agreement on INDCs does not determine the shape of the long-term Paris agreement. So there will no doubt be another fierce battle next year over this issue. But the vast majority of developing countries – including China and Brazil – are happy with the new regime. So it is impossible to imagine now the simple “two groupings” model of the past being restored. And those countries which opposed it know it. That was why the final two days in Lima were so fiercely fought.

The Lima conference has shown just how hard the negotiations in Paris next year will be, despite recent optimism about global progress. But one highly significant decision has effectively now been made. It paves the way towards an agreement which all countries, including the US and China, can sign.

Michael Jacobs is Visiting Professor in the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics

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Let nature play a role in climate adaptation, experts urge: TRFN

Reuters Yahoo News 13 Dec 14;

LIMA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When the rainy season comes and floods the fields, poor families in northwest Bangladesh once cut trees to survive or went hungry.

Now, however, they are raising fish in the floodplains – a change that has helped protect the region’s forests and improved their own resilience to more extreme weather.

Such “ecosystem-based adaptation”, which protects both communities and the environment, will be vital to helping a growing world population survive climate change impacts without destroying the natural world, experts said at the U.N. climate talks in Lima.

It “holds a promising potential,” said Virgilio Viana, chief executive of the Brazil-based Amazonas Sustainable Foundation.

Such adaptation is cost-effective, he said, and can be implemented with local people, rather than relying on engineering solutions that sometimes can damage ecosystems, he said.

“For example, instead of using heavy construction material and machinery to tackle land erosion or landslides, ecosystem-based adaptation techniques such as increasing vegetation cover and planting (more) trees can help address these problems with local communities' involvement and at lower cost,” he explained.

Kit Vaughn, environment and climate change director for CARE International, said many governments consider dams the only means of effectively managing floodwater. But forests and wetlands, lakes and riverside floodplains can also act as natural sponges, he said.

They absorb large amounts of water and slowly and safely release it downstream later, or into groundwater, he said.

Saleemul Huq, an advisor at the Lima talks for the Least Developed Countries group, representing nearly 50 of the world's poorest countries, said the northwest Bangladesh communities who have begun farming fish in the wet season to raise their incomes are also benefitting from better-protected floodplain forests.

The riverside forests absorb large amounts of water in flood periods, helping protect livestock and families who might otherwise find themselves underwater, he said.

Such systems have “great potential for replication and upscaling in developing countries, like Pakistan’s Indus river floodplains,” Huq said.

Heavy rains in the main river basins and upstream catchments of India, along with rainfall in northwest and northeastern Bangladesh, now frequently trigger flooding in low-lying and heavily populated areas of Bangladesh during the July to September monsoon season.

Bangladesh considers flooding a grave issue in many districts in the northwest part of the country, where many communities are classified as “extremely poor.”

Xianfu Lu, an adaptation expert with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said ecosystem-based adaptation should be used in other developing countries in Africa and Asia where floods are a worsening problem.

(Reporting by Saleem Shaikh; editing by Laurie Goering)

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