Best of our wild blogs: 5 Feb 15

The Kent Ridge Heritage Trail revived with the first NUS Walk for the year!
from Toddycats!

Naked Hermit Crab – Pasir Ris Mangrove Walk
from SAys! Happy Mums

What a load of Croc!
from Go Wild Now!

Mudskippers, birds and other animals at Pasir Ris Mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

January 2015 RUMbles
from Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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Australia state poll, reef risks cast shadow over India coal ventures

Sonali Paul PlanetArk 5 Feb 15;

A shock state election result in Australia's coal-rich Queensland state and heightened pressure to protect the Great Barrier Reef have thrown new doubts over plans by Indian firms to build two huge mines.

Queensland saw a voter backlash against the conservative government's plan to sell A$37 billion ($29 billion) of assets to cut debt and fund coal infrastructure at the election. This included money for a rail line and port planned by India's Adani Enterprises for what would be Australia's biggest coal complex, in the Galilee Basin, a remote outback area.

In a policy reversal, the victorious Labor Party has ruled out asset sales or using taxpayer cash for a coal rail line or water pipe, and said it wouldn't allow dredge spoil to be dumped in wetlands near Adani's Abbot Point port, adding to costs.

"The prospects of public investment in the main part of the rail and port project have declined to zero," said John Quiggin, an economics professor at the University of Queensland.

Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which opposes new coal developments, estimated at least A$1 billion in subsidies had been taken off the table, though this is hard to independently verify as the government had never publicly said how much it was providing.

The Queensland Resources Council, an industry body, said the rail subsidy would have been about A$300 million.

A failure to launch the projects, already struggling to raise financing as coal prices languish, would hit plans to raise Australia's coal exports by 70 percent to more than 300 million tonnes this decade. It would, however, be a win for environmentalists worried about damage to areas such as the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland's coast and the impact on carbon emissions.


Adani's Carmichael coal mine, rail and port project is one of two projects in the Galilee Basin owned by Indian firms. It is due to produce 60 million tonnes a year.

An Adani spokesman said a decision on whether to build the $7 billion mine, which it says would deliver 10,000 jobs and A$22 billion in taxes and royalties to Queensland, would be based on the project's costs and not the poll result.

The other is the Alpha project, owned by the GVK conglomerate and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart, which with a nearby project aims to produce 62 million tonnes a year.

"We've based our planning on getting no government funding at all," Josh Euler, a spokesman for the GVK Hancock joint venture, said.


While green groups have raised a string of legal challenges against the coal projects, they are stepping up their campaign ahead of a UNESCO decision on whether to put the Great Barrier Reef on its "in danger" list.

If UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in June deems the reef to be in trouble, that could result in big restrictions on ports and shipping in the area around the reef.

The government said that it should not be deemed in danger as no reef species have become extinct, and some, like humpback whales and loggerhead turtles, have recovered from big declines.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman disputes this and said claims by authorities to be doing enough to protect the reef were "undermined by the clear picture provided by the science".

Faced with possible UNESCO action, the federal government reversed a decision to allow the dumping of sand, dredged from expanding Abbot Point port, near the Great Barrier Reef, so that it will now have to be dumped on land, a more expensive option.

To ease costs for Adani and GVK, the outgoing Liberal-National party had pledged to buy dredge spoil.

"We cannot afford to have the Great Barrier Reef put on the 'in danger' list," Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche said.

(Additional reporting by Rebekah Kebede in PERTH; Editing by Ed Davies)

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World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change: IPCC head

Nita Bhalla PlanetArk 4 Feb 15;

Photo: Labourers walk through a parched land of a dried lake on the outskirts of Agartala, capital of India's northeastern state of Tripura in this file photo taken on April 23, 2013.

Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

Countries such as India are likely to be hit hard by global warming, which will bring more freak weather such as droughts that will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security.

"Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned," IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri told participants at a conference on water security.

"If you look at agricultural products, if you look at animal protein - the demand for which is growing - that's highly water intensive. At the same time, on the supply side, there are going to be several constraints. Firstly because there are going to be profound changes in the water cycle due to climate change."

Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanization, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages.

In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

The dry months of June and July, during which there are frequent power cuts and water shortages, offer a snapshot of the pending water crisis in India.

Hospitals in New Delhi canceled surgery at one point in 2013 because they had no water to sterilize instruments, clean operating theaters or for staff to wash their hands. Upmarket shopping malls selling luxury brands were forced to switch off air conditioners and shut toilets.

Pachauri said it was necessary to bring in technology to help harness water more efficiently, particularly in agriculture where there is a lot of wastage.

"Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions - probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states," he said.

India, as both an upper and lower riparian nation, finds itself at the center of water disputes with its eastern and western downstream neighbors - Bangladesh and Pakistan - which accuse New Delhi of monopolizing water flows.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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Paris climate summit: missing global warming target 'would not be failure'

EU climate chief and UN’s top climate official both play down expectations that international climate talk pledges will help hit 2C target
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and Arthur Neslen in Brussels
The Guardian 4 Feb 15;

The European Union climate chief says talks at a major climate summit in Paris this year will not be a failure even if governments fail to keep warming below the dangerous 2C threshold.

The comments, downgrading expectations for a strong outcome at Paris, suggest that the architects of a global climate deal are already resigned to the prospect that governments will fail to aim high enough when setting out their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emission in the coming months.

“2C is an objective,” Miguel Arias Canete, the EU climate chief, said. “If we have an ongoing process you can not say it is a failure if the mitigration commitments do not reach 2C.”

The 2C target was the internationally agreed goal of the climate negotiations. But Canete, who was visiting Washington this week for talks with the state department climate envoy, Todd Stern, said: “Any step forward is a step forward.”

However, he added “but we want ambitious objectives for 2015”, and said it was crucial that negotiators agreed on an accounting mechanism for reviewing those climate pledges and then raising them to avoid catastrophic warming.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the UN top climate official, Christiana Figueres, was similarly downplaying expectations, telling reporters the pledges made in the run-up to the Paris meeting later this year will “not get us onto the 2C pathway”.

The sober comments from two of the top players at Paris were a further sign that officials do not see the meeting in December as an end game but the next phase of the effort to get governments to deliver action on climate change.

Emissions reductions should not be “a one-off effort but rather the start of a multi-period effort, throughout which countries will continue to increase their contributions,” Figueres said ahead of meetings with EU officials. “Every year there has to be more - no backsliding - and there also has to be a long term destination: climate neutrality by the second part of this century.”

Canete was operating on a similar time horizon, looking out beyond Paris to “long term objectives”.

In his speech at the Atlantic Council, Canete said the US was pivotal to a global climate deal – but he reiterated Europe’s preference for a legally binding agreement, which would be practically impossible for Barack Obama in the current US domestic political scene.

“A legally-binding climate deal would be the greatest single act for sending long-term clarity to the markets. And we will only get there if the US and EU are on the same page.”

In the short-term, however, Canete said he was pressing G20 governments to come forward with their climate pledges early.

That would give NGOs, think tanks, and other experts more time to assess the individual climate pledges and see how far they add up towards the overall 2C goal.

India – one of the world’s top emitters – has already said it will not be ready to come forward with its climate pledge til May or June, past the original UN deadline.

But Canete said: “If only the United States China and the European Union present ambitious pleges it is 50% of world emissions. If we put on board all the G20 it is substantial. We would like every single country big and small to make mitigation commitment. That is very positive for climate change.”

Hopeful signs but no miracle fix at Paris climate summit: U.N
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 5 Feb 15;

The world will take years to limit climate change to manageable levels, with no miracle fix at a Paris summit this year despite growing signs of action by governments and companies, the United Nations climate chief said on Thursday.

Senior officials from almost 190 nations will meet from Feb. 8-13 in Geneva to work on a draft U.N. deal to limit global warming. The agreement, built on national plans for curbs on rising world greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, is meant to be finalised at the Paris meeting in December.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said it would take far longer to get on track to limit a rise in world temperatures to an agreed U.N. goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The Paris meeting may set five-yearly reviews of emissions targets. But the gap between national plans and a pathway of ever deeper cuts outlined by climate scientists "is one that we will close not in one year, not even in one five-year period, but rather over time," Figueres told an online news briefing.

Last year was the warmest since records began in the 19th century and average world temperatures have already risen by about 0.85C (1.5F), raising risks of heatwaves, floods and rising world sea levels as ice melts.

"It would be a fundamental ... misunderstanding of the complexity of what we are dealing with to even imagine that an agreement in Paris would in and of itself, at the turn of a dime, miraculously solve climate change," she said.

Still, Figueres said that there were encouraging signs, such as a call by a group of high-profile CEOs on Thursday for world leaders to commit in Paris to a goal of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The group includes Virgin [VA.UL] founder Richard Branson, Unilever chief Paul Polman and Tata International's [TATAI.UL] Ratan Tata.

Among major emitters, China, the United States and the European Union have already outlined their plans to limit emissions. Figueres said she expected all major economies to submit national plans for greenhouse gas curbs by Oct. 1, to give time for the Secretariat to give an overview before Paris.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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