Best of our wild blogs: 26 Nov 15

12 Dec (Sat) morning: Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Jellyfish and Otters at Chek Jawa on 21 Nov 2015
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Forest conservation could provide half global climate solution by 2050
Mongabay Environmental News

Scientists turn up haze heat on Indonesia ahead of COP21 Paris talks
Mongabay Environmental News

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A Champion For Conservation: Professor Chou Loke Ming

Professor Chou Loke Ming has been a tireless crusader for protecting Singapore’s coral reefs and hopes that our waters will one day be clear again.
Rebecca Tan Asian Scientist 25 Nov 15;

AsianScientist (Nov. 25, 2015) - Dotted with old shophouses that are home to a 90-year-old Hainanese kopitiam, achingly hip cafes, and much else, Singapore’s East Coast area is known for its laid back charm. For Chou Loke Ming, a recently retired professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore, it is the place where he first fell in love — with the sea.

“When the fishermen came back from a day’s work and started to put their catch on the shore, the whole community would come down and have a look, myself included,” Professor Chou muses, recalling his childhood growing up in the Siglap neighbourhood. “That’s when I started to become very interested in the sea and anything to do with marine life.”

After completing his PhD on house lizards at the University of Singapore—because the university was looking for lecturers to teach vertebrate zoology—Professor Chou turned his fascination with the sea into a thirty-year career in marine ecology and conservation, with a special focus on coral reefs. Commonly mistaken for plants due to their extremely slow growth, corals are actually animals closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish.

The so-called “rainforests of the sea” occupy only 0.1% of the ocean’s surface yet are home to 25% of the world’s marine species. The secret to this amazing biodiversity is a unique partnership between coral animals and single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae.

These photosynthetic algae reside within each coral polyp, supplying the corals with as much as 90% of their energy requirements. In turn, the corals absorb calcium from the surrounding seawater, building a hard, protective structure that can grow to become a massive coral reef like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the only living entity visible from space.

Shaping and re-shaping Singapore

Although coral reefs need a long time to develop—the Great Barrier Reef has been growing for half a million years—their destruction can be swift. In the 1960s, Singapore was looking for a fast way to meet the demands of a growing population. Land reclamation had long been part of Singapore’s developmental strategy; it was first used in 1822 to create the area today known as South Boat Quay.

However, land reclamation reached an unprecedented scale in the post-independence years, with an aggressive plan that saw Singapore’s land area increase from 580 sq km in 1960 to 630 sq km by 1990. Today, it stands at 720 sq km, almost 25% larger than it was just before independence.

Involving the levelling of hills and dredging of the sea floor, the extensive land reclamation has almost completely smothered the costal coral reefs surrounding mainland Singapore and left whatever remains threatened by extremely high sedimentation levels that block out the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Research by Professor Chou shows that Singapore has lost 65% of its coral reefs since 1986, in large part due to land reclamation. [By comparison, over the same period the Great Barrier Reef lost 50% of its coral coverage, largely due to cyclone damage and a population explosion of destructive crown-of thorns starfishes.]

Most of Singapore’s reefs are now found only off surrounding islands such as Pulau Pawai and Pulau Semakau, which are used for live firing exercises and a landfill, respectively. One of the very few mainland areas where corals can still be found is off Labrador beach.

“I remember Labrador beach from my student days, before the land reclamation, when there was still an extensive rocky shore,” Professor Chou says. “We used to find all kinds of different seashells, cones and cowries, in huge numbers. You can still find them there these days, but you will have to hunt very hard.”

Coral reefs or golf courses?

At an estimated 7,618 people per sq km, Singapore has the third highest population density in the world after Macau (21,190 people per sq km) and Monaco (18,475 people per sq km). With so many competing land-use demands, marine conservation has historically been a low priority. But since the 1970s, Professor Chou has tried convincing Singaporeans that coral reefs are worth saving.

“I remember a permanent secretary asking me why we should preserve the reefs since Singaporeans could easily go to Malaysia or Indonesia if they wanted to go diving,” Professor Chou shares. “I thought for a while and then said, ‘Yes, but the same is true of golf courses.’ The meeting stopped soon after that!”

But by the late 1980s, he says, attitudes had begun to change, in tandem with rising incomes and growing local environmental activism. The government, meanwhile, started participating in international conservation pow-wows such as the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.

Today, for any construction project, developers need to conduct impact assessment studies, mitigation exercises, and real-time monitoring programmes.

“Projects must be stopped if measurements such as sedimentation exceed certain limits,” says Professor Chou. “[In the past] if we had these measures in place, it would really have helped slow down the total impact to the reefs.”

Regional research

In the late 1980s, Singapore lacked adequate marine science research, which was needed by conservationists both to understand the scale of the environmental damage and as evidence to convince policy makers to act. However, Singapore was not well known for marine biology and a lack of government support meant that research facilities were few and far between.

“Thankfully, there were a few Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) projects on marine science in the late 1980s, supported by Australia, Canada and the United States,” Professor Chou recounts. “At that time, there were only four other countries in ASEAN [Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines], each of them big countries with a lot of marine space.”

It wasn’t apparent why Singapore deserved a slice of ASEAN’s marine budgets.

“Scientists in the other ASEAN countries would tell me, ‘Singapore is so small, you just need a bicycle to get from one end to the other; you don’t need a boat!’” Professor Chou says. “But in the end, the collegial spirit prevailed and the budget was equally shared.”

The money helped him establish facilities for marine biology—focussing on underwater and scuba capabilities—which allowed more research to be conducted.

Professor Chou has also worked on other international projects. Among other things, he contributed to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), helping to edit the State of the Marine Environment Report for the East Asian Seas (2009), the first such assessment for the region; and was appointed to the UNEP’s regional office in Bangkok to review Cambodia’s coastal management plans.

Singapore's surprisingly resilient reefs

Professor Chou’s local research revealed a pleasant surprise. In spite of all the damage done to them, Singapore’s coral reefs have still managed to sustain a wide range of wildlife, including 130 species of fish, 250 species of molluscs and over 800 crustacean species.

“The rate of species extinction has not been as drastic as expected, given the scale of the environmental changes,” Professor Chou shares. Of Singapore’s 250 recorded coral species, for instance, while 70 are now “quite rare”, only two have gone extinct locally. Even those that have disappeared may one day return.

In 2014, divers spotted a Neptune’s cup sponge (Cliona patera)—believed to be extinct since 1908—incongruously clinging on to a landfill lagoon. Today the western reefs of both Pulau Tekukor and St John’s Island are part of the Sister’s Islands Marine Park, the first of its kind in Singapore, which was established in 2014 after some thirty years of lobbying by Professor Chou.

“It [The park] will inspire more people to understand that the environment is part of our national heritage, something that we should try to conserve and protect,” Professor Chou says.“But if there is one wish I could have, I would like to see the waters become clear again,” he quips brightly.

“It will take a lot of effort. It will take a lot of money as well. It will take a lot of commitment on the parts of the different agencies. Anything on land development also flows out to the sea, so it’s not work that can be done by a single agency. It will be challenging, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Part of his optimism no doubt comes from the knowledge that the many of his former students have taken up the cause and are continuing his work. Karenne Tun and Jeffrey Low, for instance, are deputy director and senior manager respectively at the National Biodiversity Centre Division.

“If we look at the past 50 years, after all the impact, our natural resources are still there, they haven’t been completely degraded,” says Professor Chou. “Now with all the measures in place—the national marine park, the government agencies, the NGOs—we’re beginning to have more discussion and collaboration. I hope that we will somehow make the waters clear again in the next 50 years, so that the next generation will be able to enjoy the environment just as we have.”

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Report on Singapore not objecting to Indonesia taking over Riau airspace ‘inaccurate’: MFA

The administration of the Flight Information Region is not an issue of sovereignty, but based on “operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”, says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday (Nov 26) refuted a CNN Indonesia report that said Singapore had no objections to Indonesia’s intention to manage its entire airspace, and that the Republic supported Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years.

The report, published in Bahasa Indonesia on CNN Indonesia's website on Tuesday, quoted Indonesian ministers as saying that President Joko Widodo had affirmed to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean – who was on a working visit to Jakarta – that Indonesia will take over the Flight Information Region (FIR) in Riau Islands.

Singapore has been in control of the airspace over some areas in Riau - such as Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands - since 1946.

“The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion,” MFA said in a statement released on Thursday.

The subject came up during a dinner hosted by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. MFA said Mr Teo “did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner”.

The ministry reiterated that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but based on “operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.

DPM Teo had emphasised that the issue was a complex one under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and involves many other countries and airlines which use the busy airspace covered by the FIR. These points were reiterated in meetings with several Indonesian leaders during Mr Teo’s visit, MFA said.

“The Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes is not an issue of sovereignty. They also agreed that the paramount concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR,” it said.

“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another. For example, Indonesia also provides air traffic services in airspace which belongs to other countries.”

- CNA/cy

MFA refutes CNN report; no agreement with Indonesia on airspace management
Today Online 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Singapore did not agree to relinquish the management of the entire Indonesian airspace to Indonesia, nor did it support Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has clarified today (Nov 26).

MFA issued the comments this morning after a report by CNN-Indonesia on Nov 24 which claimed Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had in discussions with Indonesian ministers, agreed to handover management of the Flight Information Region (FIR) in the Riau Islands – which includes Batam, Tanjung Pinang and Natuna – to Indonesia in the next few years.

The CNN report quoted Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as saying he had spoken to DPM Teo on the matter. Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi also said in the CNN-Indonesia report that Singapore has agreed to assist Indonesia in the preparations.

MFA confirmed that DPM Teo did discuss the issue of the Flight Information Region (FIR) over dinner with Mr Luhut on Nov 23. However, no agreement was reached after the brief informal chat as it was a major issue, MFA said.

The MFA spokesman said: “The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion. The subject of the Flight Information Region (FIR) came up during the dinner hosted by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on 23 November 2015. DPM Teo did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner.”

According to the MFA statement, DPM Teo has emphasised in his meetings with several Indonesian ministers of the issue’s complex technical and operational nature, which falls under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It also involves many other countries and airlines that use the busy airspace covered by the FIR.

MFA noted that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but rather, “it is based on operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.

MFA said the Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes. They agree, MFA added, that the top concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR.

“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another.”

Issue of airspace over Riau 'not about sovereignty'
Francis Chan, Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 15;

JAKARTA - Singapore is aware that Indonesia hopes to "take back" the airspace over Riau, which has formed part of Singapore's Flight Information Region (FIR), said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

However, leaders from both countries agree that the priority of the FIR should be safety, efficiency and the smooth operation of the airspace, he added.

"This is a subject which is not an issue of sovereignty, I think the Indonesians understand that now," he said yesterday.

"It is a technical and operational issue, which comes under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to provide safe, efficient air traffic services."

Mr Teo said discussions with Indonesia as well as its neighbours and international users of the FIR will continue to ensure the issue is dealt with in the "proper context".

The FIR, which Singapore controls for take-off, landing and overflights in the region, became a prickly subject after the Indonesian Air Force took issue with Singapore's military activities in the airspace above the Riau Islands.

"We did discuss (the) military training issues and I explained to our friends here when Unclos was negotiated, we had an understanding with Indonesia with regards to military training," said Mr Teo, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He added that Singapore will continue to abide by those understandings which are also in accordance with international law.

Singapore has been managing flights over some areas in Riau since 1946, when ICAO allocated the airspace to Singapore on operational and technical merits. The area includes some of the airspace over Malaysia and Indonesia.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday that Indonesia indeed plans to take over the airspace.

But she agreed that the matter was not about sovereignty but rather one of safety and whether Indonesia is able to manage the FIR.

"The preparations (according to Indonesia's own road map) are ongoing but they cannot be done in a month or a year," she added.

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Malaysia: Mersing development project halted

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 26 Nov 15;

NUSAJAYA: Economic uncertainty forced the state government to temporarily stop developing Mersing and its islands as the “Caribbean of the East.”

However, the on-going promotional efforts to attract more tourists to the area that has a rich marine habitat have not stopped, said Johor exco man Datuk Tee Siew Kiong.

“We have organised various familiarisation trips for the local and foreign media and travel agencies to promote Mersing and the 13 gazetted islands under the Taman Laut Sultan Iskandar brand name.

“Our beautiful islands even caught the eye of China’s Guangdong TV Production that recorded its reality show Million Dollar Baby from May 11-30 in a few locations in Johor, including the Mersing islands,” he said.

Tee added the district’s food was also among the featured attractions.

“Food items like nasi dagang, fish crackers, otak-otak, dried fish and cuttlefish are also popular among tourists,” he said at the state assembly sitting yesterday.

The state also promoted other attractions such as Tanjung Leman beach, Teluk Buih beach, Air Papan beach and homestay as well as the Gunung Arong recreational forest.

Tee said that in reply to questions posed by A. Aziz Ismail (BN-Sengga­rang) and K. Raven Kumar (BN-Tenggaroh) who asked about the status of the Caribbean of the East project and the plans to develop Mersing.

Tee added that Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin in the Budget 2016 announced that RM12.7mil had been approved for the Rolling Plan 1 to develop the Endau-Mersing fish processing plan.

He said the allocation was also for upgrading the homestay and eco-tourism facilities in the district.

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Malaysia: Cold surge brings heavy rainfall in east coast states

JUSTIN ZACK The Star 26 Nov 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Heavy monsoon rain is expected in the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia from today, lasting between three and five days.

Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (Met Malaysia) director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said this was due to signs of a cold surge that would strike today.

At 11.45am on Tuesday, the department issued a yellow alert signifying heavy rain was expected over Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang from today until Saturday. The warning was reissued yesterday at 12.07pm.

A yellow warning signifies imminent rain within one to three days.

Two more colours stand above the yellow warning – orange and red.

Orange signifies continuous moderate rain that lasts for more than a day, with average rainfall of 0.5mm to 4mm per hour.

Red is the highest warning which signifies continuous moderate rain that has intensified into heavy rain lasting for a day or more, with an average 20mm of rainfall per hour.

For updates on the rain condition, log on to

“The cold surge is a high-pressure cold wind from Siberia and China that reaches our area (Malaysia),” said Che Gayah.

“As such, heavy rain will occur a day or two after the cold surge, as it will take time for the wind to reach our country.”

She said there may be floods as a result of the heavy rain lasting between three and five days.

Che Gayah added that the accuracy of the forecast for the heavy monsoon rain was between 60% and 65%.

Met Malaysia said in a statement that the wet weather was expected to persist with rain falling in one or two areas in the east coast states, Sarawak and east Sabah in the early morning.

It said rain and thunderstorms are expected to occur in several areas in the east coast states, the interior of Pahang, Sarawak and the western part of Sabah in the evening and night.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that the Social Welfare Department has prepared daily necessities, including food supplies, at 42 forward bases in Tanah Merah in preparation for the year-end monsoon floods in Kelantan.

Tanah Merah welfare officer Wan Zahari Wan Muhamad said the department had also set up a mini depot for storing daily necessities and to facilitate the distribution process to the relief centres.

“We have also appointed a number of retailers around the area as suppliers to the department if supply is insufficient.”

He said 106 volunteers would be helping the department at 99 relief centres in Tanah Merah.

“We hope more people will come forward to register as volunteers to assist us during the floods because the 25 existing staff are insufficient to control the situation in the event of a major flood like last year’s,” he said.

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Go meatless, Malaysians urged

The Star 26 Nov 15;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians should avoid eating meat for the benefit of their health and the environment.

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the latest study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found “sufficient evidence” that the consumption of meat, especially processed meat, causes colorectal cancer.

CAP said meat consumption throughout the world had increased and Malaysia was no exception.

“Our per capita consumption of meat has increased from 13.2kg in 1961 to 52.35kg in 2009.

“With rising income, it is projected that Malaysian consumers will eat even more meat in the future. Eating more meat enhances our chances of getting sick or dying early.

“Health statistics consistently show that nations which consume the most meat have the highest incidence of heart disease and cancer,” said Mohamed Idris in a statement issued in conjunction with International Meatless Day yesterday.

He said studies have also indicated that those who consume animal products are 40% more susceptible to cancer and other illnesses such as stroke, obesity appendicitis, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and food poisoning.

“Besides the heath effects of eating meat, many consumers do not see the magnitude of the environmental impact caused by their meat consumption.

“There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact than livestock farming,” he added.

Mohamed Idris said livestock are usually given the same antibiotics as humans, which may cause bacteria to develop resistance.

He said Malaysian meats were tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Some studies have indicated that more than 50% of domestic chicken have the bacteria.

“Imported chicken had the worst results, as over 87% of them had ampicillin-resistant bacteria.

“Shockingly, while other countries have banned the use of antibiotics in animal feeds, Malaysia is thinking of changing our Food Act to allow 147 residues in our meats, most of which are antibiotics,” he said.

Mohamed Idris added that CAP opposed this change to the Act and had also sent a memorandum to the Government to ban antibiotics in animal feeds.

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Indonesia: North Sumatra mangroves turned into oil palm plantations

The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 15;

Thousands of hectares of mangroves along the eastern coast of North Sumatra have been seriously damaged due to large areas being converted into oil palm plantations.

Head of the North Sumatra Environment Agency (BLH), Hidayati, said that almost 50 percent of the mangroves in the area had been severely damaged due to the conversions.

“Conversion of mangroves into oil palm plantations is rapidly increasing due to support from the local administrations. This is very ironic,” Hidayati told The Jakarta Post after officially opening a workshop on the role of mangroves in mitigating climate change and adopting green lifestyles held in Medan on Tuesday.

She said that apart from oil palm plantations, some mangroves were also converted into fish ponds.

She said that most of the owners of the oil palm plantations and fish ponds were ‘powerful people’ who were notorious for being untouchable by the law.

Hidayati blamed the situation on regional heads who issued licenses for the establishment of oil palm plantations in coastal areas. This, she said, was completely against the government’s efforts to preserve mangroves.

Among the worst-affected regions was Langkat regency, she said as the Karang Gading and Langkat Timur Laut wildlife parks in the regency were currently completely damaged due to the massive conversions.

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Indonesia: Thousands evacuated as Aceh floods, Jakarta Post 25 Nov 15;

More than 7,000 people from 12 sub-districts in West Aceh, Aceh province, have been evacuated from flooded areas after heavy rains poured starting Tuesday morning.

Joni Nuriyanto, head of Aceh’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) said on Wednesday that the intensified rain had caused rivers to overflow and inundate the West Aceh area.

The floods caused damages to several public facilities and to houses in some rural districts.

There were a total of 7,103 people evacuated, he said.

One house was destroyed after drifting away in Mereubo district; two houses fell into a river in Woyla district; and one community health center fell to a river in Arongan Lambalek district. Also, some parts of bridges collapsed in Kaway XVI and Pante Cereumen district.

"The floods affected every district in West Aceh with water levels from 50 centimeters to 1.5 meters," Joni said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Aceh BPBD is cooperating with the West Aceh Manpower and Transmigration Office to focus on logistic distribution in areas inundated by floodwaters.

Joni said the worst affected area was West Woyla district, which was cut off from the rest of the district by the floods covering roads with up to 80cm of water.

The BPBD also warned people to be more careful and prepared for more floods as the agency received information about potential rain and thunder on Wednesday morning.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted that rain will start pouring across the country this month and peak in January. (rin)(+)

Floods force over 7,000 West Aceh residents to seek refuge
Antara 25 Nov 15;

Meulaboh, Aceh (ANTARA News)- Floods have hit 12 sub-districts in West Aceh District, Aceh Darusalam Province, forcing over seven thousand people to evacuate to safer places since Tuesday following incessant heavy rains.

The floods were triggered by heavy rains and the overflowing of rivers in the district, Joni Nuriyanto, the head of the West Aceh disaster mitigation office, stated here, Wednesday.

The floods have damaged houses and public facilities in the affected sub-districts, he added.

A house was destroyed in Mereubo sub-district, two were swept away in Woyla sub-district, and a community health post in Arongan sub-district was seriously damaged by the floods.

Several bridges, including the Krueng Beukah Bridge, collapsed due to the floods reaching heights between 50 centimeters and 1.5 meters.

West Woyla sub-district was isolated as it was surrounded by waters reaching a height of up to 80 centimeters.

Indonesia is currently experiencing the rainy season, which has already triggered floods in some regions, including in Jakarta and Binjai in North Sumatra Province.

In Jakarta, floodwaters, reaching a height of up to four meters, inundated the Kampung Pulo area.

Over 1.5 thousand houses in the three sub-districts of Binjai District were flooded following incessant heavy rains.(*)

Floods inundate 1,500 houses in Binjai, North Sumatra
Antara 25 Nov 15;

Binjai, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Floods, reaching heights of up to two meters, inundated some 1.5 thousand houses in the South and East Binjai sub-districts of Binjai City .

Several flood victims were evacuated to higher ground, Yusrizal, the head of the Binjai disaster mitigation office, remarked here, Wednesday.

The military and police personnel have helped to evacuate the flood victims.

Two houses were swept away by the floods. The Sei Mencirim village in East Binjai and Setia village in Binjai City were among the worst flood-hit areas.

Junaidi, a flood victim, appealed to the government to send relief aid, such as food and clothing, particularly for infants and children, as most of the flood victims did not have the opportunity to save their belongings when the flash floods struck their homes.(*)

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Indonesia: President to Issue Peat Management Regulation Before Attending Paris Climate Summit

Basten Gokkon Jakarta Globe 25 Nov 15;

Jakarta. In an attempt to revive damaged peatland in the country due to fires or overexploitation, President Joko Widodo will issue a regulation on peat management before leaving for Paris to attend the annual conference of parties on climate change in December.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said last week that she was drawing up a blueprint for nationwide restoration, rehabilitation and conservation of burned peat areas as part of the government's mitigation and prevention efforts.

She said Joko would sign off on a regulation, but it remains to be seen if the president will issue a government regulation or a presidential decree.

Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's steering committee on climate change, told reporters on Tuesday that Joko would use the drafted regulation as a diplomatic device during the Paris summit at which Indonesia will have to answer some tough questions regarding the recent wildfires disaster.

"What the government is currently preparing will give us boost to gain support domestically and internationally," Sarwono said in a meeting at the Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta.

Indonesia recorded one of its worst fire seasons this year, with daily carbon dioxide emissions from the forest fires alone in October exceeding the total emissions from US economic activity.

Joko has been scheduled to leave for Paris on Nov. 30 to attend the 21st CoP organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

His presence is expected to back up Indonesia's target to reduce its carbon emission by 29 percent by 2030, as described in the country's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.

Jokowi to sign peat land decree before COP21
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 15;

In wake of the recent forest fires that razed more than 2 million hectares of land in Indonesia, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo plans to issue a government regulation (PP) on restoration, conservation and rehabilitation of peatland.

Presidential special envoy for climate change Rachmat Witoelar said on Tuesday that a draft of the regulation was currently being prepared by the government.

“[The PP] will be signed soon,” he told reporters after a meeting at the Environment and Forestry Ministry to prepare Indonesian delegates for the UN climate talks slated for next week.

Climate Change Mitigation Board chairman Sarwono Kusumaatmaja hinted that the government was preparing the regulation as diplomatic ammunition during the UN climate conference.

The Indonesian government is expected to face tough questions during the conference with regard to its targeted 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In October alone, daily emissions from the rampant peat and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan equaled the daily average carbon output of the entire US economy.

“Before going to Paris, hopefully there will have been some decisions [made], especially those related to [forest] fire prevention,” Sarwono said during the meeting on Tuesday. “What we are preparing at the moment will give additional value for us, in order to get support, both domestically and internationally.”

Also suggesting that the presence of Jokowi in the early days of the talks would also greatly help when explaining Indonesia’s position at the climate conference.

“Alhamdulillah [thank God] the President is willing to come [to the climate talks]. If he indeed comes, he will be in a position to explain that we are formulating future steps in accordance with our experience in dealing with forest fires,” said Sarwono.

The annual forest fires in Indonesia, which this year reached catastrophic levels due to a prolonged dry season, has put the country in a tough position leading up to the Paris climate conference known as COP21, as haze from the fires is reported to have caused up to half a million cases of respiratory infection with neighboring countries also heavily affected.

Following the fires, extinguished only due to the arrival of late October rain, Jokowi ruled that there was to be no opening of new land for peat conversion to oil palm and timber plantations and no more permits.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla also announced a plan to restore at least 2 million hectares of peatland in the next five years, admitting that peat areas had been abused by previous administrations who had given permits to palm oil firms to cultivate peatland.

Such pledges, backed by Indonesia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) and the 400 or more delegates whom are set to fly to Paris in the coming days, would make the negotiation process run smoothly, according to Rachmat.

“With more than 400 members, I believe this is the biggest delegation [ from Indonesia; in the history of climate talks]. In the context of negotiation, maybe this will be more effective for lobbying. The public will certainly wait to see what these delegates will bring back home,” he said.

In addition to explaining Indonesia’s plan to decrease damage caused by peatland fires in the future, the government will also push the issue of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in the agenda as some countries want to drop the topic from the Paris agreement draft, which is already on the table.

“Many countries, especially developed ones, think that REDD+ is redundant because it has been mentioned in several articles related to land use issues. We object to that. REDD+ is beyond trees, forests and foliage,” Rachmat said.

Therefore, Indonesia will form a group with other countries, such as Congo, Panama and Costa Rica, to lobby for the inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement.

“Our goal is to keep the discussion going during the conference. It won’t harm anyone, we will only include a few words [in the document]. If REDD+ exists, it involves the whole atmosphere and paradigm of sustainable forest management with indigenous people,” said Rachmat.

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2015 likely to be warmest on record, says UN weather body

Matt McGrath BBC News 25 Nov 15;

Global average temperatures in 2015 are likely to be the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Data until the end of October showed this year's temperatures running "well above" any previous 12 month period.

The researchers say the five year period from 2011 to 2015 was also the warmest on record.

The rise, they state, was due to a combination of a strong El Nino and human-induced global warming.

The WMO said their preliminary estimate, based on data from January to October, showed that the global average surface temperature for 2015 was 0.73 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average.

Their scientists also found that global temperatures were approximately 1 degree C above the 1880-1899 period, mirroring a recent finding by the UK Met Office.

'Bad news'

The record-breaking five year period from 2011 to 2015 was 0.57C above the average for 1961-1990.

The WMO said that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs. In the northern hemisphere, the spring of 2015 saw the three-month global average concentration of CO2 cross the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time.

"The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history for a number of reasons," said WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud.

"2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1C threshold will be crossed.

"This is all bad news for the planet."

Other researchers agreed that the latest data from the WMO reinforces the view that human emissions of carbon dioxide, from burning fossil fuels, are continuing to heat the Earth beyond natural variability.

"The fingerprint of a warming planet is becoming clearer in nearly every corner of the world," said Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading.
"Moreover, 2015 is not a one-off, as indicated by the last five years' average also being the warmest on record.

"In the UK, our variable weather means that 2015 will not set any records for warmth, but the longer view shows UK temperatures have risen about 20% faster than the global average. We can expect this faster rate to continue in future."

As well as warming the land, much of the heat has gone into the oceans. The WMO said the waters have been absorbing more than 90% of the energy that has accumulated in the climate system from human emissions of greenhouse gases. The temperature of the tropical Pacific was more than 1C above average, consistent with a strong El Nino.

The WMO said this weather phenomenon has been a factor in pushing this year past previous records. El Nino has gained in strength over the past few months and has been rated as one of the three strongest since 1950.

The researchers said that the impact of an El Nino is typically felt more strongly in the second calendar year, meaning that 2016 is likely to be more strongly influenced by the event than 2015.

The record temperatures of 2015 were being felt in many different parts of the world. China recorded its warmest ever January to October period. For Africa, this year has been the second warmest on record.

Heat waves affected many parts of the world, with India seeing average maximum temperatures over 45C in some areas. There were also extremely hot periods in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The WMO also argued that many of the extreme weather events in the past five years, especially those relating to higher temperatures, have had their probabilities substantially increased as a result of human-induced climate change.

The new findings are likely to feature prominently at COP21 in Paris next week, when global political leaders and negotiators will aim to secure a new global deal that would limit emissions of carbon dioxide.

2015 to be the hottest year ever says world climate body
World Meteorological Organisation says man-made global warming and El Niño has also made 2011-2015 the warmest five-year period on record
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 25 Nov 15;

Climate change made 2011-2015 the warmest five-year period on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) state of the global climate report.

This year is set to be the single hottest ever registered, with planetary temperatures passing the symbolic milestone of 1C above pre-industrial levels.

The WMO’s stock-take attributes the sweltering conditions to a cocktail of man-made global warming and the effects of the El Niño oceanic phenomenon.

“The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history as for a number of reasons,” the WMO’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told a press conference in Geneva. “2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1C Celsius threshold will be crossed. This is all bad news for the planet.”

Extreme weather events such as heatwaves can now be attributed to anthropogenic climate change with greater confidence, Jarraud said.

Last summer, 2,500 people died in India during a heatwave blamed on climate change, while Pakistan recorded another 2,000 fatalities as temperatures soared as high as 49C.

“There were significant, record heatwaves in many parts of the world [in 2015],” Jarraud said. “Can we attribute these extreme weather events to climate change? When it comes to temperature, the answer is increasingly yes for some of the big ones.”

Research indicated that the probability of such sweltering conditions had risen by a factor of up to 10 because of climate change, he added.

China experienced its warmest ever year on record in 2015 in the period to October, while the continent of Africa is currently undergoing its second warmest.

Other increasingly severe weather events such as floods, droughts and tropical storms were developing in line with the WMO’s expectations, based on climate models.

The WMO report comes less than a week before more than 130 world leaders are due to meet in Paris for a landmark climate change summit on emissions cuts beyond 2020.

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said: “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at record levels and so are global temperatures. These are indicators of the big climate problem we are creating for ourselves, and set the tone of great urgency for the negotiators in Paris to make a meaningful agreement that will put us on the road of greenhouse gas emission reductions and elimination that will limit climate change to an amount that we can probably cope with.”

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Global emissions nearly stall after a decade of rapid growth, report shows

Slowdown in 2014 is attributed to lack of growth in Chinese coal use and signals new period of slower rises in world emissions, say experts
Adam Vaughan and Arthur Neslen The Guardian 25 nov 15;

The growth of global carbon emissions virtually stalled last year after a decade of rising rapidly, figures published on Wednesday show, just days before world leaders meet in Paris for international talks on climate change.

The slowdown in the growth of the emissions that have caused record-breaking heat in recent years was largely down to China, which bucked its trend of ever-increasing coal use, the Netherlands environment agency said.

Chinese emissions went up 0.9% in 2014, the same amount as the US, as it used more gas for heating. India’s emissions jumped by 7.8% while the European Union’s emissions dropped by an “unprecedented” 5.4%, but the Indian increase was the largest contributor to global emissions growth in 2014 and effectively cancelled out the EU fall.

Together, the four are the world’s biggest emitters, covering 61% of global emissions.

Worldwide emissions increased by just 0.5% in 2014, compared to 1.5% the year before, 0.8% in 2012 and an average of 4% a year over the previous decade, when emissions grew dramatically. The slowdown last year occurred despite the global economy growing by 3%, suggesting a “decoupling” between GDP and emissions.

The agency, which is considered one of the world’s top authorities on emissions data, said it appeared the world was moving into a new period of slower growth in emissions. “It is likely that the very high global annual emission growth rates, as observed in the years 2003 to 2011, will not be seen in the coming years,” it said in a statement.

The findings from the environment agency go some way to explaining the negotiating positions that countries and blocs are expected to take in Paris next Monday.

While the EU, US and China are all strongly backing an ambitious climate deal, India was accused at recent G20 talks in Turkey of holding back progress towards a Paris treaty.

The EU’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete, told reporters in Brussels that the EU would resist any moves to lower the world’s sights in Paris.

“When you have 196 parties, the easy way out is to agree a minimalistic agreement,” he said on Wednesday. “We will work day and night to have an ambitious agreement that is fit for purpose.”

The EU wants to see a legally enforceable protocol that is subject to five-yearly reviews. Canete argued that this would prevent backsliding and provide a mechanism to ramp up climate pledges until the world is on a pathway to global warming of no more than 2C.

Emissions-cutting offers currently on the Paris table would put the world on course for 3C of global warming, according to EU estimates. Scientists believe this could trigger a dangerous escalation of climate instability.

“We have to make the 2C [target] operational in the protocol,” Canete said. “We must enshrine it as a global binding objective for all parties.”

“This is not something discretionary or a political decision,” he said. “It is science-based.”

The bloc is also pushing for a binding benchmark emissions target for 2050.

Rise of carbon emissions almost stalled in 2014: study
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 26 Nov 15;

A general view shows the Eiffel tower and the Paris skyline through a small-particle haze March 13, 2014 as warm and sunny weather continues in France.
Photo: Philippe Wojazer

A rise in world carbon dioxide emissions almost stalled last year for the first time in almost two decades without a recession, in a promising step towards cleaner economic growth, a study showed on Wednesday.

World carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production rose 0.5 percent last year, the report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission's Joint Research Center said.

At the same time, the world economy grew by three percent in 2014, it said. It was the smallest rise in emissions, without a recession, since 1998, the study said.

An upwards revision to Chinese coal consumption partly explained why the findings exceeded a flattening of carbon emissions in 2014 reported by the International Energy Agency in March, it said.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Paris from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 for a summit to try to agree ways to combat climate change beyond 2020, to avert impacts such as more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

"It's promising but it's not a clear case that we are already approaching a tipping point" to break the historic link between use of fossil fuels and economic growth, PBL senior scientist Jos Olivier told Reuters.

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