Best of our wild blogs: 5 Dec 15

Marsh Hawk-Eagle?
Singapore Bird Group

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Concerted global effort needed to resolve climate change issue: Balakrishnan

The Foreign Affairs Minister adds that despite being a small nation with no access to alternative energy, he is optimistic that Singapore can hit its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Climate change is a "clear and present danger" and the only way to resolve it is through a concerted global effort, said Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Speaking on Friday (Dec 4), a day before departing for the climate change conference in Paris, Dr Balakrishnan also said that even if there is no global agreement, he is optimistic that by 2030, Singapore can reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent from the levels in 2005.

He noted that Singapore is a small nation that does not have access to alternative energy, but its targets can still be achieved by becoming more energy efficient, both in the domestic and industrial sectors, having more green buildings and harvesting solar energy.

Efforts are also being made to transform the transport sector to rely less on fossil fuels. These targets are part of Singapore's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which each country has to submit before the conference.

"The INDC that we've put forward is one which we believe is not only achievable, but is also good for us," said Dr Balakrishnan. "And as I said, we can, to a large extent, save money for citizens. So I think this trajectory that we have set for ourselves is the correct one and is one that we should pursue anyway."

The INDCs lay out the steps each country will take to address climate change domestically. They are a key element of negotiations to create the new global climate agreement, which will take effect from 2020. But Dr Balakrishnan said three factors will make or break this agreement.

First is ambition - can all countries agree the INDCs are "sufficient and adequate" to cap global temperature below two degrees Celsius? Next is finance - can developed countries commit to financing their developing counterparts at a hefty price of US$100 billion (S$139 billion) each year by 2020 to mitigate climate change? And lastly, all countries must acknowledge that they have a "differentiated but common" responsibility to fight climate change.


Dr Balakrishnan said: "I think the world has accepted that this is a global problem. Something needs to be done. We all can do something. What I'm hoping is to remind the developed countries that (they) must not back down from their prior commitments. In negotiating jargon, we say no backsliding. You do not retreat from commitments and responsibilities which you have already undertaken.

"Having said that, to the developing countries, without getting into all those arguments ... the fact remains that we all can and should do more."

He also said: "There is a group of developed countries with a historical responsibility for putting out all this excessive carbon dioxide over the past two and a half centuries. The big argument is that these so-called Annex 1 countries are saying, 'But the world has changed and the developing countries are now putting out a greater share of carbon dioxide today.' But the immediate counter-argument says, 'Yes, the world may be changing, but you cannot wish away historical facts.'"

The minister added: "Sometimes countries bicker like children. If you listen to five-year-olds argue with each other, what's the commonest term you'll hear - 'it's not fair', right? Well, in a funny but painful way ... that same style of argument goes on in international affairs. So this fight on differentiation is really a fight about fairness."

Though he is optimistic, Dr Balakrishnan said he will only celebrate when the conference ends with an agreement.

- CNA/hs

Minister calls on S’poreans to save money, not make sacrifices, on energy
ALBERT WAI Today Online 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday (Dec 4) expressed confidence that Singapore will meet its pledge to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, adding that for many Singaporeans, this will mean having to be more conscious about saving energy on a daily basis.

Speaking to reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before leaving for Paris to attend talks on a post-2020 global climate change regime, the minister said “a concerted and deliberate long-term plan has been put in place to ensure that we can all save money, at the personal, national and industrial level”. “I’m not asking you to make sacrifices. I am asking you to save money. We all need to pay attention to the way we use (electricity) and, more importantly, go back to the age-old wisdom about not wasting.”

He said that if Singaporeans paid more attention to their household electricity bills, they may find it possible to cut electricity consumption by 10 or even 25 per cent. Technological solutions such as the possible introduction of smart electricity metres in the home would also facilitate the process.

As for the industry, he noted there are grants, incentives and technology transfer schemes to help companies use the most efficient equipment.

The Building and Construction Authority has also been encouraging the construction of more green buildings with lower energy requirements.

The Republic has pledged to reduce emissions per gross domestic product dollar by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking it around 2030. Dr Balakrishnan said the pledge is unconditional, regardless of whether a new global climate deal is agreed upon in Paris next week.

He characterised Singapore’s pledge as “ambitious” and “difficult targets for us to achieve”. “We feel that this is the right and responsible thing to do. In typical Singapore fashion, when we set a target, we go all out to achieve it,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while Singapore’s carbon footprint is being reduced, “there are some adjustment transitions we have to make”, including schemes such as the National Environment Agency’s Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme that awards more ticks to energy-efficient products to “gently guide the market”.

“What we have in Singapore is a well-designed future-ready city built on sound economic principles. And we can actually show the world how you can save money, make a living and save the world at the same time,” he said.

Concerted global effort only way to reverse climate damage: Vivian
ALBERT WAI Today Online 4 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — The focus for the ongoing Paris climate change talks should be on securing a global agreement that applies to all parties, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan today (Dec 4), adding that countries should subsequently step up efforts in addressing climate change, which he says presents a “clear and present danger” to mankind.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his trip to Paris to attend talks on a post-2020 global climate change regime (the existing Kyoto Protocol expires in 2020), Dr Balakrishnan said the only way to reverse the damage is through coordinated, concerted and effective global action.

“If we can get a system with universal participation (in Paris), we will be much, much better off than the Kyoto Protocol,” said Dr Balakrishnan, referring to the previous global climate accord signed in 1997.
“The key problem with the Kyoto Protocol is that it was high in ambition with a top-down formula imposed on the world. It didn’t work because it lacked sufficient participation.”

The United States Senate did not ratify the protocol, while other major developing country emitters such as China and India were not required to reduce emissions.

More than 180 countries have reportedly submitted their post-2020 pledges that collectively account for more than 90 per cent of all global emissions.

Negotiators aim to stop global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels but studies have suggested that all the pledges taken together would still lead to a 2.7°C increase.

“We do not have the luxury of procrastinating any further ... This Paris meeting is going to be a make or break moment,” the minister said. He added that after the agreement has been finalised, monitoring, reporting and verification mechanisms will kick in to help the world improve its performance in addressing climate change.

“Everyone’s efforts and results are available for the world to see. Importantly from the political perspective, for your own citizens to see,” he said

“Having a system of greater transparency will be a spur for governments to improve their levels of performance, hopefully even beyond what they have committed so far.”

Dr Balakrishnan also touched on several key outstanding issues that could hamper a deal in Paris. He said that the intense debate on differentiation — referring to how countries are divided in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as Annex One developed countries and Non-Annex One developing countries, with the former expected to take on greater responsibilities — is ultimately “a fight about fairness”.

Developed countries hold the view that as the world is changing, developing countries are now producing more emissions and should take on more responsibilities. But developing countries argue that developed countries have historic responsibility for global warming.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that this is not a trivial issue and can derail negotiations. He said that the “solution is already obvious”, and the existing system of submitting post-2020 climate pledges (also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs) is essentially a bottom-up exercise with all countries putting up their best efforts in good faith.

“Developed countries must not back down from prior commitments ... My message to developing countries is without getting into an argument about bifurcation (of developed and developing countries), the fact remains that we all can and should do more,” he said.

“I am hoping that with good sense and good faith, we will prevail and overcome this otherwise insolvable debate about differentiation.”

Questions have also been raised on whether the proposed system of INDCs will lead to a sufficient solution. Some parties, including small island-states facing climate change as an existential threat, have called for more ambition and urgency, while others want a more realistic approach and say more time is required to cut emissions and adjust to climate change.

Dr Balakrishnan said it is difficult to make precise estimates on how climate change has led to individual extreme weather events, therefore making the issue more complex.

“The lack of precision in our estimates make these arguments about ambition and how quickly we need to move difficult to resolve,” he said.

The minister said that another sticking point in the negotiations is funding promises made by developed countries to help developing countries cope with climate change. Even though developed countries have pledged to provide US$100 billion (S$139.7 billion) annually from 2020 onwards, some developing countries have asked for proof of the funding, with the exercise quickly becoming an issue of accounting.

“Fundamentally, it requires trust in each other,” he said.

The minister expressed optimism that the Paris talks would result in a new global agreement, predicting that there may be a more than 50 per cent chance of success.

“The world will have to watch with bated breath whether we are able to collectively seize this opportunity to make a difference both for now and for the future,” he said.

S'pore pledge to meet climate goals is unconditional
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Singapore yesterday gave an unconditional guarantee that it will strive to meet its targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, even if the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate talks do not result in a global pact to reduce emissions.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan gave the assurance yesterday before he sets off early tomorrow for the talks in Paris.

Referring to the targets submitted by Singapore ahead of the climate talks, he said they were not only "achievable" but also "good for us".

"To a large extent, we can also save money for citizens, so I think this trajectory that we have set for ourselves is the correct one, and is one that we should pursue anyway."

His comments followed reservations expressed last month by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change.

Mr Teo had said Singapore may have to review its climate change position if a global pact is not achieved in Paris.

He said that some measures, such as incentivising industries and building owners to reduce energy use and increase carbon efficiency, "need to be done in tandem with other countries".

In July, Singapore had laid out its pledge in a document sent to the UN ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties, which started on Monday and is expected to end next Friday.

Singapore had set the the target of stopping any increase to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

It also pledged to become greener economically by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Despite Singapore's lack of renewable energy, such as wind or geothermal, it can still meet the targets in other ways, Dr Balakrishnan said.

These include:

- Promoting greater energy efficiency in the domestic and industrial sectors;

- Pushing for more green buildings, especially at the design and planning stages;

- Aiming for the petrochemical industry to continuously upgrade using the least pollutive, safest and most efficient technologies available;

- Improving public transport; and

- Increasing solar energy production.

The UN climate conference aims to achieve the first global climate agreement that would help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 deg C above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

The existing Kyoto Protocol governs only emissions from developed countries.

The Singapore delegation to the conference will be led by Dr Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. Mr Masagos, at a separate event on Tuesday, urged all Singaporeans to use less energy.

"At the same time as we reduce our use of energy and resources, we have to think about how to reuse and increase the amount of things we can recycle.

"All these put together, from a consumer's point of view, will reduce the amount of resources and energy that we need in Singapore," he said.

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Singapore reaffirms commitment to green building & construction sector

Mindy Tan, Business Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 15;

THE Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is representing Singapore in the newly launched Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.

The alliance involves the participation of governments, major building and construction stakeholders and potential funders, to help the building and construction sector achieve the common objective of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. It was launched at the inaugural Buildings Day at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

In support of COP21, the World Green Building Council and green building councils worldwide - including the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) - also embarked on a new campaign: #BetterBuildGreen.

The campaign highlights the key role of green buildings in reducing emissions, and their economic and social benefits.

SGBC also made some pledges. These include working with both the private and public sectors to base procurement decisions on sustainability- centred principles and increase the adoption of Singapore Green Building Product certified products and materials in the built environment; supporting the government to develop a green-collar workforce and train 20,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) by 2020; and enhancing the Singapore Green Building Product (SGBP) labelling scheme for green building-related products in Singapore, to ensure that building products are impartially evaluated for their qualities and benchmarked against similar products in its category.

SGBC also reaffirmed its commitment to work with the government to attain the target of having 80 per cent of buildings in Singapore achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030.

According to BCA, Singapore is on track to meet this target: to date, there are over 2,500 green building projects, amounting to more than 70 million square metres of gross floor area (or 29 per cent of the total gross floor area) in Singapore.

A total of 25 green building councils (including Singapore's) unveiled national commitments to register, renovate or certify over 1.25 billion sq m of green building space and train over 127,000 qualified green building professionals over the next five years.

"Since our inception in 2009, SGBC has been bringing together industry players and advocates for green building," said Chia Ngiang Hong, president of SGBC. "Our strong public-private sector partnership has enabled the greening of Singapore buildings to progress steadily. We will continue to work with our members and partners to spread awareness of the role of buildings in climate change and greenhouse gas reduction, as well as the added benefits of lowered energy bills, healthier building spaces, and a better environment for all."

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), limiting global warming to below 2 deg C requires reducing the building sector's energy consumption by at least 30 per cent.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says the building and construction sector is responsible for 30 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. This figure is growing rapidly and could reach 50 per cent by 2050.

One of the alliance's functions is to facilitate the mobilisation of international resources for efficient local operational solutions, align existing initiatives, commitments and programmes to achieve greater scale, and catalyse greater pace and impact of climate action in the building and construction sector.

Initiating partners and members will have regular engagements and sharing sessions, making climate actions visible and reporting on their progress, developing common and appropriate climate goals and promoting transparent measurement protocols.

They will also lead or contribute to key climate change mitigation opportunities through initiatives such as net-zero-energy buildings, sustainable housing and tropical architecture solutions.

In addition, members of the alliance will collectively address major challenges including public strategies and policies on building efficiency; transformation of the entire building value chain; and the financing options available to accelerate investment and funding for greenhouse gas mitigation projects, and programmes for the building and construction sector.

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Indonesia: NGO hopes no gap between president`s speech and reality

Antara 4 Dec 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias Environmental Forum (Walhi) has hoped that there would be no gap between the presidents speech at the Paris Climate Change Conference and the on-field reality in regions across Indonesia.

"If we compare what the president conveyed in his speech at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC in Paris) and the national economic development policy, there is a huge gap," Kurniawan Sabar, Walhis executive campaign manager, noted in a statement here, Thursday.

With such a huge gap, Indonesias commitment conveyed by President Jokowi would be meaningless.

Instead of implementing adaptive measures against the impacts of climate change, Indonesias coastal areas have been massively reclaimed for development projects that have disadvantaged the coastal population, particularly fishermen, he stated.

"It happened not only in Jakarta but also in other cities of Indonesia, such as reclamation projects in Benoa Bay in Bali, Palu Bay in Central Sulawesi, and in Makassar in South Sulawesi," he added.

Besides this, the countrys economic and development policies still rely on coal, "dirty energy," according to Sabar.

"How are we going to reduce emissions if we incessantly depend on coal? When are we going to shift to renewable energy?" Sabar questioned.

In the meantime, the climate change conference in Paris should provide the necessary momentum to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, an industrialist remarked.

"Indonesia is rich in untapped sources of renewable energy, Bambang Sudomo, the president director of energy company PT Sumber Data Persada, pointed out.

Sudomo stated that the country has abundant sources of renewable energy such as geothermal that could be used to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

Indonesia has the largest geothermal reserves in the world. The country has 40 percent of the global geothermal reserves.

The government plans to build geothermal power plants under the program to build power plants, with a total capacity of 35 thousand megawatts until 2019.(*)

Social forestry program helps Indonesia reduce gas emissions
Antara 4 Dec 15;

Paris (ANTARA News) - The social forestry program which gives people access to 12.7 million hectares of forests and the ability to manage it will help Indonesia reduce gas emissions, a forestry official said.

Director General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership at the Environment and Forestry Ministry Hadi Daryanto made the remarks during a panel discussion on customary community, social forestry and climate change, held on the sidelines of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) here on Friday.

Social forestry is one of the keys to solving how to effect a change in the way forests and land are managed as these have become the biggest gas emitting sources in Indonesia, he said.

"The (customary) community grows and keeps the forests because they harvest non-wood forest products and their economy relies on forest conservation," he said.

He said the Indonesian government has developed the program in association with the British government by setting up an institution called "Multistakeholder Forestry Programme" (MFP) to expedite the realization of social forestry program.

Towards this end, the Environment and Forestry Ministry has built a mapping system capable of producing 40 thousand polygons by involving 6,000 residents living inside the forests, he said.

"We also have 2,400 contact persons in the field to ensure that this program matches the target," he said.

The MFP has assisted local people not only in managing forests in the form of social forestry, rural forestry and smallholder timber estate but also in packing and marketing products, he said.

To expedite the program, he said his side has also built an online licensing system through which permits can be issued in six months at the latest.

Coordinator of Public Access to Forests Nur Amalia said the program has been implemented in 15 provinces in Indonesia over 450 thousand hectares of forest.

"Besides helping public access to forests, we also assist them in improving their capacity in managing their harvest," she said.

Through the program, the target of creating one million hectares of social forest could be achieved by mid-2017, she added. (*)

As COP21 deadline looms, RI blames developed nations for stalling
M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post 4 Dec 15;

As the host country France warns that the pace of negotiations at the COP21 climate talks in Paris has been very slow, Indonesia has blamed developed countries for blocking progress at the talks.

Environment and Forestry Ministry director general for climate change Nur Masripatin, one of the Indonesian negotiators at COP21, said that developed countries had been reluctant to engage in a serious discussion especially on issues of climate finance, mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

“They [developed countries] have been reluctant to be more serious in the negotiations. We have been hearing complaints [from developing countries] that the process has not been fair,” Nur told reporters at a morning briefing on the progress of the negotiations.

On the issue of climate finance, developing countries have proposed that the Kyoto Protocol scheme, in which countries in the developed world provide financial assistance for developing countries to address climate change and adapt to its adverse effects, should remain in place.

However, negotiators from developed countries at COP21 have balked at the proposal, saying that in the past two decades since the Kyoto Protocol, the economies of the majority of countries in the developing world have improved.

“This difference [in opinion] has been the toughest issue in the negotiations,” Nur said.

Indonesia itself is in a difficult position as in the 20 years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed it has become a fast-growing developing nation and a member of the G20, but has continued to have limited capacity to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change.

“We have to be careful because we can’t alienate other developing countries,” Nur said.

Earlier, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s special envoy on climate change Rachmat Witoelar said that Indonesia was currently working in an alliance with other developing countries in the G77, including China, one of the world’s greatest polluters, at the COP21 climate talks.

He said that Indonesia would likely support the developing nations’ position of limiting the rise of the global temperature to a figure above 2° C.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in his capacity as president of COP21, urged negotiators to pick up the pace so that they could meet the Dec. 11 deadline.

“My message is clear: we must accelerate the process because there is still a lot of work to do,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the COP21 conference.

“Options for compromise need to be found as quickly as possible,” he added.

Negotiators have been given an interim deadline of midday this Saturday to produce a blueprint, which will then be given to environment ministers to make the political decisions required for a deal.

Negotiators themselves have complained of frustration due to the slow pace of work.

Meanwhile, Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN) Secretary General Abdon Nababan expressed his appreciation for the government’s strong will to preserve human rights and the rights of indigenous people during the preliminary negotiation session of the conference.

According to Abdon, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has committed to maintain indigenous people as a topic in the negotiations.

Indonesia had the world’s largest number of indigenous peoples in the world, and was also the most progressive in acknowledging them, Abdon said.

He compared Indonesia to the Philippines, saying the latter had only recently paid attention to issues regarding its indigenous people, whereas Indonesia had recognized their existence in the 1945 Constitution.

“However, Indonesia has not fully seized the opportunity to take a leading role in the debate on the topic in the negotiations,” Abdon said in Paris on Thursday as quoted by Antara.

After devastating impact of forest fires, Indonesia pledges emissions cuts at Paris climate talks
With the recent forest fires in Indonesia contributing 1.75 billion tons of greenhouse gas, Indonesia needs to act fast to reduce the health and environmental risks of the illegal fires.
Natalie Powell, UK Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 15;

PARIS: Indonesia's emissions from deforestation and fires are among the highest in the world. At one point this year, the country topped the global list of greenhouse gas emitters - a result of the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan which generated dense haze blanketing parts of Southeast Asia.

Many fires in Indonesia are deliberately started in order to clear land, which is then used to feed world demand for palm oil, pulp and paper. In 2015, millions of hectares of forest in Indonesia were destroyed as a result of the slash-and-burn method.

But the knock-on effect is dangerous, for the environment, and for health. Researchers believe that fires in Indonesia in the last few months could have released around 1.75 billion tons of greenhouse gas.

If that is the case, Indonesia would move from the world’s sixth largest emitter, to the world’s fourth. In addition to the contribution this makes to global warming, it also has a big impact on health.

“Many people got sick because of the haze in Palangkaraya, which had never happened before in years,” said Jean Steve, a volunteer fighting fires. “Our biggest fear has become reality and we are deeply concerned with climate change nowadays.”

And Indonesia has been criticised for lagging behind other countries in protecting forest land while expanding its economy. So what can be done to reduce the health risks and global warming risks?

“Certainly the law has to be enforced and the government needs to engage with a lot of stake holders, including the local community, the local government and also corporations who own the plantations,” said Daniel Murdiyarso from the Center of International Forestry Research. “So all these stakeholders are important.”

The Indonesian government says it is cracking down on illegal fires, and here at the COP21 in Paris, the country has already given commitments on cutting down emissions.

- CNA/rw

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New app allows users to view Singapore’s maps, past and present

FRANCIS LAW Today Online 4 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — From the reclamation of land along Singapore’s coasts to more obscure developments such as the relocation of Oldham Lane — the changing face of the nation’s cityscape has now been captured by a new app.

The One Historical Map app enables users to view five different maps dating as far back as 1966, and includes a function that would allow side-by-side comparisons of the different map editions.

Designed and developed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the app was launched at the National Design Centre today (Dec 4).

The app aims to help users compare Singapore’s current streetscape with that of the past. It includes more than 300 pre-loaded geo-tagged photographs, 200 of which were curated by the National Heritage Board. The other 100 photographs were contributed by various supporters and geo-historical enthusiasts.

Users are also encouraged to upload their own photographs of Singapore across the years to share with the public.

The SLA’s geospatial director, Mr Ng Siau Yong, said the app would also help to foster conversations of Singapore’s heritage and history between family members of different generations.

Heritage blogger Jerome Lim said the app would be useful not just to people with interest in history, but to anyone who “wants to relate to Singapore”.

“It’s very useful when you’re trying to pinpoint locations of places ... it’s also very helpful from the perspective of discovering Singapore,” he added.

However, Mr Lim expressed concerned over how the crowd-sourced information will be controlled to ensure that the information provided by users is accurate. He also hopes to see an “overlay” feature in the app in the future that would allow the user to compare one map on top of the other, instead of alongside each other.

SLA Chief Executive Tan Boon Khai said: “We hope the app could spark interest among the Net-savvy and encourage more inter-generational conversation on our shared history and heritage.”

Moving forward, the SLA hopes to collaborate with other agencies, such as the National Archives of Singapore, as well as to gather and incorporate user feedback to further improve the app.

The app is accessible at or from the Google Playstore for Android phones. An iOS version will be released in a few weeks.

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Malaysia: RM4bil to link forests

PATRICK LEE The Star 5 Dec 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia wants to keep the peninsula’s forests linked to each other as part of its environment plan, a feat that will cost the Federal Government at least RM4bil.

Linking the forests together to create a forest range from the Thai border to Johor would keep its biodiversity safe.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic) said the RM4bil bill would go towards acquiring the land from the states to meet that goal.

“This amount is to create the corridor for all the clustered forested areas cut by development and plantations,” he told The Star in an interview.

Dr Wan Junaidi was touching on First World expectations over developing nations’ carbon emissions in the run up to COP21 climate change talks in Paris, which he will attend later this week.

Another point that he will emphasise at the talks will be that Malaysia still had 54% of forest cover.

“I am going to make a speech in Paris to say that we’re going to retain that 50% forest cover, and we’re not going to reduce that.”

Forests can act as carbon sinks. Deforestation is one of the top causes of carbon emissions worldwide.

The Government previously mooted an idea called the Central Forest Spine: a Peninsular forest range from the Thai border to Johor.

One of its goals is to make sure that the country’s different forests are linked to each other since isolated forests may not be as rich in biodiversity and trees.

For the Spine idea to work, the forests have to be linked and there are 37 linkages in total.

He said that states here were not against the Spine idea; only the question of handing it over to the Federal Government.

“The negotiations are still definitely on between my ministry and the state governments,” Dr Wan Junaidi added.

On Sabah and Sarawak, Wan Junaidi said both states were in support of the Heart of Borneo plan, which will involve reforesting large parts of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

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Indonesian waters must not be like those of Africa: Minister

Antara 4 Dec 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Minister of Fishery and Marine Resources Susi Pudjiastuti has said that Indonesian waters must not become like those in Africa which are now controlled by foreign concessionaires.

"I do not wish Indonesian waters to become like waters in Africa where foreign concessionaires exercise control," she said at a seminar organized by the Indonesian Marine Scholars Association here on Friday.

She said sea concessions in a number of locations in Africa are open to making a number of parties from Europe to become stake holders in the areas.

He said as of now, it has become feasible for parties outside Africa to freely explore and poach marine resources, depriving the locals of any benefit.

"No foreign party will be allowed to enter our exclusive economic zone (Indonesian EEZ)," she said.

The minister said she did not want Indonesians to be reduced to a fate of meekly watching big foreign ships carrying away Indonesian natural resources.

She said she would make an inventory of polluted locations in Indonesian waters so that the sea conditions could be improved.

"We will collect data about locations in the Indonesian sea waters where there is a lot of waste," she said, adding she would ask for assistance from several countries that have satellites, such as Norway, to collect the data.

Although Indonesia has no satellite, it has committed to deploy illegal fishing task force to monitor the waters.

The minister said that dumping waste in the sea, including plastic materials, is an illegal activity.

She said in the future, she would also categorize different kinds of waste that damages the Indonesian waters, its eco-system as well as the fish population in a number of locations in the national waters.(*)

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Paris climate talks: pressure mounts on countries to produce working text

Fiona Harvey in Paris The Guardian 4 Dec 15;

Delegates from 195 countries at climate change talks in Paris are under pressure to produce a working text of a deal by Friday, exposing sticking points and fault lines nearly halfway through the UN negotiations.

Developed countries, along with the French hosts and the UN, were mostly optimistic about signing a deal in advance of the landmark summit.

World leaders met on the first day, an unprecedented gathering of the heads of state and government of 150 countries, pledging their commitment to a legal outcome that would reaffirm the world’s collective action on greenhouse gas emissions.

Developed countries – or most of them – came to the Paris climate change conference with a few clear priorities. They wanted to validate the emissions targets made by nearly all of the world’s governments; prove to developing countries that the flows of finance, mostly from the private sector, would be sufficient for the assistance they need; and ensure that the mechanisms for review, transparency, and accountability in meeting the emissions targets are sound.

On the emissions targets, the omens were good. Nearly every country, developed and developing, produced a national plan – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) – on curbing their emissions beyond 2020, when current commitments, agreed at Copenhagen in 2009, run out.

Although rich countries have been criticised for not doing enough to keep global emissions below the levels likely to lead to dangerous climate change, they were fortified by analyses of the INDCs that the “emissions gap” could be met, with additional contributions from “non-state actors” such as cities, regional governments and businesses.

In addition, they were proposing a mechanism of five-yearly reviews at which commitments could be ratcheted up, which would enable the target of limiting temperature rises to 2C to be met in future years.

However, while the principle of five-yearly reviews was widely regarded as a useful and workable innovation, some countries have raised concerns. These include China, India, Middle Eastern countries and some of Latin America.

For these countries, a five-year “stock take”, at which progress on targets could be discussed, is the preferred option. They argue that, as most have 2030 targets, these should be allowed to stand. But for countries such as the US, which has offered a 2025 target, a five-year review would be appropriate.

Developed countries are resistant, still asking for a full review process rather than a mere stock take. “It’s about having a level playing field,” one delegate told the Guardian. “That’s an important principle.”

Another said: “We don’t want to lock in modest ambition [by dropping five-year reviews].”

This issue, along with the mechanisms for reporting and verifying that emissions reductions have truly been made, could yet provoke more controversy in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the talks.

On finance, reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Resources Institute have suggested that climate finance is flowing to the poor at levels needed to meet the Copenhagen pledge of $100bn a year by 2020. Most of this is likely to come from the private sector, but rich country governments and international development banks, such as the World Bank, have fortified the prospects with raised pledges on finance, such as the UK’s promise of £5.8bn over this parliament.

Critics say some of this money is being taken from other development aid budgets. The finance issue is likely to continue to be wrangled over into the closing days of the talks, as developing countries seek further assurances.

Developed countries are holding firm on another controversial matter: loss and damage. This, according to the rich nations, is the principle that poor countries struck by disasters of climate-related extreme weather should receive special assistance, and they will commit to that.

However, for some poor nations and NGOs, loss and damage is interpreted as being compensation owed to the developing world from the industrialised countries that have historically been most responsible for emissions.

“We are not signing up to anything on compensation or liability,” one EU official said. The US is understood to take the same stance.

Finally, a key risk as the talks grind on is that yet again, as at Copenhagen, they become bogged down in wrangles over details in the text. The draft text contains thickets of square brackets, denoting issues where wording has not yet been resolved, or where several options still remain to be decided upon.

If these cannot be resolved in time, a text may not be ready for agreement, and the talks could fail. The French hosts, and the UN, have tried to avoid this by demanding the text be ready at an early stage – this weekend – before being passed to ministers for the political discussions that still need to be had among countries.

To this end, they have introduced novel forums for discussion among delegates, such as a system of “informal informals” by which small groups of officials take passages of the text – often just a paragraph – and try to beat it into a shape acceptable to all.

“France is acutely aware of the risks of process failure,” the EU official said. Getting a text into a workable format is now the top priority.

Whether the compromises that are still possible will be enough to satisfy developing countries cannot yet be discerned. Some countries, including some Latin American, African and Middle Eastern delegations, have been privately indicating they are not happy with the way the talks have gone in their first week and may step up their rhetoric in the second week.

India, which was late to produce its INDC and whose president, Narendra Modi, has been outspokenly critical of western countries, has been the subject of a charm offensive, including meetings with President Obama, David Cameron, and other high-ranking developed country officials, and from NGOs.

At Durban, in 2011, the UN climate talks carried on until dawn on the final Sunday, some 36 hours after they were supposed to end, after a mammoth non-stop negotiating session. What was at stake was in fact whether the Paris conference would take place, and indeed the entire future of the UN process. Taking place in the shadow of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, which produced a deal but no legal agreement and ended in scenes of chaos, the Durban conference was unusually fraught, even by the standards of these long-running annual negotiations.

The EU had assembled a “coalition of ambition” at Durban, made up of most of the poorest countries on the planet, as well as the richest, to push for a new round of talks that would culminate in 2015, aimed at forging a legal agreement to come into force from 2020.

Late into Saturday night, only two countries were holding out against that proposed timetable: China and India. In the end, they agreed to it. In the intervening years, China has re-gauged its stance, most notably in forming an unprecedented alliance last year with the US to announce joint commitments on emissions. But the interests of Delhi and Beijing are far from identical.

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