Best of our wild blogs: 9 Dec 15

Rethinking the haze and Indonesia
The Online Citizen

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Malaysia committed to tackle enviromental issues

ADIB POVERA New Straits Times 8 Dec 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will continue implementing initiatives and policies to address issues concerning climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Malaysia has introduced a number of measures that were deemed friendly to the environment since 2009.

During the same year, Junaidi said, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced that Malaysia had adopted a voluntary indicator to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions intensity of Gross Domestic Product, conditional on receiving finance, technology transfer and capacity building from developed countries.

"Malaysia continue to incorporate policies to conserve the environment under the 10th Malaysia Plan, which was implemented for five years beginning 2011.
"This resulted in Malaysia achieving a 33 per cent reduction in emissions intensity of GDP by 2013.

"The effort will be continued under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan 2016-2020 under the Green Growth Agenda. This agenda calls for strengthening the enabling environment, including policy and regulatory frameworks, human capital and green technology."

Junaidi was delivering his speech during the Joint High Level Segment of The 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) and 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) in Paris, France on Monday.

The Green Growth Agenda, Junaidi explained, also included initiatives to conserve the nation's diverse biodiversity.

"I would like to highlight that Malaysia’s forest cover to date stands at 54.5 per cent.

"Here we reaffirm our commitment to maintain at least per cent level of forest and tree cover in perpetuity through “zero net deforestation and degradation", thus halting net forest loss by deforestation and stopping net decline in forest quality."

On a related matter, Junaidi also said flood mitigation programmes have accounted for more than RM9.3 billion in spending in the 9th and 10th Malaysia Plans.

He said further funding was required for the implementation of mitigation programmes from next year.

"At the same time, Malaysia has developed action plans to enhance water security under the National Water Resources Policy that also needs to be implemented."

‘Malaysia committed to stop forest loss, degradation’
Borneo Post 9 Dec 15;

KUCHING: Malaysia is committed in maintaining at least 50 per cent of forest and tree cover in perpetuity through ‘zero net deforestation and degradation’; thus, halting net forest loss by deforestation and stopping net decline in forest quality.

This would be achieved by reforestation and enrichment of degraded land to increase carbon sequestration and mitigate climate change effects, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in his speech for joint high-level segment of COP21/CMP11 in Paris, France on Dec 7.

He further said this could be achieved more effectively through expanding the forest reserves and protected areas under the ‘Heart of Borneo’ and the ‘Central Forest Spine’ initiatives, adding currently the country has identified about 144,000 hectares of land area that could be restored in the Central Forest Spine and six million hectares in the Heart of Borneo.

“Additionally, Malaysia has also implemented the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) which saw an estimated total of 97.5 million tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions avoided through improved forest management for the 2006-2010 period.

“However, our financial, technical and capacity limitations, among other things, can hinder our progress and efforts to manage and conserve these natural resources. In this regard, external funding can offer viable solutions,” he said.

Wan Junaidi mentioned that Malaysia too was very concerned about adaptation and programmes on flood mitigation, which alone had accounted for more than RM9.3 billion in spending in the ninth and 10th Malaysia Plans.

He also said further funding would be required for the implementation of mitigation programmes from next year onwards, and Malaysia had developed action plans to enhance water security under the National Water Resources Policy that must also be implemented.

“Malaysia has demonstrated its commitment in addressing climate change. We would like to urge developed countries to fulfil their obligations as stipulated under the ‘Convention’, which includes the COP16 decision that developing countries should receive financial resources.

“This obligation encompasses providing means of implementation, including technology transfer and capacity-building for developing countries. Malaysia supports the centrality of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the importance of equity and transparency as well as the ‘Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’ (CBDR),” he elaborated.

Wan Junaidi said Malaysia would look forward to the adoption of a fair and balanced agreement, urging all parties to undertake ambitious emission reduction targets for future generations.

He recalled that in 2009, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that Malaysia had adopted a voluntary indicator to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions intensity of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by up to 40 per cent, compared to 2005 intensity levels by 2020 — conditional on receiving finance, technology transfer and capacity building from developed countries.

Malaysia had incorporated measures to address the issues of climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

This plan had resulted in Malaysia achieving a 33-per cent reduction in emissions intensity of GDP by 2013.

During this time, the energy sector was the major contributor to national GHG emissions. The sector was prioritised for mitigation action and saw the introduction of the Renewable Energy Policy and the Renewable Energy Act in 2011 — both of which enabled the launching of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism to accelerate renewable energy (RE) growth in Malaysia.

The effort would be continued under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) under the ‘Green Growth Agenda’, which calls for strengthening the enabling environment including policy and regulatory frameworks, human capital and green technology.

“In addition, investment and financial instruments will be further strengthened. The Green Growth Agenda takes a broad approach that includes conserving our biodiversity. I would like to highlight that Malaysia’s forest cover to date stands at 54.5 per cent,” Wan Junaidi pointed out.

In his speech, he also conveyed Malaysia’s profound condolences to the people of France on the recent attacks, saying: “We expressed our solidarity and support during these difficult and challenging times.”

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Indonesia: Govt backtracks on unrealistic peatland restoration

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 8 Dec 15;

Provided with a limited allocation from the state budget, the government may only have the capacity to restore less than 5 percent of the total peatland area burned this year, allegedly by both small and large holders of plantation concessions.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has estimated that this year’s forest fires, the worst since 1998, has destroyed around 2.6 million hectares of land, with 53 percent of it located in peatland areas. If disturbed, peatland can become a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have to be realistic in proposing something. If we are provided with more funds, we could restore more than 5 percent of the destroyed peatlands,” the ministry’s environmental pollution and damage control director general, Karliansyah, told The Jakarta Post.

Last month, Vice President Jusuf Kalla confirmed a plan to restore at least 2 million hectares of peatlands destroyed by decades of unscrupulous practices by small and big concession holders. The restoration costs are estimated to top Rp 50 trillion (US$3.6 billion) over five years.

However, Karliansyah said that restoring a mere 5 percent of burned peatlands would cost taxpayers up to Rp 30 trillion and may take five years to complete, highlighting the astronomical cost and impact of forest fires to the environment.

“So we’ve calculated the cost to block canals and restore the vegetation. We’ve also calculated the cost to hire staff members to manage the water gates to the canals, as well as the cost to increase people’s awareness of forest fires,” he said.

Karliansyah added that the government has excluded concessions owned by big holders from the 5 percent restoration program.

“The 5 percent is located in areas managed by smallholders, not companies,” he said.

Firms whose areas have been burned by the recent fires will have to bear the responsibility to restore their lands using their own money, according to Karliansyah.

“Even though the regulation states that the burned lands could be taken over by the state, the responsibility [to restore the lands] is still with the companies,” he said.

Between January and October, forest fires allegedly triggered by the clearing of lands for oil palm and pulp plantations had killed a dozen people in Sumatra and Kalimantan and hospitalized thousands. Smoky haze from the fires had also chocked people in Singapore, Malaysia and some part of Thailand and the Philippines.

The ministry’s director general for law enforcement, Rasio Ridho Sani, said that so far the government had not forced companies whose areas were impacted by the forest fires to restore their lands.

“We have not yet ordered them to restore the land, but we are trying to do that through civil lawsuits. There’s already one company, PT Kalista Alam, which should serve as a precedent,” he said.

Rasio was referring to the recent landmark decision by the Supreme Court, concerning the case of a forest fire in Aceh, in which Kalista was directly liable for the burning of 1,000 hectares of the Tripa forest.

The forest lies within Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, the only place on earth where tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and orangutans can be found living together in the wild.

The court ordered the company to pay Rp 114.3 billion in compensation and Rp 251.7 billion to restore the affected areas of forest.

In the future, Rasio said that the government might not have to wait to file a civil lawsuit in order to force a company to restore its burned land as it can deploy administrative sanctions to do so.

Rasio said that firms might be forced to restore their lands using their own money as this was already stipulated in the environment law.

The regulations would be strengthened further with a government regulation on peatland restoration currently being drafted by the government.

Riau dissolves haze task force
The Jakarta Post 8 Dec 15;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) officially dissolved on Monday a government-sanctioned task force tasked with putting out forest and peatland fires in Riau, ending months of work to reduce the haze crisis in one of the country’s worst affected provinces.

Speaking at a ceremony, BNPB chief Willem Rampangilei expressed his appreciation to the task force for their all-out efforts to mitigate the fire and haze disasters. “The central government has already allocated Rp 500 billion (US$37 million) to deal with the land and forest fires in Riau alone, not to mention material damages from the fires. The BNPB has not even completed calculating the damages until now,” said Willem.

The task force, according to Willem, would be transformed into the Flood and Landslide Emergency Task Force to anticipate disasters triggered by the upcoming rainy season.

South Sumatra residents hope elections will bring end to yearly forest fires
Ogan Ilir was one of the areas hit hardest by the fires, with a total of almost 800,000 hectares of land burnt in the province. These elections will see close to 300,000 eligible voters striving for change.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 8 Dec 15;

SOUTH SUMATRA, Indonesia: Residents of Ogan Ilir in South Sumatra will on Wednesday (Dec 9) vote in local elections for a new local leader.

Close to 300,000 eligible voters in the city were badly affected by the thick haze from Indonesia’s massive forest fires this year. Ogan Ilir was one of the areas hit hardest by the fires, with a total of almost 800,000 hectares of land burnt in the province.

Many of the city’s residents suffered respiratory illnesses as a result of breathing acrid smoke from forest fires. They remain concerned about their long term health and hope this is an issue that a local leader will address.

“What they (the local leaders) should do is to act fast, not to spend too much time planning,” said Muhammad Sobri, Ogan Ilir resident.

Another Ogan Ilir resident, Nurfatina, said that she was “definitely disappointed with the government, because this has been going on for more than 10 years, and they only put out the fires but not prevent it.”

Directly addressing the need for prevention rather than reaction is Helmy Yahya, one of the candidates running in the Ogan Ilir election.

The former quiz, and reality show TV presenter says he wants to work with the central government, and create a new fund, to incentivise people not to burn the land during the four-month dry season.

“We have calculated almost 3,000 households, 3,000 families (burnt their land during haze season),” said Helmy Yahya, candidate for Ogan Ilir.

“(The plan is that) we give them one million rupiah a month, (then) multiply this by four months (over the haze season). It’s only four million times 3,000 ... something like 12 billion rupiah. That’s much cheaper compared to the helicopter you have to hire, or the specially-equipped airplane (to put out the fires). It’s very, very costly.”

Political analysts believe the forest fires and haze will be an issue with the voters.

“They think that the local government is not active enough, or have not done enough to protect them. Particularly people who have small children, and elderly people who got sick,” said Paul Rowland, technical advisor of the Reformasi Weekly Review.

“But, it’s also important to understand the role of local government is extremely important in this issue."

Come Dec 8, residents will be casting their votes at the ballot boxes for one that can bring change, and a better future to their region.

- CNA/yt

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Indonesia: Illegal fishermen get bolder, change tactics, minister says 8 Dec 15;

Illegal fishing in Indonesian territorial waters has risen to an extreme level, and those responsible have changed strategy from using a few big ships to a lot of small boats, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has said.

According some reports, Susi said, illegal foreign vessels had begun fishing in the inner-ring of Indonesian waters, and were not only in the areas bordering international waters.

"The most severe illegal fishing violations are committed by ships owned by people in the Philippines. They have intruded on North Sulawesi waters where our local fishermen are unable to fish any longer due to a lack of fuel," she said in a press conference at her office on Monday, Dec 7.

Illegal fishing had reportedly increased in those parts of Indonesia that were experiencing serious problems with fuel supply, such as Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), Sulawesi and Bitung, she explained.

Susi said that foreign fishermen had begun using smaller vessels in response to a recently issued regulation that prohibits large vessels from fishing in Indonesian waters.

“Now, most of them use smaller boats, totaling around 30 vessels, which come into our waters to trawl for fish while the tramper vessel [big cargo ship] is waiting on the territorial borderline [to collect the fishes],” Susi explained.

Yesterday, the East Armada Command caught a fishing ship in Toli-Toli waters. It was way down in the heart of Indonesian territorial waters.“They’re getting bolder and breaching deeper into the southern part of Indonesian waters," she said.

Allowing them to fish in tuna-rich waters such as Kendari, Tomini, and South Sulawesi would hinder Indonesian fishermen from taking large hauls of tuna, Susi argued. (ags)(+)

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Indonesia: Halt construction on city’s coast line - LIPI

The Jakarta Post 8 Dec 15;

A LIPI researcher has recommended that the Jakarta administration limit construction on coastal areas in North Jakarta as a measure to prevent worse land subsidence and flooding.

Henny Warsilah, Indonesian director for the Management of Social Transformation (Most)-Unesco and social transformation researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that environmental degradation on the northern coast of Jakarta was caused by heavy building, including large construction projects in the area.

“The environmental damage causes the area to experience regular flooding,” she said from the sidelines of a discussion at LIPI recently.

Although she addressed all coastal cities in the archipelago, she specifically called on the Jakarta administration to stop new projects within coastal areas.

“The administration should apply the principles of urban resilience, where buildings, houses and malls on coastal areas are restricted in order to prevent flooding as a result of land subsidence,” she said.

According to her, environmental damage had not only threatened human lives with the occurrence of natural disasters but also endangered fishermen’s jobs because fish numbers had been decreasing around water where the environment had been damaged.

Traditional fishermen in Jakarta have long been complaining about dwindling income saying that they have had to sail further and further out in order to catch fish in the polluted Jakarta Bay.

Several fishermen have also protested the reclamation of 17 islets, projects which they said had further cut their income. After construction of new islets began, fisherman have said they often spot mud of various colors floating in Jakarta Bay. When such mud floated to the surface, fish were nowhere to be found for about a week or until the mud — sometimes white, sometimes pink or black — disappeared from the surface.

Henny said the government needed to educate those people living in coastal areas about the importance of protecting their specific environment. She said Indonesia had a variety of local wisdom about protecting the sea.

She cited awik-awik in Bali and West Nusa Tenggara as an example of such local wisdom. Awik-awik is traditional written consent containing prohibitions to catch fish using environmentally-unfriendly tools and with regard to cutting down mangroves.

Littoral areas in North Jakarta, such as Muara Angke, have seen regular tide flooding during rainy season at the end of every year. Experts said that the regular flooding had been caused by land subsidence due to ground water extraction in Jakarta.

In a LIPI press release on inclusive development of coastal community in Indonesia, the institution said that the current paradigm, which doesn’t support maritime development, had caused inequality at the expense of coastal communities.

“Coastal areas now experience a lot of problems such as natural disasters and social exclusion because coastal people are not included in the development process,” the release said.

The head of LIPI’s Center for Community and Cultural Research, Sri Sunarti Purwaningsih, said the key to prosperity in coastal areas is inclusive development, which involves the people living there.

Head of LIPI, Iskandar, said the glory of maritime culture in Indonesia has been overshadowed by the rapid development of the mainland, resulting in the impoverishment of the people in the coastal areas. (saf)

- See more at:

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Coral reefs, seagrasses prevent storm surges, too: Asean expert

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 8 Dec 15;

THE Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has underscored the need for governments to integrate coral reefs and seagrass in its coastal ecosystem-rehabilitation program to strengthen defenses against storm surges.

Director Sheila Vergara of the ACB’s Biodiversity Information Management said that, in fact, coral reefs are the first line of defense of coastal communities against storm surges.

Speaking during the ACB’s Biodiversity Reporting 101 symposium at a hotel in Mandaluyong City recently, Vergara said that, like mangroves, corals and seagrass cushion the impact of storm surges before they hit the coastal communities. Without all three coastal or marine ecosystems, communities along the country’s coastlines are at risk of being swept away, she said.

Vergara started her career as a marine biologist and a professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus.

Vergara spoke about sources of biodiversity information in the Asean during the symposium, wherein she also spoke about the importance of protecting what she describe as habitat-building species.

“In addition to being species themselves, corals, seagrasses and mangroves, they become habitat for a particular group of species. They have similar functions. The need to conserve them when they are next to each other is much higher than conserving any of them independently,” she said.

Together, she said corals, seagrasses and mangroves serve as breeding grounds and nurseries for certain species of fish, allowing them to grow and replenish the seas with abundant supply of food.

“Mangroves may be the last stand, but it is always better to conserve these habitat-building species altogether,” she said.

She said communities, as well as governments, should consider investing in protecting and rehabilitating damaged corals and seagrass areas the same way that they invest in mangrove tree-planting activities.

However, she cautioned against planting or growing the wrong species, which, she said, will not work.

The ACB is advocating the restoration of these habitat-building species naturally, meaning the restoration should specifically pick species that do not deviate from what used to exist in a particular area, by restoring the same species of corals, seagrasses and mangroves, including their structures or layers found in the area to be rehabilitated or restored.

She said that, by maintaining a healthy marine or coastal ecosystem, which is composed of corals, seagrasses and mangroves forests, destructive impacts of storm surge and sea-level rise will be effectively reduced, saving lives of people living in coastal communities.

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'Monster' El Nino could usher in decade of more and stronger events

Luc Cohen, Reuters Yahoo News 9 Dec 15;

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In Buffalo, it hasn't snowed yet this year. A Duluth, Minnesota, newspaper reported that the temperature was 40 degrees above zero, not below. And in Miami, beachgoers are staying indoors during what's already the third-wettest December in local history. What's going on with the weather?

It's the phenomenon called El Nino, which is happening now as ocean water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific, near the equator. Its effects will leave the U.S. Northeast warmer than usual, the Midwest drier, and the West and the South wetter. And scientists have a message for everyone bracing for one of the strongest El Nino events on record: get used to it.

While El Nino oscillates on a more or less yearly cycle, another dynamic in Pacific Ocean water temperatures, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), has the potential to accelerate global warming and increase the severity of El Nino episodes, scientists said. The last time the PDO was, as it may be now, in a prolonged positive, or "warm" phase, it corresponded with two of the strongest El Ninos on record.

"When you really have a monster El Nino, it could be enough to flip the PDO into a new phase for a decade or so," said William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "Keep your eyeballs peeled because maybe we're in for a decadal shift."

Previous warm phases have also coincided with increased precipitation on the U.S. West Coast, signaling potential relief for California from a severe drought.

Before January of 2014, the world experienced a 15-year period of mostly negative values for the Pacific oscillation, according to data maintained by Nathan Mantua, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceans.

That period saw only weak or moderate El Nino events. During the 21 years before that, the Pacific oscillation values trended mostly positive, a period that coincided with the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Nino events, two of the strongest on record.

Now, scientists are beginning to wonder if the 15-year period of relative El Nino calm is coming to a close, marking the start of a warmer, stormier era akin to the 1980s and 90s.

The PDO index has been positive for 22 months through October, the longest such streak since a 26-month positive period between 2002 and 2004. Scientists are not sure if the current streak marks a longer-term turnaround or just a temporary blip like the 2002-2004 streak.

"It's more likely that we'll have a change in phase and we'll remain in positive territory," said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, noting that while a decadal shift was far from a guarantee, the odds in favor are approximately 2-to-1.


In many ways, the weather of the 15 years before 2014 has resembled that of the mid-1940s to mid-1970s, the last prolonged period of a negative Pacific oscillation cycle, with drought in the American West and very few El Ninos, Patzert said.

The recent period saw several moderate La Nina events, a counterpart to El Nino defined as cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific that dumps rain on Australia and Indonesia but leaves the Southwest United States dry, including episodes in 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2007-08 and 2010-11.

The warmer sea surface temperatures in the northern Pacific during the positive PDO phase tend to amplify El Nino's effects, Trenbirth said.

Several scientists said the current El Nino could contribute to more positive PDO conditions at the moment and in the future.

"The key ingredient is the strong El Nino," said NASA's Veronica Nieves, noting that strong episodes have historically triggered decadal shifts. She has submitted a paper to an academic journal noting arguing that the Pacific may be in store for another 20 years or more of warmer sea surface temperatures.

To be sure, the two-year period of positive Pacific oscillation values that happened from 2002 to 2004, which saw weak and moderate El Ninos, is still fresh in scientists' minds, preventing them from being certain that the world is truly on the cusp of a decadal shift.

But so far in these past two years, the values have been more sharply positive than the 2002-04 streak. This has implications beyond El Nino: the recent decade has been referred to as a 'hiatus' in global warming, with the negative PDO value seen as limiting global temperature gains.

"If [PDO] transitions back into positive, we'd see a resumption in these more rapid rates of global warming," said Gerald Meehl, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "Having that shift in the background base state means that the peaks of the El Nino are going to be higher."

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, editing by John Pickering)

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No hiatus in global warming, says IPCC chief

NINA CHESTNEY Reuters 8 Dec 15;

Global warming has not paused, but more research is needed to understand the level that might cause tipping points, or irreversible damage to the earth's climate system, the chair of the U.N. panel of climate scientists told Reuters on Tuesday.

In 2013, the panel reported a slowdown or "hiatus" in warming since about 1998, despite rising man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, heartening skeptics who said the risks of climate change had been exaggerated. However, more recent research by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has suggested this hiatus is an illusion.

"There is no hiatus (in global warming). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that the earth is warming," said Hoesung Lee, the 69-year-old South Korean economics professor named chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October.


"For instance, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is rising, sea levels have been rising and the temperature of the ocean has also been rising," he said in an interview. "The important point is we need to look at the trend, not just one year of data."

But Lee, attending the U.N. climate summit in Paris, said more work was needed, based on a number of years of observations, to establish a "clear understanding of the relationship between carbon emissions and economic growth".

Lee will oversee the next cycle of reports from the IPCC, whose most recent findings in 2013-14 concluded that global warming meant risks of "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts".

He said more study was also needed to understand the importance of tipping points, where, for instance, ice melt becomes irreversible.

"Clearly the most dangerous impacts will be related to crossing over the tipping points," he said.

Any deal done in Paris is almost certain to fall short of a U.N. goal of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), which many scientists see as the threshold for avoiding dangerous climate change.

Some countries that are more vulnerable to global warming, such as low-lying island nations, say the temperature rise needs to be limited even further, to 1.5 C (2.7 F).

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Global carbon emissions growth to stall in 2015 - research
Nina Chestney, Reuters Yahoo News 8 Dec 15;

PARIS (Reuters) - Growth in global carbon dioxide emissions is expected to slow for a second year running in 2015, in spite of economic growth, after typically rising by around 2 to 3 percent since the turn of the century, according to research published on Monday.

Global carbon emissions edged up by 0.6 percent last year, compared to 2.4 percent annual growth from 2004-2013, said the study by Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project, which compiles data from research institutes worldwide.

In 2015, however, the researchers expect global carbon emissions to decline by 0.6 percent to 35.7 gigatonnes - their central projection from a range of -1.6 percent to +0.5 percent.

"These figures are certainly not typical of the growth trajectory seen since 2000 where the annual growth in emissions was between 2 and 3 percent," said Corinne Le Quéré, of the UEA and one of the authors of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"What we are now seeing is that emissions appear to have stalled and they could even decline slightly in 2015," she added.

Other organizations have said that world carbon emissions growth stalled last year, after decades of gains.

The report is published as around 190 countries meet in Paris to agree on what will likely be the strongest global climate pact yet to curb emissions.

It is widely acknowledged that current emissions cut pledges will not be enough to prevent the world's average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, viewed as a threshold for dangerous and potentially catastrophic changes in the planet's climate system.

Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford, said the report showed it was possible for the world economy to grow while reducing emissions, but he said in order to stop temperatures rising, emissions need to peak and then be reduced to zero.

Michael Grubb, professor of international energy and climate change policy at University College London, said: "The trend of rapid global emissions growth has been broken: this keeps 2 degrees C in play....There could hardly be better news to help the Paris conference in its final days."

The UEA and Global Carbon Project said their projection for 2015 is based on available energy consumption data in China and the United States, as well as forecast economic growth for the rest of the world.

"The projected decline (in emissions) is largely down to China's decreased coal use, driven by its economic adjustment," Le Quéré added.

China's emissions have been called into question lately due to difficulties in interpreting its data.

China was still the world's biggest emitter last year, releasing 9.7 billion tonnes of CO2 but its emissions growth is expected to decline in 2015 by 3.9 percent after rising by 1.2 percent last year and 6.7 percent a year for the previous decade, the report said.

Globally, it is unlikely that emissions have peaked for good because many growing economies still rely on coal for energy generation and emissions reductions in some industrialized countries are still very modest, the study said.

Full report:

(Editing by William Hardy)

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How a Floating Island Could Save Pacific Nation From Rising Seas

Residents of Kiribati considering mass relocation to futuristic Green Float island as climate change threatens their homes
MATTHEW DALTON Wall Street Journal 8 Dec 15;

PARIS—Some nations are building levees to confront rising sea levels that scientists say are caused by climate change. Others are moving people away from the coasts.

Kiribati, a small island nation in the Pacific, is considering a more extreme solution: relocating its entire population to a floating island that a Japanese engineering conglomerate hopes to build in the coming decades, using technology that has yet to be invented.

It’s one of several drastic responses Kiribati is considering to deal with the possibility that rising sea levels may make the low-lying nation of 100,000 people uninhabitable in a matter of decades.

“Faced with the option where we are underwater, a floating island is not a bad idea,” says Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati.

Kiribati’s search for a new home illustrates the threat climate changes poses to regions around the world—and the business opportunities awaiting companies that can help governments respond.

At the climate-change summit in Paris, negotiators are searching for a deal to ensure that tens of billions of dollars a year will be available for climate change preparation projects in the developing world, to help nations like Kiribati adapt.

Engineers at Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese firm, first outlined the floating-island plan in 2008. They first discussed the idea, dubbed Green Float, with Mr. Tong when the president made a diplomatic visit to Japan in 2009. Other meetings have followed.

For now, however, Shimizu’s floating island exists only on paper.

Technological innovations in the coming years could make the project possible from around 2030, says Hideo Imamura, spokesman for Shimizu. That is roughly when scientists say Kiribati’s population may be forced to move because of rising seas.

One of those innovations is the ability to produce metal alloys where the island is built, using magnesium extracted from seawater. Otherwise, transporting enormous quantities of metal from land would make the project prohibitively expensive, Mr. Imamura says.

Shimizu would also need to build mammoth engines to keep the island from drifting aimlessly around the ocean, the spokesman says. “Green Float is a kind of huge structure,” he explains. “It is really difficult to keep it in a certain area.”

Shimizu’s island would be self-sustaining, with a huge, thousand-meter-high funnel-shaped tower at the center serving as a giant plant factory. How much would the island cost? That would depend on how big an island Kiribati wants, says Mr. Imamura, who couldn’t provide a price per acre.

Other than the artificial island, Mr. Tong is considering two other plans: Fortifying the island’s current infrastructure against the sea or moving his people to another island, one which already exists.

Fiji said last week that it would take Kiribati’s population if the island becomes uninhabitable. Mr. Tong has already purchased land in Fiji for that purpose.

Mr. Tong says Kiribati’s time is running short. Big waves and unusually high tides are causing ever more damage to the island’s infrastructure.

“People associate being underwater with having to move,” Mr. Tong said. “No: we may have to move much earlier than that.”

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‘Rising sea levels will only happen around 2100, by then we’ll all be dead’: a surprising view from Hong Kong at Paris climate summit

Li Jing in Paris South China Morning Post 8 Dec 15;

When Hong Kong’s secretary for the environment speaks about the challenges posed by a warming earth, he refers mainly to extreme weather.

At a side event at the Paris climate summit, Wong Kam-sing spoke on Monday about how the city had adapted to such events. Prone to typhoons, the city had built up its weather forecasting and alert systems that warned citizens to stay indoors and inbound flights to stay grounded, he said.

Meanwhile slope management projects in hilly areas had prevented the landslides the city experienced decades ago, Wong said.

But what about rising sea levels? Wong said Hong Kong was monitoring all climate change related risks and new developments would take account of the risks.

Jeanne Ng, director of group environmental affairs with CLP Holdings, surprised me by saying: “First thing, rising sea levels will only happen around 2100, by then we’ll all be dead.”

Such comments are seldom heard at climate summits nowadays, because scientists and civil society are pressing negotiators to prevent disasters in decades or centuries to come.

A sense of urgency has prevailed at the summit.

Hong Kong has a much better emergency response system for extreme weather events than many mainland cities. And it is already working on reducing coal consumption, while its carbon intensity – emissions relative to GDP – was only about one ninth that of the mainland in 2012, according to Robert Gibson, professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

But the city is not immune from rising sea levels, even now. Hong Kong’s Observatory found the mean sea level in Victoria Harbour rose 30mm per decade from 1954-2014.

Another speaker noted that Tai O villagers had to be relocated whenever there was a storm surge.

Long before they flood the city, rising sea levels are forecast to increase the frequency of storm surges.

Global climate talks have had many disappointing moments over the years. But at least they teach people that coping with climate change is not just about adapting to it, but preventing it.

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