Best of our wild blogs: 12 Dec 15

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2016
Green Future Solutions

FREE Guided Herp Walks at Dairy Farm Nature Park
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Butterfly of the Month - December 2015
Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Old Upper Thomson Road (11 Dec 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Flash floods hit parts of S’pore for second day in a row

TOH EE MING Today Online 11 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — For a second day in a row, roads clogged up with traffic after heavy downpours triggered flash floods in several parts across the island this afternoon (Dec 11).

Flash floods were reported in areas at Thomson Road, Balestier Road, Cambridge Road and at several junctions, including Mandalay Road/Balestier Road and Boon Keng Road/Bendemeer Road, although these cleared up by 2.50pm, according to national water agency PUB’s Twitter posts.

On social media, users posted pictures of ankle-deep waters at bus stops, and traffic congestion on flooded roads. A tree came crashing down outside Orchard Central while parts of Junction 8 shopping mall in Bishan were flooded.

PUB’s director of catchment and waterways Ridzuan Ismail said the heaviest rainfall was recorded at Beatty Secondary School’s rain gauge station, with 80.4mm of rain falling from 1.05pm to 2.45pm. The bulk of the rain beat down in the first 30 minutes of the skies opening up.

PUB said it is investigating the flooding incidents but Mr Ismail said certain locations are more prone to flooding as they are situated in low-lying areas or have localised depressions, citing the examples of Cambridge Road and Thomson Road.

The junctions at Mandalay Road/Balestier Road, Boon Keng Road/Bendemeer Road and Boon Lay Way/Corporation Road are also “known hotspots”, he added.

Mr Ismail said drainage upgrading works in areas like Novena Rise/Thomson Road and Balestier Road/Mandalay Road are set to be completed by the third quarter of next year and the second quarter of 2017, respectively.

Drainage upgrading works at the junctions of Boon Lay Way/Corporation Road and Boon Keng Road/Bendeemer Road have been planned to start in the first quarter next year.

According to information posted on the National Environment Agency’s website, thundery showers in the afternoons and evenings are forecast for the next four days.

PUB advised the public to exercise caution as flash floods may occur in the event of heavy storms.

Heavy downpour causes flash floods around Singapore
High water levels were reported in the Thomson and Novena areas, while part of Orchard Road was reportedly blocked when a tree fell.
Channel NewsAsia 11 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: A heavy downpour on Friday (Dec 11) caused flash floods and a falling tree across various parts of Singapore.

National water agency PUB reported flash floods at Cambridge Road (near Pek Kio CC), at Boon Lay Way / Corporation Road, Thomson Road (near Novena Rise), Mandalay Road / Balestier Road and Boon Keng Road / Bendemeer Road.

Channel NewsAsia viewer Gary Tse, who was on the way to the hospital, reported a heavy downpour in Novena, while TODAY reader Wilson Tiow submitted photos of a flash flood near Thomson Medical Centre.

The flash flood along Thomson Road, opposite Thomson Medical Centre on Dec 11, 2015. (Photo: Wilson Tiow)

A video submitted to Channel NewsAsia by viewer Berlin Ang showed the waters were ankle-deep at the bus stop opposite Thomson Medical Centre.

On Orchard Road, a tree came crashing down on the road in front of Orchard Central mall.

A man was spotted redirecting traffic there, as the fallen tree had blocked off at least one lane. Twitter user @MahaBornFree tweeted a photo of his good deed, labeling him a "kind soul".

After the rain stopped, others jumped in to help. Channel NewsAsia viewer Gary Lee sent in a photo of youngsters trying to remove the obstruction from the road.

#SGFlood: Singaporeans react to floods on social media
Nurul Azliah Aripin | Yahoo Newsroom 11 Dec 15;

The flood season is officially here.

On Friday, many Singaporeans stuck in "wet situations", mainly in the northern, eastern and western areas, flocked to social media to share their reactions.

At 11am, the National Environment Agency announced on Twitter saying that thundery showers might be hitting several areas across Singapore.

PUB Singapore later sent a series of tweets, saying that roads affected by floods were: Keng Lee road, Cambridge road, Thomson road, Boon Lay Way, Corporation road, Mandalay road, Balestier road, Boon Keng road and Bendemeer road.

The downpour went on for about two hours; NEA announced at 2:30pm that the heavy rain had eased.

However, many who were trapped in the floods and rain posted images and videos of the areas they were in, on social media.

Twitter user known as Nicole, posted a video on Twitter of the howling winds and high water level in Novena, saying, “Flooding at Novena, can’t go out.”

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Raw-fish ban: Probes take time, have to be thorough

Today Online 12 Dec 15;

We refer to the letter “Raw-fish: Why long gap between health advisory and sales ban?” (Dec 1).

On July 24, the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) issued a joint advisory on the possible link between consuming raw fish and Group B streptococcus.

The advisory stated that while there was no proven link between eating raw fish and serious Group B streptococcus disease in humans to date, government agencies had been studying the possible causes, including the possible link to raw fish consumption.

During that time, field investigations in various locations, including sources and distribution chains, were being conducted. These investigations take time and must be conducted thoroughly.

As a precautionary measure, an advisory was issued to food shops and stallholders to temporarily stop the sale of ready-to-eat raw fish dishes using Song fish and Toman fish.

Once the findings had been established, all food stalls or shops selling these Chinese-style dishes were instructed to stop the sale of all types of ready-to-eat raw fish until they can comply with the practices required for the sale. Subsequently, to enhance consumers’ level of protection against health risks, we banned the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes, with effect from Dec 5. Those intending to sell these dishes, including yusheng dishes, are to henceforth use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

Furthermore, food stalls and food establishments providing catering services must submit proof to the NEA that they can comply with the requirements for ready-to-eat raw fish dishes before they can resume the sale of these dishes, using saltwater fish.

Restaurants can continue selling these dishes using saltwater fish, but will be required to meet the same stringent standards.

Raw-fish: Why long gap between health advisory and sales ban?
NG YONG DA Today Online 1 Dec 15;

I refer to the report “Bacteria outbreak: Stalls told to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes” (Nov 28).

In July this year, the Ministry of Health said there had not been any proven link between eating fish, raw or otherwise, and infection by Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria (“MOH investigating increase in Group B streptococcus infections”; July 13, online).

Now, it is stopping food stalls from selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes and telling people not to eat such food after its investigations found a definite link between eating these dishes and the GBS infection, which can cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases.

Is this not a bit late, even if the National Environment Agency had issued an advisory later in July to ask food stalls to temporarily stop the sale of raw-fish dishes made from Song fish and Toman fish?

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Reaping rewards: Vertical crab farming and high-tech vegetables in Singapore

Local food producers are quietly leading the way in transforming cultivation methods, even though Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food.
Nicole Tan Channel NewsAsia 11 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Local food producers are quietly leading the way in transforming cultivation methods, even though Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food.

They are turning to technology to help overcome land constraints, and industry experts said this is also helping to improve food quality standards here.

At Gills ‘N’ Claws Aquaculture, a single vertical farming structure can house 1,000 crabs compared to just 30 in the same area, using traditional methods. At full capacity, the farm can cultivate 40,000 crabs at one go and produce about 200 tonnes of crabs every year.

Each crab is hatched in Sri Lanka, and when they are about four months old, they are brought to Singapore, weighing about 400g. After about seven weeks, they weigh up to 1 kg - and they are ready for sale.

The company took more than two years to develop this technology, and it said it can price its crabs up to 30 per cent cheaper than its competitors.

Said Mr Steven Suresh, CEO of RBI Holding: "We can sea freight all our crabs, we have special containers designed to sea freight them to Singapore. They reach here in about five to six days, then they come to our farm and we fatten them there. (With) air freight, for 1 kg of crab, you pay about S$3.50 to S$4. (With) sea freight you pay S$0.20, or less than S$0.20 (per kilogram). So – (you will find) major savings.”

Gills 'N' Claws Aquaculture is among a growing number of food producers in Singapore finding innovative ways to farm to cope with land constraints.

Industry experts said other countries are hoping to take a leaf out of Singapore's book, not just in the use of technology, but in terms of food security and safety standards.

Said Mr Christopher Vas, academic director at Murdoch University: "It's starting to play a leadership role insofar as being able to produce top-quality products which, at the same time, meet very stringent standards. As far as the region is concerned, that's where a lot of countries like China and India are looking at what Singapore's doing."

In Singapore, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic grows more than 30 types of vegetables and herbs. With its technology know-how it has created a controlled environment that ensures food quality and safety, and cut overall cultivation time by up to half.

Panasonic has a prototype hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system, which allows the quality of the crops to be monitored throughout the cultivation process. It translates to a 20 to 30 per cent improvement in success rate during harvesting.

“(The) indoor farm is a controlled soil cultivation environment, where we control the lighting, the temperature, as well as carbon dioxide, plus the humidity. With our cultivation technology we're confident (that with) this environment, we can meet the high standards of Singapore food security,” said Mr Alfred Tham, manager, Agriculture Business Unit, Panasonic Factory Solutions.

Its farm currently produces 81 tonnes of vegetables a year. By 2017, it aims to produce 1,000 tonnes of vegetables, or 5 per cent of local production. Panasonic has recently started selling salad to consumers.

- CNA/dl

Farm owner to have a crack at crab-rearing
Gills 'N' Claws awaiting go-ahead to raise crabs hatched in Sri Lanka here, 'which could lower the wholesale price'
Seow Bei Yi The Straits Times 11 Dec 15;

Chilli crab lovers may be able to enjoy the delicacy cooked with locally farmed crabs in future.

Seafood supplier Gills 'N' Claws Aquaculture is awaiting approval to do crab farming in a vertical farm in Neo Tiew Lane, specialising in Sri Lankan mud crabs. It will launch its premises, which now houses and fattens ready-to-sell crabs, tomorrow.

Owner Steven Suresh said rearing the crabs here could lower their wholesale price by at least 10 per cent eventually.

He added that the farm's vertical layout overcomes space constraints. It can also provide fleshier crabs as they are fed and raised here. Imported crabs lose body mass as they are not fed for days en route to Singapore.

The farm's projected annual output is about 200 tonnes of crab.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, Singapore imported 5,100 tonnes of crabs from January to November this year.

There are no licensed fish farms cultivating crabs now, but some may import or catch crabs for sale on top of their main farming activities.

Gills 'N' Claws has a fish farm off Pulau Ubin and its parent company, RBI Holding, owns two other crab farms and a hatchery in Sri Lanka, where its mud crabs are bred.

The crabs will be brought here when they are about four months old and weigh about 400g each.

Each crab will be housed in a vertically-stacked, A3-sized plastic container and sprinkled continually with water. The farm can hold up to 40,000 crabs.

They will be fed daily with a ground mixture of chicken liver and trash fish - cheap fish caught off the company's fishery in Pulau Ubin.

When they weigh 800g to 1kg each after about seven weeks, they will be ready for sale.

This system, the brainchild of Mr Suresh, took over two years to research and develop.

"Mud crabs are territorial and carnivorous. In 1 sq m, the advised stocking density is only three crabs," he said. The same space in a vertical farm, he added, can house more than 30.

He added that a vertical farm could eventually lower the cost of Sri Lankan mud crabs, which are an expensive variety favoured for their larger claws.

Most of the crabs eaten here are imported. They can cost more than $30 a kg from wholesalers. Mr Suresh plans to sell his at $26 a kg.

He said that as the company has its own farms and hatcheries, it takes less time to source for and transport the crabs. This lets it transport the young crabs by sea, which is slower than by air.

The crustaceans need not be as tightly packed when shipped, and fewer die during the journey.

Mr Balasundram Pillai, a consultant for Pepper Castle, a restaurant in Dunlop Street which buys imported crabs from Gills 'N' Claws, said the farm's efforts should be encouraged.

"If there is a local pool and source of crabs, consumers' end-cost could be lowered. To have chilli crab cooked using crabs grown here as well would make it a truly Singaporean dish," he said.

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Singaporean to receive young leadership award from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II

Melissa Lin Straits Times 8 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE - A 27-year-old environmentalist has been selected to receive an award from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for his work in protecting the environment and tackling poverty.

Mr Mark Cheng is one of 60 young people from across the Commonwealth who will be presented with the Queen's Young Leaders Award in London next year.

The award celebrates the achievements of young people who are taking the lead to transform the lives of others and make a lasting difference in their communities.

Mr Cheng is the co-founder of Avelife, a non-governmental organisation which focuses on social enterprise and the environment.

In 2001, he started a programme called Green Xchange, where disadvantaged elderly people who collect recyclables can exchange them for necessities such as rice, oil and sugar. The project has been extended to Brunei and the Philippines and is the largest social-environment charity based in Singapore.

In 2011, Mr Cheng received an EcoFriend Award from the National Environment Agency, which recognises individuals who have contributed significantly to environmental sustainability.

On his latest award, Mr Cheng said: "I am so honoured to be part of the Queen's Young Leaders programme."

This year's winners, aged between 18 and 29, work to raise awareness on various issues, ranging from education and climate change to mental health and disability equality.

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Tales from a boomerang-shaped island: Pulau Ubin

JOSEPH ANDREWS The Hindu 11 Dec 15;

Joseph Andrews rents a bike and rides around Pulau Ubin, noting the stark differences between this village and its popular cousin Singapore.

They call it the Singapore of the 1960s — the last ‘kampung’ (village) of Singapore. Pulau Ubin is a big, boomerang-shaped island lying to the north-east of the main island of Singapore. It is just a short bumboat ride from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each bumboat is authorised to carry only 12 passengers, and there are no scheduled departure timings.

The thickly wooded shores of Pulau Ubin gradually become clear, and you soon alight at the rather crude jetty. The Ubin town is nothing but a row of antique houses, standing on either side of a narrow lane. Judging by the nature of the shops, it appears that the main business in the place is bike rentals. There are a couple of tiny restaurants as well. A few small taxi vans with the unique ‘PU’ registration wait eagerly to take tourists around the island.

There is no dearth of activities here. One can climb up the narrow trail to the summit of the Puaka Hill — the highest point on the island. Panoramic views of most of the island can be had from this vantage point, apart from the distant views of the Singapore and Malaysian shores. Directly below the viewpoint lies the large, deep Ubin quarry, which is now filled with water, providing a very picturesque sight, together with its thickly wooded shores. The name ‘Pulau Ubin’ in Malay means ‘Granite Island’, and a number of granite quarries lie scattered around various parts of the island.

For the more adventurous, there is the Ketam Mountain bike park on the western part of the island, presenting narrow biking trails with various degrees of difficulty for the bikers. Within the park lies the curious ‘German Girl’s Shrine’, a small yellow Chinese temple. The story goes that the daughter of a German coffee plantation owner fell to her death from a cliff, while fleeing from the British soldiers. The Chinese labourers, who found her body, performed her last rites, and enshrined her ashes in this small temple. This shrine is said to be popular among the betting enthusiasts of Singapore, who think that the spirit of the German girl would bring them luck.

A good part of the island is covered with mangrove swamps, and our paths go over a number of quaint wooden bridges, which offer pleasant views of the mangrove ecosystem. The rest of the island is mostly covered with lush tropical forests, and biking along the forest trails, with their share of ups and downs, is very refreshing. It is not uncommon to sight wild animals on these paths, and I was able to see a family of wild boar, at close quarters.

There are a couple of temples in Pulau Ubin for the spiritually-oriented. The Lotus Temple has a big, golden statue of Buddha overlooking a small pond. The Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong temple, closer to the town, sits by the side of a small hill.

Authentic religious performances are held on the island by the residents of Pulau Ubin, during special occasions like the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The single-biggest attraction of Pulau Ubin is the Chek Jawa wetlands, lying on the south-eastern edge of the island. It is considered to be a unique location, where seven different inter-dependant ecosystems exist together in one small area — mangroves, coastal hill forest, rocky shore, sandbars, sandy shore, sea grass lagoon, and coral rubble area. Chek Jawa is reached by a rather strenuous pedalling of about five to six km from the main jetty; the lesser fit can hire taxis to reach there. There are two walks available to witness the ecosystem — the mangrove boardwalk and the coastal walk. The former allows you to have a close view of the inland and coastal mangrove ecosystem, while the latter offers a magnificent view of the unique coast. There is the 21-metre Jejawi Tower, which accords a panoramic view over the whole area.

Located just behind the Chek Jawa information kiosk is another exceptional landmark of Pulau Ubin — House No. 1, Pulau Ubin. It is a strikingly beautiful Tudor-style mansion, facing the sea. It was built in the 1930s as a holiday resort by Langdon Williams, who was the Chief Surveyor in the region. The building has been painstakingly restored, and now functions as the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre. It is supposed to house the only working fireplace in the whole of Singapore.

Pulau Ubin had, at one point of time, supported about 1,000 people, through granite mining, and its plantations of rubber, coffee, and spices. The mining has long since stopped, and Nature has overrun the plantations, leaving less than 100 people living on the island. There is no electricity and piped water supply on the island, and you encounter quite a few docile dogs on the roads. Life is totally unhurried here, and this stark contrast with the efficient, systematic Singapore is where Pulau Ubin’s charm lies.

Pulau Ubin is a great place to spend a full day at a languid pace, and the best way to do it is on a bike, preferably on your own — like I did.

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Malaysia: Dead dolphin found washed ashore in Sarawak

The Star 12 Dec 15;

Local residents looking at the dolphin which washed ashore on Saturday morning.

KUCHING: A dead dolphin was found washed ashore on Tanjung Batu beach in Bintulu on Saturday morning.

Local residents came across the carcass, which was about two-metres-long and weighed over 100kg, at about 8am.

The rare sight attracted a number of visitors to the beach.

State Fire and Rescue assistant operations director Farhan Sufyan Borhan said the department was informed about the dolphin on Friday night when it was spotted by some villagers.

"When we reached the location, the dolphin was still alive but quite weak. We helped to release it back to the sea at 9.47pm.

"However, we then received information that it was found dead this morning," he said.

Stranded dolphin rescued, then found dead on beach
The Star 13 Dec 15;

KUCHING: A dolphin which was stranded at Tanjung Batu beach in Bintulu on Friday evening has been found dead.

Local residents came across the carcass, which was about two metres long and weighed over 100kg, on the beach at 8am yesterday.

It is believed to be from the Sousa chinensis species and appeared to have some cuts on its body.

The rare sight attracted curious onlookers, with photos of the dolphin circulated widely on social media.

A villager, who gave his name as Ambrose, said this was the first time he had seen a dead dolphin on the beach.

State Fire and Rescue Department assistant director of operations Farhan Sufyan Borhan said they received calls about the dolphin shortly after 7pm on Friday.

“When we reached the beach, the dolphin was still alive but in a weak condition. We released it back into the sea at 9.47pm when the tide was high.

“However, we were then informed by locals of its death,” he said.

Farhan said the dolphin was believed to have been washed into the state’s waters by strong waves.

“Based on its physical condition, it had probably not eaten for several days,” he said, adding that the relevant authorities would dispose of the carcass.

Dolphin dies one day after being rescued
ESTHER LANDAU New Straits Times 12 Dec 15;

BINTULU: A dolphin, which was initially rescued and set free last Friday, was found dead at the Tanjung Batu Beach near here this morning.

The carcass, which was two-metres-long and weighed more than 100kg, was discovered by locals about 8am. Locals found a two-metre-long carcass of a dolphin at the Tanjung Batu Beach, Bintulu this morning.

It was learnt that the dolphin was initially rescued and released back into the water by the district Fire and Rescue Department team after it had washed ashore by the residents on Friday night.

State Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Farhan Sufian said the department was informed of the discovery at 7.08pm on Friday.

“When our team arrived at the location, the dolphin was still alive but in weak condition. It was released back into the sea at 9.47pm last night.

“However, we later received information that the same dolphin was found dead this morning,” he said.

Farhan said based on its condition, they believed that the mammal had not been eating for several days. “At the time being, the carcass has yet to be taken away by the relevant authorities,” he added.

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Indonesia: Heavy rain over Sumatra, Java, triggers landslides, floods

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 12 Dec 15;

Heavy rain over a number of regions has triggered landslides and flooding, cutting access and disrupting economic activities.

Landslides in a number of locations along a state road in Limapuluh Kota regency, West Sumatra, which connects to Riau province, paralyzed traffic on both sides of the road for six hours on Thursday evening.

The West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BPBD) logistics and emergency affairs head, R. Pagar Negara, said the landslide had damaged several homes and three cars.

“The drivers of the three damaged cars were slightly injured,” Pagar told The Jakarta Post on Friday, adding that no serious casualties were reported.

Heavy downpours that began at 9 p.m. local time on Thursday and lasted for four hours triggered landslides in 11 locations along the trans-Sumatra highway in Manggilang village, Pangkalan Koto Baru district.

Consequently, traffic was backed up for two kilometers on both sides of the road.

Workers toiled until 3 a.m. on Friday to remove earth, rocks and fallen trees before the route was reopened.

Landslides also took place in a number of locations in South Solok regency, with one of them burying a major highway from Padang to Muaralabuh, South Solok. “We are still gathering field data,” said Pagar.

Meanwhile, torrential rain caused a river in South Pesisir regency to overflow on Friday evening.

A resident identified as Damra, 60, was reportedly missing after the incident.

In Central Java, the Cilacap Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) announced that landslides had again hit a number of areas in the regency.

“The landslides hit Dukuhtengah and Suekuet Hilir hamlets in Majingklak village, Wanareja district,” Cilacap BPBD acting head Tri Komara Sidhy said in Cilacap on Friday.

He added that the landslides took place on Thursday at around 5 p.m. following heavy downpours and strong winds.

In Riau, torrential rain from Thursday until early Friday caused the Batang Lubuh River to burst its banks. Hundreds of homes in the Rokan Hulu regency capital of Pasir Pangaraian were engulfed by floodwater.

The worst-hit area was Simpang Supra, on Jl. Tuanku Tambusai in Pasir Pangaraian, where the water level reached waist-high and cut the only access from Pasir Pangaraian to the Rokan Hulu administrative office.

“Motorists who wished to travel along the trans-Sumatra highway connecting Riau and North Sumatra had to make a detour through an alternative route, which was relatively safe from the overflowing river,” said Pasir Pangaraian resident Syafrizal.

Swift river currents from the upstream area also swept away a grocery shop in Babussalam village, Rambah district.

“The floods arrived suddenly, so the shop owner did not have time to salvage his belongings. Residents tried to help but could not save the shop’s contents due to the very swift current,” said Syafrizal.

Besides Babussalam, homes in North Central Rambah and Pematang Berangan villages were also engulfed by up to 50 centimeters of water. The water level began rising from 6 a.m. and, as of 12 p.m., had yet to show signs of subsiding.

“This is the second flood this year. A couple of weeks ago, the Batang Lubuh River also burst its banks following several days of rain,” said Syafrizal.

Rokan Hulu BPBD head Aceng Herdiana could not disclose the number of residents affected by the floods in the three villages.

“BPBD personnel, assisted by members of the Rokan Hulu Police, are still scouring in the field and helping residents to evacuate,” he said, adding that aid would immediately be distributed to flood victims.

Read more!

COP21: Climate deal final draft 'agreed' in Paris

BBC 12 Dec 15;

Organisers of the climate talks in Paris say a final draft text has been agreed after nearly two weeks of intensive negotiations.

An official in the office of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the AFP news agency the draft would be presented to ministers at 10:30 GMT.

No details of the proposed agreement have been released so far.

The tentative deal was reached nearly 16 hours after the talks had been scheduled to close.

"We have a text to present," the official said, adding that the draft would be now translated into the UN's six official languages.

Analysts say that this is not a done deal - it will only be finally adopted if there are no objections raised at Saturday morning's ministerial meeting, and even this is unlikely to come before afternoon in the French capital.

Mr Fabius, who has presided over the talks, had said earlier that the "conditions were never better" for a strong and ambitious agreement.

Significant progress had been reported on a range of issues, with evidence of real compromise between the parties, the BBC's environment correspondent Matt McGrath in Paris reported earlier.

He added that countries supported a goal of keeping global temperature rises to 2C but agreed to make their best efforts to keep it to 1.5C. However, the language on cutting emissions in the long term was criticised for significantly watering down ambition.

The question of different demands on different countries, depending on their wealth and level of development - called "differentiation" at the talks - was said to be the root cause of the difficulties.

Another major difficulty was transparency - richer countries want a single system of measuring, reporting and verifying the commitments countries make as part of this agreement.

It is said to be crucial to the US, which wants to ensure that China is subject to the same sort of oversight as it is. China and India are not keen on this type of oversight.

We're in the final hours. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has been meeting in huddles with key players throughout the night, hammering out a compromise.

But there was serious opposition to the previous draft and it's too soon to say how much of that the new document will have defused because delegates will be seeing it for the first time this morning.

It's a UN process so any deal has to be signed off by everyone and that gives disproportionate power in the final last few hours for any nation wanting clauses inserted or removed.

One positive note came with the announcement that Brazil was willing to join the so-called "high-ambition coalition" of countries including the EU, the US and 79 countries. The alliance said it would push for an ambitious and legally binding deal with a strong review mechanism.

US President Barack Obama spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by phone on Friday, with both leaders saying they were committed to an "ambitious" deal.

"Both leaders agreed that the Paris conference presents a crucial opportunity to galvanise global efforts to meet the climate change challenge," a White House statement said.

"They committed that their negotiating teams in Paris would continue to work closely together and with others to realise the vision of an ambitious climate agreement."

Paris climate talks: delegates reach agreement on final draft text
After talks again stretched through the night, Fran├žois Hollande and Ban Ki-moon are to unveil document on limiting climate change for formal adoption
Suzanne Goldenberg, Lenore Taylor, Adam Vaughan and John Vidal in Paris The Guardian 12 Dec 15;

Negotiators in Paris are to present their final draft text on Saturday morning for a deal on limiting climate change after working through Friday night to thrash out remaining details.

The French president, Fran├žois Hollande, is due to join Ban Ki-moon at the landmark summit at 11.30am local time, when the text is expected to be published. The draft is predicted to be officially adopted in the afternoon.

Sources said the final text was only settled on at 6.45am after negotiators and ministers worked through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights at Le Bourget in north-east Paris.

Laurent Fabius – the French foreign minister who has marshalled the text through its final stages as president of the talks – said on Thursday night: “All the conditions are ripe for a universal and ambitious agreement.

“We will never find a momentum as favourable as in Paris, but now the responsibility lies with ministers, who tomorrow [Saturday] will make their choice. I will present them a text that will be the most ambitious and balanced as possible.”

Earlier, Barack Obama had phoned the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in a last-ditch effort to thrash out a climate change agreement to curb carbon emissions beyond 2020, when current commitments run out.

As the negotiations ran into overtime – something that has happened at virtually every such meeting of the last 20 years – Fabius on Friday called for a cooling-off period to allow more high level lobbying behind closed doors. He put off planned public plenary sessions, which risk being volatile, and gave the floor over to closed meetings in a last push for an agreement.

Peaceful protests are planned by climate activists across Paris. Civil society groups will hand out thousands of red tulips to represent red lines they say should not be crossed, and hold a rally under the Eiffel Tower if and when a deal is reached.

Even with Obama’s efforts to call in political favours with the Chinese president, sharp divisions remained on Friday between the US, India and China.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said the talks were the most complicated and difficult negotiations he had ever been involved in.

“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, this negotiation is most complicated, most difficult, but most important for humanity,” Ban told reporters.

The White House said Obama telephoned Xi to try and clinch a deal, following on from phone calls earlier in the week with the Indian, French, and Brazilian leaders.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, shuttled between delegations. “I think some of us have been working quietly behind the scenes to work out compromises ahead of time on some of those issues,” he told reporters. “And so tomorrow will be really a reflection of many of those compromises.”

The extraordinary expense of political capital reflects the extent to which Obama is invested in achieving a credible climate deal at Paris – as well as the immense difficulties of bringing the deal to a close. The US and China last year reached an historic agreement to work jointly to cut emissions.

But the Chinese leadership pushed back on Friday on the framing of the main issue of the agreement: how to get off fossil fuels. Liu Jianmin, the deputy foreign minister, complained there was no clear definition of “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality” in the latest draft text.

China and India have been accused by some negotiators of trying to water down the long term ambition of the draft climate deal, but its negotiators argued rich countries were trying to railroad them into a deal.

“The developed world is not showing flexibility,” said Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister.

Liu also dismissed the so-called “coalition of ambition” that has emerged at the Paris talks as a “performance”.

“We heard of this so-called ambitious coalition only since a few days ago, of course it has had a high in profile in the media, but we haven’t seen they have really acted for ambitious emissions commitments, so this is kind of performance by some members,” he said at a press conference.

On Friday, Brazil bolted from the bloc of powerful developing countries to endorse the coalition, which had been cobbled together earlier this year by the US, Europe and some low-lying states and African countries, to try to break down the old divisions that have stood in the way of an agreement.

“If you want to tackle climate change you need ambition and political will,” Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s environment minister, said in a statement read out at a press conference.

As of Friday evening the agreement in the works recognised a more aspirational target of 1.5C for limiting temperature rise – which scientists say would offer a better chance of survival to low-lying and coastal states – as well as the internationally agreed 2C target. The latest draft also incorporates a long-term goal of decarbonisation, albeit without firm dates or targets, a five-year cycle for reviewing emissions cuts, and clear rules on transparency.

But for poor countries there was deep disappointment that the draft dropped any mention of climate or gender justice. There was also a backlash against Saudi Arabia, which leads important economic and regional blocs, and was accused of blocking a higher 1.5C target. “When Saudi Arabia talks about adaptation, I can not speak,” said Jahangir Hasan Masum, executive director of the Coastal Development Partnership, an NGO in Bangladesh working in low-lying areas vulnerable to cyclones. “I feel really disgusted talking about them because they are not serious for the planet. They are serious for their oil business and money and keeping their monarchy.”

Brazil’s support for the new US-sponsored alliance led to a sense of growing isolation around China and India, which had not signed on to the high ambition coalition, and expressed ambivalence about the 1.5C target.

But there remained much to play for between Friday night and Saturday. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s environment minister who presided over last year’s climate talks and is assisting Fabius, said countries had yet to find a formula for reconciling the core question of how industrialised countries and the rising economies should divide responsibilities for dealing with climate change. But he insisted talks – though moving slowly – were still headed in the right direction.

“The idea to postpone for some hours and not close on Friday has not been the result of a crisis,” he said. “We are used to have to postpone because of a crisis. In Lima, for example, we had a crisis, but today I think Fabius is giving people enough space to discuss all these issues.”

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