Best of our wild blogs: 14 Jun 16

RUMblers at Pesta Ubin!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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Law enforcement plan a must in Singapore’s fight to tackle illegal ivory transit role

Singapore crushed more than 7 tonnes of ivory today—but needs to follow up with tough law enforcement action
TRAFFIC 13 Jun 16;

Singapore, 13th June 2016—TRAFFIC and WWF-Singapore are calling upon the Singapore Government to follow up an ivory destruction event today with tough law enforcement action.

“Today’s event was symbolic of the Government's support for the fight against ivory trade, but needs to be followed up with meaningful action to address the country's unenviable role as a transit point in the smuggling of ivory from Africa to Asia,” says Elaine Tan, CEO, WWF-Singapore.

From 2013 to 2015, Singapore reported five ivory seizures, accounting to more than seven tonnes of illegal ivory. In addition, it has been implicated in 16 other shipments amounting to 4.1 tonnes of ivory that was slated for Singapore, or had passed through its ports and been seized elsewhere. Singapore also plays a key role as a transit hub of choice for many large shipments of ivory moving on to Viet Nam and China.

TRAFFIC and WWF-Singapore urge authorities to put in place a law enforcement action plan to tackle the usage of both its sea and airports for this illegal transit trade. Apart from intelligence gathering, the plan must include risk profiling of containers, traffickers and trade routes from or to high-risk destinations as well as the use of sniffer dogs and controlled deliveries to track ivory shipments.

TRAFFIC and WWF-Singapore also calls on Singapore and other governments destroying ivory to monitor the impacts of such events on market dynamics and consumer attitudes.

“We know little about how consumers and traders are responding to these very public symbolic acts, or how it may be impacting the poaching of elephants”, said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. “Acquiring such knowledge is a vital part of overall efforts to tackle the elephant slaughter and illegal ivory trade.’’

Today’s destruction of 7.9 tonnes of ivory was a first for Singapore.

As with all such events TRAFFIC and WWF-Singapore strongly encourage an independent audit of the stocks being destroyed before the event to ensure transparency in the process and guard against it being used as a cover for laundering remaining stock into illegal trade.

Despite the ban on the international trade in ivory, as many as 30,000 African elephants are killed each year across Africa to feed a lucrative, global black market for ivory.

According to media reports, on Sunday, South Sudan burned five tonnes of seized ivory and rhino horn, although few other details were available.

Heating up war on wildlife trade
Audrey Tan Straits Times 14 Jun 16;

In one of the strongest signals of Singapore's "zero tolerance" for the illegal wildlife trade, the authorities on Monday destroyed 7.9 tonnes of ivory that more than 900 African elephants died for.

The seized ivory is worth about $13 million, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) move ensured it did not re-enter the market.

Other countries have taken similar actions. On April 30, Kenya torched some $135 million worth, with its President Uhuru Kenyatta saying "ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants".

Singapore's action was a good show of support for the global commitment to end the trade. But measures to combat wildlife trafficking must go beyond the symbolic. This is especially since the Republic's status as a trade and shipping hub means it is a transit point for more than just ivory.

Conservation groups have suggested proactive measures such as raising the penalties for wildlife trafficking; improving enforcement through ways such as using sniffer dogs; and monitoring the impact of public symbolic acts like the ivory destruction on consumers and traders.

Studies show the illegal wildlife trade harms more than just animals. A recent Interpol report found it to be linked closely to other forms of serious crime, such as drug trafficking, murder and even terrorism, when revenues from trade in wildlife parts are used to fund rebel organisations and terrorist networks.

AVA has, among other things, acted by conducting unannounced checks at retail outlets, and inspecting all shipments that come under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). Trade in animals on the Cites list is prohibited without a permit. It has also urged people not to fuel demand.

Tackling the illegal wildlife trade would undoubtedly require action from all parties. But considering the links that the illegal wildlife trade has with other forms of serious crime, perhaps the Government should look to tackling it with the same determination it took to make Singapore a drug-free country.

Audrey Tan

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Singaporean man jailed three months for smuggling live birds from Malaysia

Jalal Basiron Samad, 47, was also sentenced to a concurrent three-month jail term for subjecting the birds to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering.
Channel NewsAsia 13 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man has been jailed three months for illegally importing three red-whiskered bulbul birds from Malaysia to Singapore in a Malaysia-registered private taxi., the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a news release on Monday (Jun 13).

Jalal Basiron Samad, 47, was also sentenced to a concurrent three-month jail term for subjecting the birds to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) found three live birds in a haversack beneath the front passenger seat of the taxi when it was crossing into Singapore at Woodlands Checkpoint on Mar 4.

Two of the birds were squeezed individually inside separate PVC pipes measuring 15cm by 4cm, with each pipe wrapped in a small piece of green nylon netting and secured with rubber bands. The other bird was wrapped tightly inside a piece of paper measuring 19cm by 8cm by 6cm and secured with staples. There was no food or water provided for the birds.

For importing the three live birds from Malaysia without a licence and subjecting them to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering, Jalal could have been sentenced to a fine of up to S$10,000 and imprisoned for up to one year for each charge.

AVA said that Singapore remains one of the few countries in the region to remain free from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or bird flu, through strict import regulations and enforcement, and by working closely with partner enforcement agencies to deter illegal import across borders.

Permits from AVA are required to bring live animals or birds into Singapore, and ornamental birds can only be imported from countries free from notifiable avian influenza. In addition, the birds must be tested to be free from the avian influenza virus and undergo a 21-day pre-export quarantine prior to export to Singapore, the authority said.

Members of the public with information on such activities can contact AVA at 6805 2992 or via AVA’s online feedback form. All information shared will be kept strictly confidential, AVA said.

- CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Govt studying health, economy and social impact of haze

NURADZIMMAH DAIM New Straits Times 13 Jun 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A study on the impact of the haze which enveloped Malaysia last year is still ongoing.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told the Dewan Negara today that a team from the ministry is studying the impact of the haze in terms of health, economy as well as social.

"The findings from the study will be made public and will be handed to ministries such as the Health Ministry for appropriate action."

He said Asean had, during a subregional committee meeting last month, agreed for a study on last year's haze to be carried out.

"Each member state would provide data on the impact of haze on a domestic level to the Asean secretariat," he said in reply to a question by Senator Dr Ariffin S.M. Omar.

Junaidi said the ministry is studying laws and regulations on open burning, especially its penalties. "Some states, especially Sabah and Sarawak have their own mechanisms.

We are looking at how they can operate (legislation) in line with the laws and regulations we are currently studying," he said.

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Indonesia: Protecting our waters from fisheries crimes

Susi Pudjiastuti Jakarta Post 13 Jun 16;

You will agree with me how essential the ocean and its wildlife resources are for our economy, livelihoods and way of life. Yet, human action has affected them, especially fish as well as other marine wildlife and their ecosystems.

In the last few decades, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has depleted the world’s fish stocks by 90.1 percent. In Indonesia alone, it causes around US$20 billion in state losses per year.

Even more worrisome is the fact that it has also affected the economy of our small-scale fishermen. For example, the number of fishermen decreased in the span of just one decade from 1.6 million people in 2003 to only 800,000 in 2013.

Indeed, IUU fishing has become a major problem, not only for the management of sustainable fisheries but also for the ecosystem and, in turn, society.

Grasping the urgency of this situation, the government imposed a one-year moratorium upon all licensed fishing vessels built outside of Indonesia (or ex-foreign vessels) between November 2014 and October 2015. The moratorium was used to conduct investigations on IUU fishing activities on 1,100 ex-foreign vessels that were licensed to operate in Indonesia.

Considering their size and equipment, those ex-foreign vessels had extensive capacity to exploit Indonesia’s marine and fisheries resources, making them a major cause of depletion of resources, while also taking into account the duplication of licenses by each vessel, to be used for up to 10 vessels.

From the audit process, several violations and criminal offences were found. These included, among other things, the employment of foreign crew members, fishing outside of permitted fishing grounds, use of destructive fishing methods and equipment, turning off transmitters during operations at sea, illegal transshipment of all the catches offshore while in return smuggling people and goods to the country and exporting catches without customs checks and proper documentation.

Indonesia acknowledges from this investigation that there are also many violations of law arising from IUU fishing activities. It has come to our, and even the world’s, attention that IUU fishing activities have definitely led to fisheries crimes and other fisheries-related crimes. These terms of criminology are used to describe crimes committed along the whole value chain in the fisheries industry.

Transnational organized crime in the fishing industry is now in fact growing into a complex and dangerous activity and is associated with other crimes. Based on evidence found around the globe, many vessels committing IUU fishing employ forced labor or trafficked persons or smuggled weapons.

The government has encountered some fishing vessels involved in transnational organized criminal groups in the fishing industry that also engaged in illegal activities such as money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking, human trafficking, tax fraud and smuggling of illegal goods including alcohol, cigarettes and drugs without paying duty and completing customs clearance, as well as smuggling of endangered species such as Papuan birds of paradise, parrots, turtles and other protected species.

In the case of Indonesia, for example, these crimes were publicly disclosed when the government imposed the one-year moratorium policy and the investigative audit. Pursuant to the investigative audit result, over a thousand people working in the fisheries industry were identified as victims of human trafficking in Benjina and Ambon in Maluku.

Furthermore, numerous violations of laws were also found, which included forged vessel documents, immigration papers and employment permits, raising the flags of many states, smuggling and illegally trading goods, wildlife and endangered species to illicit drugs.

To tackle these issues, the government has taken a number of measures.

First, we established a taskforce to combat illegal fishing as a one-roof enforcement system that consists of five government agencies. The taskforce that I coordinate has a mandate to combat illegal fishing, especially fisheries and fisheries-related crimes through integrated enforcement action and promoting policy reform by developing a strategic roadmap to improve Indonesia’s fisheries governance.

Second, the issuance of human rights protection policy in captured fisheries businesses, which obligates the corporation to have an internal human rights policy, to conduct human rights due diligence and to obtain human rights certification as prerequisites to having a business license.

Third, amending national fisheries laws with a purpose to produce a legal regime that is consistent with the principles for responsible and sustainable fisheries management and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including by imposing stringent and effective sanctions against individuals and corporations involved in fisheries crimes and fisheries-related crimes.

Combating fisheries crimes is not easy. Most of these crimes involve big business players, high-ranking profiles, political backup and a huge amount of money. These crimes are committed in more than one country, which makes them transnational crimes in nature. Furthermore, what do they aim for if not financial benefit? In this case, nothing speaks louder than high profits and stacks of money.

Against this background, transnational organized fisheries crimes are a criminal phenomenon. In order to combat it, international cooperation, including with relevant international organizations, is crucial.

Indonesia is of the view that emerging forms of crime, in particular fisheries crimes and fisheries-related crimes, need to receive proper attention, among other things, by putting them in the same basket as other manifestations of transnational organized crimes.

Through this approach, we are able to emphasize the seriousness of this crime, thus promoting commitment and concrete measures to be taken by states to enhance close international cooperation in order to combat these crimes effectively.

The writer is Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister. This article is an abridged version of her speech at the 25th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna on May 23.

Putting fishing crimes out of business
Dimas Kuncoro Jati Jakarta Post 13 Jun 16;

Every time we eat seafood at a waterfront restaurant there is a one-in-five chance that the fish was trawled outside of the law, according to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Global losses from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are estimated to be 26 million metric tons of fish annually. Our government claims that national losses from IUU fishing have contributed to annual economic losses of up to a whacking US$20 billion.

Indonesia itself has taken a stringent stance on IUU fishing nationally by imposing a “scuttling-vessel” policy for foreign vessels caught poaching in its waters. Indonesia is also fervently mobilizing its diplomatic machinery to try to convince the international community to frame IUU fishing as a transnational organized crime, such as at the 25th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Previously, our diplomats wooed Norway, the US, Australia, Mexico, South Africa and Namibia for support.

Yet questions remain in the legal arena because many feel that our efforts are relatively sporadic and could miss the bull’s-eye in doing so. First, how would international law define a crime as a transnational crime?

The international legal regime does not contain a precise definition of “transnational organized crime” per se. Nevertheless, there are elements of “organized criminal group” activity. If we can portray the elements of organized criminal group activity to correspond with the characteristics of IUU fishing then we can infer that IUU fishing constitutes an organized crime.

Article 2(a) of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) covers these elements. The most determinant elements primarily are the doers’ profit-driven nature and the seriousness of the offenses they commit. Meanwhile, “transnational” elements cover transgressions committed, planned, controlled or operated in more than one state. Thus, the quintessence of transnational organized crime extends to all profit-motivated, serious criminal activities with interstate implications.

On the other hand, IUU fishing is the term used to describe any unauthorized fishing and fishing activities conducted in breach of regional, national or international rules and regulations. It includes fishing without a permit, fishing without reporting to the relevant authorities or even fishing without nationality.

A study conducted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that fishing vessels were often used for smuggling migrants, illicit traffic in drugs, illicit traffic in weapons and terrorism. IUU fishing is often not merely a detached crime, but designed by webs of organized groups beyond national borders and linked to other forms of serious organized crime.

For instance, fishing operators consist of sophisticated transnational corporate syndicates and use financial havens to conceal the proprietors’ identity. Illegal fishing operations are a massively convoluted nexus involving fleets of fishing vessels that share the same supply, crewing and refueling services. These networks enable transshipments of illegally caught fish at sea. Illegally caught fish are typically added to legally caught fish and laundered on the market by means of misreporting catch documentation or via circumventing or bribing port fishery officials.

From the perspective of legal reasoning, the elements of transnational organized crime also prevail in IUU fishing activities due to the profit as well as the seriousness of the offenses that the syndicates commit while transcending national boundaries.

Second, is it feasible to incorporate IUU fishing in the transnational organized crime scheme?

Organized crime itself is not static, but habituates as new categories of crime materialize. The UNTOC, also known as the Palermo Convention, does not classify crimes. This lack of definition and lax categorization of transnational crimes was deliberate to give space for newly emerged transnational crimes, including IUU fishing. As such, it means that there is still a possibility of recognizing IUU fishing as a transnational organized crime.

Third, which mechanism possesses authority to constitute IUU fishing as a transnational organized crime?

The Palermo Convention established a conference known as the Conference of the Parties to review the implementation of this convention. In 2010, state parties convened the fifth Conference of Parties and identified cybercrime, identity-related crimes, trafficking in cultural property, environmental crime, piracy, organ trafficking and fraudulent medicine as new and emerging crimes of concern. Following a series of sessions, three protocols on trafficking in persons, the smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of firearms were adopted to augment the convention.

The Conference of Parties is a legitimate avenue to broach and discuss the purview of transnational crimes. It has borne three protocols and it is the conference that was specifically appointed by the international community to formulate updated efforts in dealing with transnational crimes. The eighth session of the conference will be held on Oct, 17 to 21 in Vienna. This is the venue that our diplomatic machinery should concentrate upon. Indonesia can propose one protocol under the Palermo Convention that specifically focuses on IUU fishing, in such a fashion that the crime can be internationally conceptualized as an integral part of transnational crime and a legally binding instrument forged.

Conceptualizing IUU fishing as a transnational organized crime within the convention architecture is indispensable as it will help unravel the missing link in the chain of other serious crimes. For Indonesia, it will tap cooperative transnational legal measures with other states, especially with flag states, port states and flag of convenience states.

Cooperation that overarches — from confiscation, extradition, transfer of sentenced person and mutual legal assistance to joint investigation, special investigative technique and transfer of proceedings — will spawn artificially extensible jurisdiction to the aggrieved state. For these legal measures will make sure that there is no place on Earth that poachers, trawlers, human traffickers, embezzlers and drug dealers can hide in the fishing industry and live with impunity. At the end of the day, Indonesia will also earn recognition as a global maritime fulcrum for its indefatigability in taking a strong global stance on IUU fishing.

If crime crosses borders, so does the law and its enforcement. By transnationalizing this fishing crime, it means my crime (Indonesia) is now becoming your crime (another state) and my responsibility now is also your responsibility. Let’s put IUU fishing out of business together.

The writer is LL.M candidate in public international law at University College London.

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Legal ivory sale drove dramatic increase in elephant poaching, study shows

Research shows the legal sale in 2008 catastrophically backfired – but two African nations want to repeat the stockpile sell-off
Damian Carrington The Guardian 13 Jun 16;

A huge legal sale of ivory intended to cut elephant poaching instead catastrophically backfired by dramatically increasing elephant deaths, according to new research.

The revelation comes just months before a decision on whether to permit another legal sale and against a backdrop of more African elephants being killed for ivory than are being born. In 2015 alone, 20,000 elephants were illegally killed.

The international trade in ivory was banned in 1989 but, in 2008, China and Japan were allowed to pay $15m for 107 tonnes of ivory stockpiled from elephants that died naturally in four African nations. The intention was to flood the market, crash prices and make poaching less profitable.

But instead, the legal sale was followed by “an abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in elephant poaching, concluded researchers Prof Solomon Hsiang at the University of California Berkeley and Nitin Sekar at Princeton University, whose work was published on Monday.

“We now have pretty striking evidence that these sales can be catastrophic. It backfired in a very bad way,” Hsiang told the Guardian. “I used to be a big proponent of legalisation in general to reduce the adverse effects of black markets. But through doing this work I have realised you have to be much more cautious. My own views have changed dramatically.”

The researchers think the legal sale reduced the stigma of ivory, boosting demand, and provided cover for the smuggling of illegal ivory, boosting supply. So, while the price of ivory fell after the legal sale, poaching increased.

The trade in threatened animals is governed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), a treaty agreed by 181 nations and the European Union. Its next summit in September will vote on a proposal from Zimbabwe and Namibia for another legal sale.

Prof Christopher Alden, at the London School of Economics, who is not involved on the new analysis, said: “The linkage [of the 2008 sale] with the surge in poaching is a sound one based on rigorous scholarly research.”

“The likelihood that the proposal from Zimbabwe and Namibia will produce a similar effect is therefore a very strong one,” Prof Alden said. “The specious arguments being made by proponents of once-off sales are, I am afraid, ill-disguised and self-serving.”

He said it was true that the elephant poaching crisis in east Africa has yet to hit southern Africa as hard, but that it was very likely to do so if a new sale was allowed: “[The proposal] is deeply disingenuous and one which flies in the face of the contemporary moves by China and the US to shut down the market for ivory.”

The new analysis was possible because poachers do not hide or destroy the carcasses of the elephants they poach. “It’s not worth the trouble,” said Hsiang. “So they’ve basically left us a complete and visible record of their activity.”

The 2008 ivory sale also corresponded with a 70% rise in the seizures of illegal ivory. The surges in poaching and seizures occurred right across Africa and the researchers checked for other factors that might have been involved, such as an increase in Chinese workers in Africa or rising affluence in China or Japan.

“We looked for alternative explanations in the data, but the best evidence still indicates that the legal sale exacerbated the destruction of elephant populations across Africa,” Sekar said.

Hsiang does not blame Cites for the backfiring of the sale, which was approved by a unanimous vote of its member states: “Before the sale, many economists has said it was the right thing to do. We think Cites were doing the best they could. Our work is intended to support future policy.”

A spokesman for Cites said: “The secretariat does not argue for or against the one-off sales. These decisions were taken by Cites [countries] in the context of the conditions that prevailed at the time. The secretariat welcomes this ongoing research and analysis and will continue to closely monitor all relevant findings.”

He noted that Cites monitoring of elephant poaching had not in the past seen a direct correlation between legal sales and increased demand in Asia. Hsiang said this might be because the data is smoothed to give long-term trends.

The Cites spokesman also noted that there had never been a one-off sale of rhino horn: “However, the spike in the number of rhinos poached for horn largely mirrors what has been seen with ivory. The illegal killing of rhino for its horn in South Africa alone increased from 13 in 2007 to close to 1,200 last year.”

An alternative to selling off stockpiles of ivory is to burn them, but this has also now come under scrutiny. On 30 April, Kenya burned 105 tonnes of ivory, making a total of 263 tonnes destroyed by 21 countries since 1989, mostly in the last five years.

But Duan Biggs, at the University of Queensland in Australia and writing in the journal Nature last week, said: “There is no published evidence so far that these events reduce poaching. Destroying ivory stockpiles risks a perverse outcome: ivory becomes rarer, fetching higher prices and increasing poaching and illegal stockpiling.”

“It is therefore crucial to track the effects of Kenya’s largest-ever ivory burn. Time is short and the stakes are high,” he said.

Hsiang said: “In policy, when we see things that are terrible, it’s natural to want to do something. But it’s important to remember that our actions might make them even worse.”

“Simple intuition is powerful and can sometimes get us really far in policy, but when incomplete it can also lead us into traps,” he said. “I am a complete advocate of looking into the data and determining whether these sorts of policies work. We need to carefully evaluate the effect and then be very open minded about the results.”

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El Niño likely to boost CO2 in 2016

Jonathan Amos BBC 13 Jun 16;

A big spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels means the greenhouse gas is about to pass a symbolic threshold.

Twenty-sixteen will very likely mark the first time the concentration of CO2, as measured atop Hawaii's famous Mauna Loa volcano, has been above 400 parts per million for the entire year.

The forecast is from the UK Met Office.

It says carbon dioxide levels have seen a surge in recent months as a result of the El Niño climate phenomenon, which has warmed and dried the tropics.

These conditions not only limit the ability of forests to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere but also trigger huge fires around the globe that inject extra carbon into the air.

This means the instruments at Mauna Loa, which maintain the benchmark record of CO2, are unlikely to see any month in 2016 where the concentration dips below 400ppm (that is, 400 molecules of CO2 for every one million molecules in the atmosphere).

To be clear: the value has no particular significance for the physics of the climate system; it is just a number. But it has resonance because the last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago - before modern humans existed.
"There's nothing magical about this number," said Prof Richard Betts at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

"We don't expect anything suddenly to happen. It's just an interesting milestone that reminds us of our ongoing influence on the climate system," he told BBC News.

The usual trend seen at the volcano is for the CO2 levels to rise in winter months and then to fall back as the Northern Hemisphere growing season kicks in. Last year most months were above 400 with only three below.

Ordinarily, one expects the carbon dioxide concentration to rise by an average of about 2ppm per year, but the team expects a record rise in 2016 of 3.15ppm, plus or minus 0.53ppm.

The scientists used a seasonal climate model to predict sea-surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific - where the El Niño shows itself most obviously - and then linked these to a statistical relationship with CO2 to generate a picture of what levels would probably look like across the calendar year.

This gives an average for 2016 of 404.45, with a September low of 401.48 (again with errors of plus or minus 0.53ppm).

The team has already had success in forecasting the 2016 high, recorded in May, of 407.7ppm. The group had predicted 407.57.

"It's important to note that this year's rise in CO2 is bigger than the last El Niño, in 1997/8, because human emissions have gone up by 25% since then. So, it's the natural effect on top of the increasing human effect," said Prof Betts.

For the future, it is unlikely that CO2 concentrations will come down again at Mauna Loa within at least a generation, even if the commitments to constrain emissions agreed at the Paris climate summit last year are fully implemented. The Earth system responds only very slowly to change.

"Elsewhere on the Earth's surface, we will see values below 400. At Barrow in Alaska, for example, you get a much larger seasonal cycle," the meteorological agency's head of climate impacts research explained.

The CO2 time series at Mauna Loa is recorded by two independent groups. One is associated with the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa); the other is curated by California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The latter's graph of ever-rising carbon dioxide levels has become known as the "Keeling Curve", after the man who first started taking the measurements in 1958 - Charles Keeling. Back then the ppm value was around 315.

Today, Keeling's son, Ralph, continues his father's work, and is a co-author on the Met Office paper.

"Back in September last year, we suspected that we were measuring CO2 concentrations below 400 ppm for the last time," he said in a statement. "Now it is looking like this was indeed the case."

The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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