Best of our wild blogs: 4 Nov 16

Channel 8 – Island Escapade: St John’s Island
Neo Mei Lin

[Research Highlight] Freshwater fishes, terrestrial herpetofauna and mammals of Pulau Tekong, Singapore
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Cambodia: Dredging for answers to sand exports to Singapore

Yesenia Amaro and Bun Sengkong Phnom Penh Post 3 Nov 16;

An official at the Ministry of Mines and Energy yesterday acknowledged that smuggling and illegal mining, as well as corruption or tax fraud, may have contributed to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of discrepancies in data on sand exports to Singapore.

On October 28, the ministry also temporarily halted the export of sand by companies that hold export licences in coastal areas in order to re-evaluate the companies, according to documents obtained by the Post this week and confirmed by several officials. Officials also have temporarily suspended the granting or renewing of licences for sand export, documents show.

The controversy concerns UN data showing $752 million in imports of sand from Cambodia to Singapore since 2007, despite the Kingdom only reporting about $5 million in exports to the small island nation. Singapore’s Trade Ministry statistics closely mirror the UN’s data.

The ministry yesterday officially responded to a group of 47 civil society organisations that on Tuesday had sent a letter to the ministry demanding answers on the discrepancies. In its response, the ministry said that “the responsible management of the sand business still faces some problems”, but that it is “re-examining [the matter] with care”.

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy will take serious actions if it found any irregularities in sand exports,” the ministry’s letter continues. “The ministry . . . wants to emphasise that the ministry has the duty to allow the export of sand with clear procedures and standards and to collect royalties from the export based on the amount exported. And the selling of the sand is not the role of the ministry; it is the business of those who hold licences and the buyers.”

The letter notes that discrepancies may be the result of differences in reporting regimes, but could also be the result of “many factors”.

Yesterday, ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara said those factors may include smuggling and illegal mining, as well as corruption or collusion in misrepresenting export figures for tax avoidance purposes.

“All the above three factors could be plausible,” he said. “The ministry is taking these two last possibilities very seriously.”

Saktheara pointed out that sand export bans by Malaysia and Indonesia in 2007, and Vietnam’s suspension of sand dredging in 2009, caused sand prices in Singapore to spike.

“This price soar has created sand smuggling in the region and wide-spread of sand illegal mining in Cambodia in 2007-2010,” he said, via email. Dith Tina, secretary of state for the ministry, declined to comment yesterday.

Vann Sophath, of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, which was among the organisations to demand answers from the ministry, said he hadn’t seen the response, but if smuggling and illegal mining were possible contributing factors leading to the massive discrepancies, it would be a loss for everyone.

“The government would have allowed corrupt people to get money instead of the country,” he said. “I don’t think the government should allow this kind of corruption.”

However, he added, “in Cambodia, powerful men influence everything”. The government should act, starting now, in order to halt whatever is behind the discrepancies, he said.

“Otherwise, it will continue and things won’t improve,” he said. “Who will lose? The government and the state.”

Official documents obtained by the Post show that the ministry has begun taking some action.

According to a November 1 letter from Mines Minister Suy Sem to the general director of customs, the ministry indicated it was temporarily suspending the exports of sand of companies that hold a licence for export in all coastal areas.

The suspension was to “re-evaluate all these companies” and decide “which companies are allowed to continue business and which companies must be terminated”.

In an October 28 letter, the ministry said that “to effectively reinforce the managing mechanism and collect income from the exporting of sand resources and reduce some effects, the ministry decided to temporarily suspending the granting or renewing [of] licence and exporting sand” by licensed companies.

Additional reporting by Phak Seangly

Sand Storm: $750 Million Worth of The Material is Unaccounted For in Cambodia
Radio Free Asia 2 Nov 16;

Nearly 50 civil society organizations called for the Cambodian government to join some other Southeast Asian nations and ban or severely restrict exports of sand to Singapore after it was revealed that nearly $750 million worth of the building material has disappeared from the country.

U.N. data shows that Cambodia exported $752 million in sand to Singapore over the past eight years, but Phnom Penh only reported that about $5 million worth of sand was exported to the island nation that is the world’s top destination for the material.

“We note the decisions of the governments of Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia to ban or restrict sand exports to Singapore due to environmental concerns, and we urge your excellency to consider instituting a similar ban or restriction in Cambodia, in the interests of Cambodia’s long-term sustainable development,” wrote the 47 groups in an Oct. 31 letter to Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem.

The vast discrepancy between the official numbers and numbers gleaned from U.N. reports is troubling as sand mining can have severe environmental impact and costs Cambodia’s treasury millions.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network of Social Accountability, who signed the letter, said corruption could have been the key factor in the unrecorded sand exports.

“We wanted the ministry to be informed of the impact of the sand exports and how it badly impacts the communities,” San Chey told RFA’s Khmer Service. “The ministry needs to find out about this.”

Ministry of Mines spokesman Meng Saktheara admitted that corruption could be a factor, saying the sand could have been smuggled out of Cambodia or sand dredgers from other countries could be using Cambodia to camouflage their own activities.

“This matter is being treated very carefully and as a priority because it involves national budget,” he said.

‘The Ministry has no role in it’

In its official response, however, the ministry attempted to deflect criticism, blaming the use of different reporting regimes by different countries for the differences.

“The ministry admits that it still faces some challenges in managing the sand export businesses,” it said in a statement. “The discrepancies in sand export data could be the result of the different reporting regimes of each country.”

The ministry also emphasized its limited role in the oversight of the businesses involved in the sand trade.

“Regarding the sand sale business deals, the ministry has no role in it,” it said in the statement. “Such deals involve only the companies which are licensed to operate the sand export businesses and the buyers. We are looking into this and will take concrete measures if irregularities are found in the sand export business operations.”

Son Chhay, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told RFA that the assembly’s Anti-Corruption Commission planned to question Suy Sem about the discrepancies soon.

A Hun Sen Family Affair?

In its report “Hostile Takeover: The Corporate Empire of Cambodia’s Ruling Family,” the investigative non-governmental organization Global Witness found links between Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family or their associates and a sand dredging license for a four-kilometer stretch of the Mekong River.

The Cambodian environmental organization Mother Nature Cambodia has accused the government of using “the power of the state…to provide a veneer of legality to the mining.”

“The government claims that Koh Kong [province’s] coastal estuaries naturally carry 'too much sand', and as such need dredging and deepening so that they can be more navigable, and also to reduce riverbank erosion and floods in the area,” the organization writes on its website. “In short, it paints the mining as beneficial to the local fishing communities.”

“Reality though, is much different from that,” the organization added. “Fish stocks have been depleted across the estuaries where the mining is taking place, pollution from the mining barges is close to unbearable to those living nearby, riverbank collapse is endemic, and the only ones that benefit from the alleged benefits of deepening of the estuaries are the large barges that travel upstream to pick up the sand and transport it onto Singapore.”

A worldwide problem

Driven by the growing demand for sand, either for concrete for construction, or in Singapore’s case for expanding its territory, the demand for sand has been outstripping the supply.

According to information in the World Atlas, the United States is the biggest exporter of sand, with Cambodia coming in at number seven. The Observatory of Economic Complexity reports that 97 percent of Cambodia’s sand goes to Singapore.

The world’s sand mining industry is estimated to be a $70 billion a year industry with illegal trade in the material worth even more, according to a 2016 report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

A 2015 report in Wired detailed the emergence of so-called “sand mafias” that use bribery, intimidation and killings to control the illegal sand trade.

Thanks in a large part to the world’s sand, Singapore is 22 percent larger than it was in the 1950s, according to the Sydney Herald report. The newspaper said the island is pushing ahead with plans to import titanic amounts of sand to artificially expand its territory by 6,200 hectares by 2030.

Singapore is getting larger, but the sand mining that aids its growth often wreaks havoc on rivers, deltas, and marine ecosystems in Cambodia and elsewhere.

In 2013 Hun Sen imposed a ban on dredging along the Mekong and Ton Le Sap, and in 2015 the Cambodian government put a hold on new applications for licenses to conduct sand-dredging operations in the country's rivers and lakes in order to study the environmental and social impact, but it is unclear if those moves had any effect, as sand mining appears to be continuing.

At the time of the 2015 announcement, Suy Sem said that there were 142 sand dredging companies operating in Cambodia, but only 37 of them had licenses.

In a 2016 report, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) found the Cambodian government had continued to supply licenses to sand miners despite the bans.

In April the government decided to auction four two-year sand dredging licenses along the Mekong River, under the auspices of “restoring navigation of the waterway.”

Four other licenses were designated “green zone” areas, where “there is no risk of riverbank collapse” while nearly 70 new sand dredging licenses were issued without holding public auctions or requiring the companies to make publicly available environmental impact assessment results.

In all, CCHR found there were 84 companies holding licenses to dredge sand as of May 2016, despite the government’s bans.

Reported for RFA's Khmer Service by Heng Sun. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

‘Anarchical’ Sand Dredging Eradicated
A total of 80 companies have received sand dredging licenses, of which six are currently operating in
coastal provinces, and more than 20 operate along Cambodia's rivers.
SOK CHAN Khmer Times 4 Nov 16;

In response to an open letter signed to 47 civil society groups on Monday, calling for the Ministry of Mines and Energy to clarify apparent discrepancies in sand export data that suggest a huge disparity in Cambodia’s export figures of sand to Singapore compared to Singapore’s much higher import figures, the ministry issued a reply on Wednesday in which it claimed to have stopped any illegal sand dredging operations.

Monday’s letter from civil society groups was in response to UN data showing sand imports of $752 million from Cambodia over the last 10 years, of which only about $5 million in exports were logged by Cambodia. The UN Commodity Statistics Trade Database shows 2.8 million tons of exports to Singapore, while Singapore reported 72.7 million tons of imports from Cambodia.

In the ministry’s reply to the call for answers and clarification it noted that while many efforts to improve the sector had been successfully undertaken, there were still a number of loopholes to address.

“As a result of the practical work on the reform, we have completely eradicated the anarchical sand business operations along rivers and the sea, and on land, and collected the royalty fees from sand business operation of over $7 million, from mid-2015 until now,” the letter read.

“[However] the responsible management of sand businesses still faces some problems,” it noted, adding that “the selling of sand is not the job of the ministry but it is the business between those who have licenses and the buyers.”

The letter notes that no new dredging licenses have been issued since last Friday, and that it was reviewing all documentation for existing companies. It added that officials were willing to meet with concerned civil society groups to review the data, at a time of the ministry’s choosing.

Following the reporting of the discrepancy by a local newspaper last month, secretary of state for the ministry, Dith Tina, told Khmer Times that any differences suggested by the UN data could be down to the way each country entered data into the UN database. He denied knowledge of any corruption in the sector and said that it was “too quick” to draw any conclusions from the discrepancy.

Yesterday, Mr. Tina said that he was confident that the data his ministry has collected on sand mining is accurate.

“We trust our official figures because we recorded exports of sand as all companies have to apply for a license to export the sand, so we recorded it in order to ask them [companies] to pay royalty fees,” he said.

He said that since 2005 about 10 million tons of sand had been exported to Singapore, for which Cambodia received $7 million in royalty fees. He added that in total 80 companies have received licenses, of which six are currently operating in coastal provinces, and more than 20 operate along the Kingdom’s rivers.

“We will meet with civil society organizations soon and explain to them about the sand issue, and mining and energy that they are concerned with. We will allow them to raise their concerns and questions and then we can explain things to them,” he said.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network of Social Accountability, which was one of the civil society groups that signed Monday’s letter, told Khmer Times that government talk of boosting transparency and accountability had yet to be translated into reality.

“We welcome the government decision to call for a meeting with NGOs to double check and verify the data on sand exports. Sand dredging is an important issue since some Cambodian people have lost their homes from landslides along riverbanks, and some Cambodians are in jail due to [protesting] the sand issue. So the export sand is not a small story,” Mr. Chey said.

“We are not yet satisfied with the ministry’s clarification, we will ask more questions until transparency and accountability are fully implemented in the sand dredging issue,” he added.

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Malaysia: Sarawak Forestry Corp calls for review of IUCN Red List on threatened species

ADIB POVERA New Straits Times 3 Nov 16;

KUCHING: The Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) has called for the review of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species with regards to the status of dipterocarps in the state.

Its chief executive officer Wong Ting Chung made the conclusion based on research findings from the Research for Intensified Management of Bio-Rich Areas of Sarawak (Rimba Sarawak) programme, which commenced last year.

"The IUCN Red List says that 64 per cent of our 249 dipterocarp species are considered as "threatened".

"These included some of the commonly available and commercially important species such as meranti binatoh, meranti langgai and selangan batu hitam.

"It is high time that the IUCN Red List should be reviewed, particularly pertaining to the status of dipterocarps in Sarawak," he said in his speech during the Rimba Rumbling event here today.

The event, held to update stakeholders on the progress of the Rimba Sarawak programme, was officiated by Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Wong said research findings from Rimba Sarawak found that 35 per cent of the species listed as threatened globally in the IUCN Red List should not be considered as threatened in the state.

"One of the species, namely Shorea cuspidata, is listed as extinct but can actually still be found in parts of Lundu, Sematan and Baram," he said.

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Malaysia: Dengue cases see 11 per cent decline

LAILI ISMAIL New Straits Times 3 Nov 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Dengue cases in Malaysia are the decline, with 89,243 cases recorded as of October 29 compared to 100,665 cases in the corresponding period last year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, speaking in Parliament today, said the cumulative cases indicated an 11.3 per cent (11,422) drop.

"Meanwhile, the cumulative dengue death toll as of October 29 stands at 202 compared to 277 deaths in the corresponding period last year which indicates a 27.1 per cent drop (75 deaths)," said the Segamat MP in response to a question by PKR's Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul.

The downward trend in dengue cases, Dr Subramaniam said, could be attributed to the integrated efforts and actions of ministries, agencies and the community at large in preventing dengue.

"This has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on October 10 at the WHO regional committee for the Western Pacific's 67th session in Manila.

"In her speech, WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan praised Malaysia's strategy in preventing and controlling dengue fever by implementing cleanliness campaigns at national level and involving the community," he said.

Johari had asked the Health Ministry to state its efforts in spurring expertise and financial resources to find methods and vaccines to overcome dengue.

Dr Subramaniam said there was only one vaccine produced in the country by a private company, called Dengvaxia.

"A dengue vaccine committee involving relevant experts has been formed at the ministry level to research the extent of the vaccine's efficiency, in accordance with suggestion provided by WHO's strategic advisory group of experts," he said.

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Malaysia will only have nuclear plants after 2030

MARTIN CARVALHO The Star 3 Nov 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Plans to develop the nation's first two nuclear power plants have been postponed to after 2030, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Nancy Shukri.

She said the time frame was extended following a feasibility study considering the possible effects of natural disasters on the plants.

"We have extended the time line to consider building the nuclear plants from 2021 to 2030,” said Nancy.

"This is taking into consideration local and international sentiments, particularly the effects of the tsunami that affected the Fukishima nuclear plant in Japan in March 2011," she added when answering a question by Datuk Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid (BN-Kota Tinggi) during Minister's Question Time in Parliament Thursday.

She said that any decision to build the nuclear power plants would be based on the laws governing the use of nuclear power.

"Based on the feasibility study's timeline, it would take more than 11 years to complete the nuclear plants from the date the Government decides to go ahead with plans to build them," she added.

Nancy assured lawmakers that Malaysia was not looking at nuclear power for military purposes, saying that this was in line with the terms laid down in the Asean Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) treaty.

Malaysia is a signatory to the treaty.

"Malaysia isn’t the only Asean nation exploring nuclear power for its energy needs. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are also studying nuclear power to generate electricity,” she said.

Nancy added that Vietnam had recently signed an agreement with Russia to build the first nuclear power plant in their country

To a question by Dr Che Rosli Che Mat (PAS-Hulu Langat), Nancy assured that the public would be informed if the country decides to move towards nuclear power.

She said the Government welcomes feedback on the matter from all quarters, as any decision to resort to nuclear power would affect the nation as a whole.

The proposed programme to develop two nuclear plants was reported to cost about RM23.1bil.

The projects were supposed to start in 2013 but rescheduled to 2021.

No decision so far to build nuke plants, says Nancy
The Star 4 Nov 16;

There is no decision so far to build nuclear power plants in Malaysia, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (pic) said.

Although the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) targeted nuclear power plants to be operational by 2021, she said the move would be postponed as the Government needed to take into account latest developments and prevailing sentiments at home and abroad, especially regarding the impact of the 2011 tsunami on the Japanese nuclear power programme.

“Initial information obtained from the feasibility study shows the timeline required for implementation and completion of the nuclear power plant is at least 11 years from the date the Government made the decision,” she said.

Based on the study, the nuclear power programme in Malaysia would only be able to operate after 2030, subject to the approval of a new and comprehensive Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill, she added.

Datuk Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid (BN-Kota Tinggi) had asked the date of the construction of the two nuclear power plants as stated in the ETP, which is part of the New Economic Model announ­ced on Oct 25, 2010.

Nancy said Malaysia’s nuclear development programme was about generating electricity and not to produce weapons.

“Malaysia is not the only country in the region which is exploring the possibility of implementing a nuclear programme for energy; neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are also working towards it,” she said.

Vietnam, Nancy added, had even signed an agreement with Russia to build the first nuclear power plant in the country.

More studies needed, nuclear power programme will only happen after 2030, says Nancy
LAILI ISMAIL New Straits Times 3 Nov 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's nuclear power programme will only be able to kick off after 2030, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri today.

Speaking at the Parliament today, Nancy said the government has yet to decide on the nuclear power project development as its feasibility study indicated a different timeline compared to the one stated in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

"Based on the feasibility study, we need at least 11 years to complete the power plant, from the date the government decides to start the bidding process.

"Although the ETP stated 2021 as the target year, it has to be shifted as the government has to take into account the current development and sentiment on nuclear power specifically the tsunami effect on Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011," Nancy (BN-Batang Sadong) said in response to question from BN's Kota Tinggi MP Datuk Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid.

Noor Ehsanuddin had asked for the minister, who oversees Malaysian Innovation Agency, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and the Malaysian Nuclear Power Corporation, to state the date of construction for the two nuclear power plants as stipulated in the ETP.

Nancy said the nuclear power generation progamme would only be able to operate after 2030 which would still be subjected to the approval of the atomic energy regulation bill.

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Indonesia: Government to curb excessive use of plastic

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 16;

Indonesians’ love of plastic has propelled the country to become the world’s second-biggest contributor to plastic waste in the ocean, choking the seas with soda bottles and plastic bags and wrecking aquatic ecosystems.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Science, Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, with around 1.29 million tons of that ending up in the ocean, second only to China with its 8.8 million tons of waste.

As plastic waste keeps piling up, creating vortices where humanity’s trash bobs atop the water for kilometers on end, the government is trying to come up with a nationwide action plan.

In the first stage of the plan, the government, assisted by the World Bank and Denmark, is conducting a study in 15 urban centers to identify the core of the problem as well as where waste comes from.

Preliminary findings of the study, which commenced in June this year and is expected to run until December, suggested that the main issue was a spillover of land waste, with an estimated 80 percent of marine plastic coming from land-based sources.

“We want to know if it’s true that we are number two [globally in polluting the ocean with plastic]. In order to know that, we have to know how much of our plastic waste is leaked into rivers, because rivers in Jakarta and Surabaya are already clean,” said Arief Havas Oegroseno, an assistant with the office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, on the sideline of the Indonesia Marine Plastic Debris Summit.

He said spillovers could occur at garbage collection sites, landfills or bays. “After that, we will identify the solutions as well as the costs,” said Arif. “If the leakages occur in landfills and rivers, why don’t we build waste-based power plants in the estuaries of rivers?”

The study results will feed into the national action plan to be presented at the World Ocean Summit in Bali in February 2017.

The study also suggested that some of Indonesia’s ocean plastic waste came from other countries.

According to the study, two in five plastic bottles found on a small island north of Banten, West Java, were from overseas. The overseas trash was suspected to have come from Singapore and South Asia, while the rest was from Kalimantan and Central Java.

“It means that 20 percent of our ocean plastic waste might be from other countries because Indonesia is at the crossroads of the global ocean conveyor belt,” Arif said.

The global ocean conveyor belt is a constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation driven by temperature and salinity, moving from the Pacific Ocean to north Papua, down to Aru Islands, entering Bali, exiting southern Java, moving down to southern Africa, up to the Atlantic Ocean, and finally going back to the Pacific Ocean.

“This current transport islands of waste. In the Pacific, there are 100,000 tons of waste islands, while in the Indian Ocean, the number is three times that. How do we catch the garbage? If we try to stop the leakage nationally, but our neighboring countries do not do the same, then how?” Arif said.

While other countries may contribute to Indonesia’s marine plastic waste problem, Indonesia could also be adding to other countries’ trash.

“So there’s a chance that we might contribute [our plastic waste] to other countries,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s ocean and coastal pollution management director, Heru Waluyo, told The Jakarta Post.

He said some countries had complained to Indonesia about the issue.

“Australia, for instance, found indications that some of its plastic waste came from Indonesia because the wrappers were in Indonesian,” Heru said.

Before the government comes up with its plan, Heru urged the public to change its behavior, starting with reducing the use of plastic bags, which make up a large portion of marine plastic waste.

“As long as we don’t change our behavior, the problems will remain,” he said. “We haven’t been able to change our culture. If we go to Singapore, we automatically change because there is law enforcement.”

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Indonesia: Bandung implements ban on styrofoam use

Arya Dipa The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 16;

Residents of Bandung, West Java, have welcomed the implementation of a styrofoam ban in the city, but demanded that the city administration also provide replacement materials.

The ban, which is in force this month, was stipulated in a circular sent down to subdistricts across
the city.

Ria Ismaria, an environmental activist from Bandung Juara Bebas Sampah, said that the use of styrofoam in food packaging was hard to avoid because of its low price. The administration, therefore, had to educate people about substitutes.

“Especially snack retailers,” Ria told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

She said the use of non-styrofoam materials in food packaging was very possible. As an example, she said that spring-roll sellers could return to using banana leaves as a substitute for styrofoam.

In this case, she said, the city administration, through the agriculture agency, could develop banana plantations to supply banana leaves for that purpose.

“That way [the administration] does not just ban but makes an effort to provide substitutes,” Ria said.

She said that the ban should be the basis for the administration to create a circular economy, a term that refers to an industrial economy that aims for increased resource productivity to reduce waste and pollution.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil said the administration would roll out an information campaign about the ban and expressed hopes that subdistrict heads would take the lead in disseminating information to people in their respective regions.

With the release of circular, he said, subdistrict heads now had the right to warn people about the ban. When a violation is committed, subdistrict administrations could issue a written warning to companies or sellers still using styrofoam, he added.

“If the violation continues, their business license will be revoked,” said Ridwan.

The ban on styrofoam use, he said, was because it is nonrecyclable and non-evironmentally-friendly materials were used in the making of it.

Ridwan also said that food manufacturer Indofood, which has used styrofoam in its product packaging, had expressed a commitment to comply with the new policy.

“They were afraid of experiencing a decrease in sales. They finally had a meeting with me and said they would follow the mayoral policy,” Ridwan said as quoted by

Previously, executive director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Paul Connett, who came to Bandung recently to share the zero-waste concept, said that the government had a role to play in the creation of a circular economy.

He said the ban on the use of styrofoam and other nonrecyclable materials had to include the establishment of a zero-waste research center to study the nonrecyclable materials.

“This is the role of the university, where community responsibility meets the industrial community,” Paul said at Bandung City Hall during his visit.

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World on track for 3C of warming under current global climate pledges, warns UN

Current climate commitments are insufficient to reduce emissions by the amounts needed to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, says Unep report
Fiona Harvey, The Guardian 3 Nov 16;

The commitments made by governments on climate change will lead to dangerous levels of global warming because they are incommensurate with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement, which comes into force on Friday.

At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends, the UN said.

The report found that emissions by 2030 were likely to reach about 54 to 56 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, a long way astray of the 42 gigatonnes a year likely to be the level at which warming exceeds 2C.

Erik Solheim, chief of Unep, said the world was “moving in the right direction” on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change, but that measures should be taken urgently to avoid the need for much more drastic cuts in emissions in future. “If we don’t start taking additional action now, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy.”

He warned in particular that people would start being displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change, suffering from drought, hunger, disease and conflicts arising from these afflictions. Mass migration as a result of climate change is hard to separate from other causes of migration, but is predicted to become a much greater problem.

This year is “locked in” to be the hottest on record, according to Nasa, eclipsing last year’s record heat, and may show the way to future temperature rises and their accompanying problems.

Under the Paris agreement, reached last December, all of the world’s functioning governments have agreed to reduce greenhouse gases in line with the need to hold warming to no more than 2C, which scientists consider the limit of safety. That agreement has been ratified by the US, China and the European Union, and several other governments.

However, while all of the governments involved in the Paris accord have agreed their own domestic targets for curbing greenhouse gases, these are not legally binding. In addition, few countries have set out concrete plans for how they would implement the curbs.

Next week, signatories to the Paris agreement will gather in Marrakesh to flesh out some aspects of the pact reached last year. Supporters hope that some countries may come up with fuller plans for how they mean to achieve the necessary future emissions reductions, and countries that have not yet ratified the agreement will be persuaded to do so.

None are expected to announce new targets on emissions in line with the reductions that the Unep report suggests are necessary. Nations currently have domestic targets on curbing or cutting emissions by 2020, set out in 2009 at the UN meeting in Copenhagen, as well as their Paris commitments which apply from 2025 to 2030.

Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner, said: “This is a stark warning that cannot be ignored – tougher action on climate change is urgently needed to prevent the world speeding towards catastrophe. Governments are drinking in the ‘last chance saloon’ if the lofty goals of the Paris climate agreement are to be met.”

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit thinktank, said: “Unep’s report confirms that there has been remarkable acceleration towards a global low-carbon economy over the past year, but considerably more action is required if governments are to meet the target they set under the Paris agreement.”

Another significant climate agreement was signed in the last few weeks. Under the Montreal Protocol of 1987, countries agreed to phase out gases known to be harmful to the ozone layer. Some of the substitutes, however, turned out to be much more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

Under a new addition to that agreement countries around the world have agreed to remove the harmful HFCs used in some air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. If fully implemented, this could result in a 0.5C reduction in future warming. Given the goal set in Paris for limiting global temperature rises to 2C, this would make a significant difference to the world’s actions on climate change if it is fully endorsed. Phasing out the relevant chemicals may take much of the rest of the decade, however, and could face resistance in some industries.

Solheim urged countries to embark on more ambitious programmes to improve energy efficiency, increase the amount of energy coming from renewable sources, and look to meet the national targets they set in Paris.

UN review says carbon plans fall well short of climate goals
Matt McGrath BBC 3 Nov 16;

A UN review of national plans to cut carbon says they are well short of the levels needed to keep the rise in global temperatures under 2C.

The report finds that by 2030 the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere will be some 25% above that mark.

The analysis takes into account the pledges that countries have made under the Paris climate agreement.

Many scientists say that technology to remove carbon from the air will now be needed to meet the Paris targets.

The UN Emissions Gap Report, prepared by an international team of scientists, finds that by 2030, global emissions are expected to reach 54 to 56 gigatonnes of CO2.

The authors say this is far above the 42 gigatonnes needed to have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees by the end of the century, and a long way from the 39 gigatonnes needed to keep to 1.5 degrees as was promised in Paris last December.

A gigatonne is roughly the equivalent of the annual emissions produced by all forms of transport in the European Union.

While the report notes that the growth of emissions from fossil fuel use and industry is now slowing, this scale of carbon would put the world on track for a rise in temperatures by the end of this century of between 2.9 and 3.4 degrees C.

"We are moving in the right direction: the Paris Agreement will slow climate change, as will the recent Kigali Amendment to reduce HFCs," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

"They both show strong commitment, but it's still not good enough if we are to stand a chance of avoiding serious climate change."

The report suggests that there are some areas where progress can be made. The assessment of the plans of the richer G20 countries indicates that some are in line to deliver greater reductions than planned.

The UN review also suggests that the contributions from cities, businesses and other "non-state actors", as they are termed, could reduce emissions by a few crucial gigatonnes.

The UN also says that ambitious action on energy efficiency in buildings and in transport and other areas could help drive down carbon significantly. Investments in this area were up by 6% in 2015 to $221bn.

But with global temperatures in 2016 at one degree above pre-industrial levels, there is a growing acknowledgement that even the most ambitious attempts will not be enough to keep to the 1.5 degree target in play.

The UN report says that "most scenarios that limit warming to below 2 or 1.5 degrees assume the use of so-called negative emissions technologies in the second half of the century".

This will involve the active and permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting trees for example, and by the deployment of technologies like bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS for short.

This means growing crops that absorb CO2 and then burning them for energy while capturing and storing the warming gas they produce.

"At the moment most of the discussion is about BECCS, so we need to identify suitable areas to sequester carbon and make sure it doesn't leak out. That takes time and technology," said Dr Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading, UK.

"We need to develop the understanding of what that will do for the climate. If we grow all these biofuels in places does that mean we can't grow so much food everywhere? There are these constant trade-offs that we need to consider."

With the Paris Agreement becoming operational on 4 November, and delegates from almost 200 countries meeting in Marrakech next week to consider the next steps, experts are hoping that governments will not just bask in the glory of a job well done, but will see the COP22 gathering as a chance to push forward with ambition.

"I hope that they will agree to lower their nationally determined contributions," Prof Joanna Haigh from Imperial College London, UK, told BBC News.

"It's fantastic that they got the Paris Agreement but their contributions at the moment are nowhere near the 1.5-degree target.

"I think the momentum is such that countries all understand that something extra now needs to be done. The thought process has moved on a step."

UN: Huge emissions cuts needed to meet Paris climate goals
Karl Ritter, Associated Press Yahoo News 4 Nov 16;

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- The world is nowhere near on track to achieve the ambitious temperature goals adopted in the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, the U.N. said Thursday in a sobering report that warned of a human tragedy unless governments stepped up efforts to fight global warming.

The U.N. Environment Program said the world needs to slash its annual greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 12 billion-14 billion metric tons by 2030 to have a chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). That's the temperature goal that countries agreed to in the Paris pact, which takes effect Friday after countries ratified it much faster than anticipated.

To put the challenge into perspective, UNEP noted that the gap is 12 times the annual emissions of the 28-nation European Union's transport sector, including aviation.

"The science shows that we need to move much faster," said UNEP leader Erik Solheim. "The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver."

Solheim said increased efforts by governments need to start with the U.N. climate conference being held over the coming two weeks in Marrakech, Morocco.

The 2-degree target is relative to before the industrial revolution, when scientists say humans started altering the climate system by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Temperatures have already gone up by about 1 degree C since then.

In its annual emissions report, UNEP projected that annual emissions cannot exceed 42 billion tons of CO2 by 2030 for the world to have a chance to meet the 2-degree goal. But even with the reductions pledged for the Paris Agreement, emissions are set to reach 54 billion-56 billion tons in 2030, which leaves the world on a path of 2.9 -3.4 degrees C of warming, UNEP said.

Last year was the warmest on record and this year is on track to be even warmer, preliminary analyses show.

Scientists say the buildup of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is raising temperatures by trapping heat in the atmosphere. As a result, glaciers and ice sheets are melting, sea levels are rising and many parts of the world are experiencing more intense heat waves and droughts.

The 2-degree target was established as a threshold to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But the Paris deal also set an aspirational goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), a demand from the most vulnerable countries, such as low-lying island nations that may not survive the sea-level rise associated with 2 degrees of warming.

To have a shot at 1.5 degrees C, the world needs to slash annual emissions by an additional 15 billion-17 billion tons by 2030, the UNEP report said.

Some analysts question whether that's even feasible, given current emissions trends. Global emissions increase every year, reaching 52.7 billion tons in 2014, primarily driven by the rapid expansion of China, India and other Asian economies. China is the world's largest polluter, followed by the United States.

Emissions from fossil fuels — the biggest source of emissions — have stabilized in recent years, but UNEP's report said it's too early to say whether that's a temporary or a permanent change.

This year countries took another step to limit emissions by agreeing to slash the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a powerful greenhouse gas used in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners. UNEP noted that early studies suggest the move could cut 0.5 degrees C of warming if fully implemented.

Low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking
Marlowe Hood AFP Yahoo News 4 Nov 16;

Paris (AFP) - Earth is hurtling deep into the red zone of dangerous global warming, but experts say there are some low cost, effective options for putting on the brakes.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, UN members pledged to cap rising temperatures at less than two degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial era levels.

The big culprit is CO2, the byproduct of fossil fuels that provide the backbone of today's energy supply.

But addressing indirect CO2 emissions -- and warming sources that are not from CO2 -- offer complementary ways of slowing the temperature rise.

"The overarching objective is crystal clear: we need to cut CO2 emissions, and we need to do it as quickly as possible," said Rachel Cleetus at the Washington-based advocacy group, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Here are some of the main options:

- HFCs -

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the poster child of potential "low-hanging fruit" in the carbon cleanup.

These are gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration -- invented, ironically, to replace other gases that had ripped a hole in the ozone layer. And they are viciously effective at trapping solar heat -- one type of HFC is more than 15,000 times more efficient than CO2 in this regard.

An amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol signed by nearly 200 countries last month assures the phase out of HFCs by mid-century, avoiding up to a 0.5C (0.9F) of global warming by 2100.

- Black carbon -

Black carbon –- more commonly known as soot –- consists of dark particles cast off by the inefficient burning of diesel fuel, wood and other biomass such as dung.

Like CO2, soot contributes to warming in the atmosphere.

But it causes far more damage by settling on snow at high altitude and in the Arctic, regions warming twice as fast as the global average.

Pristine snow reflect more than 80 percent of solar radiation back into space. But when blanketed by soot, it absorb heat instead.

Implementing known solutions "could reduce soot by 70 to 80 percent," said Drew Shindell, a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

- Methane leaks -

The second biggest contributor to global warming after CO2 -- methane -- comes mainly from oil and gas production leakage, livestock, and rice paddies.

Global emissions of methane have been rising sharply since 2007, and may be twice as high as previously thought, according to an assessment published last month in Nature.

A large slice of that increase comes from the booming shale gas industry in the United States, said Stefan Schwietzke, a scientist at the UN National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author of the study.

The good news, he told AFP, is that this jump also means greater "potential to reduce climate forcing from this specific source is also greater."

"We have calculated that -– if you put into place all the existing, proven methods to reduce methane and soot -- you could slow the rate of global warming over the next three decades by about half-a-degree Celsius," Shindell noted.

- Agriculture -

Global livestock -- mainly cows and sheep, both gas-passing ruminants -– is probably a larger source of methane than the fossil fuel industry, according to Doug Boucher, a scientist at the UCS.

"There are some technical ways of reducing methane, such as improving feed for cattle," he told AFP. "But the real potential comes from shifting diets away from high-emission foods, especially beef."

Even switching from beef to chicken or pork would have a big impact, reducing emissions by almost the same amount as if all beef-eaters become vegetarians.

But weaning North and South Americans -– by far the biggest consumers of beef -– from hamburgers and T-bone steaks is easier said than done.

"There is a very strong resistance, culturally," Boucher said. "It is considered food-policing."

Another simple target is food waste.

About a third of all food produced in the world is lost during production or consumption, according to the UN, accounting for about eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

- Plant trees -

A different approach to fighting climate change is to enhance the Earth's natural capacity to soak up carbon, a job done mainly by oceans and forests.

Scientists at Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, for example, are mapping the world's land area -– excluding active agricultural and urban landscapes -– that humans have cleared of forests over the centuries.

"We calculate that on the order of 100 to 200 billion tonnes of carbon could be put back onto land," scientist Richard Houghton told AFP, cautioning that the study is not yet complete.

That is roughly equivalent to a dozen years of global CO2 emissions.

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