Pacific corals in 'worrying' state: researchers

Laurence Coustal 6 Sep 17;

A survey of Pacific corals has found many severely bleached, some near-dead, according to marine researchers who warned Wednesday that global warming threatened the precious ecosystem's very survival.

An in-depth probe along a 50,000-kilometre (31,000-mile) stretch of the Pacific found that up to 90 percent of some coral colonies around the Samoan islands had been bleached.

Around the Tuamotu archipelago, up to half of colonies are bleached, according to researchers on board the French research schooner Tara.

Around the islands of Tuvalu and Kiribati, sections of reef were dead by the time the team got there.
Even in more temperate waters to the north, reefs did not escape bleaching, said the team, with up to 70 percent of corals damaged around Okinawa, Japan.

"All along Tara's Pacific route, we observed coral deaths and very serious bleaching," Tara scientific director Serge Planes of the French CNRS research institute told AFP in Paris, where the report was released.

Corals make up less than one percent of Earth's marine environment, but are home to an estimated 25 percent of marine life. They act as nurseries for many species of fish.

Corals are tiny, invertebrate marine creatures that live in colonies and require algae to survive. The algae live on the corals, providing them with food and the bold colours that reefs are known for.

Corals "bleach" when they are stressed by environmental changes—due to ocean warming or pollution. They expel the algae and turn bone-white.

If the harm is not too severe, reefs can recover from a bleaching event, although this can take many years.

Tara departed on its mission from the port of Lorient in northwest France in May last year.


It is about halfway through its mission, having visited 15 countries from east to west.

Wednesday's report was based on analysis of some 15,000 coral samples collected in 2,000 dives, and concluded that global warming is the main culprit.

The data revealed that bleaching events happen much more frequently than in the past, giving reefs less time to recover between bouts, said Planes.

"Clearly, these events are no longer associated with exceptional climate events," as in the past, when there were typically 20-25-year breaks between bleachings caused by such warming phenomena as El Nino.

Also, in sparsely populated areas like Polynesia, with comparatively little ocean pollution, warming is the only explanation for the coral damage, the team said.

"It is worrying," said Planes, adding that the data "throws into question the future of these coral reefs."

Corals are under pressure worldwide.

Earlier this year, researchers said Australia's Great Barrier Reef was experiencing an unprecedented second straight year of bleaching.

Meeting the warming limit set in the 2015 climate-rescue Paris Agreement may not be enough to protect Earth's coral ecosystem, warned the Tara researchers.

Nearly 200 nations agreed under the pact to limit average warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels. A level of about 1C has already been reached.

Fresh warning about Pacific coral bleaching
Radio NZ 7 Sep 17;

French researchers studying Pacific coral reefs have warned that limits proposed in the Paris Agreement won't be enough to save them.

Staghorn corals killed by coral bleaching on Bourke Reef, on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Staghorn corals killed by coral bleaching on Bourke Reef, on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Photo: Greg Torda / ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
The Tara Foundation and France's National Center for Scientific Research have found that in some locations up to 90 percent of coral has been bleached.

In a statement, they said Samoa's islands had been severely impacted but also Kiribati and Tuvalu where some coral had died off.

The research mission, which has visited 15 countries, said on the other hand, the reefs in Wallis and Futuna had been largely spared.

It found that the warmer the water has become the more likely reefs get stressed and bleached.

Reefs account for 0.2 percent of the ocean's area but host about 30 percent of the sea's biodiversity.

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Best of our wild blogs: 7 Sep 17

EVENT: Watching Ants, Bees and Beetles at Windsor Nature Park (16 Sep 2017)
Entomological Network of Singapore

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Offshore rigs for fish farms being developed by Keppel

WONG PEI TING Today Online 7 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE — Could supplying rigs for fish farming feature in Keppel Offshore and Marine’s future?

The rig designer and builder has, in the past year, adapted the structures typically used for the drilling of oil for modern fish farming.

It showcased a prototype of its aquaculture model for the first time yesterday at an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) exhibition.

Developed from October last year in a bid to diversify the group’s offshore technologies, the prototype consists of a semi-submersible — a raised platform above sea level connected to a floating ring pontoon by columns — attached to six hexagonal fish cages.

The cages, which are submerged underwater to minimise sea surface obstruction, can be controlled remotely and raised above sea level to harvest fish or for maintenance or repair.

The platform above water can house hatcheries to supply healthy fish fry, as well as an operations centre to manage a gamut of activities from feeding, cage cleaning and inspection, to tracking the health, diet and growth of the fish.

There could also be a processing plant to fillet, package and chill the fish.

Launching the URA’s Urban Lab exhibition yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon told reporters Keppel’s offshore aquaculture hub is an innovative concept with the potential to “take away the constraints of coastal farming” and “move (fish farming) out into the open sea where you can actually go deeper”.

“Production value can increase as well,” added Dr Koh. The bulk of Singapore’s 125 fish farms are coastal farms; only seven are land-based.

The Norwegians are already converting traditional deep-sea rig platforms — proven to be able to withstand huge waves — for deep-sea salmon farming, said Dr Koh, who recently visited the country on a study trip.

“I think it is good that Singapore companies like Keppel are looking at some of these areas as well, and who knows ... I hope they can work with some of our local farmers to make it a reality for Singapore as well.”

Keppel declined to share more details as the idea is at the preliminary stage.

TODAY understands the offshore aquaculture hub can be customised to support production of anywhere from 200 tonnes of fish to more than 3,000 tonnes. A system the size of a hectare could harvest 1,000 tonnes of fish a year.

Existing offshore fish rigs in Norway are supporting an annual production of about 8,000 tonnes.

Singapore’s fish farms produced 4,851 tonnes of fish last year, or about 10 per cent of total fish consumption.

Fish farmers said such rigs hold the potential to dramatically scale up production but wondered about the costs.

Mr Frank Tan, founder and chief operating officer of Marine Life Aquaculture, said the idea is “very futuristic” and in line with industry needs.

Production levels in his industry “are escalating quite fast” with the adoption of larger sea cages, robotic net washers and fish vaccines, he said.

Mr Tan has contemplated using old tankers stationed offshore to grow annual production from the current 400 tonnes of threadfin, to 5,000 tonnes in four years.

Fish rigs could turn Singapore into a fish exporter, he added.

The enclosures on his farm are 3.5m-deep, and Mr Tan said rearing fish in deeper waters will yield “better quality fish” due to better hydrodynamics.

Cages that extend downwards will also allow more fish to be farmed without occupying a larger surface space.

Mr Timothy Ng, operating manager of 2 Jays farm, which supplies about 10 tonnes of sea bass, snapper and grouper a year, said the model should help farmers produce fish at a cost comparable with current methods.

A system which requires “a lot of investment” by farmers is not sustainable, as smaller farms here are already facing operating costs that are 30 to 40 per cent higher than Malaysia’s, he added.

Fish farmers have been hit by harmful algal blooms in recent years but government efforts are afoot to boost productivity of local farms.

The exhibition, called “Growing More with Less”, will run at the URA Centre atrium until Oct 31.

New wave of high-tech farms aim to grow more with less
Lin Yangchen Straits Times 6 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - Farms in industrial buildings that grow vegetables under precisely controlled conditions, "high-rise" seafood farming, and farms inside offices - these are some of the next-generation farms featured at a new exhibition launched on Wednesday (Sept 6).

Called Growing More With Less, the exhibition at the URA Centre at Maxwell Road highlighted farms that use novel ideas from other industries and harness the latest technologies to grow more produce with less.

The event was organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in collaboration with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and several commercial partners.

On show until Oct 31, it is the fifth in URA's Urban Lab exhibition series, which started in 2015.

Among the displays at the exhibition are a prototype building under construction in Sweden that grows vegetables in offices where people provide carbon dioxide to the plants which give oxygen in return, and a local "high-rise" seafood farming project by Apollo Aquaculture Group that produces six times more than a traditional fish farm here.

Another featured farm is Sustenir, located in a Sembawang industrial building. It features many levels of vegetable-growing spaces, with precisely controlled lighting and other conditions that can grow vegetables in half the time of and with 95 per cent less water than traditional farming. And there are no pests to worry about, too.

Even major corporations are getting into farming - one of the participants in the exhibition is Keppel Offshore and Marine, which showcases a conceptual model of a large floating fish farm modelled after an oil rig.

URA's acting group director of research and development Chiu Wen Tung said this new wave of farming would not only boost production but also create new jobs attractive to young people, as the farms no longer require manual labour but involve working with control systems not much different from a high-tech production facility.

Guests at URA's "Growing More with Less" exhibition

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry, who launched the exhibition, said the world needs to produce an increasing amount of food in an increasingly challenging environment affected by factors such as urbanisation and climate change, and that Singapore is faced with even more challenges like land scarcity and high labour costs.

He added that technologies like those showcased at the exhibition will not only help Singapore boost its food security, but also benefit the rest of the world.

Next-gen farming concepts on show at exhibition
New breed of farms can boost output and also attract young people to industry, says URA
Lin Yangchen Straits Times 7 Sep 17;

Oil rigs can do more than just drill for oil, going by the drawing of a monstrous polygonal floating structure that hatches fish, grows them, and processes and packages them all in one place.

The floating fish farm, being developed by the world's largest oil rig builder, Keppel Offshore and Marine, features extensive automation in the feeding, health-monitoring and cleaning of fish in both underwater and above-water facilities.

Although the design is still at the conceptual stage, it demonstrates how farming, an activity normally associated with manual labour and old-fashioned implements, can be engineered into a highly efficient and productive operation.

It is one of the next-generation farming concepts featured in the "Growing More with Less" exhibition launched yesterday at The URA Centre in Maxwell Road, organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in collaboration with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and a number of commercial partners.

On show until Oct 31, it is the fifth in URA's Urban Lab exhibition series, which started in 2015.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry, who launched the exhibition, said the world needs to produce an increasing amount of food in an increasingly challenging environment affected by factors like urbanisation and climate change. On top of that, Singapore is faced with challenges like land scarcity and high labour costs.

"If our farmers can continue to take bold steps to innovate and push the envelope, Singapore will not only be able to strengthen our own food security, but also contribute to global food security by exporting food and farming technologies to help with other countries' food security needs," he added.

URA's acting group director of research and development Chiu Wen Tung said the new breed of farms would not only boost production but also create new jobs attractive to young people, as they would no longer require manual labour but involve working with control systems not much different from those in a high-tech production facility.

Among the other displays are a local "high-rise" seafood farming project by Apollo Aquaculture Group that produces six times more than a traditional fish farm, and a prototype building under construction in Sweden to grow vegetables in offices whereby people provide carbon dioxide for the plants, which in turn produce oxygen.

Another featured farm is Sustenir Agriculture, located in a Sembawang industrial building. It features many levels of vegetable-growing spaces, with precisely controlled lighting and other conditions that can grow vegetables in half the time of traditional farming, and with 95 per cent less water.

Its kale-growing room smacks of science fiction, with a lurid purple pink glow from the combination of red and blue LED lights optimal for the growth of that crop.

Not too long ago, Sustenir chief executive Benjamin Swan, 36, could not be further from being a farmer. He was an engineer and project manager involved in the development of Marina Bay Sands, and spent a few years helping two major banks in Singapore revamp their banking systems.

But one evening in 2012, he was on the MRT when he read an article posted on Facebook about vertical farming, and it set off a "light bulb".

Mr Swan, an Australian applying for permanent residency here, designed his new farm on the computer that very night, in 3D.

He teamed up with his friend Martin Lavoo, who let his home's basement be used as a research lab.

"Not having an agricultural background allowed us to think out of the box and discover new frontiers," said Mr Swan.

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From iconic playgrounds to famous hawker food, Tampines gets its own heritage trail

The 17th heritage trail launched by the National Heritage Board comprises three different routes that take visitors to places such as watermelon and mangosteen playgrounds at Tampines Central Park and the Lorong Halus Wetlands.
Mayo Martin Channel NewsAsia 6 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: Take a selfie at the iconic watermelon and mangosteen playgrounds at Tampines Central Park. Cycle through the Lorong Halus Wetlands. Stuff yourself silly at one of the famous hawker food stalls at Tampines Round Market.

Tampines residents and visitors can now explore the different sides of the bustling estate, courtesy of a new heritage trail launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Aside from the main trail, which can be followed using an accompanying booklet, there are also three short routes that explore different facets of the bustling estate’s heritage: A town trail, a religious institutions trail, and a “green spaces” cycling trail.

The latter takes one to some unique sites such as a converted quarry, former locations of Tampines’ kampongs, and Lorong Halus wetlands, which was once a landfill.

Named after the Tempinis trees that were once abundant in the area during the 19th century, Tampines was formerly a rural area with farms, kampongs, swamps, and sand quarries.

It was also home to wildlife, as big cats were reportedly sighted in the forested areas of Tampines and Changi. And as recent as 1975, a panther was also spotted by villagers due to wildlife smuggling in the area.

In the 1980s, it slowly transformed into a model town that integrated green corridors into the estate, and became the first centre to bring businesses to the suburbs. In 1992, it was conferred the World Habitat Award.

The new trail is the 17th such heritage trail launched by the NHB. Among the sites included in the trail are the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, the former Golden Palace Holiday Resort, the former Keris Film Studio, Masjid Darul Ghufran, Pasir Ris Park’s mangrove reserve, the temple cluster at Tampines Link, and the Tampines Round Market.

“As with all our heritage trails, we hope that the Tampines Heritage Trail will raise Singaporeans’ awareness of the town’s rich heritage and increase their appreciation of the interesting landmarks found in Tampines,” said Alvin Tan, assistant chief executive (policy and community), NHB.

“In doing so, we hope that the trail will foster a greater sense of belonging amongst residents, and instill a sense of pride in Singaporeans as they learn more about Tampines’ progress and its achievements.”

Aside from going on the trail, heritage enthusiasts can also drop by Tampines Regional Library, which is exhibiting a community heritage gallery that features interviews with long-time residents as well as other historical trivia.

When tigers used to prowl in Tampines
New heritage trail contrasts town's past and present and includes first cycling-based route
Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 7 Sep 17;

It may be hard to imagine now but the concrete jungle of Tampines was a real forest and in the late 1800s, it was the hunting ground for tigers, which would carry off calves from a dairy farm in the area.

Even in the 1970s, the eastern suburb had pockets of woods where wildlife roamed. For instance, the New Nation newspaper in 1975 reported sightings of a panther - described as being the size of a large alsatian dog - stalking the area, eating wild dogs and farm chickens.

The animals and many of the original tempinis trees, after which the district is named, are now gone.

The contrast between old and new is highlighted in a National Heritage Board (NHB) trail of the Tampines estate which was launched yesterday. It is the 17th heritage trail by NHB.

Landmarks along the trail include a cluster of 12 temples in Tampines Link, Tampines Central Park and the Lorong Halus Wetland.

To enrich the trail experience, three bite-sized thematic routes have been curated for trailgoers to explore Tampines' heritage.

These include a first Green Spaces Trail - a cycling trail that takes visitors through scenic landscapes, such as sites where kampungs were once located.

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community, said: "NHB is constantly exploring innovative ways to enrich the public's experience with each new heritage trail.

"The Green Spaces Trail was curated for Tampines because of its well-integrated green spaces and because cycling is a way of life for many of its residents. Through such thematic trails, we hope to encourage the public to explore and experience different aspects of Tampines' heritage according to their own interests."

The Tampines Heritage Trail also aims to celebrate lesser-known stories from the community.

Mr Alex Peck, 50, chairman of Kiew Sian King temple in Tampines Avenue, recalled how the old Tampines Road, built in 1847, was a winding, two-lane road lined with coconut trees and villages. Mr Peck, who grew up in the area, said: "We would harvest the coconuts to sell. The area had many fish ponds and vegetable farms. Our homes had zinc roofs and the walls were made of wooden planks for ventilation. It was very cooling at night."

Sharing about an old row of shophouses in Tampines Avenue which used to be part of the former Hun Yeang Village, Mr Peck said people used to flock there for the exotic cuisine which included fried wild boar and bats. "A man used to operate there till the early 1980s but it was expensive and I couldn't afford such food then. Instead I would eat home-cooked food that was shared among our family of 50 or so at the nearby Defu Village."

NHB's Mr Tan added that Tampines is a town of many firsts.

He noted that it was the first to pioneer town-planning innovations in the 1980s by integrating green corridors, the first regional centre set up to decentralise commercial activities from downtown business area to suburbs and the first and only town in Singapore to be conferred the World Habitat Award in 1991.

WATCH: Explore the Tampines heritage trail

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Indonesia: Jambi land, forest fires continue

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 6 Sep 17;

While the number of hot spots in some areas across Sumatra is declining with the onset of the rainy season, land and forest fires in Jambi continue to break out.

The Jambi administration’s Land and Forest Fire Task Force data shows that fires in the province cover 488 hectares in seven regencies. They comprise Batanghari, Bungo, East Tanjungjabung, Muarojambi, Sarolangun, Tebo and West Tanjungjabung.

One of the task force’s information personnel, Maj. Jasman Bangun, who is also the 042/Garuda Putih Military Command spokesperson, said several fires had been detected in areas across Senyerang district, West Tanjungjabung.

He said the task force was fighting fires in Senyerang using water bombs and through land operations.

“The fire fighting efforts will be continuously conducted until there are no more fires,” said Jasman on Wednesday.

“Two aircraft have carried out 65 water bombings to extinguish the fires. But because of the fires are extensive and on peatland, fire fighting efforts must be continued,” he added.

Jasman said limited equipment and personnel had hampered the efforts. “The fires are on peatland. We must ensure that the fires, which burning far below the soil surface, are fully extinguished,” said Jasman. (efb)

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Indonesia-New Zealand co-chair summit on plastic waste in ocean

Antara 7 Sep 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and New Zealand have co-chaired the East Asia Summit (EAS) to combat plastic waste in the ocean, Indonesias Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

"Our ocean faces a serious problem. Every year, at least 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste are thrown into the ocean. Plastic waste would not only pollute the ocean but also endanger all living things, including humans," the Foreign Affairs Ministrys Director General for ASEAN Cooperation Jose Tavares said in a statement here on Wednesday.

Tavares made his statement at the opening ceremony of the summit held in Bali on Sept 6 and 7.

"Some 80 percent of plastic waste in the ocean came from land sources due to ineffective waste management and unregulated behavior of worlds coastal communities in handling plastic waste," Tavares asserted.

Plastic waste pollution in the ocean would not only create a negative impact on the environment but also cause financial loss due to the declining state revenue from marine sector.

"It is important for the EAS to play an active role. Through this conference, we expect some concrete solutions for the issue of plastic waste in the ocean," he stated.

Indonesia has taken efforts to address the issue of plastic waste, among others, through the establishment of the National Action Plan on Plastic Waste.

The plan is linked to the countrys commitment to reduce Indonesias contribution to plastic waste in the ocean by 70 percent by 2025.

The summit was attended by some 85 representatives of EAS members, including academicians, private sectors, non-governmental organization, and representatives of ASEAN Secretariat.

The conference discussed issues and challenges in managing plastic waste in the ocean and highlighted innovative solution as well as local and national policies, private partnerships, and education to change peoples behavior to actively combat plastic waste.

The Indonesian delegation in the summit has conveyed some approaches taken by the government to combat plastic waste in the ocean, including the issuance of a presidential decree no.16/2017 on Indonesian Maritime Policy and the National Action Plan on Plastic Waste in the Ocean for 2017-2025.

The government has also enforced the policy to convert waste into a source of energy, development of bio-plastic made from cassava and seaweed, and development of garbage banks.
Reported by Yuni Arisandy


Indonesia raises solidarity to tackle plastic pollution at sea
Antara 7 Sep 17;

Kuta, Bali (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government is raising solidarity to jointly tackle marine plastic waste by proposing a regional action plan that countries in Southeast and East Asia can implement.

"We are working on regional cooperation based on a premise that if there is a regional action plan, then other countries will refer to it to make their own plans at the national level," Jose Tavares, Foreign Ministrys director general for ASEAN affairs, noted while delivering an opening speech at the "East Asia Summit Conference on Marine Plastic Debris" in Bali on Wednesday.

During the conference, the Indonesian delegation presented some measures taken to reduce plastic waste at sea based on Presidential Regulation No. 16 of 2017 on Indonesian Marine Policy.

The country has also formulated an action plan to reduce 70 percent of its marine plastic waste by 2025 and a plastic reduction campaign both for the industry and community.

The paid plastic policy that had earlier been applied in 2016 is currently stalled, pending further discussion and negotiations among stakeholders, including the plan to impose excise on plastic products before they enter the market.

A scientific report from the Georgia University estimates that 4.8-12.7 million metric tons of plastic contaminate the oceans. Some 80 percent of the marine plastic waste comes from the mainland due to less-effective waste management and the peoples habit of littering.

For a maritime country, such as Indonesia, the condition can have a major impact on tourism and economic activities, as it has the potential to reduce state revenues.

"Hence, we do hope this conference would bring out shared views on how we can better cooperate to overcome the problem of marine plastic waste that disrupts health, ecosystem, and tourism," Tavares noted.

The "East Asia Summit Conference on Marine Plastic Debris" is organized by Indonesias Foreign Ministry and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs in collaboration with the Government of New Zealand.

New Zealands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Divisional Director of South and Southeast Asia Stephen Harris said his country is eager to tackle plastic pollution at sea that has become a global challenge in the 21st century.

"We are so happy to cooperate with Indonesia and other participating countries at this conference to together find a collective solution to the problem of plastic waste," he noted.

Attended by 85 delegations of government representatives, non-governmental organizations, and academics from 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, South Korea, China, and the US, the two-day conference also highlights innovative solutions, local and national policies, as well as private and public partnerships to educate the people to reduce marine plastic waste.(*)

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What banks do to tackle climate change matters, as the Asia-Pacific braces for the worst

Helena Wright says with Asia and the Pacific facing a huge threat from the costs of global warming, the ADB’s new green framework is timely, and regional banks, including those from China, need to follow its lead
Helena Wright South China Morning Post 6 Sep 17;

What the ADB does matters. It is the regional development bank for Asia and the Pacific, with operations of over US$30 billion last year, and it recognises the huge threat climate change poses to this vast region.

Most of Asia’s economic centres are located on coastlines, and the Asia-Pacific has the largest number of climate-vulnerable people worldwide. By 2050, more than 1.6 billion people in the region are expected to be at risk of cyclones, which are set to become more intense.
Other climate impacts include heat waves, rising sea levels and changes to rainfall patterns, with effects on health, agriculture and migration. At just 2 degrees of warming, the world’s coral reefs would be wiped out, with disastrous impacts for the world’s fish stocks.
Making cities climate change resilient

The ADB will, for the first time, commit to measuring and monitoring carbon emissions, finally catching up with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ADB will also reduce its emissions over its portfolio, a new approach that is already best practice among many international companies, from Coca-Cola to Sony. While the ADB has been slow to lay out these plans, it is a good first step.

Another important improvement is that the ADB is now going to support member countries in implementing their pledges under the Paris climate accord. This will mean the bank is better positioned to provide expert advice to countries, and might also mean that staff at the ADB will require further training. By contrast, the World Bank – often a competitor to the ADB – has yet to set out how it will do this, although it has committed to do so.

East Asian countries paying price of climate change, ADB says

Decisions made in Asia today are critical to maintaining a safe global climate. Phasing out coal is essential to achieving climate goals, yet our analysis shows that Asia has more coal-fired power plants under construction and development than any other region.

Shifting from a high-carbon to clean-energy future will be critical to achieving the goal of the Paris agreement, to stay below 2 degrees of global warming. Investment decisions must factor in the true economic costs of coal plants – both in terms of toxic air pollution and the rising costs of disasters.

ADB has said it will continue to help member countries understand the economics of climate change. For example, if the world were to stay on the current fossil-fuel-intensive growth model, total climate change costs in the Pacific alone are estimated to reach the equivalent of 12.7 per cent of annual GDP by 2100. Losses can be minimised only by reducing emissions.

Climate change: the coming storm

In 2015, Takehiko Nakao, the ADB president, announced that the bank would double its annual climate financing to US$6 billion by 2020, with specific opportunities for renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport and urban development. ADB has shown progress, with estimates of its own climate finance reaching a record US$3.7 billion last year.

One area the ADB is falling behind on is clean energy investments

However, one area the bank is falling behind on is clean energy investments. As E3G noted earlier this year, ADB’s targets are not ambitious on this when compared with regional trends.

China is a global leader on renewable energy, and is also exporting clean technologies internationally. In India, solar power is a fast-growing industry, with solar capacity quadrupling in the past three years.

Despite this regional progress, ADB’s clean energy investment has remained constant over the past few years. If the bank wishes to improve its offer on climate change, it should seek to improve its ambition on clean energy to align with regional progress.

What does this mean for other banks?

Other regional and national banks would do well to look towards the progress made in reforming the ADB. A major issue for the region is that coal-fired plants are being supported by public funding from several Chinese banks, such as China Development Bank, found to be the biggest development bank lending to coal projects. The biggest financers of coal projects last year were all institutions from China, Japan and Korea. This is not in line with a pathway towards a safe climate.

Critically, China’s leadership must stop supporting public subsidies that are going to fossil fuels abroad, otherwise the country will be complicit in funding a global pathway towards devastating climate impacts.

China is already working to reduce coal emissions domestically, and needs to ensure that it does not contradict that effort by exporting the coal problem to emerging economies. The reforms in international financial institutions such as the ADB and IDB could be helpful in marking a better way forward for China’s banks.

A new regional financial institution, the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), earlier this year approved a new energy policy and its leadership has pledged it will be a “lean, green and clean” investor. Can the AIIB also take lessons from the changes at the ADB?

Dr Helena Wright is senior policy adviser at the global climate change think tank E3G

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We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health?

New studies reveal that tiny plastic fibres are everywhere, not just in our oceans but on land too. Now we urgently need to find out how they enter our food, air and tap water and what the effects are on all of us
Damian Carrington The Guardian 6 Sep 17;

Sometimes a single revelation opens our eyes to a whole new view of the world. The contamination of tap water around the world with microplastics, exposed on Wednesday in the Guardian, unmasks Earth as a planet pervasively polluted with plastic.

What that means for the seven billion people who live on it, no one yet knows. All the experts can agree on is that, given the warning signs being given by life in the oceans, the need to find out is urgent.

We knew the oceans were awash with plastic. Brightly coloured and often floating, the debris from consumer society formed colossal, ugly swirls in the seas and littered even the remotest beaches from the Arctic to the deep Pacific.

But the wholesale pollution of the land was hidden. Tap water is gathered from hills, rivers, lakes and wells, sampling the environment as it goes. It turns out that tiny fibres of plastic are everywhere.

Perhaps it should not really be a surprise. Plastic is a fantastic material, flexible and – unless burned – essentially indestructible. It is so useful that it now makes up about half of all human-related waste. But while humanity has realised its benefits it has yet to realise the cost: apart from the small proportion incinerated, “the vast majority of plastic ever made is still present in the environment in some form”, according a recent scientific review. That’s more than eight billion tonnes.

The review was able to summarise what is known about the scale of microplastic contamination on land in a few words: “There is a dearth of studies.” But the tap water revelation has drawn attention to disparate pilot studies that were hinting at ubiquitous plastic pollution. All the German bottled beer tested in one lab contained microplastic, as did sugar and honey samples.

We appear to be drinking and probably eating microplastics all the time. Does it matter? No-one knows, but the research on marine plastic contamination raises cause for concern. Marine creatures that consume microplastics can be harmed by them and not just by physical obstruction.

Plastics often contain a wide range of chemicals to change their properties or colour and many of these are toxic or hormone disruptors. Plastics can attract other pollutants too, including dioxins, metals and some pesticides.

Microplastics have also been shown to attract microbial pathogens. The conditions in animal guts are also known to enhance the release of pollutants from plastics. “Further,” as the review puts is, “there is evidence that particles may even cross the gut wall and be translocated to other body tissues, with unknown consequences”.

Does any of this affect people? The only land animals in which the consumption of microplastic has been closely studied are two species of earthworm and a nematode.

Another huge unanswered question is how microplastics get into our water and food. A report from the UK’s Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management says the biggest proportion are fibres shed by synthetic textiles and tyre dust from roads, with more from the breakdown of waste plastics. It suggests the plastic being dumped on land in Europe alone each year is between four and 23 times the amount dumped into all the world’s oceans.

A lot of the microplastic debris is washed into wastewater treatment plants, where the filtering process does capture many of the plastic fragments. But about half the resulting sludge is ploughed back on to farmland across Europe and the US, according to recent research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. That study estimates that up to 430,000 tonnes of microplastics could be being added to European fields each year, and 300,000 tonnes in North America.

“It is striking that transfers of microplastics – and the hazardous substances bound to them – from urban wastewater to farmland has not previously been considered by scientists and regulators,” the scientists concluded. “This calls for urgent investigation if we are to safeguard food production,” they say in a related publication.

Cities also appear prone to the extensive pollution. Another recent study, again the first to shed light on the topic, revealed a rain of microplastics falling on Paris from the air, dumping between three and 10 tonnes a year on the city. The same team found microplastics in an apartment and hotel room. A leading scientist, citing this work, says we are likely to be breathing microplastics.

Like so many environmental problems – climate change, pesticides, air pollution – the impacts only become clear years after damage has been done. If we are lucky, the plastic planet we have created will not turn out to be too toxic to life. If not, cleaning it up will be a mighty task. Dealing properly with all waste plastic will be tricky: stopping the unintentional loss of microplastics from clothes and roads even more so.

But above all we need to know if we are all drinking, eating and breathing microplastic every day and what that is doing to us, and we need to know urgently.

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