Best of our wild blogs: 3 Nov 17

What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

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Singapore looking to ratify Unesco cultural heritage convention: Grace Fu

Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 2 Nov 17;

PARIS - To protect its unique cultural heritage, Singapore is looking into ratifying a 2003 convention by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Wednesday (Nov 1).

The Unesco convention aims to safeguard aspects of such intangible heritage including the performing arts, cultural rituals and traditional crafts.

By ratifying the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage , Singapore will have to hold to the requirements of the convention to preserve its own cultural heritage, and in turn will receive support from the UN and other countries in these efforts.

Singapore is committed to making constructive contributions to help advance Unesco's agenda, said Ms Fu, who is also chairman of the Singapore National Commission for Unesco, at the 39th session of the general conference of Unesco at its headquarters in Paris.

She pointed to milestones such as the recognition of the Botanic Gardens as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015 and the National Parks Board receiving the Unesco Sultan Qaboos Prize last month for its contributions to environmental preservation.

"During conversations with many Singaporeans, I am heartened by the strong collective desire for our intangible cultural heritage to be safeguarded for future generations, especially during such times of rapid socio-economic changes and global uncertainty," said Ms Fu.

She said the Republic was drawing up a "comprehensive national blueprint" for Singapore's heritage sector which would include a repository for its intangible cultural heritage in partnership with local communities, academics and experts.

The heritage plan, announced in March this year, aims to preserve and document the country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage, in areas such as traditional Chinese puppetry, and Hindu firewalking.

The heritage plan will be unveiled by the National Heritage Board next year.

Ms Fu said Singapore will step up efforts in the area of preserving its intangible cultural heritage, and added she hoped Unesco would support the Republic's efforts by "exchanging experiences, knowledge and ideas".

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46 turtles hatch after surviving monitor lizard attack at southern islands

Channel NewsAsia 2 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Forty-six turtle hatchlings emerged from a nest at one of Singapore's southern islands on Wednesday (Nov 1), the National Parks Board (NParks) said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Without naming the island, the agency said that a volunteer discovered a monitor lizard feeding on the turtle eggs on Sept 8. With the help of Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the nest was safeguarded until the eggs were ready to hatch.

Fifty-four days later, 46 baby turtles hatched. The NParks team took down their vital statistics and with the help of SLA, members of the Turtle Working Group, and the Tropical Marine Science Institute, the turtles were "released in a suitable location".

"We wish these hatchlings all the best and hope to see them back on our shores again someday," NParks said.

NParks also recommended anyone who comes across a nesting turtle to call the agency at 1800 471 7300 and to keep a distance from the turtle and eggs.

"Talk softly and stay out of sight. Do not shine lights at the turtle or use flash photography. Light and noise may scare the turtle, and cause it to leave without laying any eggs," NParks said.

It's at least the third time the sea animals have been sighted in Singapore in recent months.

On Aug 23, a hawksbill turtle was spotted laying eggs at East Coast Park while hatchlings were seen trying to make their way to the sea from the beach just a week before that.
Source: CNA/kc

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Man jailed for illegal possession of seven exotic wildlife species

ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 2 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE – A 42-year-old man has been jailed for 23 days over the possession and keeping of illegal wildlife, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said on Thursday (Nov 2).

As Lau Kin Wei Clement was unable to pay a fine of S$4,700 that was imposed, he was sentenced to 23 days in jail by default.

Lau was found to have kept seven illegal species, including two wagler’s pit vipers, a paradise tree snake, a painted bronzeback snake, a common snapping turtle, an alligator snapping turtle and a giant black scorpion.

The AVA said that it had investigated a feedback on November 16, 2016 regarding alleged keeping of illegal wildlife by Lau. The authorities conducted a raid at his residence, where they uncovered and confiscated the wildlife.

The animals are currently under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

In a media release, the AVA said that the keeping of wild animals such as scorpions, snakes and turtles are not allowed in Singapore, and that the demand for such animals would also fuel illegal wildlife trade, which severely impacts the wild populations of numerous species.

“Wild animals are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled, or if they escape into our dense urban environment,” said the AVA.

“In this case, the species seized can inflict painful bites and some are venomous.”

The wagler’s pit viper for instance, while generally not considered to be aggressive, contains venom that could potentially be deadly to humans. Victims of the snake’s bite may also experience a strong burning sensation upon envenomation as well necrosis – or death – of tissues surrounding the bite.

In addition, the AVA noted that wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may be a threat to the country’s biodiversity

The AVA also said that it is an offence to possess any illegal wildlife species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (CITES).

The alligator snapping turtle is an example of a CITES-protected species and Lau could have been fined up to S$500,000 and/or jailed for two years. The animal would also be forfeited.

In addition, he could have been liable to a fine not exceeding S$1,000 and to the forfeiture of the wild animal not protected by CITES, including the pair of wagler’s pit vipers and the common snapping turtle.

A said that while it continues to ensure that regulatory measures against illegal import and export, possession of live animals and wildlife are in place and enforced, members of the public could do their part if they have information on such illicit activities.

Those with information can contact the AVA at 6805 2992 or via AVA’s online feedback form.

Man fined for illegally keeping wildlife including venomous snakes, scorpion at home
Channel NewsAsia 2 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: A 42-year-old man was fined S$4,700 on Thursday (Nov 2) for possessing and keeping wildlife including venomous snakes and a scorpion in his home.

Clement Lau Kin Wei did not pay the fine and was jailed 23 days in default, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a press release.

AVA raided Lau's house on Nov 16 last year after receiving feedback on him allegedly keeping illegal wildlife.

It confiscated seven illegal animals: Two Wagler's pit vipers - a venomous species, a paradise tree snake, a painted bronzeback snake, a common snapping turtle, an alligator snapping turtle and a giant black scorpion. The animals are currently in the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, AVA said.

It is illegal to keep wild animals such as scorpions, snakes and turtles in Singapore.

AVA said such animals are not suitable pets as some may infect humans with diseases and can be a public safety risk if mishandled, or if they escape into the urban environment.

The authority added that some of the species seized in this case can inflict painful bites and some are venomous.

In addition, wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may be a threat to the country's biodiversity if released into the environment and demand for such animals would fuel an illegal wildlife trade, which "severely impacts" the wild populations of numerous species, AVA said.

For animals protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (CITES) - such as the alligator snapping turtle - offenders face a fine of up to S$500,000 and up to two years in jail.

Those who keep wild animals which are not endangered may be punished with a fine of up to S$1,000.

Members of the public with information on the illegal import and export or possession of live animals and wildlife can contact AVA at +65 6805 2992.
Source: CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Proposal to have environmental education subject in schools finalised - Environment Ministry

AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 2 Nov 17;

PUTRAJAYA: The proposal to have environmental education as a subject in schools has been finalised.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar today said he was ready to discuss the proposal with the Education Minister.

He said top officials from his ministry and the Education Ministry have been discussing the proposal for months and those in the discussions were receptive to the idea of having such a subject.

"Once I get the report from the deputy secretary-general, who headed the ministry in the talks with the Education Ministry, discussions between the Education Minister and I can start.

"And, I can get the report within the next two to three days," he told reporters after the 2050 National Transformation (TN50) dialogue session at the ministry level.

Wan Junaidi said many things had to be taken into account before the subject on environment could be introduced in kindergartens and schools.

Having enough teachers who were equipped to teach the subject was one of the things that had to be looked into especially by the Education Ministry, he added.

"This is why, it is too early to set a deadline as to when the subject should be implemented," he said, adding that the idea to have a dedicated subject on environment studies for school children was mooted late last year.

The proposal, he said, would be tabled before the Cabinet for its approval, tentatively next year.

He also added that it was far too soon to decide if it would be an examinable subject or a compulsory non-examinable subject.

"The Education Ministry will have to evaluate this."

Wan Junaidi was reported as saying in September that the subject would help address issues such as environmental pollution and stress on the importance of sustainable development.

He is of the idea that environmental awareness should begin from an early age and as a subject in school, it would be a big step forward.

On the ministry's TN50 aspirations, Wan Junaidi said the ministry will focus on three key areas – clean air, clean water and clean environment.

To achieve these three aspirations, he said certain changes have to be made including reviewing the existing laws and frameworks.

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Indonesia: BRG Says Progress on Peatland Restoration Behind Target

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 2 Nov 17;

Jakarta. Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency, or BRG, is still far behind their target of restoring 2.4 million hectares of peatland in seven provinces — Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua — by 2020 due to the limited rights it has to restore peatlands within concession areas, an official at the agency said.

Budi S. Wardhana, deputy of planning and cooperation at BRG, said the agency has restored at least 200,000 hectares of degraded peatland in those provinces since it was founded in January 2016.

The agency has set a target of 1 million hectares of restored peatland by this year.

"We're still far away from our target. Because we can’t directly restore peatland in areas controlled by industrial forest concession holders," Budi said in Jakarta on Tuesday (31/10).

Budi said only licensors have the right to demand concession holders to restore degraded peatlands.

The agency will launch legal proceedings against concession holders in a bid to restore the degraded peatlands, he said.

"We can base the legal proceedings on our environmental law and forestry law, especially for those who hold permits to use peatland areas for production," Budi said.

"Concession holders carry land use permits, so they must be responsible to restore degraded peatlands in their concession areas," Budi said.

BRG — led by Nazir Foead, a former conservationist with the World Wide Fund (WWF) — was established by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in January last year to protect Indonesia's peatland ecosystems that are being threatened by yearly peatland fires.

Preventing Land Fire, Gov’t Sets IDR152 Billion Budget on Peatlands Restoration
Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) utilizes IDR152 billion for various preventive actions on land fire and economic revitalization.
NetralNews 2 Nov 17;

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) utilizes IDR152 billion or 36 percent of the total 2017 budget to finance various preventive actions on land fire and economic revitalization.

"Of that amount, IDR117 billion is used for wetting infrastructure and economic revitalization activities and IDR35 billion is used for institutional strengthening, capacity and empowerment," said Deputy for Education, Socialization, Partnership and Partnership of BRG Myrna Safitri in Jakarta, Wednesday (11/1/2017).

BRG has been working with communities, civil society groups, and local governments to restore peatlands in seven targeted restoration provinces: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua.

Myrna said together with community groups, BRG has built wetting infrastructure such as canal channels and boreholes in dozens of villages.

In addition, BRG also conducts non-fuel land management trials, development of local commodities, fishery business development, livestock breeding and honey bee cultivation.

Through the Villages for Peatlands Program, BRG supports efforts to improve the welfare of communities and raise participation in peatlands restoration in 75 villages and sub-districts in Sumatra, Papua and Kalimantan.

There are 13 types of activities in Villages for Peatlands Program, such as social mapping and community managed peatland mapping, peatland rural formations, facilitating Village Owned Enterprises (BUMDes) development, legal empowerment through mediators and paralegals of peatland villages, facilitating access to social forestry and agrarian reform.

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Indonesia: New species of orangutan discovered in Sumatra – and is already endangered

Scientists identify new species of great ape, Pongo tapanuliensis or Tapanuli orangutan, but fear its survival is already in doubt as habitat under threat
Nicola Davis The Guardian 2 Nov 17;

A new species of great ape has been discovered, according to scientists studying a small population of orangutans in northern Sumatra.

Among the great apes – a group that also includes humans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos – orangutans are our most distant relative. Since 2001, two distinct species have been recognised: the Bornean (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatran (Pongo abelii) orangutans. Now, it seems, there is a third.

“It is incredibly exciting to describe a new species of ape,” said Serge Wich, professor in primate biology at Liverpool John Moores University and a co-author of the research. Wich also noted that it was a shock to find such a distinct population given Sumatran orangutans are found just 100km away.

But how long the new species will survive is a moot point: fewer than 800 individuals are thought to exist across a 1,000km2 area, making it the great ape species with the lowest head-count, with threats including illegal trade and habitat loss.

“It is worrying that this species is under so much threat – we have hunting in the area, there is a gold mine [and] there is a hydroelectric plant planned in an area where we find a very high density of the new species,” said Wich.

The new species has been dubbed the Tapanuli orangutan, or Pongo tapanuliensis, after the area spanned by the Batang Toru ecosystem south of Lake Toba in northern Sumatra, where the creatures live.

While it had been reported in the late 1930s that there were orangutans in the area, it wasn’t until 1997 that scientists rediscovered the population and later began studying the animals.

“I was surprised about the extent to which the Tapanuli orangutans differed genetically, morphologically as well as behaviourally from the Sumatran and Bornean orangutans,” said Dr Marina Davila-Ross, another co-author of the study, from the University of Portsmouth.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, an international team of researchers describe multiple characteristics they say indicate the Tapanuli orangutans are a distinct species.

Among the evidence, the team report how they seized the opportunity to examine the remains of an adult male Tapanuli orangutan after it was killed by villagers in November 2013.

The team compared the skull and jaws to those of 33 other adult male orangutans, held in the collections of 10 institutions around the world, revealing differences in numerous metrics – including that the skull of the Tapanuli male is smaller than that of individuals of the other two species.

The authors also looked at the characteristics of living individuals, noting that the long booming calls of the Tapanuli males differ from those of the two other known species and that the creatures have more cinnamon-coloured pelts than Bornean orangutans, with a frizzier texture – particularly when compared to the loose locks of Sumatran orangutans. The team also made note of the facial hair of the Tapanuli orangutans, pointing out that dominant males have prominent moustaches, and the females sport beards.

The researchers also carried out an analysis of the entire genomes of 37 orangutans from across Borneo and Sumatra, allowing them to unpick the animals’ evolutionary “family tree”.

The results suggest that orangutans north of Lake Toba branched off about 3.4m years ago from the more southerly population of ancestral orangutans that first arrived from mainland Asia, giving rise to the Sumatran species. A further split from the population south of Lake Toba occurred about 674,000 years ago, giving rise to the Bornean orangutans as well as the newly discovered species that, like its ancestors, live south of Lake Toba.

“The new species represents the most ancestral line of living orangutans,” said Wich.

The revelations, the team add, have also solved a mystery.

Previous research had found that a type of DNA which is passed down only by mothers, known as mitochondrial DNA, is more similar between Bornean and Tapanuli orangutans, but nuclear DNA – which includes genes from both parents – is more similar between Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans.

The new study reveals that even after the split between orangutans north and south of Lake Toba, the animals continued to interbreed – likely a result of roving males – resulting in mixing of the nuclear DNA. This was curtailed about 100,000 years ago – a date close to the supervolcanic eruption at Lake Toba – and stopped altogether between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago. Crucially, since the females stayed put, so too did the mitochondrial DNA.

William Amos, professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in the study, said it was difficult to be exact when it came to the timings of splits in the evolutionary family tree, but that the evidence for a new species stacked up. “I’m entirely happy that this is at a level where we would recognise [the Tapanuli orangutans] as a different species or at least a subspecies,” he said. “This is clearly a really different population.”

Dr Andrew Marshallof University of York, said that the study highlighted the importance of conservation, and added that there might even be further species of great ape to be discovered.

But Professor Volker Sommer from University College London was less bowled over, pointing out that there is no clear criteria for what constitutes a new species. “Any bunch of expertised biologists can invent a new species, if they get their arguments together,” he said.

New great ape species identified in Indonesia
Victoria Gill BBC News 2 Nov 17;

Scientists who have been puzzling for years over the genetic "peculiarity" of a tiny population of orangutans in Sumatra have finally concluded that they are a new species to science.

The apes in question were only reported to exist after an expedition into the remote mountain forests there in 1997.
Since then, a research project has unpicked their biological secret.

The species has been named the Tapanuli orangutan - a third species in addition to the Bornean and Sumatran.

It is the first new great ape to be described for almost a century.

Publishing their work in the journal Current Biology, the team - including researchers from the University of Zurich, Liverpool John Moores University and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme - pointed out that there are only 800 individuals remaining, making this one of the world's most threatened ape species.

Early on in their study, researchers took DNA from the orangutans, which showed them to be "peculiar" compared to other orangutans in Sumatra.

So the scientists embarked on a painstaking investigation - reconstructing the animals' evolutionary history through their genetic code.

One of the lead researchers, Prof Michael Krützen from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, explained to BBC News: "The genomic analysis really allows us to look in detail at the history.

"We can probe deep back in time and ask, 'when did these populations split off?'."

The analysis of a total 37 complete orangutan genomes - the code for the biological make-up of each animal - has now shown that these apes separated from their Bornean relatives less than 700,000 years ago - a snip in evolutionary time.

Head to head

For his part in the study, Prof Serge Wich, from Liverpool John Moores University, focused on the orangutans' signature calls - loud sounds the male apes make to announce their presence.

"Those calls can carry a kilometre through the forest," Prof Wich explained.

"If you look at these calls, you can tease them apart, and we found some subtle differences between these and other populations."

The final piece of the puzzle, though, was very subtle but consistent differences in the shape of the Sumatran, Bornean and Tapanuli orangutan skulls.

Prof Wich told BBC News that the decades of collaborative genetic, anatomical and acoustic studies had achieved an "amazing breakthrough".

"There are only seven great ape species - not including us," he said. "So adding one to that very small list is spectacular.

"It's something I think many biologists dream of."

New and disappearing

But this newly described great ape will be added to the list of Critically Endangered species, just as it is added to the zoological textbooks.

"It's very worrying," said Prof Wich, "to discover something new and then immediately also realise that we have to focus all of our efforts before we lose it."

Newly discovered orangutan species is most endangered great ape: study
AFP 2 Nov 17;

A new species of orangutan has been discovered in the remote jungles of Indonesia, immediately becoming the world's most endangered great ape, researchers said Thursday.

"It's the first declaration of a new great ape species in about 100 years," Ian Singleton, co-author of the study and director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, told AFP.

The species, called 'Tapanuli orangutan', lives in the Batang Toru forest on Sumatra island, and numbers only about 800 in total, making it the most endangered great ape in the world, Singleton added.

Until recently, scientists thought there were only two genetically distinct types of orangutan, Bornean and Sumatran.

But in 1997 researchers at the Australian National University discovered an isolated population of the great apes in Batang Toru, south of the known habitat for Sumatran orangutans, and scientists began to study the group to see if it was a unique species.

Researchers studied the DNA, skulls and teeth of 33 orangutans killed in human-animal conflict before concluding that they had indeed discovered a new species, giving it the scientific name Pongo tapanuliensis.

Outwardly the Tapanuli orangutan bears a closer resemblance to its Bornean counterpart, with cinnamon-coloured fur that is frizzier than its Sumatran relative. It also has a "prominent moustache", according to the findings published in the journal Current Biology.

Its skull and bone structure are slightly different from its relatives and so is its behaviour, with the long calls of male orangutans lasting on average 21 seconds longer with a greater number of pulses.

Scientists believe the three types of orangutans share a common ancestor but began to diverge into different species about 3.4 million years ago.

"The Batang Toru orangutans appear to be direct descendants of the initial orangutans that had migrated from mainland Asia, and thus constitute the oldest evolutionary line within the genus Pongo," said co-author Alexander Nater of the University of Zurich.

The Tapanuli orangutan species became isolated from its Sumatran relatives about 10-20,000 years ago, Nater added, eventually settling in the Batang Toru forest.

But its tiny population is under severe threat from mining, agricultural encroachment, illegal logging and a proposed hydroelectric dam, which would flood up to eight percent of its habitat.

The authors of the study said conservation measures need to be urgently implemented.

"Orangutans reproduce extremely slowly, and if more than one percent of the population is lost annually this will spiral them to extinction," co-author Serge Wich, professor at Liverpool John Moores University, said.

Both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Sumatran orangutan population is estimated to be just under 15,000, while about 54,000 orangutans are thought to live in Borneo, according to the IUCN.

Rampant logging and the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations have been blamed for destroying their jungle habitat. The primates have also been attacked by villagers who view them as pests and targeted by poachers to be sold as pets.

Sabah-based researcher among scientists who identified new orangutan species
ruben sario The Star 2 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah-based wildlife researcher was among a team of international scientists who have helped identify a new orangutan species.

Dr Benoit Goossens, director of NGO research outfit Danau Girang Field Centre, was among wildlife experts involved in the discovery of the Pongo tapanuliensis or Tapanuli orangutan found at three Tapanuli districts in northern Sumatra.

The new species was found after detailed analysis of the orangutan inhabitants of the 150,000ha Batang Toru Ecosystem conservation area on the Indonesian island.

Among those in the international team were researchers from the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University where Dr Goossens is a Reader.

However, it was not until 2013 that the researchers received the skeleton of an adult male orangutan that was killed during conflict, and they realised there were significant physical and genetic differences in these apes.

“By comparing the skull to other orangutan, it was clear that this skull showed dramatic differences,” he said.

This suggested that the Batang Toru population was potentially unique, and the international team led by Professor Michael Krützen at the University of Zürich worked together to gather further evidence.

Part of their work involved completing the largest genomic study of wild orangutan in history.

Prof Krützen said they then realised that the Batang Toru orangutan was morphologically different from other orangutan.

“The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The oldest evolutionary line in the genus Pongo is actually found in Batang Toru orangutan, which appears to be a direct descendant of the first Sumatran population in the Sunda archipelago,” he said.

Computer modelling reconstructed the population history of the three orangutan species, revealing that the Batang Toru apes have been isolated for 10,000 to 20,000 years.

Cardiff University lecturer Pablo Orozco-ter Wengel said the divergence between the Tapanuli orangutan and the other two orangutan species came as a surprise.

“It pushed the divergence between these species to as far as three million years ago, with the South of Toba orangutan being more similar to the Bornean orangutan, than to the North of Toba orangutan,” he said.

With no more than 800 individuals, the new species of orangutan is now considered the most endangered species of great ape on the planet.

“It’s exciting to describe a new great ape species in the 21st century – however, with such low numbers of the Batang Toru orangutan, it is vital that we now work to protect them,” Dr Goossens said.

“Mining, hunting, deforestation and human encroachment all risk the lives of these great apes. It is crucial that we work to conserve the forest, because if we do not take the steps needed to protect the Tapanuli orangutan, we could see their discovery and extinction within our lifetime,” he added.

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Huge private sector investment puts Paris climate target in reach, says report

Global investment could hold the key to fighting climate change, with one trillion dollars already invested in solutions such as renewables and energy efficiency, says International Finance Corporation
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 2 Nov 17;

At least one trillion dollars are being invested globally in ways to reduce the threat of climate change, including renewable power, energy efficiency, and public transport around the world.

The sums involved are likely to make it possible in future for the world’s governments to meet their commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change, provided the investment continues and is directed to the right ends, according to a new report.

The World Bank Group’s subsidiary, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), said on Thursday that the investment could hold the key to fighting climate change. Governments will meet in Bonn next week to discuss the next steps in implementing their pledges made at the 2015 Paris conference on climate change.

Philippe Le Houérou, chief executive of the IFC, said: “The private sector holds the key to fighting climate change. We can help unlock more private sector investment, but this also requires government reforms as well as innovative business models, which together will create new markets and attract the necessary investment. This can fulfil the promises of Paris.”

The IFC report, entitled Creating Markets for Climate Business, found that governments could work with businesses by fostering renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. For instance, IFC provided $653m (£492m) in debt financing to fund the construction of 13 solar plants near Aswan, in Egypt. Such financing can result in lower electricity costs for local people, as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and cutting down on air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

People in developing countries can also benefit from renewable energy installations, such as solar panels and wind turbines, that provide local power, removing the need for them to be connected to a national electricity grid to receive power – a distant dream in some countries, where the national grid is under-developed or prone to breakdown. The availability of power generated locally has multiple benefits, including safety and education, as it enables emissions-free light and power late into the night, instead of people being forced to rely on expensive and polluting kerosene burners.

The authors of the report estimated that investments in energy storage and off-grid solar of $23bn a year could be possible by 2025, if national governments favour renewable energy over fossil fuels.

However, in many countries, developed and developing, fossil fuel companies have the incumbent advantage, and in some cases policies have been developed to suit them. The International Energy Agency estimated fossil fuel subsidies at $325bn a year in 2016.

Making buildings more energy efficient could also reduce carbon emissions dramatically, according to the IFC report, but only if countries adopt better building codes and higher standards. Public transport is another area ripe for investment, which could yield billions of dollars in greater efficiency, and improve the quality of lives of people around the globe, but which has been held back by poor government involvement.

Christian Aid, the development charity, called on the World Bank Group to stop lending to fossil fuel projects. Funding by the group’s members for fossil fuel projects has increased to $4.7bn in 2016, according to the charity.

Fran Witt, senior climate change adviser at Christian Aid, said: “Despite aiming to champion clean energy, the World Bank Group actually continues to finance large volumes of dirty energy projects, which are driving climate change around the world. It is staggering that even after the Paris agreement the group is still investing most of its energy portfolio in dirty energy.”

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Climate change 'will create world's biggest refugee crisis'

Experts warn refugees could number tens of millions in the next decade, and call for a new legal framework to protect the most vulnerable
Matthew Taylor The Guardian 2 Nov 17;

Tens of millions of people will be forced from their homes by climate change in the next decade, creating the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to a new report.

Senior US military and security experts have told the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) study that the number of climate refugees will dwarf those that have fled the Syrian conflict, bringing huge challenges to Europe.

“If Europe thinks they have a problem with migration today … wait 20 years,” said retired US military corps brigadier general Stephen Cheney. “See what happens when climate change drives people out of Africa – the Sahel [sub-Saharan area] especially – and we’re talking now not just one or two million, but 10 or 20 [million]. They are not going to south Africa, they are going across the Mediterranean.”

The study published on Thursday calls on governments to agree a new legal framework to protect climate refugees and, ahead of next week’s climate summit in Germany, urges leaders to do more to implement the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, told the EJF: “What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.”

The report argues that climate change played a part in the build up to the Syrian war, with successive droughts causing 1.5 million people to migrate to the country’s cities between 2006 and 2011. Many of these people then had no reliable access to food, water or jobs.

“Climate change is the the unpredictable ingredient that, when added to existing social, economic and political tensions, has the potential to ignite violence and conflict with disastrous consequences,” said EJF executive director, Steve Trent.

“In our rapidly changing world climate change – and its potential to trigger both violent conflict and mass migration – needs to be considered as an urgent priority for policymakers and business leaders alike.”

Although the report highlights to growing impact of climate change on people in the Middle East and Africa, it says changing weather patterns – like the hurricanes that devastated parts of the US this year – prove richer nations are not immune from climate change.

But Trent said that although climate change undoubtedly posed an “existential threat to our world” it was not to late to take decisive action.

“By taking strong ambitious steps now to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and building an international legal mechanism to protect climate refugees we will protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our global society, build resilience, reap massive economic benefits and build a safe and secure future for our planet. Climate change will not wait. Neither can we. For climate refugees, tomorrow is too late.”

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