Best of our wild blogs: 6 Nov 17

Chek Jawa survey with scum on the water
wild shores of singapore

Singapore’s under-rated reefs
Hantu Blog

Wendy Wu Tours – Ethical Wildlife Sanctuaries in Southeast Asia Blog feature, 10 Oct 2017
The Dorsal Effect

“Inspiring a love for nature” – NUS News features NUS Toddycats Theresa Su and Ong Say Lin [10 Oct 2017]

Puff-faced Water Snake (Homalopsis buccata) @ Jalan Lekar
Monday Morgue

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Singapore's civil society journey chronicled in new book

Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 5 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - In the past, people diagnosed with HIV/Aids had to be cremated within 24 hours of dying and their families were denied a proper send off.

For four years, the Action for Aids group lobbied against this rule, succeeding finally in 2000 when the Health Ministry allowed bereaved families up to three days to hold a funeral.

The policy was among several changed following the work of activists who spent years championing the rights of marginalised groups and causes.

Highlights from the journeys of 37 such activists have now been chronicled in a new 344-page book - The Art Of Advocacy In Singapore - which was launched at the Singapore Writers Festival on Sunday (Nov 5).

The first publication of its kind, it is aimed at the layman and traces the development of civil society across issues and topics such as animal welfare, ageing, culture and faith, health, heritage and the environment, human rights, literature and theatre, the media migrant workers, sex workers and women.

Contributions span the Nature Society - one of the oldest civil society organisations in Singapore - to personal pieces by young activists such as Damien Chng, who is working for the abolition of the death penalty, among other things.

One chapter by conservationists Dr Ho Hua Chew and Dr Shawn Lum chronicles how Chek Jawa, an inter-tidal habitat on Pulau Ubin initially slated for reclamation for interim military use, was saved when the Government's plan was shelved on the eve of its implementation.

The duo wrote that a vociferous campaign emphasising the area's unique biodiversity and ecological importance, supported by reports, experts and the public, secured its future.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Nominated MP and Drama Box artistic director Kok Heng Leun, who contributed to the book, said: "The book is a reflection of the change that has taken place over the years. We are making progress.

"Activists represent people and causes that are not necessarily mainstream but still important as they affect certain segments of society. It is our duty to get citizens not just to think for themselves but others as well."

Mr Kok wrote about how Drama Box has engaged in social theatre and tackled topics such as marginalisation. In his essay, he discusses how the non-profit contemporary theatre company has been censored on occasion.

The book was edited by activist and former president of the Association of Women for Action and Research Constance Singam and former journalist Margaret Thomas.

Ms Singam described it as a "definitive history of civil society activism in the last 40 years or so" and said the book is evidence that advocacy can succeed in Singapore.

She added: "Civil society activists live on the edge, forever struggling, meeting deadlines, struggling for lack of volunteers, for lack of financial resources, and at the same time often working full-time in paying jobs. But they were all prepared to contribute to the book, to jog their memories, to remember long forgotten experiences, to do research just for this book, all the work done voluntarily and joyfully."

Published by Ethos Books, The Art Of Advocacy In Singapore can be purchased online at and at major bookstores from Nov 13, priced at $30 before GST.

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Malaysia: Penang hit by massive floods, chief minister appeals for military help

Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Massive floods have inundated Penang as the Malaysian state appealed for help from the country's armed forces on Sunday (Nov 5).

In a Facebook video post, Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng appealed for help from the armed forces as he described the grave situation. He also said he thanked Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for speaking to him over the phone at 3.30am about military assistance.

“We have sought the assistance of the armed forces, which the Deputy Prime Minister has agreed to send. The flooding has worsened. The water level is still rising – 10 to 12 feet above the roof of houses – and the wind is still very strong. (Even) electricity supply at flood relief centres have been cut off," the chief minister was quoted as saying.

In another video post, the chief minister was seen on the ground helping flood victims as they disembarked a vehicle.

Still reeling from the Sep 15 massive floods, several areas in Penang are once again inundated by flash floods which reportedly reached up to 0.5 metres and uprooted trees as continuous heavy rain and strong winds lasted more than five hours on Saturday.

The incessant rain and winds began battering the areas about 2pm.

Among the affected areas in George Town are Kampung Masjid, Jalan P. Ramlee, Sungai Pinang, Jalan Kebun Lama, Lebuh Carnovan, Jalan Anson, Halaman Bukit Gambira as well as Bayan Baru, Bayan Lepas, Batu Feringghi and Balik Pulau.

Reports from the Timur Laut Drainage and Irrigation Department stated that the water levels have reached danger levels in Sungai Pinang, Sungai Air Itam and Sungai Dondang.

One of the affected residents, Abdul Karim Abdul who resides in Jalan P Ramlee said the flash floods in the area were just continuous, one after another, as every time there was heavy rain, their homes would be flooded.

“We are tired of the flash floods and hope the state government does something to solve our woes here ... in this year so far, we were hit by floods more than 20 times."

Flash floods have also caused traffic congestion in the vicinity of George Town, Bayan Lepas, Bayan Baru, Seberang Jaya, Bukit Mertajam and Juru, and led to the closure of several roads.


On Saturday, three flights which were scheduled to land at the Penang International Airport had to turn back to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and diverted to Langkawi International Airport due to bad weather.

Penang International Airport senior manager Ramzi Ahmad said at least four flights from could not depart to their respective destinations due to the same problem.

He added that operations at the Penang Airport were still running smoothly and so far, the airport has not been hit by floods despite heavy rains on the island.
Source: Bernama/CNA/mn

Penang flood: At least 7 dead as authorities issue heavy rain warning, military mobilised
Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Seven people have been killed and over 3,000 evacuated after a storm triggered serious flooding Sunday (Nov 5) in Penang.

Northeast district police head Anuar Omar confirmed the deaths of Chew Eng Lean, 78, Amanullah Shabib Kalandir, 75, and Lau Guek Jee, 64 on Sunday afternoon. Another victim, 97-year-old Chong Sin Thon, was found in his home.

"The sixth victim identified as Tan Ah Peow, 45, was found by his neighbor at 2pm today while the seventh victim, also a man, was found by a member of the public at 2.40pm," Anuar said.

A Bangladeshi man was also killed while his friend was missing after a tree fell on their rented house in Kampung Perlis in Butterworth on Saturday night.

Meteorological Department has forecast that the rain is set to continue after it showed signs of easing on Sunday (Nov 5) afternoon.

In an update on Facebook, the department issued an "orange" alert warning, which indicates expected continuous rainfall with strong winds in the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang.

Penang's chief minister Lim Guan Eng earlier appealed for help from the armed forces, after massive floods brought the state to a standstill.

The state has also issued an advisory, calling for those in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

At least 2,800 people had been evacuated and 80 per cent of the state was hit by typhoon-like winds and heavy rain.

The chief minister said floodwater had risen to 3 to 4 metres. Lim also warned in a Facebook post that more rain was expected and advised residents to stay at home.

Military forces were deployed to help thousands of displaced people in Penang, officials said, as floodwater rose from more than 24 hours of incessant rain.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the National Security Council was coordinating with police and the military to assist flood victims after a request for assistance from Penang.


Hundreds of trees were toppled and roads were submerged, leaving many areas practically paralysed, Malaysian news agency Bernama reported.

Bernama reported that there were 75 reports of falling trees and eight reports of landslides.

Parts of the Penang Hospital, including the neo-natal intensive care ward, was also hit by floods but the hospital is still functioning.

Penang director of health Dr M Sukumar said 104 patients and several newborn babies were moved to flood-free wards and all patients continued to receive their treatment.

"We remain fearful that there may still be untoward incidents because of the strong winds, the like of which have never been experienced before, and flash floods might recur," Lim told reporters in Penang.


The Penang government confirmed on Sunday afternoon that the floods was due to the poor drainage system.

Penang's Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow told media that the existing drainage system could not accommodate the huge flow of water during heavy rain.

As of Sunday evening, a total of 3,365 people have been placed in temporary shelters after their homes were flooded or destroyed by the storm.

Penang has bore the brunt of the bad weather, but nearly 2,000 were also evacuated in Kedah while 103 were moved in Perak.
Source: Agencies/CNA/mn

Armed Forces on the ground to aid flood-hit Penang
Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 5 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: The armed forces has been mobilised to tackle the flood in Penang and will remain to assist disaster relief operations.

The armed forces opened an operations room at 4.30am and have deployed numerous assets to flood-hit areas in the state.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said he had instructed the armed forces to help flood victims in Penang from the onset.

"At the same time, personnel and assets were deployed to several areas in Penang including Seberang Perai Utara, Seberang Perai Selatan, Seberang Perai Tengah, Southwest Zone and the North East Zone.

"So far, the armed forces have successfully relocated affected residents to safe areas, cleaned up blocked routes and helped in the cleanup work in affected areas," said Hishammuddin via his Facebook page.

He said the armed forces will continue to help in whatever way it can. He also urged the people to pray for the situation in Penang to return to normal.

The Defency Ministry said a team from the armed forces were mobilised at 1.30am today, and its Territorial Army 509 regiment (509 AW) began rendering aid at 3am.

A statement said an operations room was activated at 4.30am.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today that he was thankful for the assistance given to the state as he had contacted Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Lim said that he called Zahid at 3.30am today to seek the armed forces' assistance in the face of Penang’s worsening floods.

A continuous downpour lasting 17 hours, coupled by heavy wind since noon on Saturday paralysed George Town and Seberang Prai, in addition to triggering landslides and uprooting trees, as well as creating unusually heavy traffic due to impassable roads.

What next for Penang? State must revise existing flood mitigation plans, systems
Halim Said New Straits Times 5 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Penang government must push for speedy implementation of sustainable flood mitigation systems, especially in towns, cities and densely-populated areas.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's (UTM) Faculty of Civil Engineering's hydraulics and hydrology department lecturer, Prof Dr Sobri Harun said the critical flood situation in Penang indicates an urgent need to revise the state's existing flood mitigation plans and flood mitigation systems, especially in the urban areas.

He said there is a need to review existing urban master plans because of the advent of climate change.

"There is an urgency for the Penang government to resolve matters involving its flood mitigation plan. They must engage with all relevant quarters, and make sure that flood mitigation systems are properly maintained and that these mitigations systems are updated," Sobri told the New Straits Times.

He said that based on a general observation of the situation in parts of George Town, Penang since yesterday, it was likely that the city's drains could not cope with the sudden increase in water levels and continuous heavy rainfall.

“There are many factors that could have rendered the drainage system ineffective. There may have been blockages to the water outlets due to poor maintainance of these structures. There is a possibility that the drainage and irrigation system could no longer work and need to be replaced or upgraded.

"It is important for the authorities in Penang to provide proper drainage and flood mitigation systems in areas that are being further developed," said Sobri.

He said, based on rainfall data from the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) website, he found that rainfall amounts were "off the charts" in the northern region on Saturday.

Sobri said, based on DID data, rainfall recorded at the Kampung Lahar Ikan Mati station in Northern Seberang Perai, Penang was unusually high between Oct 31 and today, and that the highest amount was recorded today (Nov 5) with 457mm of rainfall.

"These readings surpassed the average monthly records for rainfall. There is usually between 13mm to 15mm of rain recorded daily in that area, while the monthly average is 250mm of rainfall," he said.

Penang floods: Meteorological Dept explains what triggered heavy rainfall
Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 5 Nov 17;

JOHOR BARU: The extraordinary amount of continuous rainfall in Penang and parts of Kedah since Saturday was caused by a low pressure area in the two states.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) director-general Alui Bahari said that the low pressure area attracted strong winds and moisture which resulted in heavy rain that led the department to issue a Red Alert warning in the two states on Saturday night.

"The extraordinary rainfall, which was continuous in Penang and parts of Kedah on Nov 4 and 5, was due to low pressure area. This area became a focal point for winds and high level of moisture which resulted in continuous heavy rain and strong winds.

"This low pressure area had first taken shape in the South China Sea in the end of last month and it moved across southern Thailand before reaching Peninsular Malaysia on Nov 4," said Alui in a statement to the New Straits Times.

Alui said that rainfall readings at MMD stations in the north showed particularly high amount of rainfall that peaked on Saturday night.

He said areas such as Prai recorded 225.6mm of rainfall on Saturday, which was higher than the 5.6mm of rain recorded in the same area the previous day.

The rain in Prai decreased to 73.4mm as of 11am today.

Heavy rain also occured on Saturday in Butterworth (233mm), Bayan Lepas (174.5mm), Alor Star (41.4mm) and Chuping (39.6) in Perlis.

Explaining the recent weather patterns, Alui said that the MMD issued warnings of heavy rain for the past five days, and the information had been channeled to the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), other related agencies and disseminated via its Facebook page and website.

The MMD issued a Yellow Alert for Heavy Rain Warning on Nov 1 involving Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

"Continuous rain occured on Nov 2 to 3 in Kelantan, Terengganu and it moved to Perlis, Kedah and Penang on Nov 4.

"As heavy rained continued, the warning was upgraded to Orange Alert in the evening of Nov 4 for Perlis, Perak, Kedah and Penang.

"In the early part of last night (Nov 4), increasing heavy rain led to the MMD issuing a Red Alert for Penang and part of Kedah.

'"Until this morning, rain is expected to continue until tonight in the north. The category of heavy rain was reduced to Orange Alert because of a weakened low pressure area," said Alui.

He said cloudy and intermitent rain was forecast for the northern peninsula states tomorrow, and the condition is only expected to improve on Tuesday.

Alui rejected theories that the extraordinary and continuous heavy rain in the north could be blamed on the effects of the recent Typhoon Damrey in Vietnam.

"Weather changes as what we saw can cross over borders. But in this case, the heavy rain in the north may have had an indirect affect from the typhoon. We are still far away from the typhoon area," said Alui.

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China unveils massive island-building vessel

AFP Yahoo News 4 Nov 17;

Beijing (AFP) - China has unveiled a massive ship described as a "magic island maker" that is Asia's largest dredging vessel, state media reported Saturday.

The ship, capable of building artificial islands of the sort the country has constructed in the contested South China Sea, was launched Friday at a port in eastern Jiangsu province, according to the state-owned China Daily.

The boat named Tian Kun Hao is capable of digging 6,000 cubic meters an hour, the equivalent of three standard swimming pools, the newspaper said.

It is a larger version of the one China used to dredge sand, mud and coral for transforming reefs and islets in the South China Sea into artificial islands capable of hosting military installations.

When testing of the ship is completed next June, it will be the most powerful such vessel in Asia, the paper noted, nicknaming it the "magic island maker".

Beijing's aggressive campaign of archipelago building in the South China Sea has been a point of contention with neighbouring countries that lay claim to parts of its waters.

China claims nearly all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

Its sweeping claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

China has previously said that it had completed its reclamation projects in an area of the sea known as the Spratlys.

But a US think tank, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said in August that Beijing has continued the work in a northern part of the waters around the Paracel islands.

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Thailand: Fight to save key Mekong rapids not over

SARITDET MARUKATAT Bangkok Post 5 Nov 17;

Advocates for the river's protection said they feel relieved after a plan to blast away the Khon Pi Luang in Chiang Khong district in Chiang Rai has been put on hold by security concerns. The Thai government is worried that the altered landscape could affect the undemarcated borderline on the Mekong between Thailand and Laos.

But Somkiat Khuangchiangsa, the coordinator of the Rak Chiang Khong Group, said the issue has not been put to rest -- bids to clear the Khon Pi Luang could come back anytime after the two countries settle on the Mekong demarcation.

"We will continue to raise public awareness on its importance through forums and academic research papers," he said.

Chinese engineers plan to clear rapids and islets in the river to enable ships up to 500 tonnes to sail from the Chinese southern border to Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, bolstering trade with China's southern neighbours. The four-nation plan is to give larger vessels access to the Lao city of Luang Prabang.

The clearance of the rapids has been undertaken in stages. Now ships weighing 100 tonnes can cruise along the river all year round, but 250-tonne vessels can pass the Khon Pi Luang only when the water level of the Mekong is high.

Passage for 500-tonne ships would require further clearance, and the Khon Pi Luang is the biggest obstacle. It comprises a group of rapids and small islets stretching about 1.5 kilometres along the river in the two districts.

Environmentalists regard it one of the most important rapids in the upper part of the Mekong basin, both for ecological reasons and because many people's livelihoods depend on the river.

"The plan to clear the Khon Pi Luang is only deferred. If they can get rid of it, bigger ships can go all the way (to Luang Prabang)," Mr Somkiat said.

With or without the rapids, residents along the river in Chiang Khong and neighbouring Chian Saen districts already feel the pinch -- hydropower dams in China now control the water flow of the Mekong downstream instead of seeing it run naturally. The dams also block sediments useful for marine resources.

The number of fishing boats in the two districts has dropped to 246 from 1,200 in the past, according to the Rak Chiang Khong group.

The Xayaburi dam in Laos will further impact the livelihood of people in the lower Mekong basin - comprising Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam - after it begins operation in the next two years, since it could obstruct fish from swimming upstream to lay eggs.

The dam's design includes fish ladders and a tunnel for fish to swim upstream through the dam to lay eggs, but ecologists are not convinced it will work.

"People in the northeastern region relying on fish in the Mekong and its tributaries realise what could happen to them," Pairin Sohsai, a coordinator of the International Rivers Network, told a Mekong forum at Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University on Tuesday.

Vietnam, which is the last country downstream before the Mekong flows into the South China Sea, is experiencing ecological changes at the Mekong Delta, according to Nguyen Thi Hong Van, a researcher of the Vietnam Rivers Network.

Less sediment has been seen and seawater has crept higher into the delta, said the researcher, who conducted an extensive environmental impact study on the delta.

"Sediment is the natural fertiliser for Vietnamese farmers, especially the poor, in the delta," she said.

She blamed the reduced sediment on the rising sea level and the dams upstream which regulate the water flow and obstruct the flow of sediment into the delta.

The Mekong Delta is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam -- the most important rice-growing area for local consumption and exports to other countries.

The Mekong branches into nine rivers when it reaches the delta, making the area fertile.

With more dams to be built in the Mekong and its tributaries in the future, Ms Van expects Vietnam to face further hardships, and urged for a solution acceptable to all sides before the damage to the delta is irreversible.

"Countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion must find sustainable solutions to solving the problems of hydropower development and water resource management in the Mekong River," the researcher told the forum.

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As New Zealand considers a climate migration visa, Pacific Islanders fight to stay


From the air, the scattered islands of Kiribati resemble cross sections of polished geodes. You’ll see a painfully thin crust of land and glassy lagoons that shift with rising tides. For years, media outlets have called this equatorial island “a canary in the coal mine for climate refugees.” But what you perceive at a distance may be misleading.

New Zealand could become the first country in the world to recognize climate change as a valid reason to be granted residency, according to an interview with a government minister on Tuesday.

The nation’s newly elected government is considering creating a new visa category for Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change. If implemented, New Zealand’s proposal would offer up to 100 humanitarian visas per year as an experimental — and unprecedented — trial.

Famously, the 1951 Refugee Convention does not cover people displaced across borders due to climate change. Though Fiji had previously committed to providing future climate refuge to Pacific neighbors, the New Zealand proposal marks the first time a developed country has considered addressing the international legal protection gap with a regional visa agreement. In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Climate Change Minister James Shaw noted the proposal is a “piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific Islands.”

The proposal has triggered a flurry of questions. Though only a handful of climate migration cases have been brought to New Zealand courts in the last decade, will 100 visas per year satisfy demand in the future? Will future climate visa recipients be able to return home? And will this proposed regional experiment become a model for other nations?

For countries across the Pacific, like the low-lying nation of Kiribati, New Zealand’s announcement comes as a welcome gesture of regional solidarity. Coastal erosion and freshwater contamination are already altering the lives of Kiribati’s 110,000 citizens. The altitude of the most of the country’s islands, after all, is on average just six feet above sea level.

But walking around South Tarawa, the capital island of Kiribati, you’ll hear a strong reaction to the concept of climate migration. Many outright reject the label “climate refugee” in Kiribati. Some argue that it casts I-Kiribati citizens as victims of a foregone climate conclusion. Others believe the label doesn’t assign responsibility to high-emitting countries — and eclipses their fight to protect their homes.

Just ask Pelenise Alofa, national coordinator for the Kiribati Climate Action Network. For her, migration is a measure of last resort: “It’s the last option. And if it’s the last option, let’s do everything we can now to remain in Kiribati.”

Kiribati’s government is currently implementing various adaptation measures, including sea walls, artificial land reclamation and rainwater tanks. These efforts, along with staunch civil society campaigns, aim to avoid a scenario in which I-Kiribati citizens must be forced to use New Zealand’s proposed visa option.

Related: Series on living with rising seas

“We need to build Kiribati up,” says Alofa, who has traveled the world to share what the stomp of the world’s carbon footprint feels like from her frontline home. “We need to strengthen it. So we can stay here.”

Though many Pacific Islanders migrate to New Zealand each year to pursue educational or job opportunities, here too, you'll notice a common refrain. The international community must curb CO2 emissions so that they — and future generations — can have a stable homeland to which they can return.

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Tiny Fiji looks for global impact at Bonn climate talks

Joshua Kuku AFP Yahoo News 5 Nov 17;

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama brings a sobering message as he presides over UN climate talks in Bonn this week -- climate change is real, it's already having disastrous impacts on his people and only urgent action can address the problem.

Germany is hosting the talks and asked Bainimarama to act as president to highlight how the issue is affecting Pacific island nations on the frontline of global warming.

As incoming president of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), Bainimarama has criss-crossed the world in recent months voicing islanders' fears.

"Rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture... threaten our way of life, and in some cases our very existence," he said.

"We who are most vulnerable must be heard."

Scientists warn some low-lying island nations risk being swamped entirely as sea levels rise.

Droughts and flooding have become commonplace across the region as the weather swings from one extreme to the other.

Farmland and sources of drinking water have been rendered useless by seawater and even graveyards have been lost to rising tides in the Marshall Islands.

Bainimarama said Fiji, an island nation of about one million people, was left reeling when Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston hit like a wrecking ball in February last year.

Packing gusts of 325 kilometres (202 miles) per hour, it was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the South Pacific.

Its trail of destruction left 44 people dead, destroying 40,000 homes and wiping out a third of Fiji's economy.

Such super-cyclones used to be a once-in-a-decade occurrence, but only a year before Cyclone Pam slammed into neighbouring Vanuatu, killing at least 11 people.

Bainimarama said Fiji now had to live with the threat that such tempests could flare up "out of nowhere, at any time".

"We are facing a situation in which a single event scoring a direct hit on Fiji could wipe out years of development and set us back for decades," he said.

- 'Frighteningly real' -

He said the experiences of Fijians and people around the world meant there was no longer room to question the scientific consensus on global warming.

"This says that man-made climate change is not a hoax, it is frighteningly real," he said.

"The evidence is global -- whether it is the loss of the Arctic ice floes within four decades, the loss of cities like Miami in five decades, or in the Pacific, the loss of three entire nations over a similar period -- Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands."

Bainimarama said his top priority at the Bonn meeting was "to build a grand coalition of governments, civil society and the private sector" to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Under the deal struck in the French capital in 2015, more than 190 countries agreed to limit global warming to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

Bainimarama's comments come just days after the UN's environment chief warned there is a "catastrophic" gap between national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the actions needed to meet that target.

"One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future," said Eric Solheim.

Fiji and other island nations hope to persuade major polluters to go further and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

Bainimarama described it as the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, saying it will take a global mobilisation and commitment akin to preparing for war.

He was optimistic the United States would not carry out President Donald Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, saying the evidence underpinning the deal was overwhelming.

"The issue is settled and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril," he said.

Read more!

Anger over Trump support for coal at UN climate talks

Matt McGrath BBC 5 Nov 17;

Plans by the Trump administration to promote coal as a solution to climate change at a major UN meeting have angered environmentalists.

An adviser to the president is expected to take part in a pro-coal presentation in Bonn this coming week.
Separately, a group of governors will say that the US is still committed to climate action despite Mr Trump's rejection of the Paris agreement.

The talks begin on Monday and aim to flesh out the rules for the Paris pact

This meeting, officially known as COP23, will be the first full gathering of climate negotiators since President Trump vowed to take the US out of the Paris treaty.

"The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States," he said last June, announcing the US intention to withdraw.

However, under the rules, the US cannot leave the agreement until 2020, so they will be sending a team of negotiators to this meeting.

The official US delegation, mainly career civil servants, may well be overshadowed, though, by other groups with very different visions for how the US should combat climate change.

According to reports, members of the Trump administration will lend their support to an event to promote fossil fuels and nuclear power as solutions to climate change.

Speakers from coal giant Peabody Energy, among others, will make a presentation to highlight the role that coal and other fuels can play in curbing the impacts of rising temperatures.

A White House spokesman said in a statement that the discussion aimed to build on the administration's efforts to promote fossil fuels at the G20 meeting this year.

"It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone's interest that they be efficient and clean," the spokesman said.

'Beyond absurd'

The prospect of fossil fuel industries making their case at this meeting has angered some who will be attending.

"Fossil fuels having any role in tackling climate change is beyond absurd. It is dangerous," said Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development.

"These talks are no place for pushing the fossil fuel agenda. The US needs to come back to the table and help with the rapid cuts in emissions that the situation demands."

Long-time talks participant Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists added: "It's not a credible solution, but that doesn't seem to bother them.

"They might even welcome some of the reaction to show to their base that they are fighting for America's interest and not this globalist malarkey."

'Much of America supports Paris deal'

Environmentalists point to the contradiction of the Trump administration championing fossil fuels while an authoritative National Climate Assessment report, released on the eve of COP23, is clear that CO2 from these fuels is the key cause of climate change.

The report says: "It is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence."

Other groups opposed to the Trump perspective will also be paying for a large pavilion at the talks.

Delegations of US governors, mayors and business people, under the We Are Still In coalition umbrella, will be in Bonn to tell negotiators that below the Federal level, much of America still supports the Paris agreement.

The US Climate Alliance, which represents 14 states and one territory, says that it speaks for around 36% of the US population and if it were a nation state would be the third biggest economy in the world.

One of the governors who will be on the ground in Bonn is Washington's Jay Inslee.

"We need to make sure that the world maintains confidence in our ability to move forward," he told reporters.

"So far, not one single nation state, city or county, municipality or school district have followed Donald Trump into the ranks of surrendering to climate change since he pulled out of Paris - his decision has energised our efforts."

This determination to remain part of Paris is also being reflected at city level in many parts of the US.
"Whatever 'America first' is supposed to mean, it absolutely does not mean America alone," said Mayor Lionel Johnson from the city of St Gabriel in Louisiana.

"My fellow mayors and I stand united and we stand with the international community to pursue solutions to the dramatic climate challenges we are facing together. Count us in!"

Apart from the confusion over who is speaking for the US, the talks will focus on establishing rules and guidelines for the Paris pact. These need to be agreed by the end of 2018.

The talks are being chaired by Fiji, which is the first time a small island developing state has taken this role. As such, questions of climate impacts are likely to be in the spotlight, including the tricky question of loss and damage.

This is a potential area of significant disagreement as the richer countries are strongly opposed to any implied legal liability for the damages caused by climate related extreme weather events.

Around 20,000 delegates and visitors will attend the meeting over two weeks.

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