Injured otter rescued and treated in first such operation

Afifah Darke Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The injured otter that was spotted with a deep cut on its back at a Pasir Ris Park canal last month was successfully treated on Thursday (Nov 16).

The operation was planned over three weeks by several agencies and volunteer groups of the Otter Working Group including the National Parks Board (NParks), Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, PUB and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

In an email to Channel NewsAsia, Mr Sivasothi who runs OtterWatch, said that the movements of the nine-month-old female pup - who was named Aquarius - and its family were closely monitored before capturing it for treatment.

"Stress to the family was reduced by minimising the number of people on site and working relatively quiet," said Mr Sivasothi, who is also a senior lecturer of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore.

The wounded otter with seven of his family members were eventually rounded up in an enclosure at Pasir Ris Park made by NParks at around 2pm.

The see-through enclosure ensured that the otters "could view their environs and not feel confined," explained Mr Sivasothi.

A WRS vet darted Aquarius and the pup became drowsy within seconds. When it was deemed safe for the vets to approach the targeted pup, the enclosure was opened for the rest of the family to swim away.

In less than fifteen minutes, the team of WRS vets had snipped off the rubber "O-ring" around the pup's body, which had cut into the otter's abdominal muscle, and attended to its wound by applying antibiotics, said Mr Sivasothi.

After a 30-minute observation period, where the pup rested within the enclosure, the otter was released.

It rested within the enclosure and the environs for a further 80 mins before walking out across the tidal flats and then swam away.

Mr Sivasothi said this was the first time that Otter Working Group had targeted a young adult amidst its family for capture. Previous cases have only seen the group working to rescue otter pups abandoned by their families.

Wounded otter pup successfully caught, treated in first such operation
Lydia Lam Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - The otter pup that was spotted last month with a wound from a ring around its body was successfully rounded up and treated in a five-hour operation on Thursday (Nov 16).

The young pup was corralled along with six other members of its Pasir Ris family at Pasir Ris beach, otter watcher Jeffery Teo told The Straits Times.

Volunteers and related agencies such as the National Parks Board have been tracking the otter on site from two days ago, Mr Teo said. The pup was caught at the river mouth near Sungei Tampines and darted around 2pm after the operation started in earnest from noon.

"More than 20 people were there, including the Wildlife Reserves Singapore and NParks," he said. "NParks built a special structure to catch the otters."

The operation is the first of its kind in Singapore where a wild otter was successfully isolated, treated and released.

Multiple attempts had been made to capture the single pup, which is believed to be eight to nine months old, but it was too fast and evaded capture.

The otter pup, which was born around February or March this year, is part of a family of nine or 10 that is known as the Changi family.

National University of Singapore (NUS) biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who heads OtterWatch, told ST that the success came after three weeks of detailed planning.

"This was an operation three weeks in the making, starting with detailed observations and evaluation of procedures," he said. "The final procedure involved corralling most but not all of the family that were investigating the operations area. Once the vets succeeded in sedating the otter, the rest were released."

Mr Sivasothi said the otters were not restrained.

"This was important to reduce stress to the family," he said. "A smooth-coated otter family stays together so a single individual can't be easily isolated."

The Pasir Ris family has 11 otters - seven were caught in the enclosure, with two of these eventually escaping. Four others evaded capture.

After the otters were rounded up in the fence-like structure, veterinarians tranquillised the otter pup, which had sustained a deep wound from what looked like a ring of metal wire spotted around its torso last month. It turned out to be made of rubber.

It is unclear how the ring got trapped around the otter. It was removed and the pup was treated on the spot. Multiple veterinarians certified it healthy before it was released back to the wild.

"They all certified that she's good to go," said Mr Teo jubilantly over the phone.

Otters spotted on tarmac at Changi Airport, guided out to beach by airside safety team

The otter watchers have been tracking the pup, which sustained a wound that was visibly worsening, for weeks.

Mr Teo has tracked Singapore's otters for more than five years and is part of the Otter Working Group, a volunteer group set up with several government agencies including NParks, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and PUB last year.

On Tuesday, the same otter family had been spotted on the tarmac at Changi Airport, after heavy rain is believed to have forced them out of their holt.

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Singapore to declare 2018 Year of Climate Action

Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) on Thursday (Nov 16).

Speaking at the conference in Bonn, Germany, Mr Masagos said the move will complement Singapore's current efforts to build resilience against climate change, including diversifying the water supply and enhancing food security.

"As a small island city-state vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Singapore is committed to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement," Mr Masagos said.

The minister noted that the rate of warming over Singapore from 1951 to 2012 was 0.26°C per decade, more than double the global average of 0.12°C over the same period.

The country's daily mean temperature is projected to rise by up to 4.6°C towards the end of the century and its mean sea level is estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100, according to him.

"Since our early years of nation building, Singapore has placed considerable emphasis on sustainable development ... Even so, we want to do more to instill awareness of climate change amongst our citizens and inspire and to support the Paris Agreement," he said.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr Masagos also announced that Singapore will join the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets.

The declaration, endorsed by 19 countries led by New Zealand at the Paris climate change negotiations in 2015, states that interested countries will work together to develop standards and guidelines for using market mechanisms that ensure environmental integrity and avoid any double-counting or double-claiming of emissions reduction units.

As the incoming ASEAN chair for 2018, Singapore will also work with its fellow members and dialogue partners of the regional bloc to achieve climate objectives including reducing energy intensity in the ASEAN region by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and increasing the component of renewable energy in the ASEAN energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025, the minister said.

S’pore declares 2018 as ‘Year of Climate Action’
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 17 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE — Next year will be designated the “Year of Climate Action” for Singapore, the Environment and Water Resources Minister announced on Thursday (Nov 16).

Speaking at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Mr Masagos Zulkifli stressed Singapore’s commitment to fight climate change, given that the island-state is vulnerable to the environmental impact.

He said that while Singapore has placed considerable emphasis on sustainable development its early years of nation building, “we want to do more to instil awareness of climate change among our citizens and inspire them to act in partnership”.

Singapore is committed to the Paris Agreement, a pact made in 2015 by 195 nations to combat climate change, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

At this year’s conference, Mr Masagos also announced that Singapore would be joining the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets. The New Zealand-led declarations were first initiated at the Paris conference. Through this, interested countries will work together to develop standards and guidelines for using market mechanisms that ensure environmental integrity, and avoid any double-counting or double-claiming of emissions reduction units.

Next year will see Singapore chairing the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), and the timing is right to move ahead with plans in terms of energy use.

“We will work with fellow Asean members and our dialogue partners to advance the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2016 to 2025,” Mr Masagos said.

Singapore will try to reduce its energy intensity in the Asean region by 20 per cent come 2020, down from the levels in 2005, and increase the component of renewable energy in the Asean energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025.

On Thursday, Mr Masagos reiterated key policies that have been put in place this year.

In February, Singapore became the first country in South-east Asia to introduce a carbon tax, which is set to take effect from 2019. The tax rate is expected to be between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, which is within the range of what other jurisdictions have put into effect.

“The scale of solar energy deployment in Singapore is limited by space constraints and issues with intermittency, but we are not easily deterred,” he said.

Last year, Singapore launched the world’s largest floating solar panel test-bed atop a hectare of waters at Tengeh Reservoir. These floating test-beds might also be deployed at other reservoirs, Mr Masagos said. “Singapore is pushing ahead to increase our solar PV (photovoltaic) deployment to 350 MWp by 2020, and further to 1GWp beyond 2020,” he added.

Next month, Singapore’s first electric car-sharing programme begins, and 1,000 electric cars and 2,000 charging points will be deployed island-wide by 2020.

As the two-week UN conference comes to an end on Nov 17, a study by The Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia found that 2017 is looking to be the year with the highest levels of carbon pollution on record, due to a surge in fossil fuel consumption.

A recent report by the World Resources Institute also found that the number of countries that have already peaked their greenhouse gas emissions increased from 33 in 2000 to 49 in 2010.

Their findings estimate that by 2020, the number of countries that have already peaked, or have a commitment that implies an emissions peak, would grow to 53. By 2030, this would go up to 57.

The report noted that several developing countries are taking on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the number of countries peaking and their peak emissions levels are not enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals to limit global warming to well below 2˚C.

The rate of warming over Singapore from 1951 to 2012 was 0.26˚C per decade, more than double the global average over the same period. The country’s daily mean temperature is also projected to rise by up to 4.6˚C towards the end of the century.

Singapore will work with Asean neighbours on climate change issues: Masagos
Audrey Tan Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

Singapore will work with its South-east Asian neighbours on strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change when it takes on the role of Asean chairman next year, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (Nov 16) at a United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, Germany.

There will be two areas of focus for this regional cooperation: reducing energy intensity, and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Mr Masagos said Singapore will work with its neighbours to advance the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2016-2025.

Among other things, the plan seeks to reduce energy intensity in the Asean region by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. It also aims to increase the component of renewable energy in the Asean energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025.

The region's commitment to tackling climate change comes against a backdrop of extreme weather events. For example, the year 2016 was the warmest year on record, and the third consecutive year that record temperatures have been set.

Multiple natural disasters also hit the world, from drought in Africa, torrential floods in South Asia, as well as hurricanes and cyclones that pounded the Caribbean, North-east Asia, the Pacific and North America.

"Our hearts go out to the families affected and we hope that these areas will return to normalcy soon. The global community needs to work together, urgently and resolutely to stem the warming trend," Mr Masagos said when delivering Singapore's national statement to the international audience.

For its part, Singapore has pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from the 2005 levels, come 2030. Emissions intensity is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product.

It has also pledged to stop any increase to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

Singapore has implemented a slew of strategies to achieve these targets. This includes enhancements made this year to its Energy Conservation Act, which aims to get large polluters to be more energy efficient, and plans to implement a carbon tax from 2019, said Mr Masagos.

The Republic has also pumped money into research for innovations that can help the island state develop sustainably. It is banking on solar power to reduce its reliance on natural gas, and has invested in ways to better harness energy from the sun, by piloting floating solar systems, for example.

But Singapore wants to go one step further next year, by driving the climate change message not just among industries, but citizens too. To do this, Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action.

"We want to do more to instil awareness of climate change amongst our citizens and inspire them to act in partnership," said Mr Masagos.

At the Bonn conference on Thursday, 20 countries and two US states joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030. Since signing the Paris Agreement which aims to wean the world off fossil fuels, several countries have made national plans to phase out coal from their power supply mix.

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Malaysia: Shark population dwindles as demand for shark fin soup continues

Borneo Post 16 Nov 17;

SANDAKAN: The lucrative shark fin market continues to drive shark fishing including in Sabah’s waters, leading to a drastic decline in its population with some species becoming endangered from overfishing.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia Marine Conservation head Dr Robecca Jumin pointed out it was still common to see sharks sold at markets in the state and to receive photographic evidence of shark fins being sold to meet both local and international demand for shark fin soup.

A new report released by Oceana, the largest international advocacy organisation focused solely on ocean conservation, stated an estimated 100 million sharks are killed worldwide each year with reports that 73 million of them are caught specifically for shark fin soup.

This is despite extensive scientific work that shows most shark species keep populations of other fish healthy by removing the sick and old ones, thus stabilising the marine ecosystem.

Species of some sharks sighted in Sabah, such as the scalloped hammerhead, which is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as ‘endangered’, have been declining in population by up to 90 per cent in some areas.

Hammerhead shark fins are highly valued for their high fin ray count, hence it is the target in some areas worldwide.

Sabah’s civil society groups are carrying out advocacy campaigns, facilitating scientific research and engaging with the government in a bid to expedite processes that would bring about much needed protection for sharks in Sabah.

The groups are Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA), Scuba Junkie SEAS, Shark Stewards, Scubazoo, Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) and WWF-Malaysia.

The groups are aware that the vast waters of the state may represent the final safe haven for many of the endangered species.

“The groups working collaboratively in Sabah appeal to the public to stop creating demand for shark fins.

The high demand for shark fins is leading to overfishing of sharks, which are also sought for their meat, skin, cartilage and liver oil,” Dr Robecca said.

The groups have previously stated their support for efforts by both the Federal and Sabah Fisheries Departments to list the great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, oceanic white tip shark, oceanic manta and reef manta under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999, which falls under the purview of the Fisheries Act 1985.

The group also called for more species such as the scalloped-hammerhead, all species of thresher shark and devil rays to be considered part of the list.

The Regulations, which currently only protect the whale shark and sawfish, state that no person shall fish for, disturb, harass, catch, kill, take, possess, sell, buy, export or transport any of the specified endangered species except with written permission from the director-general of Fisheries.

Meanwhile, SSPA chairman Aderick Chong said shark fin itself does not have nutritional value and could potentially be harmful to consumers due to bioaccumulation of toxins such as mercury when consumed in large amounts over a certain period.

Bioaccumulation is the build-up of substances in an animal’s body, which occurs when the animal takes in the substance at a rate faster than it can get rid of it.

Large marine predatory species, such as sharks, often build up in their bodies levels of mercury toxic and harmful to humans.

“We are at a point where there is no choice but to stop consuming shark fin soup and other shark related food.

If prestige or social norm is the reason for serving shark fin soup at events such as weddings, there are options such as the non-endangered Empurau which is also a highly prized fish,” he said.

SSPA hosted an exciting public showcase at Imago Shopping Mall on Nov 11 with support from Go Seafood Sdn Bhd which is working with chefs from selected restaurants to come up with a suitable dish using Empurau.

The dish was revealed during the event. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Bullet-riddled carcass of endangered pygmy elephant found in Sabah

The Star 16 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The bullet-riddled carcass of another Borneo Pygmy Elephant has been found in Sabah's east coast.

The carcass of the bull elephant, with its tusks intact, was found in an oil palm plantation along Jalan Merotai-Kalabakan in Tawau on Tuesday.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said on Thursday that it was likely the bull elephant was shot in another location but managed to escape.

The carcass of the elephant was found by plantation workers and wildlife rangers were alerted to the animal's remains.

On Sept 10, an elephant carcass was found in a plantation near Dumpas in Kalabakan and two weeks later another was found floating along the Kinabatangan river close to the Danau Girang Field Research Centre. Both carcasses were found with their tusks removed.

Bornean pygmy elephant found dead with gunshot wounds in Sabah

POLIANA RONNIE SIDOM New Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

TAWAU: A Bornean pygmy elephant carcass with three gunshot wounds was found within the Cenderamata Plantation at Jalan Merotai-Kalabakan, near here.

Plantation workers discovered the dead bull on Tuesday and alerted the authority. The elephant was believed to have been shot by poachers.

Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said the department despatched officers to the site to conduct post-mortem and conduct further investigation.

“The tusk is still intact and post-mortem result found three bullets on the carcass. The elephant could have been shot elsewhere and fled.

“We are trying to track down the culprit and are also looking for those, who witnessed the shooting incident, so they can furnish us with information,” he said.

In September, the carcasses of two Bornean pygmy elephant – one without its tusks – were found in two separate locations in Sabah’s east coast.

The first discovery involved a male calf with its tusks still intact. It was found dead in the plantation area in Dumpas Tawau.

While an adult male elephant was found floating in the Kinabatangan river.

In August, plantation workers also spotted an adult Bornean pygmy elephant struggling for its life after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds in an oil palm plantation the Malua Forest Reserve in Kinabatangan.

The adult female elephant, however, succumbed to its injuries.

Speak out over jumbo killings, WWF urges M’sians
The Star 20 Nov 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysians must end their silence over the rampant killing of elephants in Sabah because it is a crime against the nation’s heritage, WWF-Malaysia said.

Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said that if Malaysians stay quiet, the killers would see it as a sign of weakness.

“It (silence) sends a strong signal to these killers that we support the cold-blooded murder of elephants,” he said in a statement.

He said WWF-Malaysia was appalled by the latest elephant death in Tawau, when it was reported on Nov 16 that a bull elephant was found shot dead.

“This heinous crime demands a thorough investigation and the arrest of the culprits so that they can be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he said, adding that the elephants’ protected status was not being taken seriously.

He said whether the elephants were killed by poachers or in heated confrontations with humans, the fact remains that the country’s elephants have been killed at the rate of about one every two months since October last year.

“For an endangered species that numbers fewer than 2,000, as estimated back in 2010, and is mostly found in Sabah, this crime is beyond worrying,” Dr Dionysius said.

No one has been arrested over the elephant killings because information is scarce and there are no clues as to the killers’ identities.

“This elephant killing is a crime against Malaysians. Borneo elephants are our green heritage and should be protected,” he added.

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Malaysia: MNS warns of environmental impact with massive land clearing activity at Bukit Sekilau, Kuantan

HIDIR REDUAN New Straits Times 16 Nov 17;

KUANTAN: The Pahang chapter of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) warned of escalating human-animal conflicts as land clearing at Bukit Sekilau in the state capital here drives more wildlife into urban areas.

Its chairman Noor Jehan Abu Bakar said that the situation unfolding at the 300m hill is alarming due to mass deforestation near an urban environment.

"The people nearby will be inundated with wild boars and monkeys because of loss of habitat up there.

"(Land clearing) will push animals to encroach onto human premises. There will be human and animal conflicts if we do not address the problem holistically," she said.

She was responding to the Bukit Sekilau land clearing issue which has raised public concern on environmental degradation and negative fallout on the surrounding human population.

Jehan explained that their own on-the-ground inspection revealed that the land clearing has led to habitat destruction, biodiversity erosion and environmental pollution, including air, water and noise pollutions, among others.

"We strongly feel that we need urban forest levels to stabilise the amount of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," she said.

She also warned that Bukit Sekilau residents are rightly concerned about the heightened risks of mud floods from the cleared hill especially as the monsoon season is underway across the state.

"We are worried that the impact from this deforestation can be viewed in a bigger picture encompassing global warming, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity," she said.

The NST and Harian Metro had reported on residents’ concerns on land clearing in Bukit Sekilau.

The area is now an eyesore with evident bald patches. Residents worry about the adverse impact of the land clearing on the environment and surrounding population. The hill is very visible from many parts of Kuantan.

In a recent response to the report, state Basic Facilities and Environmental Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak said that state government agencies, including the Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK), district Land and Mines Office and state Minerals and Geoscience Department, were looking into the controversial project.

He said the agencies were told to look into all the documentation produced by parties involved with the land to determine whether their application for leave to clear land had been submitted to MPK.

He added that the agencies were also trying to determine whether the project required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to be tendered to the authorities.

‘Floods caused by logging activities’
The Star 17 Nov 17;

JITRA: Logging activities contributed to floods that forced nearly 500 people from their homes in 15 villages here and nearby Changlun.

Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Baharum said the felling of trees on Bukit Wang Perah in Changlun, which once was a beautiful hill, contributed to the floods.

He said poor drainage system and clogged drains were also contributory factors.

Johari, who visited evacuees at SMK Changlun yesterday, said floodwaters had receded in some places, enabling the victims to return home and the closure of SMK Changlun evacuation centre and surau at Kampung Betong and Kampung Tebing.

The Kampung Lahar surau took in 130 victims from 30 families and the Kampung Bata community hall sheltered 268 victims from 68 families.

Close to 500 villagers from 106 families in 15 villages were evacuated at the height of the floods which began inundating the villages from late Tuesday night.

The affected villages were Kam­pung Belukar, Kampung Nang Mah, Kampung Baru, Kampung Kubang Betong, Kampung Wang Perah, Kam­pung Changkat Setol, Kampung Paya Nomi, Kampung Kubang Kayu, Kampung Lahar, Kampung Paya Tok Kiong, Kampung Bata, Kam­pung Paya Tok Teh, Kampung Biak, Kampung Paya Kercut and Kam­pung Pahana.

Rohada Bakar, 52, said floodwaters rose to thigh level at her house at about 2am on Wednesday when a nearby river burst it banks after a three-hour downpour.

The housewife said the floods almost covered the bed of her bedridden husband Hasan Hamid, 68.

“It was a relief when Civil Defence Force personnel arrived to evacuate him, my 74-year-old sick mother and three children to SMK Chang­lun,” Rohada said. The family returned home yesterday.

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At least 15 states join global alliance to phase out coal by 2030

Nina Chestney, Stine Jacobsen Reuters 16 Nov 17;

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - At least 15 countries have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, delegates at U.N. climate talks in Bonn said on Thursday.

Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, delegates said.

The alliance aims to have 50 members by the next U.N. climate summit in 2018 to be held in Poland’s Katowice, one of Europe’s most polluted cities.

But some of the world’s biggest coal users, such as China, the United States, Germany and Russia, have not signed up.

Powering Past Coal comes just days after U.S. administration officials, along with energy company representatives, led a side event at the talks to promote “fossil fuels and nuclear power in climate mitigation.”

The event triggered a peaceful protest by anti-coal demonstrators and jarred with many ministers who are working on a rule book for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to move the world economy off fossil fuels.

The alliance was kicked off by Britain, Canada and the Marshall Islands, who urged other nations to join them in a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

A source close to the matter said signatories to the alliance so far had been at least a dozen, in addition to some U.S. states, Canadian provinces and businesses.

“It is a rebuke to (President) Donald Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies, that his obsession for dirty energy will not spread,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid.

Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, which aims to wean the world off fossil fuels, several countries have made national plans to phase out coal from their power supply mix.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Edmund Blair

'Political watershed' as 19 countries pledge to phase out coal
New alliance launched at Bonn climate talks hopes to signal the end of the dirtiest fossil fuel that kills 800,000 people a year with air pollution
Damian Carrington The Guardian 16 Nov 17;

A new alliance of 19 nations committed to quickly phasing out coal has been launched at the UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany. It was greeted as a “political watershed”, signalling the end of the dirtiest fossil fuel that currently provides 40% of global electricity.

New pledges were made on Thursday by Mexico, New Zealand, Denmark and Angola for the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is led by the UK and Canada.

“The case against coal is unequivocal,” said UK climate minister Claire Perry, both on environmental and health grounds – air pollution from coal kills 800,000 people a year worldwide. “The alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed.” The UK was the first nation to commit to ending coal use – by 2025 – but the electricity generated by coal has already fallen from 40% to 2% since 2012.

“There is a human cost and an environmental cost but we don’t need to pay that price when the price of renewables has plummeted,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister. “I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.” The alliance aims to have 50 members by next year.

Asked about Donald Trump’s US administration, whose only event in Bonn was to promote coal, McKenna pointed out that renewable energy already employs 250,000 people in the US, compared to 50,000 in coal, and said this is the clean growth century: “The market has moved on coal.”

But McKenna said it was very important that communities dependent on coal jobs received help. Mohamed Adow, at Christian Aid, said: “It is a rebuke to Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies.”

The current alliance includes a few nations like Fiji that do not use coal and does not include any Asian countries where much of the world’s coal is used. Australia, the region’s biggest supplier of coal, has refused to join. But Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G thinktank, said: “The launch of this new alliance is a political watershed moment. Governments have now grasped the reality that coal use can end, and fast. The only way for coal is down.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who led the UN climate talks in Peru in 2014 and is now at WWF, said: ‘We welcome the first steps countries have taken today but this is only the start.”

The alliance was also welcomed by the most vulnerable states. “I can’t stress enough that coal is by far the largest single barrier to staying within 1.5C of warming, and giving vulnerable countries like mine a chance of survival,” said David Paul, environment minister from the Marshall Islands.

Earlier the Marshall Island’s President Hilda Heine said the country was very disappointed in Australia’s continued pursuit of coal: “We’re neighbours: they should be aware of the issues that are facing small island countries.”

The Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt said the nation was “posing an existential threat to many of our neighbours” and that the countries backing coal phase outs came from across the political spectrum: “A door has been opened for the Australian government here.”

But Australia’s environment minister Josh Frydenberg, said coal was expected to remain the bedrock of Asia’s power supply, providing about a third of electricity in 2040. At the moment, coal generates about 75% of Australian power.

Greenpeace UK lauded the alliance, but Rachel Kennerley, from Friends of the Earth UK, said: “It’s a profound disconnect that the UK is positioning itself as a climate leader but simultaneously green-lighting fracking, which will open up a whole new fossil industry.”

Germany is not part of the new alliance and the pressure for it to announce the phase-out of its large fleet of heavily polluting coal power stations intensified on Thursday. New OECD data shows that its fossil fuel subsidies have increased each year from 2014-16, to €3.9bn. Another new report, part of the G20 peer review process, shows Germany believes only two of its many fossil fuel subsidies need to be removed – both are already being phased out under EU rules.

Shelagh Whitley, at the Overseas Development Institute in the UK, said: “Germany is subsidising climate chaos and is saying it won’t stop.” Alex Doukas, at Oil Change International in the US, said: “Germany should be ashamed of itself.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the climate summit on Wednesday, saying the response to climate change would determine the destiny of humankind and urging faster action. But she was heavily criticised for not announcing a coal phaseout. Michael Schäfer, at WWF Germany, said: “Internationally, Merkel is often still perceived as a climate champion. But she will lose that reputation if she does not finally act at home.”

That could happen imminently. Merkel’s CDU party is negotiating a three-way coalition to form a new government and talks are due to end on Thursday night. The CDU and Free Democrats have offered to close 10 coal power stations by 2020 but the Greens want 20 shut down to enable Germany to meet its carbon target.

Asked about Germany’s coal, Perry said: “We are not trying to tell other countries what to do, we want to show them it can be done. Every country is different [but] we all know we need to move beyond coal.”

The alliance will work by encouraging new commitments and using financing and shared technology and best practice to encourage others to phase out “unabated coal” – plants where carbon dioxide is not captured and buried below ground. Its national members are Angola, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

UK and Canada lead global alliance against coal
Matt McGrath BBC 16 Nov 17;

The UK and Canada have launched a global alliance of 20 countries committed to phasing out coal for energy production.

Members including France, Finland and Mexico, say they will end the use of coal before 2030.
Ministers hope to have 50 countries signed up by the time of the next major UN conference in Poland next year.

However some important coal consuming nations, including China, the US and Germany have not joined the group.

Reducing global coal use is a formidable challenge, as the fuel produces around 40% of the world's electricity at present.

As a highly carbon intensive source, coal contributes significantly to the rising levels of CO2 emissions that scientists reported earlier this week.

Researchers say that if the world is to curb dramatic temperature rises this century then coal use must be limited.

Called the Powering Past Coal Alliance, this new initiative sees countries, regions and provinces, signing up to setting coal phase-out targets and committing to no new investments in coal-fired electricity in their national jurisdictions or abroad.

No sacrifice

The UK has said it will end the generation of electricity from unabated coal by 2025. Unabated means that the coal is burnt without capturing the resulting carbon emissions.

Already, the move away from coal in the UK has been rapid. Around 40% of electricity was still being generated from coal in 2012 but in April this year the UK had its first full day without coal power in 135 years.

"We have not sacrificed growth," said Claire Perry, the UK's minister for climate change and industry.
"Since 1990 Britain has cut its emissions buy 42% and our economy has grown by 67%, that's the best performance in the G7 so this is not something that's a win-lose, it's a win-win situation."

However many of those who have signed up to the alliance have little or no coal production or consumption, among them Fiji, Niue, and Costa Rica. Many of the richer countries involved have already announced their move away from coal and taken together the grouping only represents about 2.5% of global coal consumption.

There are also some significant coal consuming countries including Germany and China, absent from the list at present.

The anti-coal alliance are confident that by the time of the next major UN climate conference in Poland in 2018, there will be closer to 50 countries on board.

The development has been broadly welcomed by environmental groups.

"This is another positive signal of the global momentum away from coal, benefitting the health of the climate, the public and the economy," said Jens Mattias Clausen from Greenpeace.

"But it also puts on notice the governments who lag behind on ending coal or those who promote it that the world's dirtiest fossil fuel has no future."

Closest of allies

Those involved in the coal industry say the alliance needs to put more efforts into developing technology that will allow coal use to continue.

"With the world set to use fossil fuels, including coal, for the foreseeable future, Canada and the UK should direct efforts to advancing carbon capture and storage technology because that's much more likely to achieve global climate objectives than unrealistic calls to eliminate coal in major emerging economies," said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive of the World Coal Association.

With Canada and the UK leading the group, it means that two of the closest allies of the US are moving away from coal at a time when President Trump is talking about a revival for the fuel.

The White House has had a presence at this meeting with the President's special adviser on climate change, George David Banks telling reporters that coal and other fossil fuels were an important part of the solution to climate change.

Mr Banks believes that a so-called "clean coal alliance" involving the US, Japan and others would be something the Trump team would favour.

"I would say that the administration is interested in the idea," he told reporters.

"I'm guessing that would mean a clean coal alliance that would focus on highly efficient low emission coal plants and carbon capture utilisation and storage. I think there would be interest in exploring that."

Many environmental campaigners though, believe that attempts to produce clean coal are essentially efforts to prolong the dominance of the fossil fuel industry.

"People were worried that this summit would see Trump assaulting the Paris Agreement with his coal lobbyists," said Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid.

"But his actions have actually galvanised other nations into action, with a new alliance making it clear that coal's climate change threat must be taken seriously.

"The bottom line is coal is a dirty, unnecessary, polluting fuel that deserves to remain in a more ignorant and backward era. These countries are showing they understand that."

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