Archive for November, 2009

Gov’t Agency Stands by Report

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-ipsnews.net- For a long time, activists had believed that rainforests in the vast northwest Borneo state of Sarawak were being logged unsustainably, rapidly making way for tree (acacia) plantations, oil palm plantations, dams and secondary growth. But few listened.

Their position was confirmed when the country’s auditor-general presented to Parliament last month its 2008 annual report criticising forestry management in Malaysia’s largest state as “unsatisfactory”. Earlier this month Sarawak state authorities denied the auditor-general’s findings.

The report produced a host of findings to back up its conclusion: depleted permanent forest reserves had not been replaced while some proposed forest reserves had not yet been gazetted. There was also no compulsory requirement for all logging license holders to obtain approved environment impact assessment reports before proceeding. Annual cut rates had been exceeded, if all forests were taken into account.

It noted that poor enforcement and monitoring had led to illegal logging and contributed to environmental degradation, especially river pollution, erosion, landslides, mud deposits and floods.

Sarawak’s Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hassan (the First Minister is long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud) expressed unhappiness with the report. He said it did not reflect the overall situation as the auditors made random conclusions about the long-term management of the state’s forests.

“By taking the feedback of the Sarawak Forestry Department, I believe a more balanced and accurate perspective (on the state’s forest management) will be registered,” he was reported as saying by national news agency Bernama.

Awang Tengah claimed the auditor-general’s department did not have the forestry management expertise, and information by the state forestry department was not taken into account in the audit report. He said the auditor-general had written to him on Oct. 29 and had agreed to take into account feedback from the forestry department.

When contacted, a spokesperson at the auditor-general’s department in Putrajaya said the matter has been “resolved”—the department is accepting a commentary from Sarawak authorities but the auditor-general’s report still stands.

Senior officials at the Sarawak Planning and Resource Management Ministry and the forestry department could not be reached over the phone for comment at press time.

Sarawak has 12.4 million hectares of forest within its 124,450 square kilometres of territory, of which 4.6 million ha are permanent reserves, 0.88 million ha are fully protected and 4.30 million are state government forests, with the remainder being used for settlements, towns and agriculture.

Earlier this year, the state government announced a target of six million hectares of permanent forest reserve and one million hectares as totally protected areas for national parks, wild life sanctuaries and natural forest reserves. This was described as “clear testimony of the State commitment at sustainable forest management.”

The state also announced the establishment of Transboundary Conservation Areas with Indonesia and Brunei encompassing national parks and a wildlife sanctuary. Sarawak has also endorsed 33 forestry-related international treatises such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the ASEAN Agreement on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

But Raymond Abin, the coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Action Network— a coalition of environmental and indigenous rights groups in Sarawak—is not convinced.

Logging is big business in Sarawak: it is the world’s largest exporter of tropical hardwood. It does not help that timber concessions are granted to well-connected parties. Oil palm is another major source revenue.

“We don’t have to go far if you see what is happening to most of the rivers in Sarawak, they are all muddy. If you fly from one end to the other, you can see many areas where the forests are being logged,” said Abin.

For all the Sarawak government’s efforts, the auditor-general’s report noted that 139,680 ha of permanent reserves were lost between 2003 and 2005, with another 18,322 ha depleted during the period 2006-2008. Between 1990 and 2008, close to a million hectares of permanent forest reserve had been lost, with only 4.6 million hectares remaining. The report noted the state government’s announcement of its targeted six million ha of permanent reserve, but pointed out there was no indication when this target would become official.

Auditors found that “logging activity near rivers is one of the main factors for deterioration in turbidity, total suspended solids and dissolved oxygen levels” in the main rivers of Sarawak. “This not only pollutes water resources but requires huge costs to restore.” Indeed, the Rejang River (Sibu, Sarikei and Kapit regions), Kemena River (Bintulu), Baram River (Miri), Limbang River (Limbang) and Trusan Lawas River (Limbang) have exceeded acceptable water pollution standards.

Abin added that the indigenous groups could see what is happening around. “You don’t need to be an expert: the local people who have been living in the forest or depending on the water for their means of survival—their way of life/livelihood is being gradually destroyed by the logging.”

Auditors noted large deposits at the mouth of the Seduan River and Igan River in Sibu “as large as a football field,” which it said caused frequent floods in the Sibu area during heavy rains. According to flood records, Sibu recorded a flood level of 0.9 metres in 1997 rising to 1.5 m in 2007. In December 2008, Sibu experienced its worst floods since 1963. The Sibu division of Sarawak had lost over 350,000 ha in permanent forest reserves between 1990 and 2008, the auditors recorded.

They also cited press reports earlier this year that logging activities in Bakun exceeding 40,000 ha had led to severe pollution and deposits at the mouth of the Balui River.

The law requires an environmental impact assessment to be prepared for all licenses in logging areas exceeding 500 ha before logging can commence. But in a sample of 30 permits of areas exceeding 500 ha, the auditors were unable to verify that EIA reports had been prepared before work began. Neither could they find any EIA approvals relating to those permits.

Air surveillance revealed that logging in certain areas had been carried out on slopes exceeding the 45-degree slope threshold allowed and close to riverbanks.

The auditors warned that Sarawak’s rich biodiversity would be gradually destroyed as a result of logging activities. It called for full records on flora and fauna species so that restoration work could be properly undertaken for threatened species.

One of the problems is poor enforcement and insufficient forest rangers, which Awang Tengah said was an “old episode” as corrective and improvement action had been taken.

But Abin belied his claim, saying that fear of harassment deters people from lodging complaints. “They cannot deny that there are a lot of illegal logging activities going on. The problem lies with the authorities, the people who have the power, because of their lack of enforcement.”

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State of Sarawak Forests: Gov’t Agency Stands by Report

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

PENANG, Malaysia, Nov 30 (IPS) – For a long time, activists had believed that rainforests in the vast northwest Borneo state of Sarawak were being logged unsustainably, rapidly making way for tree (acacia) plantations, oil palm plantations, dams and secondary growth. But few listened.

Their position was confirmed when the country’s auditor-general presented to Parliament last month its 2008 annual report criticising forestry management in Malaysia’s largest state as “unsatisfactory”. Earlier this month Sarawak state authorities denied the auditor-general’s findings.

The report produced a host of findings to back up its conclusion: depleted permanent forest reserves had not been replaced while some proposed forest reserves had not yet been gazetted. There was also no compulsory requirement for all logging license holders to obtain approved environment impact assessment reports before proceeding. Annual cut rates had been exceeded, if all forests were taken into account.

It noted that poor enforcement and monitoring had led to illegal logging and contributed to environmental degradation, especially river pollution, erosion, landslides, mud deposits and floods.

Sarawak’s Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hassan (the First Minister is long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud) expressed unhappiness with the report. He said it did not reflect the overall situation as the auditors made random conclusions about the long-term management of the state’s forests.

“By taking the feedback of the Sarawak Forestry Department, I believe a more balanced and accurate perspective (on the state’s forest management) will be registered,” he was reported as saying by national news agency Bernama.

Awang Tengah claimed the auditor-general’s department did not have the forestry management expertise, and information by the state forestry department was not taken into account in the audit report. He said the auditor-general had written to him on Oct. 29 and had agreed to take into account feedback from the forestry department.

When contacted, a spokesperson at the auditor-general’s department in Putrajaya said the matter has been “resolved”—the department is accepting a commentary from Sarawak authorities but the auditor-general’s report still stands.

Senior officials at the Sarawak Planning and Resource Management Ministry and the forestry department could not be reached over the phone for comment at press time.

Sarawak has 12.4 million hectares of forest within its 124,450 square kilometres of territory, of which 4.6 million ha are permanent reserves, 0.88 million ha are fully protected and 4.30 million are state government forests, with the remainder being used for settlements, towns and agriculture.

Earlier this year, the state government announced a target of six million hectares of permanent forest reserve and one million hectares as totally protected areas for national parks, wild life sanctuaries and natural forest reserves. This was described as “clear testimony of the State commitment at sustainable forest management.”

The state also announced the establishment of Transboundary Conservation Areas with Indonesia and Brunei encompassing national parks and a wildlife sanctuary. Sarawak has also endorsed 33 forestry-related international treatises such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the ASEAN Agreement on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

But Raymond Abin, the coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Action Network— a coalition of environmental and indigenous rights groups in Sarawak—is not convinced.

Logging is big business in Sarawak: it is the world’s largest exporter of tropical hardwood. It does not help that timber concessions are granted to well-connected parties. Oil palm is another major source revenue.

“We don’t have to go far if you see what is happening to most of the rivers in Sarawak, they are all muddy. If you fly from one end to the other, you can see many areas where the forests are being logged,” said Abin.

For all the Sarawak government’s efforts, the auditor-general’s report noted that 139,680 ha of permanent reserves were lost between 2003 and 2005, with another 18,322 ha depleted during the period 2006-2008. Between 1990 and 2008, close to a million hectares of permanent forest reserve had been lost, with only 4.6 million hectares remaining. The report noted the state government’s announcement of its targeted six million ha of permanent reserve, but pointed out there was no indication when this target would become official.

Auditors found that “logging activity near rivers is one of the main factors for deterioration in turbidity, total suspended solids and dissolved oxygen levels” in the main rivers of Sarawak. “This not only pollutes water resources but requires huge costs to restore.” Indeed, the Rejang River (Sibu, Sarikei and Kapit regions), Kemena River (Bintulu), Baram River (Miri), Limbang River (Limbang) and Trusan Lawas River (Limbang) have exceeded acceptable water pollution standards.

Abin added that the indigenous groups could see what is happening around. “You don’t need to be an expert: the local people who have been living in the forest or depending on the water for their means of survival—their way of life/livelihood is being gradually destroyed by the logging.”

Auditors noted large deposits at the mouth of the Seduan River and Igan River in Sibu “as large as a football field,” which it said caused frequent floods in the Sibu area during heavy rains. According to flood records, Sibu recorded a flood level of 0.9 metres in 1997 rising to 1.5 m in 2007. In December 2008, Sibu experienced its worst floods since 1963. The Sibu division of Sarawak had lost over 350,000 ha in permanent forest reserves between 1990 and 2008, the auditors recorded.

They also cited press reports earlier this year that logging activities in Bakun exceeding 40,000 ha had led to severe pollution and deposits at the mouth of the Balui River.

The law requires an environmental impact assessment to be prepared for all licenses in logging areas exceeding 500 ha before logging can commence. But in a sample of 30 permits of areas exceeding 500 ha, the auditors were unable to verify that EIA reports had been prepared before work began. Neither could they find any EIA approvals relating to those permits.

Air surveillance revealed that logging in certain areas had been carried out on slopes exceeding the 45-degree slope threshold allowed and close to riverbanks.

The auditors warned that Sarawak’s rich biodiversity would be gradually destroyed as a result of logging activities. It called for full records on flora and fauna species so that restoration work could be properly undertaken for threatened species.

One of the problems is poor enforcement and insufficient forest rangers, which Awang Tengah said was an “old episode” as corrective and improvement action had been taken.

But Abin belied his claim, saying that fear of harassment deters people from lodging complaints. “They cannot deny that there are a lot of illegal logging activities going on. The problem lies with the authorities, the people who have the power, because of their lack of enforcement.”

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Concerns over coal plant

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star-KOTA KINABALU: An initial environmental report on a proposed 300mW coal-fired plant on the state’s east coast has drawn concerns from various Sabah groups, who say it is filled with shortcomings.

Among others, the Terms of Reference for the project at the Felda Sahabat scheme appears to have ignored the long-term impact of the coal plant’s emissions into the pristine Darvel Bay.

This is especially important when several kilometres away from the proposed coal plant site in the bay is a sea grass area that is habitat for the endangered dugong or sea cow.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association president Wong Tack said this was one of the findings at a first review conducted on the project’s Terms of Reference at the Department of Environment in Putrajaya on Nov 24.

“The Terms of Reference showed there was no study carried out on the cumulative effects of the coal plant emissions over a five to 15-year period.

“What is ironic is that the Darvel Bay is within the Coral Triangle Initiative which Malaysia has pledged to conserve,” he said here yesterday.

The Prime Minister had attended the summit on the Coral Triangle Initiative, dubbed the “Amazon of the Oceans,” in May and pledged USD1mil (RM3.4mil) to its protection.

Wong said at the review that state government officials had also voiced concerns that the emissions could have adverse impact on the Tun Sakaran marine park and world renowned diving haven of Pulau Sipadan over the long term.

He said the Terms of Reference was also drawn up based on climate conditions in the Tawau district – more than 200km away – and not within the Tengku area, the proposed site for the coal plant.

Wong said this was critical as the Tabin Wildlife Conservation area – home to Borneo Pygmy elephants, rhinos, orang utan and sun bears – was just 20km away.

He claimed that the consultants responsible for the Terms of Reference appeared not to have obtained feedback from state officials nor explored any alternative to the coal plant.

“Yet, we have a natural gas-fired plant in Kimanis coming up and while a 300mW biomass power plant is not practical, it doesn’t mean we can’t have such smaller plants in the various districts,” he added.

Wong was among three Sepa representatives at the review that was also attended by officials from the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Envi­ronment Ministry, Wildlife, state Environmental Protection, Forestry, Fisheries and Health Departments as well as Sabah Parks and the Lahad Datu district office.

Sepa was also representing Green Surf, which is a coalition of various groups including WWF-Sabah, Malaysian Nature Society, Land Empowerment, Animal and People, and Pacos Trust, at the review.

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Commonwealth Leaders Press for ‘Binding’ Climate Deal

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Climate Change |

-Environmental News Service-

Climate change dominated the meeting of Commonwealth heads of government that concluded Sunday in Port of Spain with a statement of support for an international legally binding agreement in Copenhagen next month.

The Commonwealth leaders declared, “We pledge our continued support to the leaders-driven process guided by the Danish Prime Minister and his efforts to deliver a comprehensive, substantial and operationally binding agreement in Copenhagen leading towards a full legally binding outcome no later than 2010.”

The Copenhagen meeting, taking place from December 7 through 18, aims to forge an agreement on greenhouse gas emissions limits after the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Limits must be strict enough to avert the worst consequences of global warming that are already being felt in extreme weather events, droughts, floods, melting glaciers and polar ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten to swamp coastal communities and small island states.

Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Port of Spain. (Photo by Kenroy Ambris courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat)

An intergovernmental organization of 54 independent member states, all but two of them formerly part of the British Empire, the Commonwealth countries include major economies: Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, and South Africa, as well as developing countries in Africa and Asia, and small island states in Oceana and the Caribbean.

Of the 49 countries that attended the meeting, 34 were represented by their heads of state or government. The opening ceremony featured an address by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth.

Representing a third of the world’s population in all continents and oceans, and more than one quarter of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty behind the Kyoto Protocol, the government leaders declared, “Science, and our own experience, tells us that we only have a few short years to address this threat.”

“The average global temperature has risen because of the increase in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions,” they said. “We must act now.”

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “I think the great thing about the Commonwealth conference is that we could find nations that were rich and poor, nations that were facing directly now climate change and nations who were debating it but hadn’t felt the full impact of it, all coming together to agree something that, you know, if a third of the world can agree at the Commonwealth conference, then perhaps the whole of the world can agree at Copenhagen.”

In their declaration, the Commonwealth leaders approved “fast start funding” focused on the most vulnerable countries. Prime Minister Brown proposed the fund so that the fight against climate change could begin immediately.

Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, left, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Photo courtesy Office of PM Brown)

The Copenhagen Launch Fund would start in 2010 and build to a level of resources of $10 billion annually by 2012 with 10 percent of it dedicated to small island states. It would support climate adaptation, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and clean technology.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters, “When we talk about the need for a fast-start fund for adaptation purposes, as well as mitigation purposes, it’s to provide the immediate resources necessary for a number of those states to deal with the real challenges that their populations face in the here and now, starting in 2010, 2011, 2012, before, in fact, the post-Kyoto agreement would kick in.”

Rudd said it is “practical and necessary” to have the deployment of that fund measured in terms of its effectiveness.

The Commonwealth declaration avoided setting a numerical limit to global temperature rise, saying only, “We stress our common conviction that urgent and substantial action to reduce global emissions is needed and have a range of views as to whether average global temperature increase should be constrained to below 1.5 degrees or to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

Holding out for a perfect deal in Copenhagen could result in no agreement at all, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned at the Port of Spain meeting on Saturday, calling on all governments to get behind a deal that is as ambitious as possible but also has broad international support.

“Many refer to a 2-degree limit, while for you, the most vulnerable countries, a safe level means staying below 1.5 degrees centigrade. That said, we face a simple reality – if we delay for perfection, we risk ending up with nothing – no agreement at all,” Ban cautioned.

Ban told delegates that momentum for a deal in Copenhagen, where at least 80 world leaders are expected to attend, was strong and continuing to grow.

“The world has never before witnessed this level of political engagement on climate,” Ban emphasized. “We will not get a better chance any time soon.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been under pressure at home and abroad to offer substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Originally bound by the Kyoto Protocol, Harper backed away from Canada’s commitment soon after he took office in February 2006, saying it was not doable.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Photo courtesy Office of the PM)

Canada is among the top 10 polluting nations in the world and has the worst record on reducing domestic emissions among G8 nations.

The Harper government aims to lower Canada’s greenhouse gases 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020. The mid-term goal is to drop emissions 60 to 70 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.

Harper told reporters in Port of Spain that Canada’s goal for reducing greenhouse gases is “virtually identical” to the target proposed by the Obama administration so that Canada would not be at a disadvantage compared to its biggest trading partner.

Yet Canada has been criticized for using a later base year than other countries. The United States uses 2005 as the base year for its offer of a 17 percent emissions cut, while the Europeans use 1990 as their benchmark year, when global emissions were lower.

Harper said, “We’ve been through the exercise in the past decade or so of setting targets that were idealistic or blue sky and no one went out and actually achieved them, or set targets that look great on paper and didn’t actually require any effort.”

“So I think modest, achievable targets, particularly in the short term, will get the planet on the right track, which will allow us to make a longer-term transition,” the Canadian leader said.

Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, left, with Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Sri Najib Mohd Razak (Photo courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat)

As a developing country, India is not bound to set a greenhouse gas emissions target, but Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said India has adopted what he called an “ambitious” National Action Plan on Climate Change with eight national missions covering both mitigation and adaptation. “We have not made their implementation conditional upon obtaining international support,” he told the meeting, and India “can certainly do more if there is a supportive global regime.”

“Each of the national missions, including those on renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency and expanding forest cover, are platforms on which we would be happy to pursue cooperative partnership with sister Commonwealth countries,” Singh said.

He said the government of India welcomes the proposal made by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the mobilization of at least US$100 billion by 2020 for supporting climate change action in developing countries and the priority Brown has given to the needs of least developed countries and small island developing states. “However,” Singh warned, “much of this finance is market based and hence subject to market volatility and unpredictability. We can hardly plan long-term action on this basis.”

Prime Minister Rudd said that at this point he still wonders whether or not a meaningful agreement will emerge from the Copenhagen meeting. “I can’t predict the outcome, but can I say there are, there are available to us the resources, the political will and the policy instruments to craft an effective Copenhagen agreement. It’s there. We can do it.”

“The question between now and December 17 and 18 is one of political will,” said the Australian leader. He said Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s process, backed by the UN secretary-general and heads of government, including himself, is to try and craft that.

“There’s a lot of opposition around the world, there’s a lot of indifference around the world. The international legion of climate change sceptics is still at work around the world,” said Rudd. “But we intend to give it our absolute best.”

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Rainforest tribe declares ‘peace park’ to defend lands from logging in Sarawak

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Indigenous People |

In an attempt to block destructive logging of their traditional land, a group of indigenous Penan has declared a “peace park” in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.

The “Penan Peace Park” includes 1630 square kilometers (163,000 hectares) around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range near to the Indonesian border. The area serves as a corridor two existing Pulong Tau National Park in Malaysia and the Indonesian Kayan Mentarang National Park.

The area is also slated for logging. The government of Sarawak has concessioned the forest for logging by Samling, a Malaysian timber company. The Penan — who have long battled logging in Sarawak’s rainforests, which have been heavily degraded and greatly reducced since the 1980s — hope that the declaration of the indigenous park will help them in their efforts to get the Malaysian government to recognize their historical presence in the area. The Penan currently have two land rights suits against the Sarawak state government.

“As nomadic hunter-gatherers, we Penan people have been roaming the rainforests of the Upper Baram region for centuries,” James Lalo Kesoh, the former penghulu (regional chief) of the Upper Baram region, was quoted as saying by the Bruno Manser Fund during the inauguration ceremony for the park. “Even though we have settled down and started a life as farmers since the late 1950s, we still depend on the forests for our food supply, for raw materials such as rattan for handicrafts, for medicinal plants and for other jungle products. Our entire cultural heritage is in the forest and needs to be preserved for future generations.”

“The conservation of our forest is our highest priority. Without the forest, we cannot survive,” Jawa Nyipa, headman of Long Ajeng, a village in the Upper Baram, told Bruno Manser Fund. “We call this park ‘Peace Park’ because peace (‘lawi’) is a very important concept in our culture. We wish to live peacefully together with our neighbouring tribes and as fully recognized Malaysian citizens.”

The Penan, some of whom still live as nomadic hunter-gatherers in the rainforests of Sarawak, have been battling loggers since the 1980s, when large-scale industrial logging commenced in the Malaysian state. At times they have faced intimidation and violent crackdowns at the hands of security forces hired by logging firms and Malaysian police. In January 2008 a Penan chief, Kelesau Naan, was allegedly murdered for his longtime opposition to logging. In September Malaysian security forces broke up roadblocks the Penan had set up to prevent forestry companies from accessing the Upper Baram forest.

Meanwhile vast tracts of Sarawak’s rainforest has been stripped of its valuable timber. Now forestry firms are coveting forest lands for conversion to oil palm plantations, which will likely leave the Penan even worse off since these estates support less game than even logged-over forest.

The plight of the Penan made international headlines in the 1990s due a campaign by Bruno Manser, a Swiss national, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2000. Since then the cause has been championed by the Bruno Manser Fund.

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We are the world, for all it’s worth

Posted on November 29, 2009. Filed under: Climate Change |

-The Star-

THE gross injustices of the whole “climate change” issue are embodied in the unfortunate predicament of the world’s small island states.

They are among the world’s least polluters. They have benefited minimally from globalised economic growth that has contributed so much to global warming.

And yet these small island nations, with little physical infrastructure, traffic or pollution, are expected to pay the ultimate price for the smog of others by disappearing. They would be the first to become extinct.

Their low altitude and limited size threaten their very existence as sea levels rise. Their modest means also makes them most vulnerable to global warming and least able to address the problem themselves.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port of Spain, in the tiny island state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Britain proposed a US$10bil (RM33.9bil) fund to help these small nations. While such funding is important, even more crucial would be decisive efforts to stem the deadly tide of global warming.

France proposed a World Environmental Organisation to oversee the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. If world trade could produce a WTO, surely the continued existence of the planet must also justify a WEO.

Malaysia fully supports the international consensus for a more sensible, sustainable and assured future. CHOGM was thus a meaningful occasion to initiate vital discussion on these issues, particularly since it is within weeks of the Copenhagen Summit.

Important objectives like the proposed fund can be stymied by too many preconditions, which is why Malaysia has warned against them. There should not be any undue issue to delay or deny serious work on environmental preservation.

There is simply no alternative to planetary survival. To do what is necessary with a proper sense of justice, the richer countries with more means at their disposal, and which had produced more than a fair share of global warming, should not baulk at contributing more to its alleviation.

This is a time when real leadership counts, and leadership as it is expected to come from those most responsible. But that also must not mean the rest of us have to wait in line before we act.

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CHOGM leaders to fight for ‘green’ treaty’ at Copenhagen meet

Posted on November 29, 2009. Filed under: Climate Change |

-The Star-

PORT OF SPAIN: Commonwealth countries, including Malaysia, have agreed to fight for a legally binding treaty to be implemented during the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.

The decision was made at a special session on climate change held after the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, were invited as guests to give their views at the session on Friday. The Commonwealth has 53 member countries.

Najib, who also took part in the debate, said Malaysia felt it was timely for member countries to make a firm commitment during CHOGM to ensure the success of the Copenhagen Summit which is less than three weeks away.

Royal presence: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and other leaders of Commonwealth nations standing as Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Commonwealth, arrives to officially open the CHOGM meeting at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago.

He added that it would be difficult to get a commitment from some countries, especially developed ones, to act with just a political agreement.

During the CHOGM session, Sarkozy called for a World Environmental Organisation to be set up as the Kyoto Protocol — where 37 industrialised countries had committed themselves to a reduction of greenhouse gases — did not provide for a supervisory body.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed the setting up of a US$10bil fund over a period of three years to help small developing island states. Globally, these islands have the highest ratio of economic losses from disasters and other climate impacts although they do not contribute to global warming.

The fund is to be used for mitigation against environmental disasters and adaptation of technology to reduce carbon emission.

During the debate, Najib said there should not be too many conditions set for the fund as that would hamper efforts to help affected countries.

He also urged countries not to set aside the declarations of the Kyoto Protocol which contained many fundamental principles that had been agreed upon.

On reports that Sarkozy had hijacked CHOGM to talk on global warming, Najib said this was not the case as climate change was a main issue at CHOGM.

“Many Commonwealth countries are victims of climate change. Some have said that if global warming continues, small island states might disappear. For many of them, this is a matter of life and death.”

Earlier, when opening CHOGM 2009, Head of the Commonwealth Queen Elizabeth said the environmental threat was now a global challenge which would affect security and stability in the years ahead.

She said most of the countries under threat were the most vulnerable and least able to withstand the adverse effects of climate change.

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Green energy in schools

Posted on November 29, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

FIVE schools in Malaysia will soon embrace green technology and provide a new learning experience for their pupils.

Under the Green Schools Campaign, these schools will be equipped with grid-connected photovoltaic systems to generate electricity.

The campaign is jointly sponsored by Pusat Tenaga Malaysia (PTM) and the Association of Independent Power Producers (Penjanabebas).

The initiative is also supported by the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, Suruhanjaya Tenaga and the United Nations Development Program and Global Environmental Facility.

From left: Ahmad Jauhari, Loo, Chin, Dr Halim, and Ahmad Hadri at the launch of the Green Schools Campaign.

The campaign will shortlist five schools that will each have a 5 kWp BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) system installed in their premises to convert solar energy into electricity.

The systems will cost a total of RM750,000.

According to PTM’s Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) project leader Ir Ahmad Hadri Haris, the total installed capacity in schools would increase from 4.4kWp to 29.4kWp once the five systems have been installed.

“Each school will save an estimated 5,018 kWp/year in their electricity bill, but the campaign’s primary objective is to increase the acceptance of green energy amongst school pupils through on-the-ground awareness and education programmes,” he said.

PTM last year installed the first such system at SMK Sri Aman in Petaling Jaya as a showcase project.

The campaign is Penjanabebas’ flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) project, in line with the industry’s stand on energy efficiency and sustainability.

The association’s president Ahmad Jauhari Yahya described the project as an example of a successful partnership between the public and private sectors.

“Our involvement in the BIPV project for schools is to turn something as abstract as green technology into something that pupils can see and monitor in order to generate interest in, and commitment to, green technology,” he added.

Also present at the campaign launch were Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Dr Halim Man, and deputy secretary-general Loo Took Gee.

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Raja Musa peat swamp shows signs of new life

Posted on November 28, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

A year ago, the Raja Musa forest reserve near Batang Berjuntai was in a deplorable state with hardly any of the original species of trees seen at the peat swamp.

What used to be a heavily forested area had become barren land. Pockets of the forest reserve were planted with cash crops like tapioca, pineapple, starfruit and banana trees instead of the original species like Mahang (Macarang species), Meranti (Shorea spp), Jelutong (Dyera sp,), Rengas (Gluta renghas) and Ramin (Gonystilus bancanus), which are commonly found at peat forests.

Barren landscape: The peat swamp was in a bad state last year.

For more than 10 years, more than 500ha of the forest reserve was illegally cleared and burnt for large-scale farming.

At the end of last year, the Selangor state forestry department, on the instruction of the state government, ordered the eviction of the illegal occupants and started clearing all vegetation and agricultural activities in the area.

Access roads were cut off to prevent entry to the area and all the illegal settlers were evicted from the forest reserve. The drains and canals were blocked to contain the water and raise the water table.

Since then, the department together with various NGOs have put in continuous effort to save the 23,000ha peat swamp forest reserve. It includes replanting seedlings indigenous to the peat swamp in an attempt to return it to its original state.

Now, after a year, the area is showing signs of recovery, thanks to the efforts of the state forestry department and several nature-loving NGOs.

“For the past year, we have been carrying out continuous efforts to restore the forest.

Positive signs: A year later, the peat swamp is already showing signs of regrowth.

“Initially, we provided everything including the tree saplings to be planted in the area.

“But now the NGOs have started to come in with their initiatives to help restore the forest,” Selangor Forestry department deputy director for silviculture and forest protection Samsu Anuar Nawi said.

He added that the tree-planting was being held regularly at the forest reserve.

Initially, the department had supplied several species of saplings to be replanted. However, the method was found to be less successful as some of the species were not suitable under those conditions.

He said the rehabilitation process was going at a much slower rate than expected. Only some of the replanted trees survived.

“We only had a survival rate of 30% from what we had planted in the area.

“Now we are focusing on one particular species — the Mahang tree.

“The tree is more suitable as it is fast-growing and can create forest cover rapidly,” he said.

Samsu added that Mahang, which was considered a pioneer species in peat forests, had a higher survival rate. It had up to 80% survival rate compared with other species. The Mahang species would take about 10 years to muture but could reach maturity faster with proper care.

The result can be seen in three years, with the trees providing enough cover for the introduction of other species.

Samsu added that the department hoped to restore the ecology of the forest and having the trees would also help prevent the encroachers from coming back.

“The replanting project is part of efforts to create awareness on the importance of preserving the existing trees and to help prevent any illegal activities that would damage the natural forestry at the peat swamp,” said Samsu.

He added that the young trees were also eaten by cows and goats grazing in the area.

Peat swamps are like sponges that absorb rain and river water. They help control floods during the rainy season and release much needed water during the dry season.

The accumulation of organic matter from the debris of the vegetation above it over a long period of time, even to the extent of thousands of years, has caused the trees, twigs, leaves and roots to decompose and create a layer of blackish peat soil.

Draining the peat forest will lower the water table and increase the risk of fire in the peat soil.

Once dried, the peat would oxidize and break down, causing the soil to collapse.

Drainage of peat land led to aeration and decomposition of the peat materials and oxidation that triggered carbon dioxide emission.

Numerous studies have shown that disturbed peat swamps in Indonesia and Malaysia continued to emit carbon dioxide for years after clearing had stopped.

Malaysia, with nearly 2.5mil ha of peat forests, is the second largest in the region after Indonesia.

The Raja Musa and Sungai Karang forest reserves form the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest, the second largest peat forest in the peninsula, covering 75,000ha while the largest in Pahang covers 200,000ha.

The Raja Musa alone covers 23,000ha, but 525ha of it had been illegally cleared.

The largest peat forest in the country is located in Sarawak and measures 1.5mil ha.

Previously, there were many reports about peat fires at the forest reserve, which were set deliberately by the encroachers who were clearing the area for agriculture and plantation.

“I am glad that we managed to restore this forest reserve,” forestry department enforcement and operations assistant director Mohd Yussainy Md Yusop said.

He added that the department had spent many hours of planning and preparing before carrying out the enforcement operations on Dec 4, last year.

“We had sent out officers to the site several times to check and verify the situation six months before the operation date.

“Then, we also had to prepare the manpower and equipment involved in the operation,” he said, adding that about 300 officers were involved.

Following the success at the forest reserve, the department has decided to carry out similar moves at other problematic forest reserves.

They will continue to reclaim whatever has been taken by illegal settlers and restore the forest back to its original condition, no matter how hard it would be.

With enforcement as its main priority next year, the department looks set to take action against settlers in three forest reserves in the state by the end of next year.

“We hope to be able to settle the problems in Hutan Simpan Kuala Langat Selatan, Hutan Simpan Bukit Tarik and Hutan Simpan Hulu Gombak,” Yussainy said.

The department’s statistics show that 241,568ha has been marked as permanent reserved forest in Selangor with 11,381ha marked as forest plantations (forest which has been planted with various species of timber to be logged in later years) and 1,608ha for wildlife reserve.

He added that more than 2,600ha of the forest reserves in the state, which included peat swamps and mangroves, had been cleared.

The department is also going all out to nab those who conduct illegal logging.

Under Section 15 of the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Amendment 1993) those who conduct illegal logging can be fined up to a maximum of RM500,000 and mandatory imprisonment of 1 year minimum to a maximum of 20 years.

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Economist: ‘Climate change to cost trillions’

Posted on November 27, 2009. Filed under: Climate Change |

-Malaysian Mirror-

PARIS – Estimates vary widely on the costs of damage from climate change, easing these impacts and taming the carbon gas stoking the problem, but economists agree the bill is likely to be in the trillions of dollars.

altFigures depend on different forecasts for greenhouse-gas emissions and the timeline for reaching them. In addition, key variables remain sketchy.

How will rainfall, snowfall, storm frequency and ocean levels look a few decades from now? How will they affect a specific country or region? And how fast will nations introduce low-carbon technologies, carbon taxes and other policies that alter energy use?

Despite these uncertainties, economists share a broad consensus: climate change will ultimately cost thousands of billions of dollars, a tab that keeps rising as more carbon enters the atmosphere.

“The cost of climate impacts goes up with the delay on emissions mitigation,” said Sam Fankhauser of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“On the cost of adaptation, there’s a timing issue. For instance, there’s no point building sea walls now if the sea levels are only going to rise gradually over the next 50 years. But we do know that costs of adaptation will go up non-linearly, in other words exponentially, with the degree of warming that we have.”

Following is a snapshot of the main items on the tab.

— IMPACTS: Warming of between two to three degrees Celsius (3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times would inflict a permanent loss in global world output of up to three percent, according to the 2006 Stern Review, authored by British economist Nicholas Stern.

But this would rise to an average of five to 10 percent loss of GDP with warming of five to six C (9.0 F), with poor countries suffering costs “in excess” of 10 percent of GDP.

On current trends, Earth is headed for an average increase of 4 C (7.2 F) this century, to which 0.74 C (1.33 F) of warming from the 20th century must be added, according to the so-called A1F1 emissions scenario of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

— MITIGATION: Action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases focuses on more efficient use of coal, oil and gas and a switch to clean renewable sources.

The European Union (EU) and others have set the target of limiting overall warming to 2C (3.6 F), which entails stabilising carbon concentrations in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (ppm).

Attaining this would require 10.5 trillion dollars in energy-related investment by 2030, which would be additional to money committed under existing policies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

The largest increase — 4.7 trillion — is in transport, mainly to purchase more efficient, but more expensive, vehicles.

Investment to make buildings more energy-efficient would cost an additional 2.5 trillion dollars by 2030 while a switch to cle

alt

an or low-carbon power generation would notch up another 1.7 trillion.

— ADAPTATION: Estimates of the cost of protecting against water stress, flood, extreme storms, rising sea levels and other ills vary widely, from four billion a year to 109 billion annually over the next 20 years.

A widely-regarded estimate put forward in 2007 by the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) suggested the bill by 2030 could be between 49 and 171 billion dollars annually, of which 27-66 billion would be needed in developing countries.

The figure is based on the need to climate-proof infrastructure; help agriculture; protect water supplies; defend coastal zones; and treat malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria, which are among the diseases likely to be amplified by climate change.

But this is only half, or even just a third, of the likely cost, as it does not factor in protecting ecosystems, energy, tourism, manufacturing and mining, according to a paper published in August by Martin Parry of Imperial College London.

By way of comparison, the EU estimates developing nations will need 100 billion euros (150 billion dollars) per year by 2020, for both adaptation and mitigation.

Trillions spent in mitigation and adaptation will have an economic benefit and create new jobs, although exactly how far they will ease the cost of impacts is — once more — hard to calculate, say economists.

— AFP

 

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