Archive for the ‘Express 131’ Category

New Tool from Singapore to Measure Biodiversity for Cities

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

New Tool from Singapore to Measure Biodiversity for Cities

Why is it important to protect our biodiversity? It is important because it is a source of our food and medicine.During the past 50 years, we have lost 20 per cent of the land suitable for agriculture, 90 per cent of the large commercial fisheries and one-third of our forests. That’s the word from Singapore’s Tommy Koh and Ahmed Djoghlaf. Meanwhile, Singapore has provided a new global tool for cities to measure biodiversity as a contribution to the conservation movement.

Chanel News Asia Report (30 October 2010):     

SINGAPORE: A newly endorsed self-assessment tool for cities to measure biodiversity is Singapore’s contribution to the biodiversity conservation movement, said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan.

The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity was developed by various experts in Singapore.

It was formally endorsed on Friday as a biodiversity measurement tool for cities, at the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya.

Mr Mah, who is in Nagoya for the conference, said the index would help cities and local authorities measure the progress of their biodiversity conservation effort over time.

“Cities and governments around the world are well aware of the importance of biodiversity conservation and its impact on social and economic development,” he said.

“Singapore is a good case study in illustrating how economic development and greenery and biodiversity conservation can be mutually reinforcing.”

The Singapore Index uses a “report card” scoring system where cities can carry out their own assessment, allocate points for a diversity of 23 indicators, before coming up with an overall quantitative score.

The information can help cities make better decisions on how to prioritise their biodiversity conservation initiatives.

It would also evaluate cities’ progress in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss.

Mr Mah said the index endorsement was an excellent closure to the International Year of Biodiversity 2010.


Ahmed Djoghlaf & Tommy Koh in The Straits Times (22 November 2010):

THE Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, gave birth to three conventions: the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Conference of Parties of the United Nations FCCC, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December last year, ended in chaos and with very modest results.

In sharp contrast, the Conference of Parties of the CBD, held in October in Nagoya, Japan, was harmonious and productive.

Why is it important to protect our biodiversity? It is important because it is a source of our food and medicine.

During the past 50 years, we have lost 20 per cent of the land suitable for agriculture, 90 per cent of the large commercial fisheries and one-third of our forests.

As former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has written: ‘Human health depends, to a larger extent than we might imagine, on the health of other species and on the healthy functioning of other ecosystems.’

Destroy the ecosystems and we will eventually threaten life on Earth.

The third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, issued in May and based on information from 120 national reports submitted by parties, demonstrated that we continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate.

The report confirmed that the rate of extinction is today up to 1,000 times higher than the natural rate of extinction. It also warned that irreversible degradation may take place if ecosystems are pushed beyond certain tipping points, leading to the widespread loss of ecosystem services that we depend on greatly. It also predicted that the status of biodiversity for years to come will be determined by actions in the next couple of decades.

This sense of urgency motivated the 18,650 participants attending the Biodiversity Summit in Nagoya.

Indeed, the 193 parties to the CBD and their partners adopted several historic decisions that will permit the community of nations to meet the unprecedented challenges of the continued loss of biodiversity compounded by climate change.

Governments agreed on a package of measures that will ensure the ecosystems of the planet will continue to sustain human well-being into the future.

First, a new 10-year strategic plan containing ambitious targets was adopted with the engagement of all stakeholders, including the business community.

This plan integrates the findings of the study of the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity. It contains the means of implementation and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The plan has been adopted as the overarching biodiversity framework for the whole UN system. It will be translated, within two years, into national strategies and an action plan. Parties will also be requested to implement the plan at the local level.

Second, the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing was a historic achievement.

It is a major contribution to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, by implementing the third objective of the convention: ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.

The protocol also proposes the creation of a global multilateral mechanism that will operate in transboundary areas or situations where prior informed consent cannot be obtained. It is expected to come into force by 2012, with support from the Global Environment Facility.

Third, the provision of financial resources is crucial to the implementation of the Nagoya biodiversity compact.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) in financing and Minister of Environment Ryu Matsumoto announced the establishment of a Japan Biodiversity Fund. Additional financial resources were announced by France, the European Union and Norway.

Fourth, one of the most important initiatives adopted in Nagoya was a multi-year plan of action on cities and biodiversity adopted by the representatives of 650 municipalities, including 200 mayors, at the first Summit on Cities and Biodiversity.

The plan was submitted and adopted by the Conference of the Parties, thus establishing a strong partnership between ministers and the local authorities.

In adopting the plan, the participants endorsed the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity. This tool was specially designed to monitor and assess the status of biodiversity in urban areas. It was developed at the initiative of Singapore, in partnership with the secretariat of the convention, and was test-bedded on 34 cities before its submission to the summit.

The World Cities Summit and the Mayors’ Forum, held biennially in Singapore, will provide a unique opportunity to implement this new partnership at the service of the biodiversity agenda and the future of humanity.

Indeed, the battle for life on Earth will be won and lost in the cities of tomorrow, because the majority of humankind now live in urban, rather than rural, areas.

Ahmed Djoghlaf is the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Tommy Koh is the chairman of the Earth Summit’s main committee and preparatory committee.


Will There Be Another Year of the Tiger?

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Will There Be Another Year of the Tiger?

The World Wide Fund for Nature and other experts say only about 3200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago. James Leape, director general of WWF, told the meeting in St Petersburg that if the proper protective measures aren’t taken, tigers may disappear by 2022, the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger.

By Irina Titova in St Petersburg in The Australian (22 November 22, 2010):

WILD tigers could become extinct in 12 years if countries where they still roam fail to take quick action to protect their habitats and step up the fight against poaching, global wildlife experts told a “tiger summit”.

The World Wildlife Fund and other experts say only about 3200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

James Leape, director general of the World Wildlife Fund, told the meeting in St Petersburg that if the proper protective measures aren’t taken, tigers may disappear by 2022, the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger.

Their habitat is being destroyed by forest cutting and construction, and they are a valuable trophy for poachers who want their skins and body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine.

The summit approved a wide-ranging program with the goal of doubling the world’s tiger population in the wild by 2022 backed by governments of the 13 countries that still have tiger populations: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia.

The Global Tiger Recovery Program estimates the countries will need about $US350 million ($355 million) in outside funding in the first five years of the 12-year plan. The summit will be seeking donor commitments to help governments finance conservation measures.

“For most people tigers are one of the wonders of the world,” Mr Leape said.

“In the end, the tigers are the inspiration and the flagship for much broader efforts to conserve forests and grasslands.”

The program aims to protect tiger habitats, eradicate poaching, smuggling, and illegal trade of tigers and their parts, and also create incentives for local communities to engage them in helping protect the big cats.

The summit, which runs through Wednesday, is hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has used encounters with tigers and other wild animals to bolster his image. It’s driven by the Global Tiger Initiative which was launched two years ago by World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

Mr Leape said that along with a stronger action against poaching, it’s necessary to set up specialised reserves for tigers and restore and conserve forests outside them to let tigers expand.

“And you have to find a way to make it work for the local communities so that they would be partners in tigers conservation and benefit from them,” Mr Leape said.

“To save tigers you need to save the forests, grasslands and lots of other species,” he added.

“But at the same time you are also conserving the foundations of the societies who live there. Their economy depends very much on the food, water and materials they get from those forests.”

About 30 per cent of the program’s cost would go toward suppressing the poaching of tigers and of the animals they prey on.

Russia’s Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said that Russia and China will create a protected area for tigers alongside their border and pool resources to combat poaching.

Mr Leape said that for some of the nations involved outside financing would be essential to fulfill the goals. Three of the nine tiger subspecies – the Bali, Javan, and Caspian – already have become extinct in the past 70 years.

Much has been done recently to try to save tigers, but conservation groups say their numbers and habitats have continued to fall, by 40 per cent in the past decade alone. In part, that decline is because conservation efforts have been increasingly diverse and often aimed at improving habitats outside protected areas where tigers can breed, according to a study published in September in the Popular Library of Science Biology journal.

Mr Putin has done much to draw attention to tigers’ plight. During a visit to a wildlife preserve in 2008, he shot a female tiger with a tranquiliser gun and helped place a transmitter around her neck as part of a program to track the rare cats.

Later in the year, Mr Putin was given a two-month-old female Siberian tiger for his birthday. State television showed him at his home gently petting the cub, which was curled up in a wicker basket with a tiger-print cushion.

The tiger now lives in a zoo in southern Russia.


Nothing is Beyond Mathew Wright’s Imagination & Energy

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Nothing is Beyond Mathew Wright’s Imagination & Energy

Young Environmentalist of the Year, Matthew Wright, reflects on his plan for the future of electricity in Australia that led to him being awarded the prestigious prize, in this article which appeared on the ABC Environment portal. He’s the man behind the Beyond Zero Emission plan to transform Australia’s stationery energy to be totally renewable by 2020. He has steered launches of the plan in Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane. Next up is Adelaide on 3 December.  

ABC Environment (27 October 2010):

By Matthew Wright

CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY has been moving at a snail’s pace for the last few years. But for all the false starts, we can look to 2011 knowing that the seeds for progress have been planted.

In 2010, Beyond Zero Emissions, the volunteer-led group I helped found, published the Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy plan, a detailed blueprint for transforming Australia’s stationary energy sector to 100 per cent renewable sources by 2020. It took around 12 months worth of pro bono work by engineers, scientists and postgraduate university students from all around Australia to complete the research that no Australian government or organisation has been prepared to investigate. The result is a truly innovative collaboration the likes of which has never been seen before in Australia.

At the annual Banksia awards recently, Beyond Zero Emissions and our partner, the University of Melbourne Energy Institute, were awarded the Mercedes Benz Environmental Research Award for our efforts.The Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy plan is quite simply a game changer. The proposal presents a credible and pragmatic way for our government and private sector to transform the Australian economy from one reliant on climate-changing fossil fuels to one powered by Australia’s abundant renewable energy resources using commercially available technology.

Using detailed modelling, our researchers show how a 60/40 mix of large-scale solar thermal power plants with storage and wind farms can provide the bulk of Australia’s energy needs without wrecking our climate or our economy. The construction of a national energy grid will allow for geographically dispersed solar and wind power installations, with our existing hydroelectric capacity and small amount of biomass used for backup generation. We demonstrate that both cost and variability can be readily addressed, and expose as myth the frequent argument that we need coal, gas or nuclear power to provide ‘baseload’ electricity.

One could be excused for thinking that transforming our national energy system in a decade is an impossible task. This was the initial position of many on the plan’s team. Through conducting our research however, it became clear that implementing the proposed infrastructure in ten years is well within the capability of Australia’s existing industrial and economic capacity. We have the skills, the can-do spirit, and the Aussie ingenuity to get the job done. What we don’t have is leadership from our government and business community.

The overwhelming response to the Zero Carbon Australia plan tells us that the public is hungry for action on climate change and that they have an appetite for a visionary nation-building renewable energy agenda. Over one thousand people braved bad weather for launches in Melbourne and Sydney. And every week, our inboxes are filled with messages of support and requests to join the Beyond Zero Emissions team. After the success of the Stationary Energy plan and new volunteers on board, we will develop transition plans for buildings, transport, steel, cement and other industrial sectors.

Cross-party support on climate change policies has been elusive. But our plan has managed to gain support from across the political spectrum. In June, Liberal Senator Judith Troeth, Greens Senator Christine Milne and independent Senator Nick Xenophon jointly hosted the parliamentary launch of the plan. Since then former Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull has joined former NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr to praise the plan at an event at the Sydney Town Hall.

Not only do politicians support the Zero Carbon Australia initiative, but so do leading academics, energy experts, business people, and community leaders. The former Australian of the Year Professor Tim Flannery described the plan as “an ambitious, technically feasible plan that should be looked at seriously”.

As just one among many Australians that wants action on climate change, I hope the Gillard government and its newly established Climate Change Committee take Tim Flannery’s advice to take a serious look at the Zero Carbon Australia plan. Credible climate policies will account for our findings. To paraphrase the Prime Minister’s oft-used phrase during the 2010 election campaign, it’s the only way to move Australia forward on the critical challenges of climate change and energy security.

Matthew Wright is Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions and the 2010 Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year.

BZE is coming to Adelaide!

Come along to hear about the ground-breaking plan for 100% renewable energy within a decade.

Friday, December 3
6:00pm for a 6.30pm start
Elder Hall, Adelaide University, North Tce, Adelaide