Posts Tagged ‘peatlands’

Study Estimates 100,000 Premature Deaths From Indonesia Haze

September 19, 2016

By Steven Wright
The Associated Press
September 19, 2016 — 12:11 AM EDT

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Smoke, Haze and Air Pollution Harmful to Human Health: Singapore has served notice on Indonesian companies — “We are going after, to put it starkly, the bad guys that are causing this problem.”

July 3, 2016

AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) – Singapore is refusing to back down in its pursuit of those responsible for haze-belching forest fires in South-east Asia last year, despite struggling to bring the perpetrators before the courts and drawing a sharp rebuke from neighbouring Indonesia.

Forest fires are part of an annual dry-season problem in Indonesia, started illegally to quickly and cheaply clear land for cultivation – particularly for palm oil and pulpwood.

But last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke and forcing school closures as pollution reached hazardous levels and thousands fell sick across the region.

Singapore has served notice to six Indonesian companies it believes may have cleared land by burning but could target others as investigations continue, according to Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia Anil Kumar Nayar.

“We are going after, to put it starkly, the bad guys that are causing this problem,” he told AFP in an interview last week.

However, the city-state’s efforts to punish Indonesian companies under its own anti-haze law have become a flashpoint with Jakarta.

Singapore argues that international rules allow states to take action – even if harm is being caused by activities outside its jurisdiction – but Jakarta has questioned how Singapore could pursue Indonesian citizens for prosecution, especially in the absence of a ratified extradition treaty between the neighbours.

The latest sabre-rattling came after Singapore issued a court warrant in May to detain a director of an Indonesian company linked to the haze while he was in the city-state.

Afterwards, Indonesia’s Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that she would be reviewing her ministry’s cooperation with Singapore on environmental issues.

“Singapore cannot step further into Indonesia’s legal domain,” Bakar told reporters in June. Her spokesman declined to comment further on the matter when contacted.

Nayar reiterated that Singapore wasn’t crossing any line pursuing these companies and was within its rights to enforce its law.

“We are not doing something that is extraordinary. It is not targeting any country, or anybody’s sovereignty,” he said.

The law threatens local and foreign firms with fines of up to S$100,000 for every day Singapore endures unhealthy haze pollution.

So far just two of the companies have responded to the court order, Nayar said, without naming specific firms.

Singapore has repeatedly asked Indonesia for details about companies – such as maps showing who owns what concessions – but says Jakarta has not provided any information.

Singapore would “continue to press”, Nayar said, but added the evidence needed to prosecute these companies could be found by other means.

“We could go that way as well, but at the end of the day this is part of a legal process. We want to be working with the Indonesian government,” he said.

One of Indonesia’s main arguments is that a regional approach to solving the haze crisis would be more effective than individual action.

“They (Singapore) know our view on this, on how we can best address this issue of haze through the Asean mechanism,” ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told AFP.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has an agreement to create a haze-free region by 2020, though it took 14 years to be fully ratified.

Nayar says regional progress on curbing haze has been slow.

Fellow Asean member Malaysia, which also suffers during the haze outbreaks, has expressed interest in adopting its own law similar to Singapore’s to pursue errant companies.

Jakarta has promised tougher action in the wake of last year’s haze disaster, which turned skies yellow in Indonesia’s part of Borneo island and dealt the economy a US$16 billion blow.

The government announced in May it would no longer grant new land for palm oil plantations, and established a new agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.

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Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images
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Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.
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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

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Palm oil companies ditch landmark Indonesian ‘zero deforestation’ pact

July 2, 2016

By Arlina Arshad, Indonesia Correspondent and David Fogarty Assistant Foreign Editor
The Straits Times

Major palm oil companies that backed a landmark Indonesian “zero deforestation” pact on green practices have now ditched it in favour of less strict standards, triggering criticism the companies have caved into Indonesian government pressure.

The companies signed the 2014 Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, or Ipop, in an agreement hailed as boosting efforts to fight rampant deforestation and annual forest fires and the haze. As part of the pledge, the firms, which include top palm oil producers and traders, pledged no development of peatlands of any depth. Peatland fires are a major source of the haze.

But on Friday (July 1), the companies said Ipop had run its course and was no longer needed. They supported the Indonesian government’s efforts to “transform the palm oil sector” and to strengthen the country’s own certification standards called the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil, or Ispo.

“Ipop signatories have decided that recent groundbreaking policy developments in Indonesia have fulfilled the purpose of Ipop to help accelerate and promote this transformation toward sustainability and therefore its presence can be dissolved,” the grouping said in a statement on Friday. They pointed to government actions that included the creation of a peatland restoration agency.

The Ipop companies are Wilmar International, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), Cargill, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and Astra Agro Lestari.

The Ispo, which is mandatory, bans land-clearing in primary forests and peatlands. The Ipop, which is voluntary, goes further by banning land-clearing in secondary forests and bushland that has high carbon content.

Green groups have condemned the move, saying the firms were only caving in to government’s pressure.

The Agriculture Ministry earlier this year complained that the Ipop was hurting smallholder producers who could not afford to adopt sustainable forestry practices under the pledge. The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) had alleged that as a result, a cartel-like monopoly is created by the signatories.

Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Annisa Rahmawati said in a statement on Friday that “the government officials have bullied and threatened Ipop members”.

“The Ministry of Agriculture needs to get its priorities right. Last year’s forest fires crippled Indonesia’s economy and poisoned people across the region,” she said.

The haze crisis blamed on forest fires in Indonesia last year were the worst in the nation’s history by several measures, causing widespread illness and billions of dollars in losses to the economy.

Ms Annisa urged government officials to urgently work towards delivering President Joko Widodo’s plans to stop forest fires by halting the palm oil industry’s expansion into forests and peatlands.

The Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday that the Ispo is “a single standard for sustainable palm in Indonesia” and will adopt international best practices which are in line with the country’s laws.

Cargill said in a statement: “With the affirmative action by Indonesia towards a sustainable palm oil sector, Cargill supports the dissolution of Ipop.”

In a statement, Wilmar International said it welcomed the Indonesian government’s initiative to lead the country’s palm oil industry towards more environmentally friendly development.

“In the past year, the Government of Indonesia (GOI) has shown much leadership in strengthening its sustainability policies. These include the moratorium on peatland development and the creation of the National Peat Restoration Agency, the moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations, as well as progress on the legal protection of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas. All these actions are clear indications of the GOI’s resolve to progress towards a sustainable palm oil sector.”

Wilmar said given these developments, “IPOP as an entity is no longer required”. But it stressed it would continue its zero-deforestation, no peat, no fires and no exploitation policies as before.

Mr Glenn Hurowitz, senior fellow at Washington-based Centre for International Policies, said the need for robust industry and government action to protect Indonesia’s forests and people is “as urgent as ever”.

“If the palm oil, paper, and rubber industries want to avoid a repeat of the haze disaster, they will need to team up to create comprehensive, transparent implementation mechanisms,” he said.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/palm-oil-companies-ditch-landmark-indonesian-zero-deforestation-pact

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Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images
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Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.
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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

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Indonesian minister rebuts Singapore over comments on haze — “Are We Going To Fill Our Children’s Lungs With Smoke Again This Year?”

April 17, 2016

In an interview with the foresthints.news website, Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya says Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze.

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya has issued a rebuttal over comments made by her Singapore counterpart about forest fires in Indonesia, saying Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze, instead of “making so many comments”.

In an interview with local environmental news website foresthints.news on Saturday (Apr 16), Dr Nurbaya said the Indonesian government has taken substantial steps to prevent land and forest fires, and the ensuing haze that envelops the region every year.

These steps are based on decisions made by the Indonesian government, and not because of pressure from other countries, including Singapore, she said.

“We have been consistent in sticking to our part of the bargain, especially by attempting to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires and by consistently enforcing the law. So, my question is – what has the Singaporean government done? I feel that they should focus on their own role,” Dr Nurbaya was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli spoke at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue in the city-state.

“Agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions. There must not be a repeat of last year’s fires, because the prolonged season of dryness allowed fires to burn uncontrollably and in a very widespread way,” Mr Masagos had said.

“Companies practising unsustainable production that affect us with haze must know that their actions will not lead to profitability and that they will have to face the consequences sooner or later,” he said.

Dr Nurbaya told foresthints.news that Singapore needs to do its own part in combating the haze.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” she was quoted as saying.

She said the Indonesian government has taken action against companies – especially those headquartered in Singapore – found to be negligent in handling land and forest fires that occur on their concessions.

“This is just one example of how we are not shirking our responsibilities and are doing what is expected of us,” she said.

“We really appreciate the input provided to us by our Singaporean neighbours and cherish our bilateral partnership, but I would respectfully ask them to stop making so many comments, particularly when it comes to the fires and haze-related issues. We each have our own part to play and we should focus on carrying this out.”

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Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images
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Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.
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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

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Indonesia Becomes World’s Biggest Climate Polluter — Exceeding China

October 29, 2015

Indonesia peatland burning — Palangkaraya city, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, on Oct. 26.

By Bloomberg

Indonesia’s forest fires have catapulted the southeast Asian nation to the top of the rankings of the world’s worst global warming offenders, with daily emissions exceeding those of China on at least 14 days in the past two months.
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The nation’s total daily carbon dioxide emissions, including from power generation, transport and industry, exceeded those of the U.S. on 47 of the 74 days through Oct. 28, according to Bloomberg analysis of national emissions data from the World Resources Institute in Washington and Indonesian fire-emissions data from VU University in Amsterdam.
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Smog caused by the fires has generated headlines and a diplomatic flare-up between Indonesia and its neighbors in southeast Asia. It’s a threat to human health and has disrupted flights in the region. At the same time, burning trees and peatlands are pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere at a time when more than 190 nations are gearing up to sign a new agreement to stem global warming in Paris in December.
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“The problem that we see in Indonesia with essentially unrestrained deforestation going on is a bad message for the world,” Bill Hare, chief executive officer of Potsdam, Germany-based policy researcher Climate Analytics, said in a phone interview. “If we can’t really control deforestation in this region, who’s going to be next? It would be a signal that countries can get away with this kind of deforestation without any real constraint.”
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The fires are caused by clearing woodland for paper and palm oil plantations, and have been worsened by El Nino-related dry conditions.

In a satellite record that began in 1997, 2015 is the second worst year on record for emissions from Indonesian forest fires, according to Guido van der Werf, professor of Earth sciences at VU University. It’s unlikely to exceed 1997, which itself was probably worse than any year predating the satellite record, he said.
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“We have some confidence in the numbers because by using atmospheric models we can predict, based on our emissions, how elevated concentrations of gases and aerosols will be in the atmosphere,” van der Werf said in an e-mail. “That corresponds reasonably well with what we actually measure in the atmosphere.”
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Without including land use changes and deforestation, Indonesia emits about 761 megatons (761 million metric tons) of carbon dioxide a year, according to 2012 data from the World Resources Institute. That works out at 2.1 megatons a day, compared with almost 16 for the U.S. and 29.3 for China.
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Indonesian daily emissions from fires alone rose as high as 61 megatons on Oct. 14, according to van der Werf’s data, part of the Global Fire Emissions Database. That accounted for almost 97 percent of total national emissions for the day.
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Exceeding China
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The daily average emissions for Indonesia, including those of the wider economy, was 22.5 megatons in September and 23 megatons for Oct. 1 through Oct. 28, according to Bloomberg calculations. That’s more than the U.S. average for those two months, based on a typical year, though still short of China. Even so, daily emissions first exceeded those of China on Sept. 8, and most recently did so on Oct. 23.
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“Put simply, this is a climate catastrophe,” Nigel Sizer, global director of WRI’s forests program said in an e-mailed reply. “The emissions from these fires are likely to add about 3 percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities for the year.”
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The WRI posted analysis in an Oct 16 blog that showed emissions from the fire exceeding those of the entire U.S. economy.
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Indonesia has pledged to cut its emissions by 29 percent from a projected “business-as-usual” scenario by 2030 as part of the new UN deal on climate change. The plan, short on details, includes an unquantified commitment to reduce deforestation. The country already has a moratorium in place on clearing primary forests, and a ban on converting peatlands to other uses.
Failed efforts
“An enormous amount of effort has gone in from different countries to support reductions in deforestation and burning of peat land and it’s really failed,” said Hare.
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Van der Werf said it takes 100 years or more to grow trees that will absorb the CO2 released by burning primary forests. For carbon-rich peat soils that have been burnt, the lag is even bigger, he said.
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“What is burning in Indonesia is for a large part peat that has accumulated over thousands of years and will not regrow so this is a net source of CO2, just like fossil fuel emissions,” he said. “Unless there is a dramatic change in land management these peatlands will not be restored.”
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http://www.thanhniennews.com/region/how-indonesias-fires-made-it-the-biggest-climate-polluter-53057.html
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Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.
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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

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Singapore Calls Off Athletic Events Because Of Unhealthy Air Pollution, Smoke and Haze

October 3, 2015

AFP

A group of participants for the Pink 2015 Ribbon Walk which was cancelled due to haze gather on a promenade in Singapore on October 3, 2015

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Organisers on Saturday cancelled the first day of the Singapore leg of the FINA World Championships due to choking haze from agricultural fires on a nearby Indonesian island.Heats were held in the morning but organisers scrapped the finals scheduled in the evening after Singapore’s air quality worsened from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” levels.

Fifteen events supposed to be held Saturday evening at an open-air swimming complex were cancelled, organisers said in a statement.

Competitors include four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin of the United States, who was slated to make her competitive debut in Singapore for the 200m backstroke.

Organisers said it was the first time that the Singapore leg of the FINA World Championships hsd been cancelled since the city-state hosted the competition in 2007.

“The level of haze in the venue overpassed the limit established by the Singapore government,” FINA said in a statement.

It said the health of athletes, spectators and officials “is the top priority for FINA, therefore the events were cancelled”.

Organisers offered refunds for spectators who had already purchased tickets.

The cancelled events will not be carried out on the second day of the competition on Sunday.

Competitors will use their best times recorded in Hong Kong, Beijing and the Singapore heats to decide on the payment of the prize money, the organisers said.

Organisers said Sunday’s races were officially on but they will further monitor the haze conditions and will cancel if the air quality remains above the Malaysia, Pollutant Standards Index threshold

Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from acrid smoke billowing from fires on plantations and peatlands that are being illegally cleared by burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The crisis grips the region nearly every year during the dry season, flaring diplomatic tensions among the neighbours as flights are grounded, schools close and pollution levels reach hazardous highs

Indonesia defends haze-fighting efforts

October 1, 2015

AFP

Residential houses and commercial buildings covered in haze in Kuala Lumpur on September 29, 2015

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia’s disaster chief on Thursday defended the country’s efforts to fight forest fires that have blanketed Southeast Asia in choking haze, and said he believed rains would arrive within a month to finally douse the blazes.”Are we able to manage the fires? The answer is clearly a yes… we are not overwhelmed, we can manage it and there is progress,” National Disaster Management Agency chief Willem Rampangilei told reporters.

Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from acrid smoke billowing from fires on plantations and peatlands that are being illegally cleared by burning.

Singapore has offered to help in fighting the fires but Rampangilei said it was not needed.

“Indonesia welcomes the offer but at this moment, everything is under control,” he said.

“We can see some achievements, some progress that we have successfully extinguished a number of fires,” he added.

More than 20,000 troops, police and other personnel have been sent to Sumatra and Kalimantan to fight the fires through waterbombing and chemically inducing rainfall.

“Indonesia has tried all it could to douse the fires… and is still working very hard,” he said.

Rampangilei said while the firefighters have successfully subdued the flames, the choking smog remains a problem but he is hopeful the approaching rainy season will put an end to the crisis.

“We need heavy rainfall or sufficient waterbombing so, it takes time to resolve the haze,” he said.

“I hope the haze will be resolved in a month, that is either end October or early November,” he said.

Indonesia has faced pressure from its neighbours to address the problem since it first emerged nearly 20 years ago.

Singapore officials have reacted with outrage to Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla’s comments that the country’s neighbours should be grateful for good air quality most of the year, and that Jakarta need not apologise for the crisis.

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