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Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

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MEDIA ADVISORY


Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning.

Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Read about the study on Forests News here.  Access the full paper here.

In September and October 2015, dry conditions and the delayed onset of seasonal rains contributed to extensive landscape fires, with the resulting smoke strongly impacting air quality in the region and the health of millions of people.

This research team is the very first to have measured the ground-level smoke composition from active peatland burning in the region. They combined that data with satellite information to derive the first greenhouse gas emissions estimates of the 2015 fires, finding that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.

Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were calculated by combining those measurements with the newly determined emission factors of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane measured at fires burning in October 2015 outside of Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan province – one of the hardest-hit fire sites.

“There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said Wooster.

The results indicate that regional carbon dioxide emissions from landscape fires were 11.3 million tons per day in September and October 2015, exceeding the EU’s daily rate of 8.9 million tons. Further, 77% of the regional fire carbon emissions for the year occurred during that time – at the peak of the fires.

The scientists also compared their results to those of the 1997 El Niño-related fires in the region.

“In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” said CIFOR scientist David Gaveau.

The study’s results have wide implications for future research, whether it is in respect to studies of landscape burning or the impacts of fire emissions on climate and public health, and they contribute to better understanding the need for fire prevention and improved landscape management.

“What is important is the applicability of a study like this in helping policy makers to use more accurate fire emission factors to design policy and act to prevent further fires and greenhouse gas emissions,” CIFOR scientist Daniel Murdiyarso said.


For more information about this article, please contact:

Contacts:
Martin J. Wooster
King’s College London and NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Email: martin.wooster@kcl.ac.uk

Daniel Murdiyarso
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia and Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor, Indonesia
Email: d.murdiyarso@cgiar.org; Tel: +62-251-8622622 (Office)



Article Disclaimer: This article was published at CIFOR on 26th June 2016 and retrieved on 7th July 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and findings in the article remains those of the authors. Please cite the original source and INDESEEM appropriately.


 

The environment gets its day in court

When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga
When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga

Written by: . Posted on: March 14, 2016


The message was clear: Don’t think you can get away with it.

In 2012 Indonesian palm oil company PT Kallista Alam sent 1000 hectares of Sumatran peat forest up in flames so they could use the land for agriculture.

The fires in Aceh’s Tripa forest threatened wildlife and human health, and sent vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. They were also illegal.

Although the Acehnese provincial government had issued the company a permit, the area should have been covered by Indonesia’s national moratorium on new concessions. In addition, the Tripa forests are part of the Leuser ecosystem – a globally important biodiversity hotspot, and the last area worldwide where orang-utans, tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist in the wild.

Still, companies had done worse before with few consequences.

This time, it was different.

Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment sued Kallista Alam for the harms it had caused the environment, and in September last year, the country’s Supreme Courtupheld an earlier verdict ordering the company to pay Rp. 366 billion (US$ 27 million) in fines and compensation for the damage.

It was a precedent-setting ruling that caught the attention of researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI).

The decision was potentially a game-changer, adding natural resource liability to the portfolio of tools the Indonesian government can use to address deforestation.

How widely was this tool used across the tropics, the researchers wondered.

ON THE BOOKS

In a new paper, they explore the status of natural resource liability law and its implementation in Indonesia and in other countries that struggle with deforestation.

“Environmental liability law is well established in the United States and the EU for things like oil spills and hazardous waste accidents, but is it being used for the environmental harms that tropical countries confront, such as deforestation and wildlife trafficking?” asked lead author Carol Adaire Jones from ELI, based in Washington, D.C.

Jones and colleagues looked at Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines, and found that all but Nigeria had established a statutory right to bring cases for damage for resources in the public domain.

They were surprised to find that in two ways, the law makes it easier to sue for damage to the environment in the tropical countries than in the US and the EU.

Firstly, in the US and EU only the government has the authority to file suits. But in many of the tropical countries, civil society can also bring cases.

This provision can help move cases forward faster, says co-author John Pendergrass.

“It may not be a priority for government prosecutors, either because they’re overworked or because they’re corrupt. If civil society is allowed to bring the case, it can get around both of those issues,” he says.


“You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment” Carol Adaire Jones


Secondly, in the US liability laws only apply to hazardous activities, such as oil spills and toxic discharges; to protected places like national parks; or to protected species, such as migratory birds and endangered wildlife.

In many of the study countries, however, the laws cover the loss of any resources in the public domain – from deforestation as in the Kallista Alam case, to wetland destruction, illegal logging, and mining pollution.

So the laws are on the books – but they’re not always implemented consistently, the authors say.

“We have to acknowledge there are issues with rule of law, sometimes due to civil war and insurgencies, other times due to corruption or weak institutions,” Jones says.

“Promoting rule of law is important, by establishing laws and regulations that are clear, strengthening institutions, and promoting accountability through transparency.”

“But it’s also a question of capacity, in terms of using data and science to successfully bring a case to court,” Jones says. “You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment.”

LAW SCHOOL

Judges and prosecutors need environmental training, too – something that is already happening in Indonesia. The country’s Supreme Court has established a ‘Green Bench’, training and certifying judges to deal with environmental legislation.

Foresters and inspectors – the people on the ground – also need training, adds Pendergrass.

“This needs to be something that’s a regular part of what professional foresters cover,” he says.

“So they understand there’s the possibility to restore the damaged area, and how much that’s going to cost, and understand all the reasons why this is important, so that they can be the advocate for bringing the case to the court.”

And once that happens, courts also need to value the harms to the environment correctly.

Jones highlights a 2014 case in the DRC where two mining companies dumped toxic waste (including arsenic and cyanide) into a river. It killed fish, contaminated drinking water and destroyed agriculture along a 200 kilometre stretch – and the companies were fined only US$ 6000 in damages.

“It had tremendous impact on people’s livelihoods over an extended period – so obviously $6000 is not the right amount,” Jones says. “Calculating the value of harms could definitely be improved across the study countries.”

Where the money goes once it’s collected also matters, the authors say.

In the US and many other countries, fines are placed in a specialised fund used to restore the damage to the environment, but in two of the study countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, the money goes straight into the Treasury.

That means there’s a risk that in cases like Kallista Alam, the $US27 million paid by the company might not get spent on restoring the damaged ecosystem – a huge task involving not just planting, but reviving the watershed that keeps peat damp.

“If the money goes to the Treasury it can get spent on anything,” Pendergrass says.

“If it doesn’t go to restoration, then you may still have a deterrent effect, but it also looks a lot like a revenue-raising scheme for the government – and I would expect there could be backlash from the responsible parties.”

Ultimately, Jones says, the power to bring cases like these is just part of the set of tools governments can use to stop deforestation.  Good policy – the rules of the game – is a key starting point.

“But if people fail to abide by those rules, or the rules are implemented in a very inconsistent way, then you have to bring enforcement actions.

“And then liability can be a very powerful tool.”


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Forest News an initiative of CIFOR and was retrieved and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only.The views and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

 

India Looks to Battery Storage to Supplement Its Solar Boom

 

Image Source: Green Tech Media
Image Source: Green Tech Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Written by: Mike Stone. Posted on: March 14, 2016


For the first time ever, India is putting out the call for energy storage developers.

The state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is seeking bids for a 750-megawatt solar park at Ananthapuramu in Andhra Pradesh. In order to supplement the massive series of projects, SECI is looking to procure 100 megawatts of storage capacity.

It’s a small step for solar storage in a country that currently has little capacity. But if batteries are regularly added to future tenders, it could add up to a large market, given India’s ambitious solar targets.

The government is planning 20 gigawatts of solar installations over the next few years and 100 gigawatts by 2020 or 2022 — amounting to a $100 billion opportunity for solar, according to Ernst & Young’s renewable energy attractiveness index.

Madhavan Nampoothiri, founder of RESolve Energy Consultants, thinks solar-plus-storage will benefit.

“The opportunity is huge in India, mainly in the rooftop/off-grid space,” he said. “Power outages are rampant in India, and energy storage can help reduce the outages. On the utility-scale projects side, grid balancing and grid integration become increasingly important in order to counter the [intermittent] nature of solar.”

Large companies are preparing to do business in the sector. General Electric recently announced that its energy consulting business was chosen by IL&FS, one of India’s leading infrastructure developers and financiers, to examine the feasibility of integrated wind, solar and energy storage projects at sites in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

“Energy storage can be particularly helpful for integrating variable renewable generation in India since the technical infrastructure and market mechanisms available at the disposal of many other power grids are not yet available in the country,” said Sundar Venkataraman, GE Energy Consulting’s technical director. “As the costs start to come down, energy storage will become an integral part of India’s grid.”

IL&FS, also one of the biggest independent wind power producers in India, last year secured funding from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to look into utility-scale integration of wind, solar and storage in India. The grant is part of $2 billion in trade investment that USTDA has earmarked for renewable energy projects in India.

GE’s contribution to the research will include designing a power plant combining wind, solar, energy storage and controls. The company will then look at the costs incurred and build a business plan in order to make the project commercially viable.

At this stage, it is unclear what battery chemistries will dominate in India’s market. It will likely be lithium-ion; however, according to Madhavan Nampoothiri, there will be a place for vanadium redox flow batteries in the longer term.

For example, SunEdison ordered 1,000 vanadium storage systems from Imergy last year for use in solar-powered microgrids in rural India.

Despite its bold plans, India doesn’t have much solar to speak of yet. At the moment, its 3 gigawatts of installed solar account for only 1 percent of the country’s total generating capacity. To put that into perspective, China and Germany already have roughly 40 gigawatts each.

India’s storage sector may depend on how quickly solar scales up in the country.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Green Tech Media and was retrieved on March 16, 2016 and posted here at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the post remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

Researcher examines biochar use in forests

Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.
Matthew Weaver/Capital PressRockford, Wash., farmer David Gady holds biochar made from bluegrass screenings January 2014 on his farm. Researchers are looking at the use of biochar in forests.

Reported by: Matthew Weaver


Research is underway that could lead to more uses for waste wood, a U.S. Forest Service researcher says.

Instead of thinning stands to boost productivity and burning the resulting slashpiles, researchers believe turning it into biochar — a supplement made of charred biological matter — would be better for long-term carbon storage and boosting soil’s nutrient- and moisture-holding capacities.

“We’re hoping we can make a change in forest management,” said Deborah Page-Dumroese, research soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho. “Instead of making slashpiles, we can actually use that waste wood for a benefit.”

Textured soils with little organic matter content responded better than soils with higher organic content. Agricultural soils typically show better response to biochar because they’re lower in organic matter, Page-Dumroese said.

Biochar is applied differently on forest soils. It is added to the surface instead of being incorporated into farm land. It takes several years for biochar to move into forest soils.

As more areas experience drought, an increase in water-holding capacity extends the growing season, Page-Dumroese said. Organic matter also acts as a sponge during flooding, retaining more moisture.

Page-Dumroese plans to continue her research. The biggest benefit of biochar is carbon sequestration, she said.

Researchers primarily focus on matching biochar to the proper site. Some forest sites do show an increase in the growth of overstory trees.

“We see small changes, but we still see above-ground growth changes,” Page-Dumroese said.

The sites most likely to require biochar include mine land sites, overgrazed areas and highly compacted forest sites with organic matter removed due to fire.

Page-Dumroese said some mine sites are showing an increase in plant survival.

She uses a mixed conifer feedstock or a mix of pinyon pine and juniper for biochar.

Page-Dumroese said roughly 30 percent of materials used to make biochar on an acre should be returned to that particular acre, but the rest could be sold for use on gardens or farms. She advised potential customers to consider the source of the biochar and its pH levels.

Howard Boyte, CEO of Walking Point Farms, a veteran-owned agritech business in Tigard, Ore., said the forest service approached him several years about commercializing biochar. The company plans to market a commercial product.

Page-Dumroese’s lab is the lead on researching the project with Oregon State University, Boyte said.

Biochar is expensive right now, Boyte said. The government would need to require biochar use for food it purchases for prisons, military and USDA food programs for it to gain traction with farmers, he said.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Capital Press and was retrieved on March 9, 2016 and posted here for educational and information purposes only. The views, findings and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

Indonesia developing mega coal mine five times larger than Singapore

Indonesian coal mining firm PT Adaro has partnered with Australian group BHP Billiton to develop a mining complex that would produce about 1.27 billion tonnes of coal resources. Image: Adaro
Indonesian coal mining firm PT Adaro has partnered with Australian group BHP Billiton to develop a mining complex that would produce about 1.27 billion tonnes of coal resources. Image: Adaro

Global miner BHP Billiton and Indonesian partner PT Adaro are developing what could become the single largest mine in Indonesia in terms of land area, with BHP owning 75 per cent.

The IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore.

In total, the area has an estimated 1.27 billion metric tonnes of coal resources, according to Adaro, mainly coking coal used to make steel.

In detailed responses to questions, BHP says it is making progress on developing the first mine in the complex, called Haju. Infrastructure development is underway, including road works and a port along the Barito River. Haju is planned to produce one million metric tonnes of coal per year.

Haju mine itself will cover 660 hectares and initial production is expected in 2015, BHP says.


IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore


 

The company says the current area covered by the seven concessions will be reduced over time and returned to the government, in line with regulations that mandate 50 per cent of the exploration area be returned within a set timeframe. That means the mandated maximum holding of the total area of the seven concessions is expected to be no more than about 175,000 hectares, BHP says.

Conservation groups, such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (or Walhi) fear the project will cause widespread deforestation in an area of the province that still has large areas of rainforest.

“It is expected that only a fraction of this area will be actively mined at any given time, about 5,000 hectares. Additionally, there are other restrictions on how much of this can be used, for example under forestry laws,” BHP said.

“The total area required for the Haju Mine is 660 hectares, all of which is overlapped by logging concessions. Not all of this will need to be cleared. Where possible the Haju Mine project will make use of existing logging roads, with only 7.5 kilometers (5 miles) of new road required outside the mine area to join an existing road network,” BHP said.

According to the company, an environmental and social impact assessment was approved in 2006. In addition, biodiversity and water management plans have been implemented for the Haju project. Regular monitoring of air and water quality, noise, river sediment, aquatic life, terrestrial fauna and flora in the Haju area will be carried out, the company says, along with extensive engagement with local communities.

BHP says it is supporting conservation initiatives, starting with a two-year project with Fauna and Flora International. Part of this project includes funding for an orangutan reintroduction program managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). This program helps orangutans that have been displaced from their habitat in other parts of Central Kalimantan.

The company says it funded the construction of a quarantine facility for up to 50 orangutans at the BOSF Nyaru Menteng Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Central Kalimantan and has been involved in the safe release of more than 260 orangutans into the wild.

The mine is hundreds of kilometers from the coast and will rely on barges to transport the coal to a port for loading onto ships. This is costly and river transport is available for about nine months of the year because of fluctuating water levels.

A $2.3 billion coal railway to the coast is being considered by the central and provincial governments, but it is unclear if BHP and Adaro would be customers.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Eco-Business on retrieved on March 9, 2016 and shared here for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents and materials used in this article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

China Declares ‘People’s War’ on Pollution As Smog Envelops Beijing

A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP
A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP

Reported by: Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie


As Beijing geared up for the annual session of the country’s parliament on Thursday amid a grey pall of smog, a top government adviser declared a “People’s War” on pollution, sparking widespread ridicule and criticism at the use of old Maoist jargon.
“The fight against smog is a long-running war,” Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the parliamentary advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) told reporters in Beijing as the authorities announced a yellow alert for pollution.

“It’s also a People’s War,” he said, calling for patience from the public, and warning that measures to tackle pollution “cannot be effective at once.”

As he spoke, the whole of northern China was under a yellow alert pollution warning, with readings of the smallest particulates, PM 2.5, hovering around 300 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the U.S.embassy in Beijing.

The embassy, which measures air quality independently of the Chinese government, described the air quality as “hazardous at 24-hour exposure to this level.” The World Health Organization (WHO)recommends levels of no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

“Smog … has shrouded the country’s northern and eastern regions, including Beijing and Tianjin,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Smog will blanket parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu and Liaoning until Friday night,” it quoted state meteorologists as saying.

War talk mocked online

Online commentators hit out at Wang’s plea, however.

User @songtieping quipped: “Are we talking about the War of Resistance Against Japan (eight years) or the civil war (three years)? That’s the big question. We must have a timetable.”

“He is comparing anti-pollution measures to a long-running battle … but why can’t they fix the problem at its source?” user @weixianqianqianwanwanbian wrote.

Others wanted to know how it was that pollution became a “People’s War,” when the people had no share in the profits from it.

Beijing resident Liu Tianyi said there appears to have been a minor improvement in pollution levels in the capital since the governmentintroduced a slew of new anti-pollution measures last year.

“There is some fog today, but it’s not really bad; maybe medium to mild,” Liu said. “There’s a yellow alert, but it’s much better than the same time last year.”

“It comes in fits and starts … but I’m still not very happy; after all, the air that we breathe is a pretty major issue,” he said.

“It affects our health, and it affects our mood, when every day is so gloomy.”

He said many Beijing residents are highly suspicious of calls for patience, because the government has shown it is able to clear the city’s skies for major international events, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “APEC blue” after a gathering of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

“I think that this is really about profit … because a lot of the pollution is linked to heavily polluting industries in Hebei,” Liu said.

“We have blue skies for … a military parade, but once the political event is over, then the grey comes flooding back in again.”

Police harass environmentalists

Environmental activist Wu Lihong said the responsibility for the smog ultimately must remain with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

“Of course it’s mostly the government, because it’s only the government who has the wherewithal to make laws, and to enforce them,” Wu said.

“If industry would respect the law, then the problem wouldn’t be as serious as it is now,” he said.

Giving the lie to the concept of a People’s War, Wu said he has frequently been targeted for police harassment because of his environmental activism.

“I have been detained on the streets of Beijing and escorted home by state security police from my hometown,” he said. “My work is on behalf of everyone, so why do they expend so many resources, so much time, money and energy [on suppressing me]?”

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

Shandong-based independent commentator Zhang Hengjia said pollution in China is closely bound up with the country’s political system.

“The smog in China basically stems from issues of power in China, because power doesn’t base itself on scientific evidence,” Zhang said.

“They know the law and they break it anyway; and [the government] does nothing to stop them,” he said. “Of course it’s mostly about official inaction.”

“There is no way to wipe out corruption; you can just pay a bit of money, pay the fine, give a few gifts and it all goes away. All this is totally normal,” Zhang said.

“And in an authoritarian regime such as that of the Chinese Communist Party, there is no way to make adjustments to the system, and so the smog just gets worse and worse.”

Last month, scientists published a report showing that air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with some 1.6 million people dying of air pollution in China in 2013.

Researchers warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that air pollution is the fourth-highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality, causing 366,000 deaths in 2013, according to Qiao Ma, a Ph.D. student at prestigious Qinghua University in Beijing.

In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels of PM 2.5 at or above 300 micrograms per cubic meter — 1,200 percent higher than WHO guidelines, researchers said.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on March 3, 2016 and was retrieved on March 4, 2016 and reposted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The contents, views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors only. Please cite the source appropriately.