Melbourne’s climate march a huge turnout for COP21

On the frontline of People's Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27.

On the frontline of People’s Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The People’s Climate March kicked off in Melbourne before dusk on Friday, Nov 27, with a massive turnout of about 60,000 people. Other rallies across Australia are expected to follow suit over the weekend – Saturday and Sunday — to include Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Hobart. The marches will set momentum for the Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) climate talks scheduled for Nov 29 – Dec 12.

The march on Friday is described as ”massive” and the ”city’s biggest climate march ever.” Chants and oratories opened at the State Library located along Swanston corner La Trobe Streets before the march proceeded to the Parliament House along Spring Street where more speeches were made.

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

Australian organisers and participants include a wide spectrum of conservation groups, political parties, medical and health professionals, superannuation funds, indigenous people, community groups, clean energy businesses, farmers, families, and other civic groups and individuals.

The Melbourne turnout calls for other cities to do the same and to demonstrate their support for a strong climate action.  Paris announced it will ban all climate rallies along its boulevard and other public places as the city plays host to the climate talks. The ban will be enforced for security reasons in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Nov 13.  The conference has also been reduced to a “negotiation” event – without celebrities and entertainment. Those who cannot march are also asking march partners elsewhere to march for them. A website has been opened for this purpose:

“If you can’t make your voice heard in the country where you live, make it count somewhere else in the world. Marchers from all over the world are ready to carry your message on your behalf.”

The Paris climate talks will see representatives of around 200 countries coming together to forge a binding agreement on capping carbon emissions as a way to limit the earth’s temperature below two degrees Celsius by 2050. This climate talk is said to be the last chance to seal an agreement.

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU- Asian Correspondent)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

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TPP irreconcilable with UN sustainable development goals, say critics

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP. (Photo: Supplied)

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP Monday. (Photo: Supplied)

Last week, leaders from around the world announced their commitment to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals which outlined the solutions to address global climate change, environmental degradation, poor health, and poverty. In juxtaposition to this historic announcement, trade ministers from 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday which sets the economic rules for 40 percent of the world economy in Atlanta, Georgia.

The historic pact was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said in a statement that the TPP will drive Australia’s integration in a region that underpins Australia’s prosperity.  The deal cemented Australia’s successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, and other partners in the region.

The TPP will eliminate over 98 percent of tariffs among signatories and removes import taxes at around AUS$9 billion of Australian trade. Robb said one third of Australia’s total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries last year.

However, fierce opposition against the deal is expected. Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, for one, opposes the provisions of the pact, including TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems which allows a foreign tribunal to intervene with domestic policies.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) International blasted the agreement, saying several of the UN sustainability goals are irreconcilable with the TPP. There are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, FoE international economic justice coordinator, said: “This is a sad day for our planet, as the TPP favours safeguards for corporate investments over safeguards for nature.  The TPP chapters on technical barriers to trade will threaten regulators’ capacities to effectively regulate the roughly 85,000 chemicals in commerce needed to protect human health and our environment.”

Renowned scholars and economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh warned the TPP is a charade. It is not about “free trade” but rather “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”

Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

The TPP is claimed to be shrouded in secrecy. They said it is protected under the ISDS systems which allow foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

Stiglitz and Hersh said that such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions including protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

In Australia, Philip Morris International is already prosecuting the government in a $50 million legal suit before a tribunal in Singapore for its plain cigarette packaging.

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

FoE said, “Even very simple consumer sustainability measures like efficiency rating and food labelling on imported goods could be impossible under TPP, because labelling regulation can be deemed a barrier to trade. ”

The TPP faces a number of challenges prior to its ratification as protests and rallies are expected to be held worldwide. In the U.S., it faces a hostile Congress while it is an election issue in Canada. There is also a court action in Japan and a widespread opposition in Australia .

FoE warned the TPP will threaten people and the planet, if ratified.

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Labor’s solar-wind revolution underway

Despite Australia’s recalcitrant record in joining the world towards a clean and sustainable energy, some positive developments are taking place from within the Opposition who are leading the way. Re-posting:

Australia’s opposition block has come up with a defiant act against Tony Abbott’s government on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by committing to an ambitious target of 50 percent by 2030. In Victoria alone, a solar and wind farms revolution will soon get underway. By 2020, RET will be no less than 20 percent.

Premier Daniel Andrews from the Labor Party unveiled their Renewable Energy Roadmap geared towards rebuilding Victoria’s reputation as the nation’s leader for renewable energy.

Joined by Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at Keppel Prince in Portland,  Andrews announced the government’s plan to attract Victoria’s share of renewable energy investment and jobs in Australia by 2020.

The Labor government also launched an initiative to source renewable energy certificates from new projects in Victoria, bringing forward around $200 million of new investment in renewables. Andrews sees more wind and solar farms will rise in the coming few years to propel investments and to create jobs in the countryside.

The roadmap outlines a set of initiatives aimed at accelerating the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria. It was developed in partnership with key energy sector stakeholders, including industry, consumer groups and environment groups.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Along with the 20 percent renewable targets by 2020, the roadmap identifies other priority areas, including the use of government electricity purchasing power to support the creation of hundreds of renewable energy jobs. It also seeks to end unfair discrimination and improving access to the grid for solar customers. A $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund will also be set aside to support clean energy jobs. The Andrews government highlighted the need for ambition to attract investment and create jobs while tackling climate change.

The plan is coming together. Labor in the Australian Capital Territory has a renewable energy target of 90 per cent by 2020; South Australia 50 per cent by 2025; and Queensland, 50 percent by 2030.

Federally, the Labor opposition has committed to a national goal of 50 per cent by 2030. The target was announced during the party’s conference in July this year.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said, “A Victorian target that matches the ambition of the ACT or South Australia would be welcomed by the community. And it would ensure Victoria is not out-competed by other states.”

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

FoE sees a renewable energy revolution underway. “Building the shovel-ready wind farms alone would put us at around 26 percent renewable. And that’s not accounting for the rooftop solar revolution that’s underway.”

FoE says the government’s renewables roadmap sketches out a comprehensive plan to grow renewables. The group is awaiting further details about the policy drivers it will use to meet state renewable energy targets.

These details will be finalised in a RET Action Plan to be released later this year.

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Federal Court overturns Adani’s Carmichael mine

Adani's activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Adani’s activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Here’s another victory for environmental defenders!

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, which could have been one of the largest coal mines in the world and responsible for substantial greenhouse gas emissions, is now without legal authority to commence construction or operate. The Federal Court of Australia overturned approval of the project. Read the court order HERE.

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW, representing the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG), challenged the $16.5 billion project which the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved last year .The approval stirred unrests among local communities, indigenous people, tourism businesses, and various green and civic groups. 

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor of EDO NSW said the the decision of the court to overturn the Carmichael mine’s federal approval was based on a failure by the Minister to regard conservation advices for two Federally-listed vulnerable species, the Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake. This kind of error in the decision making process is legally fatal to the Minister’s decision, the solicitor said.

The Minister approved the project without regard to the threats of endangered species which are found only in Queensland, the solicitor continued adding the law requires that the Minister should have considered conservation advices on the impacts of national environmental significance, such as the case of threatened species.

The  Minister also failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal and Adani’s environmental history although these matters are left unresolved before the Court. Australia’s largest coal mine could be exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from across the Great Barrier Reef Coast every year.

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) estimates the mine will take 297 billion litres from underground aquifers, causing a drop in water table levels on which local farmers rely. When burnt, coal from the Carmichael mine will produce 128.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, at peak production, or four times New Zealand’s annual climate pollution.

“It will be up to the Minister now to decide whether or not to approve the mine again, taking into account the conservation advices and any other information on the impacts of the project,” Higginson said. MCG is running a campaign calling the Minister to reject the project once and for all.

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Clean energy on ALP National Conference agenda

“Australians want cheaper, cleaner power. There are more than 5 million people living under a solar roof, taking control of their electricity bills and doing their bit for the environment.” – Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) will decide its policy platform at their National Conference in Melbourne on July 27.

On the agenda includes climate change. The conference is open to the public to join clean energy workers, community leaders, and thousands of voters, to show the ALP Australia is ready for leadership on clean renewable power.

The event is crucial for ALP to step up in providing the necessary vision and policy settings to put Australia on a path to a cleaner, fairer economy that tackles the challenge of climate change.

July 25, 2015 at 11am – 12pm


Melbourne Convention Centre
1 Convention Centre Place South Wharf
Melbourne, Victoria 3006

Top coal financiers: Japan, China, Korea

Divestment is becoming both a buzzword and a movement that urges organizations to shift support from dirty fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. But it is a long way to go when governments are being lobbied by big industries and financial institutions and continue to work in secretive partnership. Re-blogging this post:

Miners shovel coal at a mine in China's Hebei province. Pic: AP.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the top financiers of coal exports via international financial conduits, a new report has revealed.

International environmental groups have called for these countries to stop financing coal exports via Export Credit Agencies and asked all other countries involved in climate talks to honor their commitments to combat global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and World Wide Fund for Nature released the report, Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry, exposing the secretive operation between governments and financial institutions to finance big polluters despite international outcry for urgent climate action.

The report said “total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 conservatively amounted to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Emissions are close to a total of 18 gigatonnes for the entire lifetime of the supported power plants alone.”

The report revealed US$73 billion or over $9 billion a year within that period in which public finance was approved for coal.  Japan gave the largest amount of coal financing of any country, with over $20 billion during that time, followed by China with finance close to US$15 billion.

OCIKorea, Germany, and Australia are among top sources of funds transmitted via financial agencies. These countries are also reported to be leading the opposition to limits on coal finance in international discussions, along with other countries which continue to resist pressure to end public financing.

The report comes a summit in Paris in December this year to ratify a commitment to cap carbon emissions and to solidify targets of limiting global temperature below two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends improved transparency to avoid catastrophic climate change. It calls for phasing out international public finance for all fossil fuel projects, including exploration for more fossil fuels.

The report also urges the immediate disclosure of exhaustive data on public finance for the entire energy sector. Funding has largely gone unnoticed as it is often hidden from view as many countries are choosing to sweep this under the rug, rather than face the necessary task of cleaning up their own houses, the report added.

OCI-2World governments, particularly G20 and G7 members, have recognized the threat of climate change over the last eight years, and made repeated commitments to both fight climate change and end fossil fuel subsidies.

However, billions of dollars’ worth of government support continues to flow towards fossil fuels and coal. “This government financing for coal – largely in the form of export support, but also as development aid and general finance – is perpetuating coal use and exacerbating climate change. It needs to stop, immediately”, the report added.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that at least 75 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avert global warming of more than two degrees. As coal makes up two-thirds of the carbon content of known global fossil fuel reserves, coal poses a serious threat to the climate.

Full Report HERE.

WWF calls EU for  climate leadership in OECD talks before COP Paris 

In Brussels, Belgium, 34 OECD countries convened for their annual Ministerial Meeting, June 3-4, while  G7 Heads of States and governments will meet in Germany on June 7-8 as a key political opportunity to make their climate credibility by ending support for coal.

“Many developed country governments that push for ambitious climate action are simultaneously funding coal abroad. They cannot do both and be credible,” said WWF’s Global Climate and Energy initiative leader Samantha Smith. “It is time for rich nations to put their money behind the solutions, like renewable energy, rather than using taxpayers’ money to fuel climate change.”

WWF said international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 is blamed for Italy’s pollution, the country which ranked 20th in the highest amount of carbon emissions globally,  “causing total greenhouse gas emissions amounting to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.”

Contradicting the claim that export finance for coal is necessary to fight energy poverty in poor countries, the report clearly shows that zero export finance for coal has gone to Low Income Countries, where the need for energy access is greatest, while one-fourth went to High Income Countries with no every poverty concerns.


Sébastien Godinot, economist at WWF European Policy Office said the EU, led by the European Commission, failed to agree an official position on coal export finance ahead of the OECD meeting taking place next week. He said EU Member States are still divided, with some willing to end support for coal plants and others being more reluctant. So far the EU has largely been inaudible in the OECD negotiations, he added.

“COP Paris is around the corner.  It is time for European countries, the Commission and the EU as a whole to end procrastination and show leadership”, said Godinot, as “climate commitments and engagement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies should immediately lead the EU to ask the OECD to end export credits for coal.”

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‘Road to Paris’ calls for strong carbon emission cuts

Paris hosts the COP21 on December 2015.

Paris plays host to the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 2015. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The Climate Reality Project (CRP) is launching the Road to Paris, a global campaign that will bring together citizens, business leaders, non-profit organizations, and NGOs to galvanize climate action and encourage participating countries to commit strong carbon emission cuts. The campaign will urged countries to forged commitments at the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change in December this year.

Road to Paris would include emissions reductions commitments based on national circumstances, a system of periodic review for these commitments, and a long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People's Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People’s Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

It will focus on mobilizing public support from the global community and citizens in eight countries that hold strategic significance for the upcoming negotiations, as a building block for a strong international agreement. Target countries include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Philippines, South Africa, and the United States. The CRP will also have a programmatic presence in Mexico and Europe.

Former United States Vice President Al Gore, chairman of The CRP, said the UN climate negotiations in December mark a crucial opportunity for the international community to come to a bold, universal agreement to make significant emissions reductions commitments, including a long term goal for zero net carbon emissions.

The Philippine flag stands amid devasted region brought about by typhoon Haiyan,  the deadliest Philippine typhoon recorded in modern history,  killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

The Philippine flag stands amid devastation brought about by typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon recorded in modern history, killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

He stressed out that the Road to Paris will not end at COP21. He urged people to take urgent actions saying solutions to the climate crisis is within reach.

“We cannot afford to gamble with the future of our planet. Solutions to the climate crisis are within reach, but in order to capture them, we must take urgent action today across every level of society. Now is the time for people all over the world to lend their voices to the cause and urge their leaders to take this historic first step.”

The CRP’s Road to Paris campaign will build on work the group has already undertaken in each key country, including training new members of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and organizing support on the ground through local branches.

Taxis are stranded in New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast as Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts.

Taxis are stranded in Queens St, New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast when Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts. (Photo: Xinhua/Telegraph)

In partnership with Live Earth: Road to Paris, CRP Leaders will run programs to address the unique challenges and opportunities of each target country.

CRP President and CEO Ken Berlin boasts the group as a leading international climate organization with about 5,700 trained leaders in the eight countries alone. He said, ” it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help spur action around the globe, providing support and guidance to the most critical players on the road to Paris.”

Climate March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York, Sept 2013. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Climate Mobilization March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sept 2014. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Individual country programs will be rolled out over the coming weeks. Specific actions in each country will depend on the local political, economic, and social landscape, and will take into account the country’s climate change risk profile and opportunities for implementing solutions.

In the US, the CRP will continue its People vs. Carbon campaign in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. There are also two Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings being held in the United States in 2015 – in Iowa and Florida.

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[Book Review] Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia

Image via Amazon.

‘Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia’ by Lukas Straumann is a controversial book that uncovers the modus operandi of a multi-billion timber industry accused of wiping out the ancient rainforests of Sarawak, home of the last nomadic tribes of Southeast Asia in the heart of Borneo, Malaysia.

It argues two major points: first, the violations of  indigenous people’s rights, including plunder of their source of subsistence; and second, fraud and deceit spawned into the global financial system perpetrated by logging barons.

Straumann calls for the prosecution of criminals who are responsible for the destruction of pristine rainforests, displacement of people, and death of indigenous cultures. It invites a course of action to salvage the remaining forests in Borneo. The book raises questions such as: Is here a hope and redemption for the indigenous people? What lies ahead in this ravaged wilderness? Is palm oil or 12 mega-dams the answer to bail out communities from poverty? What are the implications of this crime for the rest of humanity?

The book also questions the credibility of judicial systems, the police, the FBI, the United Nations’ agencies, Interpol, and other international watchdogs mandated to protect human rights, stop corruption, and to ensure environmental sustainability.

The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), like other NGOs, works for social and environmental causes. BMF has exerted all means to seek justice for the rainforests, the Penans, and the victims of reprisal. However, Straumann is far from optimistic.

The book dissects the system of corruption and environmental crime that befell Sarawak. A model that examines the intricate details of its mechanism, it leads to the understanding of the system that spreads throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, and beyond. It identifies who’s who in the business and the flow of bribe money, fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.

Sarawak is the epicentre of environmental disaster with a trail of destruction intruding and expanding into Papua New Guinea, Guyana, Equatorial Guinea, Cambodia, and other territories. To know Sarawak is to know what happened in the other countries, perpetuated by the same logging companies.

Fingers are pointed at the Rolls Royce-driving prominent statesman Abdul Taib Mahmud: “The Most Honourable Chief Minister of Sarawak.” He rose to power in 1986 with the help of his uncle and ruled for three decades. While in office, he allegedly amassed assets totalling US$15 billion. He heads a business empire scattered all over the world and shared among family members. His real estate portfolio is scattered throughout Ottawa, San Francisco, Seattle, London, Adelaide, Hong Kong and Malaysia. He forged global connections with logging barons, financial kingpins, and corrupt politicians in countries where timber is ready for disposal.

The Timber Industry

The book unravels how the timber trade works with the same principles throughout Asia. Logging companies have to pay hefty bribes in exchange for logging concessions. This is especially true in less developed countries where corruption is rife. Bribe money also allows loggers to cut trees beyond agreed limits.

Straumann identifies the movement of timber from its origin to export destinations. Along with it is the flow of more bribe money to “grease” the export processes. Overseas, money is laundered via financial conduits and using various cronies as fronts.

Straumann names the major logging companies, the “Dirty 6” including Samling Group, Rimbunan Hijau, WTK Group, Ta Ann Group, KTS Group, and Shin Yang Group — all related to Taib’s clan and associates. Major markets include Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan, to name a few.

The forest of Sarawak alone is given to four logging companies, all involved in clearing 18 million hectares of forests around the world and transforming them into palm oil plantations.

Loggers operate in poor and vulnerable countries, while real estate and related businesses are invested in more developed countries.

In the book, Tasmania demonstrated its power to stop bulldozers from clearing the wilderness. An activist became a media sensation when she climbed a 60-meter-high eucalyptus tree which she named the “Observer Tree” and sat there for 449 days to deter the Ta Ann Group.

Taib probably cannot betray his Colombo Plan benefactor. He got his law degree from Adelaide University, a beneficiary of Australia’s post-war scholarship. He later made donations amounting to $7 million to the university’s Centre for Environmental Law and in return he was awarded an honorary doctorate. In 2008, a courtyard was named after him.

The Adelaide University Environmental Collective holds a rally to pressure the Vice Chancellor of the Uni to change the name of the Taib Mahmud courtyard. (Photo: Supplied)

The Adelaide University Environmental Collective holds a rally to pressure the Vice Chancellor of the Uni to change the name of the Taib Mahmud courtyard. (Photo: Supplied)


Brazilians were also up in arms against logging into the Amazon rainforest and, so far, they have succeeded driving out the timber mafia.

Other regions, however, are not as lucky as Tasmania or Brazil and they can be exploited anytime at Taib’s whim, the book suggests.

Bullying Tactics

Opposition to the logging brings repercussions. Ross Boyert, an insider who tipped off Straumann on the inside operation, faced the consequence of backflipping. Boyert filed a legal suit against Taib including breach of contract, fraud, and infringement of labor laws. Boyert also attempted to expose Taib’s properties overseas with proxy ownership among his kin. As a result, he was stalked, bullied, and psychologically tortured before he committed suicide.

Bruno Manser, the founder of BMF, is one of the most vocal activists that speak for the Penans. He explored Borneo and lived in the rainforests with the indigenous people. He has been on the watch list of Taib and was warned not to go back to Sarawak. He defied warnings, went back, and in 2000, he disappeared in the forest without a trace. In 2005, BMF officially announced he is presumed dead.

Penan activists were not spared. Harrison Ngua, for example, who was working for Sahabat Alam Malaysia, an environmental and human rights organization, was jailed for months while he was blindfolded and interrogated.

Hope for the Rainforest

The rainforest of Sarawak is one of the ancient rainforests explored by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), a contemporary of Charles Darwin. It contains some of the most diverse flora and fauna on the planet.  It has been a home of the nomads for many generations —until the loggers came.

Straumann describes the helplessness of the Penans as they watched from the sidelines heavy machinery cleared the rainforests. The last “noble savages” of Southeast Asia were robbed in a broad daylight –  right before their eyes.

As of writing and publication of the book, Straumann has suggested the removal of Taib  from power. But even so, what is done cannot be undone.

It could be said that the logging industry does not monopolize environmental destruction, but Sarawak is symptomatic of a bigger issue of our time. The coal, seam gas, rare earths, and other resources industries have been drilling and extracting to satisfy insatiable greed for profits. The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Arctic in the North Pole, and the Pacific Ocean’s bed are but few other examples where multinational companies are destroying the environment. Grassroots around the world are now standing in the gap to pressure governments and banking institutions to stop the madness once and for all.

James Lovelock came up with Gaia hypothesis, which posits that the planet is a  self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep itself healthy by controlling the interconnections of the chemical and physical environment. He likens the planet to a nurturing mother capable of renewal and regeneration. But with the scale, magnitude, and pace of destruction, scientists predict a bleak future. Humans have been destroying the planet’s life-support system beyond its capacity to regenerate.

Australia’s leading scientist, Tim Flannery, in his book ‘Here on Earth’ (2010), pleads a cause for planetary justice. He argues there is a new awakening of humanity that can give hope to the survival of the planet.  He suggests people need compassion and to care more than ever before.

Straumann, however, grapples for a solution. Perhaps, the motto of the White Rajahs for the original inhabitants of Borneo would somehow help: “Dum spiro spero (As long as I breath, I hope) — for what dies last is the hope for justice and a better future.”

The Malaysian government wanted this book banned. Taib already lodged a full probe into its allegations. Straumann, nonetheless, is unfazed.

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* Some of the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s

The print and Kindle editions of ‘Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia’ can be bought on

Epic hunt for toothfish poachers ends in the Atlantic

It has been an action-packed season in the Southern Ocean chasing big illegal fishing boats. Six bandit ships wanted by the Interpol are on the run, three of which have been either intercepted, detained, or sunk into the depths of the sea. Sea Shepherd Operation Icefish ended Monday with the sinking of The Thunder. Viking is now in the hands of Malaysian authorities and Kunlun await’s Thailand’s verdict. Re-posting my earlier stories:

‘The Thunder’ sinks in Sao Tome

The Thunder's last few moments before it's gone forever. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish ended early this week with the bizarre sinking of Interpol-wanted vessel, The Thunder, inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of Sao Tome.

After 110 days of action, chasing the elusive vessel, Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson said the campaign has accomplished its mission. The longest hot pursuit of a poaching vessel in maritime history, Operation Icefish has been “the most successful intervention against high-seas poaching in the history of anti-poaching operations,” the captain said.

Thunder, the most notorious of the so-called “Bandit 6, was sunk deliberately by its crew as they clapped and cheered, media reports said. It was left with clear signs that the vessel was intentionally scuttled. The hatches were not closed to maintain buoyancy, but instead, the doors and hatches were tied open, along with the fishhold. The vessel then went down 4,000 meters below.

Watson is convinced the vessel was scuttled as a deliberate act of desperation. It was allegedly owned by unscrupulous and wealthy fishing companies based in Galicia, Spain.

According to Watson, the illegal toothfish industry linked to Spanish companies has suffered a severe financial blow, and faces the face criminal courts in Malaysia, Thailand, and Sao Tome for its illegal activities, including illegal fishing, illegal registration, and false declarations. Deliberately scuttling a ship in the territorial waters of Sao Tome is also a crime. READ MORE…

Australian gov’t seizes toothfish poacher Kunlun

The Australian government has finally decided to do something about illegal fishing vessels. And when Australian Customs officials recently took out their patrol ship they met Kunlun, a notorious and elusive poaching vessel cruising on its way with a massive haul of Patagonian toothfish.

Kunlun was intercepted west of Cocos Island (Keeling) on Thursday. The Sea Shepherd suspects the vessel was en route from the Antarctic to Southeast Asia to offload its illegal catch. READ MORE…

Malaysia detains notorious ‘Viking’ poaching vessel

Another major blow has been dealt to illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean with the detention of the Nigerian-flagged poaching vessel, Viking, in Malaysia – bringing a total of three notorious illegal fishing vessels and their crew in for interrogation this fishing season. Nigerian-flagged the Thunder was de-registered last week making it officially stateless. Kunlun, meanwhile, is in Thailand’s detention.

Held for violations of Malaysian maritime law, Malaysian authorities have indicated that the Viking will also be investigated for alleged illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing violations. READ MORE….

The Thunder is scuttled and sunk into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Sao Tome.

Australia urges cooperation on illegal fishing

Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton urged the international community to forge cooperation to combat Illegal, Undocumented, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing following the arrest of poaching vessel, Kunlun, in Thailand.

Dutton said Australia works with international partners through the Regional Plan of Action with Southeast Asian countries to address illegal fishing.

Australia alerted Southeast Asian nations about the expected arrival of Kunlun into their ports at any time. The vessel was found anchored off Tapaonoi island, near Phuket, and is now being detained, according to a local report by Phuketwan. Phuket Marine Police authorities dispatched teams to gather information so that investigation will commenced shortly.

Kunlun, taken on 7 January 2015 in Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Area. (Photo: Interpol)

Dutton praised the arrest and detention, and said, “This is an excellent example of interagency and international cooperation achieving tangible results.”

US, EU address Illegal Fishing

In the US, the Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its action plan that sets out the aggressive steps to curb IUU fishing. The plan is based on the recommendations of the Task Forced made in December 2014 that federal agencies will take both domestically and internationally .

The plan identifies actions that will strengthen enforcement, create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce.

WWF considers the action plan as a “crucial win” for the European Union and the global community to confront illegal fishing. The conservation group also said the plan will further boost the EU’s strong action to fight against illegal fishing, which is estimated to cost between EUR 8 billion and EUR 19 billion annually.

Eszter Hidas, EU Policy Officer for WWF’s Illegal Fishing programme, said the world’s two biggest fish importers seem now determined to close their doors to any illegal fish product.

IUU fishing represents 11 million to 26 million tonnes of catch, which accounts for 13-31 per cent of global catch, according to WFF.

Michele Kuruc, vice president of ocean policy at WWF-US, also said that the action plan marks “a decisive shift” in US policy. The plan is a way to put black market enterprises on notice that the country is closing its doors to their illegally caught seafood, she added.


Australia calls for high level cooperation

Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck has been calling for a high level of regional and international cooperation and reiterated the need of mapping out an action plan.  He said IUU fishing is a global issue and it is “great to see this level of international cooperation to protect our marine resources and eliminate illegal fishing.”

The Kunlun was intercepted by the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Southern Ocean in January, but eluded arrest. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) was patrolling the seas in February and caught the vessel in the Indian Ocean while on its way north. Australian Customs boarded Kunlun to verify the flag State of the vessel.

Kunlun has a long history of IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean and is the subject of an INTERPOL Purple Notice seeking information on the individuals and networks that own, operate, and profit from the actions of the vessel.

The Kunlun attempted to avoid detection by entering the Thai port under the name Taishan and claiming to be flagged to Indonesia.

“The Australian Government will continue to provide support as necessary. It will continue to take effective action, together with our international counterparts, in order to send a strong message that IUU fishing will not be tolerated,” Senator Colbeck said.

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