An Argument of Hope – Rise for Climate

350.org Australia navy ship sails through Sydney harbour to demonstrate climate action.

Despite the doom and gloom climate trajectory, climate warriors from the grassroots up have demonstrated their resolve not to give up hope fighting for future generations against worsening climate scenarios.

Major cities in Australia and the Indo-Pacific/Asia-Pacific have joined hundreds of thousands of people in more than 90 countries that took part in demonstrations last week to protest about the failure of politicians to tackle the global environmental crisis.

More than 800 events – from marches to street theatre, acts of civil disobedience to mini festivals – were held in towns and cities amid growing frustration at the lack of meaningful political action over the emerging climate breakdown.

Rise For Climate from the Arctic.

Nick Bryer from campaign group 350.org which organised the event said: “Politicians are failing. They are still protecting the interests of the fossil fuel companies over the interests of people, despite mounting evidence of the devastation these companies and this system is causing the planet.”

He said the day of global demonstrations was about people around the world “rising up and demanding a different cause of action, a different future which puts people and a sustainable future before the interests of these huge corporations”. Read the Guardian report here.

In the US, the Rise for Climate march was spearheaded by what organizers called the largest ever climate march on the US west coast. It snaked through the heart of San Francisco, came ahead of a climate change summit in the city the following week gathered mayors and business leaders from around the world.

PacificPAWA rising

The San Francisco march, which called for California governor Jerry Brown to end fossil fuel extraction in the state, attracted around 30,000 people, organisers said.

Activists added, “We are standing up to life destructive industries, from big oil to natural gas companies, that obstruct progress toward a healthy, sustainable and just society.”

Rising for climate in San Francisco, USA.

The Rise For Climate came after the Bangkok Climate Change Conference held on 4-9 September. Negotiators in the conference are reported to have made limited progress in advancing the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) which contains the guidelines required to operationalise the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which are expected to be adopted at the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December 2018.

The Global Climate Action Summit was also held in San Francisco, 12-14 September inviting mayors globally to step up their climate action. The summit was a chance to demonstrate to the world that cities, along with businesses, investors, state and regional governments are at the forefront of working towards a climate safe, healthy, prosperous world for all.

Follow @rdelarosayoon and more #RiseForClimate photos @Twitter

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Is Australia’s ABC up for sale?

Members of the Liberal Party holding a vote for privatisation. (Photo: ABC)

Who can speak better for Australia’s commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future than a reputable public broadcaster? It is no joke when neoliberal politicians have voted to sell it.

Australia’s ruling Liberal Party convened over the weekend and voted to sell the nation’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).  The ABC has been labelled as “green activist”.

The move was backed by a free-market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), and has suggested the sale to a media mogul, a mining magnate or simply the “people of Australia who already owns it.”

High-profile delegates who attended the national convention in Sydney included Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Treasurer Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The motion, supported by a majority of the 110 delegates, calls for the full privatisation of the ABC, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable, according to media reports.

Nothing is new. It has been a long-standing plan from the right-wing politicians to privatise ABC. It came to a head in time of the upcoming federal election set for 2019.

Back in 2014, the IPA denounced the ABC as a “green activist” and has accused the broadcaster for its “bias” in reporting on fossil fuels and renewable energy. It has commissioned iSentia to conduct media analysis of ABC’s reporting on Australia’s energy choices.

The iSentia data showed that the ABC treated the renewable energy industry highly favourable, the coal industry unfavourable, and the coal seam gas (CSG) industry highly unfavourable.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

(Image: IPA)

Backlash

The result of the vote did not come without a backlash.

The Australian Greens said in a statement the Liberal Party Council has finally opened a can of worms exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s secret plan to sell off the ABC.

Prior to the vote, Greens media spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Turnbull had a secret deal with Pauline Hanson from the One Nation Party known for its intense dislike to immigrants and refugees. Hanson-Young said Turnbull talked with Hanson to ‘whack off’ money from the ABC’s budget.

The Greens called the sale of ABC electorally toxic and completely out-of-touch with the Australian people.

“If the ABC is privatised, there will be no going back. The media landscape in Australia will be worse off, and The Greens will be fighting this move with the community every step of the way between now and the next election.

The Friends of ABC is set to march in the streets nationwide to stop the impending sale while GetUp! has re-commence a campaign to thwart any privatisation plan and it is mobilising a plan to fight back.

The Friends of the ABC are holding rallies all round Australia next month to protest the continual cutting of ABC funding, the harassment of a publicly trusted institution (which is by statute politically independent) AND this latest Liberal Party move to promote the selling off of the ABC”

ABC Friends National is calling for all Liberal Party voters to reject any sell-off of the ABC as being  both anti Australian and anti democratic.

“Australian Public broadcasting has an eighty-year history, and is supported by more than 80% of the community,” said ABC Friends National President, Margaret Reynolds adding, “It is not a plaything of the extremists who have dismissed public opinion in pursuit of their preoccupation with private profits.”

Playing Defensive

Following the vote, the Turnbull Government was scrambling to rule out privatisation of ABC. Some members distanced themselves from the vote, while Turnbull himself denied any plan to sell the public broadcaster.

“The ABC will always be in public hands. It will never be sold. That is my commitment. It is a public broadcaster. It always has been and it always will be,” Mr Turnbull told the media on Monday.

Government frontbencher Josh Frydenberg backed Saturday’s assurance from Treasurer Scott Morrison that the government had no plans for privatisation. Finance minister Mathias Cormann went further, saying the coalition will not be privatising the ABC

Nationals Leader and Deputy PM Michael McCormack has also distanced his party from the Liberal Party peak council, which voted to the privatisation.

“The Nationals does not, and has no intention of ever supporting the privatisation of the ABC,” Mr McCormack said in a statement.

IPA research fellow Chris Berg suggests options such as selling it to the stock market, media mogul, ABC staff or Australian taxpayers..Berg has co-authored a book with Sinclair Davidson why ABC has to be sold.

Early in May, IPA launched the book, Against Public Broadcasting, at the largest free market, pro-liberty conference in Asia Pacific.

Communication Minister Fifield, an IPA member quickly distanced himself from the book and tried to convince the public ABC would remain in public hands.

Promises Fulfilled

Back in 2014, it was a landmark victory for then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to abolish the carbon tax put in place by his predecessor, Julia Gillard, to tax polluters. It was his election promise. He was swift to fulfill his other promises — to abolish the climate change authority and disband the Clean Energy Fund.

The IPA claims itself as the world’s oldest right wing think tank representing big businesses with close links to the Business Council of Australia. It advocates free market economics, privatisation, deregulation, limited government, and a free market approach to environmental problems.

IPA is accused of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and is also a fund raiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Murray Irrigation Ltd., Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Electricity and Mining companies, and British American Tobacco among others.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

Link to Asian Correspondent

Follow @rdelarosayoon at Twitter

A New Direction

The Green Journal AU has been part of the movement to address urgent environmental issues of the time – thanks to all those involved in this collective endeavour. With all the issues confronting the planet and its inhabitants, there are vigilant citizens who are hopeful in finding solutions. This platform is now at a stage to shift focus on the solutions at hand. Following the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in November 2015 by close to 200 countries around the world, there is optimism the movement is winning — without turning back. Watch for upcoming developments!

The Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore, is one of the forces to reckon with in spreading the reality of climate change, and has been expanding its reach to every region of the seven continents building leaders who at the forefront of the climate movement. (Photo: R Dela Rosa Yoon)

 

Sea Shepherd sets sail to the Great Australian Bight

The Great Australia Bight is home to the blue humpback whale. (Photo – ABC Open: Anne Powell)

There are beautiful places worth saving. The Sea Shepherd had set sail for the Great Australian Bight for the first time in August 2016 and the ocean conservation group found places like Nuyts Reef, Isles of St Francis, the Bunda Cliffs, the Head of Bight and the Pearson Islands.

The group said it discovered one of the world’s best kept secrets –  rich in biodiversity. The Bight is home to Blue, Minke, Fin and Humpback whales, and is one of the planet’s most significant Southern Right whale nurseries, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Managing Director Jeff Hansen said.

 

Many fish species like the critically-endangered Southern Blue Fin tuna, Great White shark, Mako shark, seals, dolphins and penguins are in abundance in the Bight. It is truly alive; a place that is rare, unique and globally significant, with many of the off-shore islands on par with the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Galapagos Islands.

 

Sea Shepherd had launched Operation Jeedara that showcased a truly remarkable place – one of Mother Nature’s greatest and grandest shows on Earth. The operation sent BP and Chevron to pull out of their oil drilling activities from the Bight.

Southern bluefin tuna circling inside a transport net. (Photo: Greenpeace/AAP)

 Sea Shepherd’s M/Y Steve Irwin is again aiming to set sail to the Bight with its international crews in March this year, but it needs funds to complete an engine overhaul.

 

Hansen said the crew will take cameras below the waves to reveal more secrets from this natural wonderland. “We’ll explore and document the incredible wilderness that lies protected by the boundaries of the Pearson Islands Sanctuary Zone, the Nuyts Archipelago, and the Bunda Cliffs Sanctuary Zone,” he added.

The bight is also a home to seals. (Photo: Australia.com)

At the completion of the Bight expedition, the M/Y Steve Irwin and crew will set their sights on the Adani coal mine on Operation Reef Defence.

 

“From everyone here at Sea Shepherd, thank-you for your help to get our flagship, the M/Y Steve Irwin back on the water.  We have some way to go but with your continued support we will be on our way to the Great Australian Bight,” Jeff said.

Toronto court pursues hearing on Taib’s finances as activists look on

The saga of indigenous people in Sarawak, Malaysia goes on in the new year – pursuing the case of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud to as far as Canada. Here’s an update on the long-standing case:

Taib Mahmud (second from right) greets supporters with his second wife, Ragad Taib (R) in Sarawak, Malaysia. Source: Twitter

(MONTREAL, CANADA) A civil society delegation from the Malaysian state of Sarawak is touring the Canadian East Coast this week in order to create public awareness for the struggle of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples.

The delegation led by former Baram MP and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Harrison Ngau will visit Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto where they will speak on the occasion of screenings of the documentary The Borneo Case (www.theborneocase.com). The delegates will also attend meetings with politicians and civil society representatives and hold a press conference at the Canadian Parliament on Friday 2 February.

 Early next week, the Sarawak activists will attend a precedent-setting hearing on the disclosure of financial records regarding Sakto, a $200 million Ontario real estate group controlled by the family of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on 5 and 6 February.

Last year, an investigation by the Bruno Manser Fund had found that an approximated 70 million dollars of unexplained wealth had been channelled by the Taib family into Sakto since the early 1980s.

Subsequently, the Bruno Manser Fund filed legal action for a Norwich Pharmacal disclosure order which would force the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial and Deloitte to release their financial records on Sakto.

 Sakto is one of Ottawa’s leading real estate developers and is being directed by Jamilah Taib Murray (Abdul Taib Mahmud’s daughter) and her husband Sean Murray.

The Sarawak activists’ Canada tour has been organized by the Bruno Manser Fund and will be hosted by Canadian NGOs Inter Pares, Above Ground, Mining Watch Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness as well as by Concordia University, Montreal, and the University of Toronto.

The name of Taib Mahmud has been defaced from Adelaide University’s court. (Photo supplied)

The Borneo Case screenings in Canada

 Montreal

Wednesday 31 January, 6:30 pm, Atrium Samuel Bronfman, Concordia University, 1590 Dr. Penfield Rd Hosted by Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, First Voices, Dialog, Loyola Sustainability Research Centre (Concordia University) and Bruno Manser Fonds.

Montreal coordinator: Mutang Urud (514) 264-3164mutang808@gmail.com

Ottawa

Thursday 1st February, 6:30pm, Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank St  http://mayfairtheatre.ca/

Hosted by Inter Pares, Above Ground, MiningWatch Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness.

Ottawa coordinator: Jean Symes, Inter Pares (613) 563-4801 ext. 136sgasana@interpares.ca

Toronto

Saturday 3rd February, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Ave http://townhall.innis.utoronto.ca/

Hosted by Forestry Graduate Students’ Association, Bruno Manser Fonds

Toronto coordinator: Ben Filewod (613) 581-5055filewod@gmail.com

 Prior press coverage

 

What’s On 2018?

As mercury hits over 40 degrees Celsius in most states of the country in January, the Bureau of Meteorology has released a data showing that 2017 toppled weather records nationwide. Climate change is also noted as driving up global temperatures. Last year was the third hottest on record in Australia and seven of Australia’s ten hottest years have occurred since 2005.

Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen said the exceptionally warm year included some of the worst impacts of climate change seen in Australia to date, including severe heatwaves and devastating coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. Read more.

Image: Bureau of Meteorology

While temperature is soaring high, it has already posed a massive threat to the Great Barrier Reef, including coral bleaching. There are other challenges like water pollution, fishing, industrialisation, and governance. There has been an ongoing resistance against industrialisation in Abbot Point along with the government’s approval of Adani to dredge close to the marine park. Various conservation groups have been up in arms to stop the project once and for all. Groups include Greenpeace, WWF, Fight For the Reef, GetUp, and much more.

Bleached magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica) with clownfish (Amphiprion percula). Lizard Island, March 2016.

On marine conservation, the Sea Shepherd has been relentless in its pursuit to stop the Japanese Whaling Fleet from routine killing of whales in the Southern Ocean. The International Court of Justice has ruled out that whaling in the area is illegal but the Japanese is unstoppable. The marine conservation group has vowed to take action with the law and the Australian people behind them.

Yushin Maru and the Kyo Maru No.1 transfer whales to the Nisshin Maru factory ship, Southern Ocean/ Dec 21, 2005

There are other agenda for the year including Australia’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement to lower temperature below 2 Degrees Celsius. Various solutions have been on the table that are yet to be worked on.

 

Tokyo 2020 Olympics at what cost?

Japan marks the 50th  anniversary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games with grand festivities. The hosting of the games brought prestige and national pride — a benchmark of economic development following the World War II.

This year’s grand event, however, is marred with controversies. Conservation groups accused the Olympic committee of causing forest destruction in the province of Sarawak, Malaysia where the timber used to construct Olympic venues are sourced out by a giant logging company, Shin Yang.

Last month, about 47 civil society organisations asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities to stop exploiting tropical forests and violating human rights in the construction and implementation of the games. The groups are calling for full transparency and to end the use of rainforest wood to construct Olympic facilities, including the new National Olympic Stadium.

But the appeal does not stop the construction of venues.

Amid the games’ golden anniversary, Malaysia’s indigenous leader appealed to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Matu Tugang, head of the Indigenous Penan community of Long Jaik from Sarawak, asked Abe to help stop Japan’s use of controversial wood from Shin Yang.

N_Tokyo2020_Anni_BIG

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee during a ceremony on Oct 10 to celebrate the 50th year since the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Games.

NGOs gathered evidence at the construction site in April which confirmed the use of plywood supplied by Shin Yang. The company has been allegedly logging in the area of Long Jaik for almost two decades and has previously been implicated in illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and human rights abuses.

The community of Long Jaik has been fighting with blockades to protect their forests against Shin Yang’s logging and conversion to oil palm plantations. The community has also an ongoing lawsuit against Shin Yang for violating their customary rights.

In a last attempt to save their remaining forests, the headman is turning to Shin Yang’s buyers in Japan and asking Abe to intervene.

SEE ALSO: Japan’s bid to go smoke-free for 2020 Olympics faces strong resistance

In the letter, headman Tugang said Shin Yang had destructive logging practices and the company disregarded community’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Tugang accused Shin Yang to have been logging aggressively in their village.

“When their tractors extract a log, they just bulldoze everything around… Shin Yang has been logging our ancestral forests without our permission or consent. They have never asked us for our opinion or needs,” Tugang said.

 Olympic Committee non-adherence to environmental practices

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) promised to adopt environmentally sound practices and to contribute to global environmental protection through continual efforts to improve its environmental management system.

In its action agenda, it aimed to support green products when making purchases, to obey environmental laws and guidelines, and to promote internal environmental educational initiatives to ensure that all JOC staff fully understand.

The basic principles for sustainable sourcing are shown giving utmost importance on how products and services are supplied, the origins of products and services and the resources from which they are made, compliance with the sourcing code throughout the supply chains, and the effective use of resources.

Olympic Committee Criticized

However, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Olympic authorities have been the subject of relentless criticism from an international coalition of civil society organisations critical of Tokyo 2020’s poor timber sourcing standards and lack of transparency in their timber supply chain. Despite repeated demands to disclose the origin of the timber in use for the Olympics and to end the use of Shin Yang wood and other

Despite repeated demands to disclose the origin of the timber in use for the Olympics and to end the use of Shin Yang wood and other high-risk timber, authorities have failed to respond to NGO concerns.

NGOs civic action against Tokyo for lack of transparency

Last month, about 47 civil society organisations have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities to stop exploit tropical forests.

At the IOC Executive Board Meeting in Lima, Peru, the groups sent a letter reiterating grave and mounting concerns about the legitimacy and accountability of IOC’s sustainability commitments and the reputation and credibility of the Olympic games.

Hana Heineken of Rainforest Action Network, along with other NGOs, said the Tokyo Olympic authorities are not transparent about the use of massive volumes of tropical wood to construct the new National Olympic Stadium.

SEE ALSO: JJapan: 2020 Olympics brings baseball event to recovering Fukushima

They claim that the IOC’s failure to address the obvious risk of unsustainability is a clear breach of its own commitment to “include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games.”

In particular, they point to a major loophole in the Tokyo 2020 procurement policy that allows wood used for concrete formwork to be exempted from the policy’s environmental, labour and human rights requirements, despite the majority of this type of wood in Japan coming from the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia where problems of illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and land rights violations persist.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 and economic powerhouse

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Japanese torchbearers with the 1964 Olympic flame relay team run through the rain on their way to the Olympic Stadium in October 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. (Pic: AP)

The Tokyo Summer Olympics in 1964 gave Japan a chance to present itself to the world as a friendly, tech leader redeeming itself from the transgressions of war. Japan will host the prestigious event for the fourth time in 2020, another opportunity for Tokyo to showcase the innovation of new technologies.

Tokyo’s organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said plans were underway to show off high-tech features like hydrogen-powered vehicles for athlete transportation and smartphone tools to aid tourists. “We have the potential to make this Olympic Games wonderful that the people of the world are going to admire.”

hydrogen-powered-cars2

The Japanese government will showcase hydrogen fuel-cell technology to the world in 2020. Source: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Japan Sport Council

Many redevelopment projects are underway in central Tokyo and elsewhere, as the capital prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, the games will not go without mention of the environmental impacts.

In the construction of venues and other facilities, there is a shortage of wood. Hard tropical plywood is essential to making concrete formwork. Even though the quality of formwork plywood made from Japan-grown trees is improving, it is not enough to fully compensate for reduced shipments from Malaysia.

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VIC aims for RET, Australia commits to Paris climate accord

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The State of Victoria announced the first big solar farms as well as auctions that will bring in 650 megawatts of new projects to kick off the legislative push on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (RET).

Despite of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in May this year, Australia re-confirmed its commitment to the accord by pursuing its RET. The country is optimistic to achieve its 2020 RET of 23.5 percent from renewable sources  — equivalent to 33,000 gigawatt hours– with the recent announcement of a big solar farm and investment projects pouring in Victoria.

States throughout the country have been announcing new investments in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro-electric. RET is a legislated target aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this week, Victorian Premiere Daniel Andrews announced the first big solar farms as well as auctions to bring 650 megawatts of new projects.  This development is a vital stepping stone towards 10,000 jobs.

In June 2016, the state government committed to Victorian RET of 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025–a plan that will deliver 5,400 megawatts of new wind and solar farms, create over 10,000 jobs, and attract as much as $9 billion worth of investment to the state.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomes the announcement and said it is a vital step for the state towards its commitment to deliver 5,400 megawatts of solar and wind by 2025–taking Victoria to a significant 40 percent renewables.

“We welcome the Andrews government’s announcement of renewable energy auctions which demonstrate a strong commitment to grow renewable energy and create jobs,”  said Pat Simons, FoE spokesperson.

The state government’s commitment to the VRET scheme emerged after a strong campaign that brought together wind workers, solar home owners, renewable energy businesses, unions, and community members who support climate change action.

The conservation group says the announcement is good news for Victorian householders and businesses–expected to save households $30 per year, medium businesses $2,500, and large businesses $140,000

Windpower generators as part of RET.

RET on track

The Clean Energy Regulator said the momentum for renewables has been seen in the second half of 2016 and has continued into 2017. One-third of the total build required for 2017 achieved in the first three months of the year with a further 1074.5 megawatts firmly announced by end-March.

Executive General Manager Mark Williamson earlier said this demonstrates that Australia is now in a strong position to meet the 2020 RET. During the Solar 2017 conference, Williamson highlighted that solar had played a large part in this exciting level of investment.

Solar projects have faster construction times and the lag between final investment decisions and commissioning is shorter. This means generation begins more quickly and certificates, which drive the RET, can be made available to the market sooner.

It wasn’t just large-scale utility solar which excelled in 2016, small-scale solar also had a big year, he said.

There are now more than 2.6 million Australian homes with small-scale systems installed. This is generating or displacing 10 million megawatt hours of electricity.

Large-scale RET

In July, the large-scale RET market data release is headlined by the accreditation of the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm.

The 15 megawatt solar farm will offset the Sunshine Coast Council’s entire electricity consumption at its facilities and operations. It is the second largest solar farm accredited in Queensland and the first solar farm to be built by an Australia local government organisation.

The same month also saw St Vincent’s Health take another step towards its goal of installing 2.708 megawatts of solar panels across 16 of its facilities in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Health and aged care facilities in the Queensland regions of Toowoomba, Mitchelton and Lourdes were also accredited.

EnergyAustralia signed a power purchase agreement to buy 100 megawatts of the output from the proposed Riverina Solar Farm (expected capacity 150 megawatts). The project near Coleambally is being developed by Neoen and is aiming for financial close this year.

The continued investment in renewable energy and accreditation of renewable power stations means the 2020 RET is in reach.

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France’s President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Australia committed to Paris Climate Agreement

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop announced the Turnbull Government’s strong commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Both agreements, which formalised Australia’s 2030 and 2020 emissions reduction targets, were ratified by Australia on 10 November 2016.

Australia is among more than 140 countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Australia’s 2030 target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels is comparable with other advanced economies and will halve the nation’s per capita emissions.

Bishop said Australia has a strong track record on international emissions reduction targets. It beat the first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and are on track to meet and beat its second Kyoto 2020 target by 224 million tonnes.

The Turnbull Government is working to further reduce emissions through the Emissions Reduction Fund, the National Energy Productivity Plan, the phase down of hydrofluorocarbons and the Renewable Energy Target.

Bishop said the Turnbull Government is disappointed that the Trump has withdrawn from the international climate agreement.

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The imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef

In 2016, there was an obituary written for the Great Barrier Reef. The cause of death: climate change and ocean acidification. It died at the age of 25 million.

Australian scientists confirmed this is not far from the truth —  if drastic action to save the reef is not taken. In a media release by the James Cook University, scientists conducted a survey last year in which they recorded severe coral bleaching across huge tracts of the Reef. They completed aerial surveys along its entire length. Reports said that while bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

Orpheus Island bleaching. Image: Greg Torda

Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017, said the combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 km (900 miles), leaving only the southern third unscathed.

The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures — even without the effects of El Niño conditions.

The aerial surveys in 2017 covered more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and scored nearly 800 individual coral reefs closely matching the aerial surveys in 2016 that were carried out by the same two observers.

Dr. James Kerry, who also undertook the aerial surveys, explains further, “this is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss.”

It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

Coupled with the 2017 mass bleaching event, Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck a corridor of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March. The intense, slow-moving system was likely to have caused varying levels of damage along a path up to 100 km in width. Any cooling effects related to the cyclone are likely to be negligible in relation to the damage it caused, which unfortunately struck a section of the reef that had largely escaped the worst of the bleaching.

“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts,” explains Prof. Hughes. “Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: 1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.”

‘Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”

Mining and Fossil Fuels

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) blasts the mining and fossil fuels industry as well as the lack of government action. Mining and burning of fossil fuels– like coal – are warming the oceans and killing the reef, the Foundation claims.

Kelly O’Shanassy, ACF director said this is a global tragedy blaming the Australian government and coal companies for undermining action on global warming.

O’Shanassy said in order to have any chance of saving the rest of the reef, there should be a stop in digging up and burning coal and take the alternative — to rapidly repower Australia with clean energy.

“We are heartbroken, and furious. But we will not stop speaking out, showing up and holding people accountable for their decisions,” she said adding:

“The death of so much of our reef was not an accident. It was conscious choice. The government and coal companies knew this was coming yet for years they chose to undermine action on global warming. They laughed as they threw coal around Parliament.”

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How long can Japan ignore mounting international pressure to stop whaling?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a high-profile business trip to Southeast Asian countries and Australia to strengthen trade, security, and other regional cooperation.

But while he held talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney, ocean activists say there is something amiss in the meeting as whale hunting in the Southern Ocean was not included in the agenda.

Whaling in the Antarctic has strained diplomatic ties between Australia and Japan. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan’s whaling program is unlawful and therefore it must cease once and for all. The Federal Court of Australia also told Japan to stop its massive whaling in the region.

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Despite the rulings, however, Japan ignored them and practically turned deaf ears to global condemnation.

For one thing, whaling is uniquely Japanese, a tradition that dates back since time immemorial – a cultural tradition that only Japanese can understand.

Chris Burgess wrote in The Asia-Pacific Journal an analogy comparing between Japan and whales.

He said to deny Japan from whaling is tantamount to denying Japan’s existence, an insult to its national pride and identity.

Speaking of Japanese-ness, whaling is not an isolated case that Japan has blatantly misunderstood.

Take for instance the demand for apologies for its wartime past. Japan withheld apologies and if it did, the form and content are rather ambiguous.

Japanese prime ministers have acknowledged the pains and sorrows wars have inflicted to hundreds or thousands of victims, but the nation’s officials continue to visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to war criminals.

SEE ALSO: Japan, S. Korea ‘comfort women’ feud flares amid Pyongyang missile fears

The comfort women’s issue is another thing.

Survivors have demanded apologies and compensation, but Japan strongly denied forcing women into sex slavery — besides hasn’t Germany or America done it too?

Japan has been condemned by its Asian neighbours for glossing over wartime crimes yet it continues to rewrite schools history textbooks extolling its military past. Japan claims innocence to fingers pointed at him as if Japan is simply maligned with impunity.

Simply put, Japan and whales are inseparable. Whale is a delicacy bringing back nostalgia of home and childhood, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes wrote in BBC News, Tokyo .

(File) A chunk of lean meat of a whale caught in the Antarctic is placed on a cutting board before being sliced up for a sashimi dish at whale meat restaurant Magonotei in Tokyo Thursday, June 17, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

To the Japanese, ethics and morality on meat-eating are practically relative and arbitrary the same way Australians slaughter kangaroo for its meat or how British cook adorable rabbits for a hearty meal, or how Americans make a burger out of a holy cow.

For the Japanese, meat means whale. Could there be a deep chasm between eastern and western thought in regard to being a carnivore?

What Japan might have overlooked is the scale and magnitude of its whale hunting. Japan hunts for 333 minke whales each year traversing and trespassing international waters and marine sanctuaries.

SEE ALSO: Obama urged to pressure Japan to end whaling

Following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove (2009), which showed the brutal whale slaughter turning waters into blood red, Taiji has become ground zero for local and international activism. Taiji is a town located in Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture.

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The film brought global awareness on how fishermen round up some 1,000 dolphins a year to sell to marine parks or kill for meat.

In response to it, Megumi Sasaki produced a documentary film, A Whale of a Tale, in an attempt to shed light on the juxtaposition of contrast between Japanese and non-Japanese thoughts in regard to whale.

Her film, however, did not get as much attention as The Cove.

Japan did not sail to international waters to hunt for whales, not until 1934, eventually ending up to Antarctica. The nation’s confidence was boosted with its advancing technology including the introduction of steam ships and grenade-tipped harpoon guns. Further, whales helped keep Japanese citizens fed both during and after World War II.

Just like its display of military might in the heydays of territorial expansion, the Japanese whaling fleet commands strength and fearless dominion over international waters.

Confrontation at Sea

The Sea Shepherd has been in the media spotlight, unfazed with the Japanese fleet.

The marine conservation group has launched an annual campaign to confront and send the Japanese fleet back home minus the whales.

Dramatic confrontations like adrenaline-packed action movie have taken place in high seas. The head-on clashes, however, have been said to be illegal posing risk and danger at sea.

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

The Sea Shepherd has been charged in a U.S. court for its action despite its noble cause. The U.S. arm of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has agreed to pay AU$3.332 million (US$2.25 million) to Japanese whalers for breaching a court injunction.

But just like the Japanese, who can stop the Sea Shepherd?

This year, the group dispatched two vessels to mutually bully and harass the Japanese fleet.  Sea Shepherd Global vessels, the Ocean Warrior and the MV Steve Irwin, left Australia’s Southern Operations Base the first weekend of December carrying 51 crew members from eight countries.

Their goal is to intercept the Japanese fleet, which departed from Japan in late November, and prevent them from killing their self-allocated quota of 333 minke whales. This year’s campaign is dubbed as Operation Nemesis.

What else can be done?

Matt Collis of the International Fund for Animal Welfare suggested it is critical to maintain diplomatic pressure on Japan.

He said external pressure can only be successful if enough decision-makers in Japan understand the risks to Japan’s wider interests by continued whaling and start to question the wisdom of that decision.

He also noted that the main option for governments is to make strong diplomatic protests to Japan as 33 countries have already done so, including Australia, the U.S., Mexico, South Africa and all 28 EU member states, led by New Zealand.

The Japanese government needs to understand the changes that have taken place in the course of human history. This is the era where global awareness on the state of the planet has become more urgent than ever.

Part of the difficulty to stop Japanese whaling is rooted in its bureaucratic system. Japan’s whaling is government-run, a large bureaucracy with research budgets, annual plans, promotions and pensions.

If the ministry’s office in charge of whaling is downsized, it discredits the bureaucrats and politicians. For now, downsizing or demolishing the whaling section is not possible. As BBC noted:

“If the number of staff in a bureaucrat’s office decreases while they are in charge, they feel tremendous shame… which means most of the bureaucrats will fight to keep the whaling section in their ministry at all costs. And that is true with the politicians as well. If the issue is closely related to their constituency, they will promise to bring back commercial whaling. It is a way of keeping their seats.”

More activism

Activism has to continue to put pressure on Japan sending a message that time has changed.

Remember what the small neighbour South Korea did. Victims of comfort women protested every Wednesday without ceasing since the 2005 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

The move was aimed at forcing the Japanese government to make public and face-to-face apology, as well as to offer individual compensation for its wartime sex crimes.

As a constant reminder, the now aged women in their 80s or 90s, supported by various civic and academic groups, put up bronze statues in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and in major cities worldwide.

The statues depict young girls who were forced to serve as comfort women for Japanese soldiers during World War II. The sight has embarrassed embassy officials. Recently, these grandmothers have stroke a breakthrough.

SEE ALSO: Japan: South Korea’s WWII ‘comfort women’ to receive $90k each

The Japanese government finally caved in to their demands for formal apology and compensation. However, there is a string-attached to the compensation package. Japan asked the South Korean government to remove the statues they have erected in front of the embassies and elsewhere.

A big whale statue might not be needed to put up in front of every Japanese embassy around the globe, but a sustained pressure can send the message across: it is sad to say goodbye to whaling, but time has changed.

It is time to set the whales free.

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