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.

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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.”

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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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Welcome to 2017!

The environmental movement keeps marching on. While events and activities have momentarily slowed down in time of scorching summer heat in the Southern Hemisphere, the Green Journal AU will update you soon.

Thanks for following this blog during all these years. However, there will be some re-directions in order to keep the issues presented here relevant.

More than ever, the global citizenry is called to take the moral responsibility to help re-wild a degraded planet not only to fight against governments and big corporations. At the core of all issues, climate change is at a critical stage.

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One of the slides presented by Prof Naomi Oreskes during the forum on For Thought: Hope for the Planet held at Melbourne Town Hall last year.

 

 

Climate champ Leonardo DiCaprio mired in Malaysian 1MDB scandal

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Lately, his foundation made headlines announcing US$15.6 million in grants that have been awarded for various causes including wildlife and habitat conservation, indigenous rights, climate change and solving complex environmental issues.

Grant receivers and partners are happy… but not everyone.

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) suspects the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has received bribe money from Malaysians who are connected to the high-profile 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, namely Riza Aziz, Low Taek Jho (“Jho Low”), Tan Kim Loong and Riza Aziz’s film production company, Red Granite Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

The BMF has already written Swiss bank Julius Baer, the main bank linked to DiCaprio’s foundation and asked to provide information on their due diligence when it comes to the acceptance of donations from Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Malaysia.

The bank responded it expects the LDF to conduct due diligence and prevent damage to its charitable goals.  The bank subtly distanced itself from donations the foundation had received from individuals connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal. DiCaprio, however, is yet to answer questions.

Citing legal reasons, Julius Baer’s Co-Head of Marketing, Marco Perroni, said he couldn’t disclose if the bank managed accounts on behalf of the LDF. However, he stated that all transactions handled by the bank were carefully examined and that it also expected its partners to accept and handle donations with due care.

The Julius Baer Group supports charitable goals via the Julius Baer Foundation and via partner organizations.

“In case of problems, we discuss appropriate measures with our partners in order not to affect or damage the charitable goals and the beneficiaries. Naturally, we also expect from our partners to conduct due diligence and take measures. […]”

We can assure you that transactions and financial flows handled by our bank are generally subject to scrutiny with respect to their origin and use and that, in case of suspicion, reports would be made to the authorities in charge.

Last month, the BMF wrote to DiCaprio, calling for transparency on his financial ties with Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Jho Low, a key person behind the US$3.5 billion 1MDB scandal.

najib razak waving

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

The BMF said it recognizes the LDF’s important role in supporting rainforest protection and indigenous rights.

However, the organization also said DiCaprio and his foundation should never have accepted funds that proceed from corruption in Malaysia.

“Our long-term experience in Malaysian Borneo, as outlined in the book Money Logging, has shown that corruption has become of of the main drivers of rainforest destruction in South East Asia,”the BMF added.

The call for transparency has been taken up by numerous media around the world, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Fox News, CBS News, El Pais, La Repubblica, Milliyet and others.French TV station TF1 broadcast a special eight-minute piece during its 50 minutes inside Saturday night prime time show.

The BMF has called on DiCaprio and his foundation to disclose their full financial relationship with all Malaysians connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal and to pay back all the money to the Malaysian people.

The suspicion, if true, could mar the integrity of the actor’s foundation and his advocacy.

The Guardian noted DiCaprio has joined high-caliber personalities in the fight to address climate change and various global issues.

[He became] a fixture at events focused on global challenges since 2014, dropping in at the Davos economic forum to pick up an award last January, and holding a private chat on the sidelines with Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general, on the sidelines of the Paris climate negotiations last December.

DiCaprio joined the climate march alongisde 400,000 through the streets of Manhattan and was named as a UN climate change ambassador in 2014 where he delivered an address at the UN climate summit.

He has had private tutorials in climate science from some of the world’s best researchers including Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

DiCaprio’s transformation as a climate champion began with his meeting with then vice-president Al Gore at the White House in 1998. DiCaprio, who has cited that meeting as the beginning of his climate activism, set up his foundation that same year.

This year, the LDF announces through its website the foundation’s largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants, increasing the organization’s total direct financial giving to over $59 million since 1998. Additionally, after a period of increased grantmaking and a goal of expanding its global impact, the foundation warmly welcomes veteran environmental leader Terry Tamminen as CEO.

US$15.6 million in grants have been awarded to the foundation’s partners.

The grants support works which range from major environmental conservation organizations to local partners who are fighting to protect and defend vital ecosystems and species that are gravely impacted by the global environmental crisis caused by climate change.

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Great Australian Bight at risk with BP’s oil project

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

Conservation groups have been waging war against oil drilling into the vast underwater of the Great Australian Bight located in the Southern Sea, and it may take political will to stop BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd from its oil exploration project in the area once and for all.

South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced last week she will introduce a Bill to the Senate that seeks to protect the Great Australian Bight marine park from companies wanting to drill for oil and gas.

Senator Hanson-Young said Parliament needs to intervene and stop several other companies lining up to drill the underground of the marine park. She noted a marine park is useless if it is not protected from exploitation, citing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as one example of such risk.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has already advised BP that it will be taking additional time to assess the company’s environment plan proposing the drilling of the Stromlo-1 and Whinham-1 exploration wells in the Great Australian Bight. NOPSEMA will deliver its next assessment decision for the plan by Sept 29.

bp

“This precious marine ecosystem and numerous local industries, including fisheries and eco-tourism operators, deserve to be protected,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The Bight is an essential sanctuary for southern right whales and a feeding ground for threatened sea lions, sharks, tuna and migratory sperm whales.”

The Great Australian Bight Alliance, composed of various environmental and civic groups, has been actively campaigning to stop BP. Last month, a series of events were held led by Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel Steve Irwin which departed from Melbourne and sailed for the Great Australian Bight. This was a part of its Operation Jeedara.

Operation Jeedara showcases the treasures of the Great Australian Bight and exposes the threats to a wilderness of global significance. Much of the landscape and diversity of life in the Great Australian Bight is unknown to the world. The Sea Shepherd showed what is at risk if BP were allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight .

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The expedition covered the Nuyts Reef, the Isles of St Francis, Pearson Island, areas around Kangaroo Island and the Coorong Coast, to the iconic Bunda Cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain.

“The Bight is an utterly inappropriate place to be pushing to expand the oil industry. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to have any chance of a livable climate into the future” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.

Related related story HERE.

Australian environmentalist, Dr Bob Brown, has joined and supported the campaign. Greenpeace Australia Pacific is also supporting the cause and has launched its own campaign.

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Investors warned of Buru Energy’s fracking in West Australia

Buru Energy's operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Buru Energy’s operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Investors for natural resource exploration company Buru Energy’s AUD $30.8m plans to frack for gas in Western Australia’s ecologically sensitive Canning Basin have been warned of the various risks posed by the project. The backers have also been told to expect more protests from local communities should the energy company continue to push for the project, which is due to be implemented upstream from a heritage site in WA’s Kimberley region.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) issued the alert recently, raising the company’s financial viability, along with its engineering integrity in other operations as prime concerns.

Buru Energy has been looking into the feasibility of fracking for gas in the South Kimberley’s Canning Basin since the company demerged from ARC Energy in 2008. The project includes fracking for unconventional tight gas, oil, and condensates. Among its partners are Mitsubishi Corporation, Coogee Chemicals, and Rey Resources.

ACF’s Kimberley Project Officer Wade Freeman said Buru’s plans for hydraulic fracking in the region have the potential to cause serious damage to underground water as well as historical and cultural values for local communities. Buru’s exploration permits cover the beach resort town of Broome’s aquifer, an area of floodplains and lakes that feeds Broome’s only drinking water source, Freeman added.

The ACF has also raised concern that Buru’s fracking plans present a genuine threat to the health of the Fitzroy River and Roebuck Bay. Instead of investing in risky fossil fuel industries for the short term, the conservation group said there are other sustainable options based on The Kimberley’s unique cultural and environmental values.

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Opposition towards the project is expected to rise from the local community level on to regional, national, and international spheres. In the state alone, this will likely be a major environmental issue in the lead up to the 2017 West Australian elections. Recent polling suggests the 2017 WA election is set to be a close race. The Western Australian Labor Party has advanced two policies that will potentially end hydraulic fracturing in the state.

National awareness programs are being organised to highlight potential impact of shale gas development on national heritage-listed assets in the region. The states of Victoria and Tasmania have already placed moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing. The Australian Labor Party has recently committed to add shale gas fracking to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Act’s Water Trigger.

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

The ACF said the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December last year has shifted global approach towards the issue of energy. In the US, several states have already banned fracking, including Maryland, New York, California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Washington, Hawaii, and Ohio. Many countries have followed suit, including Germany, Scotland, Wales, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Romania, Netherlands, Spain and Bulgaria. This development is expected to set the momentum of a new era.

Western Australian farmers and community groups have formed an alliance with farmers from Wyoming in the US, warning other communities by publishing their experiences with the detrimental impacts of shale gas fracking.

ACF’s Economist Matthew Rose sent the alert to investment firms, fund managers and individual shareholders. Considering the post-Paris agreement on climate policy, this project raises concern about the increased risks in the region, affecting traditional owners and national heritage-listed values in The Kimberley.

“There are serious risks associated with this project – for the environment and for investors,” Rose said.

Buru Energy’s Quarterly Report published on June 30 shows the company’s estimated cash inflows for the next quarter at $9.5 million for the sale of a pastoral lease asset, and $5.8 million from government tax concessions.

“What is the future of an oil and gas company that relies on selling beef and drawing big tax concessions from the public purse in order to remain viable?” Mr Rose asked.

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Australian Senate investigates Malaysian money-laundering

Here’s a development of what has been going on in Adelaide in connection to the bribe allegations involving the former chef minister of Sarawak at Adelaide University. The Taib Mahmud Court has been defaced and renamed as Columbo Plan Alumni Court. Read story: Adelaide University renames campus plaza honoring controversial Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud

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Amid graft and corruption scandal in Malaysia involving Prime Minister Najib Razak,
green groups seized the moment to submit a Senate inquiry that will look into foreign bribery and money-laundering allegations against Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family.

Former Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe alegations involding his ties with a uni in Adelaide, South Australia. scandal

Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe allegations involving his ties with a uni in Adelaide.

An Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery will look into money-laundering allegations against the family of Abdul Taib Mahmud Sarawak, the current Governor and former Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Earlier this month, the Australian Senate Economics References Committee acknowledged receipt of a joint submission by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund and the Australian Bob Brown Foundation that highlights the Taib family’s multi-million dollar real estate transactions in Australia and calls for tighter rules against money-laundering in the Australian real estate sector.

The submission calls for all Taib family assets held in Australia to be frozen and restituted to Sarawak. While the submission names 33 Australian companies with links to the Taib family, particular attention is given to the $55 million Adelaide Hilton hotel held by the Taibs on the South Australian capital’s Victoria Square.

The submission and its attachments, two NGO reports on Taib corruption, are protected by parliamentary privilege following their release on the Senate Committee’s website. “This means that you cannot be prosecuted or disadvantaged because of anything you have provided in evidence, or because you gave such evidence”, the Committee Secretary stated.

The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the Australian Senate’s move and calls on Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem and the Malaysian authorities to support the tracing and recovery of assets stolen by the Taib family. It is currently unclear how today’s dissolution of the Australian Parliament ahead of the 2 July election will reflect on the Senate inquiry.

Links:

Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery:

Terms of Reference:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Foreign_Bribery/Terms_of_Reference

Submissions:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Foreign_Bribery/Submissions

Interlude

The Green Journal AU has undergone a hiatus during summer in the southern hemisphere.

Following the COP21 in Paris last December, actions of individual countries in reducing greenhouse emissions should have started to speed up the momentum. This blog attempts to provide updates soon.

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Q & A at the Melbourne Town Hall, 7 March.

Meanwhile in Australia, three influential scientists/academics/authors have been invited to open a conversation on climate science and hope for the planet. The Sydney Opera House and Wheeler Centre, in cooperation with the University of Melbourne, have arranged the forum led by the trio: Naomi Oreskes, David Suzuki, and Tim Flannery. The engagement was held last week in two venues: Melbourne Town Hall (7 March) and Sydney Opera House (8 March).

Suzuki spoke of his long-time experience as an activist in conservation, along with his involvement with indigenous people in Canada as well as in South America. He reiterated the interconnections of all living beings as one. Oreskes, on the other hand, emphasised the scientific evidence of climate change based on the accumulated experience and expertise of people working together. Flannery, meanwhile, noted some scientific breakthroughs that could offer solutions to give humanity hope for future.

It was a full house in both venues. Guests and other participants are positive the event was just a beginning of the conversation.

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