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Energy, Green Technology and Water minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili yesterday said Malaysia acknowledges that high energy efficiency would be the way forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure resources in a circular economy. BERNAMA pic

ASTANA - More energy efficiency and conservation initiatives, along with sustainable water management plans will be put in place by the Malaysian government to keep global environment concerns in check.

Energy, Green Technology and Water minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili yesterday said Malaysia acknowledges that high energy efficiency would be the way forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure resources in a circular economy.

Read more: Sustainability, energy efficiency key to Malaysia's future success: Energy Ministry

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Riot (right) is seen with the Malaysian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Datuk Amran Mohammed. Behind them is the UN Office at Geneva.

KUCHING - Malaysia is committed to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) green initiative and is focusing its efforts on four levels.

While addressing delegates of the 106th session of the ILO Conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, Minister of Human Resources Datuk Seri Richard Riot named the four broad areas as global level, national level, sectors and enterprises level, and ILO policies and practices level.

He said at the global level, Malaysia would seek to boost the ILO’s standing as the global centre of excellence on current and future implications for the world of work, climate change, and the transition to a greener economy.

Read more: Malaysia committed to ILO’s green initiative - Riot

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Visitors to the Kazakhstan Pavilion at the exhibition during the Specialized Exhibition EXPO-2017 is "Energy of the Future" in Astana, Kazakhstan, 11 June 2017. Malaysia and Kazakhstan have agreed to work together to identify ways of implementing green technology programmes.

ASTANA - Malaysia and Kazakhstan have agreed to work together to identify ways of implementing green technology programmes.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see bilateral cooperations in renewable energy, green buildings, smart cities, and carbon emission mitigation.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Johnity Ongkili and Kazakhstan vice Energy minister Gani Sadibekov signed the MoU at the Malaysia Energy Forum held in conjunction with the ongoing Expo 2017.

Read more: Malaysia, Kazakhstan to cooperate on green technology implementation

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Laos is set to move forward to build Pak Beng hydropower dam on Mekong mainstream, but technical reports about the project still do not provide adequate information.

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Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment and Chair of the Vietnam Mekong River Commission, Tran Hong Ha, on May 12 chaired a workshop on the building of the Lao Pak Beng hydropower project on the Mekong - a controversial Laos project.

Ha emphasized that the reports about the project shown in the latest round of consultation showed inadequate information and outdated data. 

Read more: Scientists urge postponing Pak Beng hydropower project

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A boy climbs a rope after jumping into a canal as temperatures soar in New Delhi, India, June 6, 2017 [Cathal McNaughton/Reuters]
Record temperatures have been recorded from Pakistan to Vietnam before monsoon rains.

Prolonged periods of heat are expected in a northern hemisphere summer.

Across Asia, the heat tends to build up early, with temperatures peaking before the summer monsoon arrives in June and July.

Extreme heat has been experienced very early this year in parts of South and East Asia.

In recent days, northern Vietnam has experienced temperatures in excess of 40C, with 42.5C being recorded in central Hanoi on June 3.

Read more: Heatwaves hit much of Asia earlier than expected

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Lao PDR is adopting key policy reforms to make its strong economic growth benefit more people, especially the poor and disadvantaged, while protecting the environment, supported by a new US$38.6 million credit which was approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors.

The country’s First Programmatic Green Growth Development Policy Operation aims to establish the foundations for ‘green growth’ planning and strengthen environmental protection and resilience to climate change in Lao PDR.

“Green growth is cleaner, more resource-efficient, and more resilient to risks such as climate change,” said Dr. Kikeo Chanthabouly, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment for Lao PDR. “This development policy operation is closely linked with the strategic priorities of the Government of Lao PDR’s 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, and can help to sustain strong economic growth while also protecting the environment and human health.”

Read more: Lao PDR to Adopt Green Growth, with World Bank Support

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Children watch the river at Pak Beng. Photo courtesy of Marcus Rhinelander/International Rivers.

Activists, technical experts, and officials from other Mekong Basin countries have recently spoken out against plans to construct a mainstream dam at Pak Beng.
  • The Pak Beng Dam is the third mainstream dam planned for the lower Mekong River in Laos, where the government says hydropower development will help address poverty in the country.
  • Analysts have raised concerns over the dam's potential impacts on fisheries and other social and environmental impacts both locally and throughout the Mekong River Basin.
  • Recent criticism has come from a report commissioned by International Rivers, a regional coalition of NGOs, and technical reviews discussed at a recent meeting of the Mekong River Commission in Vietnam.

Read more: A rising chorus of voices condemns Laos’ planned Pak Beng dam

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Viet Nam risks a loss of 7.2 million tonnes of rice yield and 3.2 per cent of its agricultural land by the late 21st century as a result of climate change, according to a Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development forecast.

Part of a protected forest in the southernmost province of Ca Mau risks being swept away as a result of drought, salt water intrusion and sea level rise.

The forecast was delivered yesterday in Ha Noi at a conference on responsive activities to climate change in the agricultural sector in the context of implementing the Paris Climate Accord.

Do Xuan Lan, head of the ministry’s Department of Science, Technology and Environment, said the country’s food security and sustainable agricultural development are already seriously affected by the negative impact of climate change.

In the past 15 years, flooding has increased along with complicated erosion of river banks, estuaries and coastal areas. Natural disasters have contributed to destruction of the environment, living conditions, and socio-economic activities, he said.

Reports from the ministry’s Water Resource Directorate show that natural disasters in recent years have resulted in the deaths of 300 people and caused losses of roughly US$900 million annually, accounting for 1.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Natural disaster prevention measures have shown good results in reducing loss of life and property. The average number of dead or missing, which reached an annual average of 478 people between 2006 and 2011, has decreased to 226 between 2012 and 2015. Most of the recent tropical storms have not led to deaths at sea.

However, climate change has been extreme and unpredictable. Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hoang Van Thang, said unsustainable socio-economic development activities, such as deforestation and illegal sand mining, have contributed to the negative effects of natural disasters.

In recent years, extreme natural disasters such as super storms, typhoons in the East Sea, droughts, prolonged salinity intrusion, torrential floods and riverside landslides have affected lives and agricultural production, especially in coastal and mountainous areas.

Therefore, Thang said, agricultural cultivation must be linked to the protection of ecological systems and sustainable development.

Read more: Climate change forecast to shrink rice yield

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A villager carries buckets of compost on a farm in Pemongkong village in East Lombok, eastern Indonesia, May 17, 2017. The farm practises conservation agriculture which encourages the use of organic fertiliser. — Thomson Reuters Foundation pic

PEMONGKONG, June 5 — In early 2016, when fellow farmers were despairing over plummeting yields linked to a major drought, Hamdi was busy harvesting maize from his land.

He got 5.6 tonnes instead of the usual 4 tonnes from his one-hectare (2.5-acre) plot, despite living in West Nusa Tenggara, one of Indonesia’s driest provinces where agriculture is at the mercy of extreme weather such as that brought by the El Nino climate pattern.

“El Nino did not affect those practising conservation agriculture, but those who weren’t suffered a lot,” the 38-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on a sunny afternoon in Pemongkong village on Lombok island.

Hamdi, who goes by one name only, was among the first in his village to adopt the natural farming method in October 2015, just before El Nino hit.

He was initially attracted by talk of possible savings because conservation agriculture requires less fertiliser, as well as less labour for weeding and preparing land.

But the greatest benefit so far has been its ability to help Hamdi weather the long drought.

Lombok farmers who practised conservation agriculture were more resilient to the effects of El Nino, harvesting about 70 per cent more than those using traditional methods, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“Conservation agriculture is about renewing the life of the soil,” said John Weatherson, an advisor to the FAO. “It’s about stabilising yield so when the shocks come, the farmers are sitting pretty.”

The method has always been around, but rising pressures from a changing climate, growing population and shrinking arable land have prompted “a search for more sustainable, ecologically conscious practices”, said Catherine Chan-Halbrendt, an expert on the issue at the University of Hawaii.

In conservation agriculture, soil disturbance is kept to a minimum, using permanent planting holes fertilised with compost instead of chemicals.

The soil surface is covered with crop residues as mulch, and farmers rotate crops or inter-crop between cereals and legumes.

These practices help reduce erosion and water run-off, and increase soil fertility and crop yields, experts say.

Pemongkong villagers, who have tried the method for two planting seasons, say yields have risen. Alongside lower costs for fertilisers and labour, they have more money in their hands.

Read more: Indonesian farmers befriend soil to protect harvests from climate stress

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Environmentalists fear it could put one of Borneo’s last best coastal peat swamp forests at risk.
A Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). The ape is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.
  • West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year.
  • In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual.
  • Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard."
  • His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.

The West Kalimantan governor wants to exempt timber firms in the Indonesian province from a national ban on peatland drainage, drawing the ire of green groups who say such a policy shift could spell the end of one of the Bornean orangutan’s last strongholds, the Sungai Putri rainforest.

Governor Cornelis, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, outlined his request in a letter to the president dated Apr. 25 — days after the Ministry of Environment and Forestry sanctioned a plantation firm for building an illegal drainage canal through Sungai Putri.

“Companies will lose confidence to invest in the forestry sector,” Cornelis wrote to President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi. An exemption was needed, he argued, “in order to maintain a conducive and comfortable investment climate.”

Jokowi introduced the ban in the wake of the devastating 2015 forest and land fires, which burned an area the size of Vermont and sickened half a million people. The country’s vast peat swamp zones have been widely drained and dried for agriculture, rendering them highly flammable and prone to emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

Reports of timber firm PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK)’s activities in Sungai Putri, one of the last best coastal peat swamp forests on the island of Borneo, began to emerge last year. In March, the environment ministry visited the area; on Apr. 21, it ordered the company to stop operating and close the canal, which then stretched 8.1 kilometers long.

Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, a member of the ministry’s law enforcement team, said that if the company did not obey the ministry’s instructions, its permit could be frozen or revoked. The ministry would also consider a lawsuit, she said.

Read more: Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province

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