Coal Industry Meeting Draws Ire on Kuta Beach

bali-demo.jpg By Alice Coster
For The Bali Times

KUTA ~ A carbon dioxide-spewing dragon representing the coal industry was paraded along Kuta Beach on the eve of World Environment Day on Monday, as down the coast in Nusa Dua, coal-industry executives gathered for a major summit.

To the beat of Balinese drums, more than 100 people protested as the largest coal industry gathering in Asia took place at the Bali International Conference Centre.

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of steam coal, according to literature from the CoalTrans summit, attended by coal producers and coal-fired operators from Asia and Western countries.

The meeting was held to analyze Asia’s growing demand for power, the organizers said, and also discussed coal requirements and procurement strategies for Asian and other consumers, referring to coal as a “definite winner.”

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Nur Hidayati called the international conference a “summit of climate criminals planning on how to kill the climate.”

Hidayati also condemned a decision by the central government to replace oil with coal to meet soaring domestic energy needs, saying it was taking a “step backwards” in the global challenge to reduce carbon emissions.

“Coal produces 29 percent more carbon than oil and 80 percent more than gas,” she told The Bali Times.

“Coal is the main part of global warming, so it’s very ironic that Bali, which is a vulnerable area due to the impacts of climate change, is holding the meeting of these climate criminals.”

Indonesia is considered one of the most diverse habitats in the marine tropics, home to 488 of the known 500 coral species worldwide, according to Greenpeace, citing data from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, a United Nations agency based in Cambridge, England.

Together with the Philippines and Malaysia, Indonesia lies in the centre of a global coral reef region known as the “coral triangle,” recognized by the centre as having greater biodiversity than any other marine environment.

A UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a series of reports assessing natural and human drivers of changes in climate and the projection of future climate change.

Climate Change 2007: Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability estimates that 20 to 30 percent of all plant and animal species it assessed are at increased risk of extinction if average temperatures increase.

The UN report says increases of about 1 to 3 degrees Celsius in sea surface temperatures will threaten coral species, which are vulnerable to thermal stress. This would result in frequent coral bleaching and widespread coral mortality.

Bali Barat National Park, a tourist diving destination and a focal point for reef conservation, is considered an environmental hotspot.

Ten years ago, the coral reefs at the park were a maze of vibrant greens, blues and deep reds. Coral tentacles and sponges made up underwater cliffs and were home to multicolored fish and other reef dwellers. Now most of the coral cliffs are now grey and withered, known as a “dead reef.”

Ketut Sudiarta, a coral reef expert at the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Studies at Bali’s Warmadewa University, says increasing sea temperatures have caused “massive coral bleaching” in the area.

He says that once coral bleaching has taken place, the rate of recovery is negligible. Often, the reef cannot be revived.

Coral bleaching not only kills the coral, but has a negative domino effect on other marine life, who can no loner live among the dead or dying coral, said Sudiarta.

“Climate change is a major threat to Bali’s coral reef ecosystem. The prediction of more frequent El Nino phenomena and increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change is worrying. Bali’s reefs now face a very uncertain future because of climate change.”


Consequences of Coral Bleaching

During bleaching, a coral’s coloration disappears or becomes pale. Localized bleaching has been observed since at least the beginning of the 20th century. However, beginning in the 1980s, regional and global bleaching affecting numerous species has occurred on reefs worldwide. Coral bleaching is attributed to exposure to high light levels, increased ultraviolet radiation, temperature or salinity extremes and other factors.

Coral bleaching affected almost all parts of Bali in 1997 and 1998, disintegrating soft corals in the regions of Nusa Penida, Nusa Dua, Amed, Buleleng and Bali Barat. Bali Barat and Amed were two of the worst-hit areas.

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