Best of our wild blogs: 15 Dec 17



Tell us what kind of mangroves YOU would like at Pulau Ubin!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

让我们了解你要在乌敏岛看到什么样的红树林!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Sat 13 Jan 2018 The 1st Biodiversity Challenge: Human-Wildlife Co-existence (open to all)
Otterman speaks


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Foodpanda customers can say ‘no’ to disposable forks and spoons from next month

SIAU MING EN Today Online 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE – From January, customers of food delivery company foodpanda will get the option to say “no” to disposable cutlery.

The company is also in talks with its partner eateries to replace their food containers -- often made of plastic -- with packaging made from sugarcane pulp, touted to be more sustainable.

Foodpanda told TODAY both initiatives will be tested in Singapore before they are rolled out to 11 other Asian and Eastern European cities it operates in.

The Berlin-based company wants to curb the increase in packaging used as its business grows, said foodpanda managing director Luc Andreani.

Its restaurant partners usually provide the disposable cutlery, while foodpanda provides paper bags for the deliveries.

The company, however, does not track the amount of packaging waste generated from its orders.

It is in talks with its top 20 restaurant partners – which make up half of its orders – to see if they are receptive to switching to food containers made of left-over sugarcane pulp.

The plastic-free alternative, supplied by a firm called VitalWare, is biodegradable but more costly.

“Our ambition for sustainable foodpanda packaging is that it will replace all restaurant packaging… (at) no additional costs,” said Mr Andreani.

Early last year, the company replaced the plastic bags used to pack food orders with Forest Stewardship Council-certified brown paper bags.

“We realised the impact that packaging has on our brand, and on the environment, and wanted to source something to reflect this,” he said.

The explosive growth of food delivery services worldwide has raised concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.

Disposable packaging is necessary for food delivery and ensures food safety, said Mr Teri Teo, a committee member of the Packaging Council of Singapore, an industry group of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation.

Anti-waste groups agree more should be done to cut excessive use of packaging.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has seen an increase in food packaging waste but its executive director Jen Teo said not all of it was traced to food delivery services.

“A busy lifestyle and the ready availability of takeaway or delivery food choices have combined to increase the amount of food packaging waste Singaporeans generate. We have also seen a move away from paper packaging towards the use of plastic containers and bags,” she added.

Disposable packaging becomes a problem when not disposed of or recycled properly, said Ms Teo. They can end up in the oceans and be consumed by fish and other marine creatures, eventually ending up in the food chain.

Ms Aarti Giri, the founder of non-profit group Plastic-Lite Singapore, said some restaurants use excessive packaging – from separate plastic bags for sauces, to individually wrapped cutlery.

Apart from giving customers the option to refuse disposable cutlery, food delivery companies can consider offering discounts to those who do so, she said.

But foodpanda said it would not offer incentives or rebates to customers who opt out. “Many customers are ordering food to their homes or offices, where cutlery is readily available. foodpanda hopes that this prompt alone would encourage customers to opt out,” said Mr Andreani.

It remains to be seen if other food delivery players will take steps to reduce packaging waste. Deliveroo declined to comment, while an UberEATS spokesperson said: “Food packaging is largely decided by our restaurant partners on what works best for their cuisine. We welcome and remain supportive of any eco-friendly initiatives that they would have.”

Studies should also be conducted to track the amount of food packaging used for takeaways and deliveries, in order to set reduction targets, said Ms Giri.

“Because out of sight is out of mind. People say they order (food deliveries) only once a week or once a month, but when there are lots of people doing that, (a lot of) waste is generated,” she said.


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New volunteer gardening initiative to make Istana grounds more accessible

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE – Gardening enthusiasts will now get a chance to help shape the gardens at the Istana under a new Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programme.

Launched by President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Dec 14), the programme will provide opportunities for the gardening community in Singapore to come together to maintain the greenery and landscape of the Istana.

Madam Halimah said: “The purpose (of the programme) is basically to encourage Singaporeans who are interested in community gardening to come and contribute their ideas and experiences, and also help to shape the gardens at the Istana.”

“The whole idea is also to engage and reach out to Singaporeans so that they feel that there is a part they can play in the Istanta garden,” she added.

She also said that this programme was a chance for volunteers to “develop collective memories” of the Istana.

Madam Halimah had previously said she wants to make the Istana more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans. The Volunter Gardeners@Istana programme is the second of such initiatives, with the first being the Picnic@Istana programme — which will see four picnics held a year — launched in November.

So far, about 50 people - from as young as 9 to 79-years-old - have signed up as volunteer gardeners, with the majority being in their 50s.

Volunteers will be involved in activities such as planting, pruning and harvesting of fruits, and will work in seven to eight areas within the Istana grounds including the Spice Garden, Japanese Garden and the front lawn of the Istana.

The sessions are set to begin in January next year, and will run for three days – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays – on a chosen week each month. Each gardening session will last three hours, from 9am to 12pm.

At the launch on Thursday, Madam Halimah interacted with over 20 volunteer gardeners at the Spice Gardens. She said she is also hopeful that volunteers would develop memories of the Istana through the volunteer programme,

Volunteer gardener Ms Jean Tsai, who is in her 60s, said she was excited to be a part of this programme, which brings together “like-minded people interested in history and nature”.

The freelance editor said she has always had a keen interest in the flora and fauna since she was first exposed to horticulture in secondary school. Her flexible work hours make it easy for her to volunteer. “So as long as I can do the work, bend over (and plant the flowers), and my old bones don’t creak, I foresee myself volunteering for a very long time,” she said.

Depending on response, NParks group director at the Istana Mr Wong Tuan Wah said: “We are more than willing to accept as many volunteers as possible, and if there is overwhelming response we will definitely expand it to more days.”

Before the introduction of Picnic@Istana and Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programmes, the public could only visit the Istana during five open houses each year – during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Labour Day and National Day.

Those interested to be a volunteer gardener can send enquiries to nparks_public_affairs@nparks.gov.sg.


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Pasir Ris otters a favourite subject of Nat Geo's Nature Photographer of the Year Jayaprakash Bojan

Singapore-based Jayaprakash Bojan talks about his favourite otter family in Pasir Ris and the real story behind his prize-winning orangutan encounter in Borneo.
Mayo Martin Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: He may have braved the rainforest jungles of Borneo to get his prize-winning peekaboo shot of a wild orangutan.

But this year’s National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year says Singapore is as good a place as any to shoot some fascinating wildlife, from local and migratory birds to its loveable otters.

In fact, Jayaprakash Bojan told Channel NewsAsia that the latter are his favourite subjects here.

“I’ve been photographing the Pasir Ris family for a year and a half now. I live in Pasir Ris Link and the park is one of my favourite places. When I’m not travelling, I go there three to four times a week, and there are a few spots they show up very regularly. Typically, in the mornings, they’d come and roll on the grass,” said the 41-year-old photographer from Tamil Nadu, India.

He has even won an award for one of his otter photos – a scene depicting an encounter between the animals and morning joggers had previously won first prize at a contest in India.

“There were these uncles who were taking photos with their handphones and the otters were curious and even walked closer to them," Bojan recalled.

"I used that photograph to tell the story of how wildlife can still coexist with humans in an urban place like Singapore. It’s got really limited wildlife but it’s just amazing to see how people here are very appreciative of what is there, preserving and taking care of them.”

ENCOUNTERING ‘COOPER’ IN THE WILD

At the heart of Bojan’s love for photography is animal conservation. His award-winning photo of the male orangutan – fondly nicknamed “Cooper” by his wife for its copper-tinted fur – is part of an ongoing project of photographing endangered primates all around the world.

Another of his photographs – of an African cheetah – also made it to the National Geographic finals, but Bojan said he was glad it was the orangutan image that won.

“I’m happy to just put the spotlight on the orangutans – they deserve it more than me winning the award,” he said, recalling the shock he felt at the sight that greeted him at the beginning of his trip to Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan in August.

“When you fly down from Jakarta, all you see around are palm oil farms – probably 60 to 70 per cent of the habitat of the orangutans have been destroyed by palm oil cultivation. I was impacted by the loss of habitat,” he said, adding that he plans to donate part of his prize money – US$7,500 (S$10,000) – to orangutan conservation.

As for the real story behind the prize-winning shot, Bojan knew he was on to something special when he was told by one of the local rangers that there were occasional sightings of orangutans crossing the Sekonyer River.

“Historically, there are very few documented evidence of orangutans in the river, because they hate water and some parts of the river have crocodiles. So we took the risk,” said Bojan.

It was only on the second day of living on a boat when he and his companions finally spotted the great ape.
​​​​​​​
“I decided to jump into the river and hid behind a tree. It happened that the orangutan saw me and kind of hid behind another tree trunk in the river. So I just stood still – and after a few seconds, the orangutan came out to see if I was still there. I took a sequence of around 25 pictures. It was an exciting, thrilling moment for me,” he said.

FROM SINGAPORE ZOO TO INDOCHINA

And there have been many such moments for Bojan, who had simply been a hobbyist until his move to Singapore a couple of years ago to follow his wife, who works in the banking industry.

After working in the corporate sector in India for 18 years, he decided to quit his job to pursue his passion for travel and photography as a freelance wildlife photographer.

In the past 11 months, he has been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia – primarily to focus on his endangered primates project, which he hopes to publish as a photobook by the end of next year.

His passion for endangered primates began thanks to a visit to the Singapore Zoo upon moving here two years ago – and seeing the orangutans, gibbons and red langur.

“It’s honestly one of the best zoos I’ve seen. The design is so beautiful you don’t feel you’re in a zoo. Something was triggered and I thought should go and find all these primates and photograph them in the wild.”

He added: “In Indochina alone there are about 25 rare monkey or primate species that are highly endangered. For some of them, there are only about 40 to 50 alive. So far, I’ve only captured around nine species because they’re really hard to spot, especially since I’m trying to photograph them in the wild.”

And there’s more on his plate. In February, he’ll be in Japan to shoot their famous snow monkeys. The month after that, it’s off to the Himalayas in the hopes of spotting the elusive snow leopards.

“That’s going to be a really tough one. It’s maybe 10,000 feet about sea level and very low on oxygen. But we have a good team there,” he said.

And is his wife okay with his constant travelling? “She’s a huge nature lover. In fact whenever she has time she travels with me. But it’s not easy to be away from home weeks at a time. Obviously, you need a supportive wife,” he said with a laugh.

Source: CNA/mm


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The Sumatran Rhino Has Been on The Brink of Extinction For 10,000 Years

How is this possible?
PETER DOCKRILL Science Alert 14 Dec 17;

The Sumatran rhino is one of the most threatened species on the face of the planet, but until now we never knew how bad things really were for the smallest, hairiest rhinoceros.

Scientists in the US have sequenced the genome of Dicerorhinus sumatrensis for the first time, and the results tells us not only that the population peaked almost a million years ago, but it's been staring death in the face for nearly 10,000 years.

"This species has been well on its way to extinction for a very long time," says rhino expert Terri Roth from Cincinnati Zoo's Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.

Fears over the Sumatran rhino's future aren't new, with the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species categorising the animal as critically endangered due to severe declines of greater than 80 percent in the rhino population over the last three generations.

At the time of that 2008 assessment, researchers estimated the population at between 220 and 275 individuals, although others have suggested subsequently that the number of animals left in the wild could be less than half that.

While the current outlook for the Sumatran rhino is shockingly bleak, what's perhaps even more surprising is how long this grim state of affairs has hung over the hairy rhinoceros.


Based on a genetic analysis of DNA from a Sumatran rhino named Ipuh (pictured above), who lived at the Cincinnati Zoo for 22 years until his death in 2013, the species' population was as low as just 700 individuals 9,000 years ago.

The team used a technique called Pairwise Sequential Markovian Coalescent (PSMC) modelling, which makes it possible to estimate the population history of a species spanning thousands of generations, all from the genome sequence of a single individual.

Using a sample of Ipuh's DNA, the team compared the results with fossil and climate data to put together a picture of how the Sumatran rhino fared over the past several million years.

According to the data, the species hit its population peak around 950,000 years ago, when numbers reached about 57,800 individuals.

The population is thought to have have experienced substantial fluctuations during the Pleistocene (sometimes called the Ice Age), which lasted from around 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago.

"Our genome sequence data revealed that the Pleistocene was a roller-coaster ride for Sumatran rhinoceros populations," says one of the team, Herman Mays, Jr. from Marshall University.


Towards the end of that ride, an influx of other animals into the region called Sundaland - paired with rising sea levels that fragmented the rhino's habitat into isolated islands - put significant pressure on the species and caused numbers to dwindle.

That's why, by about 9,000 years ago, only around 700 Sumatran rhinos remained, and a rebound never happened.

"Their population bottomed out and never showed signs of recovery," says Mays.

Since then, our own species hasn't exactly made things any easier for the rhinos that yet survive.

"Population declines due to recent human exploitation and habitat loss are most likely acting on a population denuded of genetic diversity during the Pleistocene," the authors explain in their paper.

Among that ailing population, two of the 200 or less are Ipuh's sons, who live on at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Sumatra.

One of the offspring has already sired calves, and conservationists are determined to see the bloodline continue into the future – if it can.

"The Sumatran rhinoceros species is hanging on by a thread," says Roth. "We need to do more to save it."

The findings are reported in Current Biology.


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Indonesia: Activists Urge Government to Uphold Log Export Ban

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 14 Dec 17;

Jakarta. Civil society groups have called on the government to desist from revoking the log export ban, as it could result in increased smuggling and destroy Indonesia's timber industry.

In 2001, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Industry jointly banned log exports, as they observed that log export policies had been exploited by illegal loggers and threatened the preservation of forest resources.

Last month, however, Ministry of Environment secretary general Bambang Hendroyono said the ban should be lifted in order to increase the price of the commodity on the domestic market.

"If this happens, it would boost illegal logging," environmental group Kaoem Telapak campaigner Johanes Jenito said in a statement on Wednesday (13/12).

According to Johannes, Kaoem Telapak and London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have uncovered some large-scale log smuggling cases that had occurred despite the ban.

In 2005, he said, 300,000 cubic meters of timber were smuggled from Papua to China every month. In 2010, customs officers at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta seized 23 containers of timber that was reportedly headed to China.

"Law enforcement in these two cases was unsuccessful, as the main perpetrators had not been arrested," Johanes said.

Independent Forest Monitoring Network (JPIK) activist Muhammad Kosar said that the lifting of the ban would also affect the local timber industry.

"We urge the government to make sure that wood supplies in the industry come from legal and sustainable sources. The government should not be strengthening the international forestry market, but the domestic one," he said.


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Brazil tops Places to Watch for deforestation, satellites show

Karla Mendes Reuters 14 Dec 17;

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brazil topped the list of the world’s most important Places to Watch for deforestation on Wednesday, in a new initiative that uses near real-time satellite to highlight forest loss.

Satellites detected more than 50,000 hectares of tree cover loss - equivalent to more than 60,000 soccer fields - since October in the Kayapó Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon, Global Forest Watch (GFW), a U.S.-based charity said.

“September saw the most fires ever recorded in a single month, and 2017 now is on track to break the record for most fires in a single year,” GFW said.

“Though there is a drought happening, almost all of the fires are human-caused, likely to clear forest for agriculture.”

Forest fires in Brazil and Indonesia contributed to a record loss in global tree cover in 2016, equivalent to the size of New Zealand, that could accelerate deforestation blamed for climate change, GFW said.

Brazil’s environmental protection agency Ibama took issue with the group’s findings, telling the Foundation in an email that it found far less deforestation in its reading of its satellite monitoring and data from the country’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

Ibama said it found just 879 hectares of deforestation in 2016-2017 in the Kayapó territory.

“Therefore, it is incorrect to say that 50,000 hectares of deforestation in the protected area would have occurred,” Ibama said.

Deforestation in indigenous lands fell by 16 percent, it added.

Places to Watch provides detailed information on when, where and why forests are being cleared on a weekly basis.

“After identifying these hotspots our team reaches out to partners on the ground to find further details about what’s taking place,” Katie Fletcher, a spokeswoman for GFW told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

GFW said in response that the discrepancy is likely caused by differences in its system of measurement and that of INPE, such as looking at different time periods and possibly differences in how forest fires are counted.

“Our experts are very confident, however, that there has been a major change in forest cover in that area in recent months. We’ve looked directly at raw satellite images and other data sources that visibly indicate there has been disturbance in the Kayapo territory,” it said in an email.

The GFW initiative will help to monitor forests and protect land rights amid budget cuts to institutions in Brazil in charge of protecting indigenous peoples, said Barbara Zimmerman, who heads the International Conservation Fund of Canada’s work in Kayapó.

Around 8,000 Kayapó live on more than 11 million hectares of legally protected land, one of the few remaining patches of undisturbed forests on the edge of the Amazon, GFW said.

“The Kayapós and other indigenous groups are really on their own,” said Zimmerman of ICF, which helped GFW with its research.

“The government is not present .... There is no law.”

Officials from Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, were not immediately available for comment.

GFW launched a mobile app in September which directs indigenous people, forest managers and law enforcement officials to remote areas where forests are being cleared, so they can capture photos and enter data about deforestation.

The other top Places to Watch this week are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Reporting by Karla Mendes; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ellen Wulfhorst.


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Best of our wild blogs: 14 Dec 17



Discovering nature, and the spirit of discovery – Love MacRitchie Walk (December 2017)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

Giant study by Singapore marine scientists!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Research jam: Who honoured their 2017 commitments?
People's Movement to Stop Haze

November Facebook Jam
People's Movement to Stop Haze


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Harnessing the power of nature in healing - Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

KTPH bags design award for the way it blends nature into hospital's building
Salma Khalik Straits Times 14 Dec 17;

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's lush landscaping - it boasts a waterfall, gardens and ponds all within its grounds - has earned it the honour of being named one of the world's most "biophilic" buildings.

KTPH beat out a wide field of contenders to win the inaugural Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award - a prize that honours a Yale University academic who helped pioneer "biophilia", a theory about humans' affinity with the natural world.

The award - set up after Dr Kellert's death last year - was conferred on the hospital in Yishun by the International Living Future Institute ahead of 20 other entrants.

It said in its announcement yesterday: "Khoo Teck Puat surpasses traditional hospitals and opens the door towards a new kind of building type for the healthcare industry, which considers how the built and natural environment can become part of the healing process."

It said the hospital "used nature as a healing process" through paying close attention to all the human senses, noting that it is also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and fish.

"The rainforest-like landscaping that weaves in and out of the hospital infuses the atmosphere with natural sights, sounds and scents."

Its design boasts such features as natural ventilation in patient rooms and the transformation of a storm water pond into a "lake feature".

KTPH is no stranger to design awards, with about 20 others under its belt, including the President's Award for the Environment, which it received last month.

Chief executive Chew Kwee Tiang said: "When we designed KTPH, we aspired to create 'a hospital in a garden and a garden in a hospital'."

She said that while the surrounding flora and fauna act as a healing oasis for patients, it also serves as a shared space for the community.

The other four close contenders for the award received honourable mentions. Three are from the United States.

One was The Phipps Centre for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, which was described as "a habitat for biodiversity and a nursery for the landscape".

The Etsy Headquarters in New York was singled out for "bringing nature inside and creating varied scale spaces that replicate nature's patterns", while Cookfox Architects Studio, also in New York, shone for "its direct and visual connections to nature and natural cycles".

The Yanmar Headquarters in Osaka, Japan, was also honoured. Its "glass-enclosed beehive in the centre of the building is an innovative focal point, a bold staircase is a biomimetic journey and a water feature is a unique approach towards a meditative and restful space for staff and visitors alike".


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Carbon tax an opportunity to take a leap forward on sustainability and transparency

Amidst talk of possible tax hikes, one already-declared measure stands the chance of changing behaviour in Singapore and beyond. Jaime Ho, Channel NewsAsia’s Chief Editor, Digital News talks about what to expect of the carbon tax in 2018.
Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: In his Budget speech in February this year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat laid the groundwork for the implementation of a carbon tax in Singapore by 2019.

In preparation for it to come into force by then, much of the groundwork in the form of consultations has already been done.

The draft Carbon Pricing Bill, to be read in 2018, has been open for viewing since the end of October, with calls for input ending earlier this week. Further details such as the landing price point of the tax – currently expected to be between S$10-S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – should emerge in Minister Heng’s next Budget speech, if not by the time the Bill is read.

Coupled with the declaration that next year will be Singapore’s Year of Climate Action, 2018 already looks set to be an important year for the environment.

WHERE WILL THE IMPACT BE FELT?

Aimed at some 30 to 40 large emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the impact of the carbon tax is not primarily meant to be felt by electricity users.

According to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), households will likely see an increase of S$1.70 to S$3.30 per month for electricity in a typical 4-room flat, on top of an average monthly bill of S$72.

Similarly, for businesses, increases in costs will likely be in the range of the equivalent of a US$3.50-US$7/bbl increase in crude oil prices. This is estimated to represent a 6.4 per cent to 12.7 per cent increase from current oil prices. Both these increases fall well within usual market fluctuations.

THE POWER OF SIGNALS

While impacts such as these will be minimal, the carbon tax still holds significant potential as a powerful signal on several important levels.

First, at the level of consumers – both large and small – the carbon tax will for the first time embed into the cost of electricity a price signal tied to the negative externalities (in this case GHG emissions) arising from the production of the resource.

While the costs arising directly from the carbon tax will not be significant for most users, the key is for larger users of electricity to take further stock of how efficiently they use energy.

Second, at the level of the government, the carbon tax is a signal of its commitment towards fully meeting its goals as inscribed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): To reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and more importantly, to stabilise and peak GHG emissions by around 2030.

Aside from these goals to mitigate emissions, what is also key is Singapore’s commitment to channeling revenue from the carbon tax towards further driving innovation in areas such as energy efficiency and green growth.

In this regard, apart from the government signaling to major emitters the need for them to invest in innovation and energy efficiency, the carbon tax must be seen as a key opportunity for Singapore to take a quantum leap ahead in its position as a global leader in offering solutions that can be developed here and exported worldwide.

Last month, together with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), oil giant ExxonMobil announced the setting up of a new Singapore Energy Centre in 2019 to explore technology in energy production and energy efficiency, with the goal of eventually breaking new ground in the area of sustainability. The Singapore-based centre will be ExxonMobil’s first such institution outside the United States.

With the policy and financial backing that will come from the government, there is every reason to be optimistic that academia, industry and government will continue to grow Singapore as a key global leader in clean energy, and develop the business opportunities that will follow.

Third, at the level of individual facilities, the carbon tax and its eventual implementation through the final Carbon Pricing Act 2018 and other measures present a unique opportunity to signal a new approach towards transparency and awareness, particularly when it comes to major emitters in Singapore.

Under the draft bill, two major categories of facilities will be covered.

The first are reportable facilities, which emit more than 2,000 tonnes, but less than 25,000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually. These facilities, already mandated to have reporting requirements under the Energy Conservation Act (ECA), will not be liable for the carbon tax, but will continue to submit emissions reports.

The second, taxable facilities, will be those which emit more than 25,000 tonnes every year. In line with eventually paying the carbon tax, each will have to develop a monitoring plan plus submit verifiable emissions reports as well.

It is unclear if information on these facilities and their emissions will eventually be made available to the public.

There are important examples around the world from which to take reference. In the United States for example, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) provides granular information at the level of individual facilities: from power plants, refineries, chemicals, pulp and paper plants, to other significant emitters.

As a case in point, one of Exxon’s facilities in Billings, Montana is on record to have emitted 687,177 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2016 – a figure that is among its lower figures since 2010. Emissions in 2013 were at 770,141 metric tonnes.

This provides not just a snap-shot of individual facilities’ emissions, but also allows public scrutiny of their progress at managing and reducing emissions over time.

While the emissions reports of each facility will have to be submitted and independently verified under draft legislation, it is likely that the public release of such information will be equally helpful in ensuring compliance as well as contributing to greater public awareness over the role that each major emitter plays in the larger economy.

The ultimate goal of the carbon tax is not to raise revenue, but to reduce emissions through changing behaviour at the level of facilities and industries. As such, to pre-empt any situation where emitters may choose the status quo, and either absorb or pass down costs in different degrees to consumers, a strong element of transparency will be crucial. Indeed, public awareness of potential laggards could serve far better than, or at least complement, the deterrent effect of the tax itself.

If the country as a whole aims to peak emissions by around 2030, then there is even more reason for there to be public clarity as to whether each of these major emitters is on a similar trajectory in the mid to long term.

Fourth, the openness with which Singapore operationalises the carbon tax will have important signaling effects beyond its borders as well. Singapore will already be the first country in Southeast Asia to implement such a tax.

Even if it is unlikely that regional neighbours will follow suit anytime soon, it will be key to signal the importance that Singapore places on transparency when it comes to all issues related to the environment, GHG emissions or even air quality reporting in neighbouring countries.

2018 will be a crucial year as Singapore puts in place a carbon pricing regime which must, and will, direct resources and attention towards ensuring environmental sustainability as well as to new growth areas in the clean and green energy sectors.

In addition, implementation of the carbon tax should also be seen as an opportunity for even greater transparency, and building deeper public awareness over where exactly emissions originate, and what climate change mitigation measures are being taken at the most granular level.

At its core, the carbon tax can be that rare fiscal tool – in not just providing for government revenue, but through its implementation, potentially driving even more important and long-term economic and behavourial changes.

Source: CNA/hm


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Malaysia: Yet another endangered Borneo pygmy jumbo found dead in Sabah

The Star 14 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Another critically endangered Borneo pygmy elephant has been found dead even as conservationists call for informants and professional investigators to be engaged to stop the killing.

The elephant, the ninth slain in the last 14 months, was a healthy 12-year-old bull named Liningkung, that was fitted with a satellite collar 18 months ago.

It was found in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve on Sabah’s east coast on Tuesday.

Rangers discovered its decomposed carcass with the tusks untouched.

Liningkung’s movements were being monitored by DGFC on a weekly basis, Goossens said, and they alerted Sabah Forestry officials on Dec 11 to say that it had not moved since Dec 3.

A team is in the area to carry out a post-mortem.

“It is another sad day for elephant conservation. If this goes on, we might be staring at its extinction,” Goossens said.

There are only about 1,500 elephants left in Sabah’s forests.

This is the third elephant found dead in the same area in the past year.

Goossens said it is vital for a special wildlife enforcement unit to be set up to go after wildlife poachers and traders as suggested by chief conservator of forests Datuk Sam Mannan.

Meanwhile, Marc Acrenaz, scientific director for Sabah-based wildlife research and conservation NGO Hutan, said informers and professional investigators are needed to stop the killing.

“Many years ago, locals killed these animals for food and it was not too serious.

“Now, we see that things have changed and people are poaching for the international trade or killing them because of animal-human conflicts,” he said.

No suspects have been identified in many of these cases, including a recent incident where a bull elephant was shot in the mouth and died of dehydration because it could not eat or drink.

“The authorities lack people on the ground,” Acrenaz said.

“We need a strong team which can identify the culprits and bring them to justice,” he said, adding that the killings might stop then.

For now, Acrenaz said, there are not enough rangers to cover all the places where animals – especially endangered species like the pygmy elephants, orang utan and pangolins – roam.

He said the three main reasons for poaching and killing were conflicts between landowners and animals (especially elephants), poaching of bush meat because of demand by tourists, and the international underground trade in exotic meat and animal parts like ivory and pangolin scales.


Cold-blooded killers: Third elephant turns up dead in Sabah
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 13 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Yet another elephant was found dead in Sabah yesterday, making it the third such death this year.

The decomposing remains of an elephant was found by Sabah Forestry personnel at the Kawang Forest Reserve yesterday.

Based on a Facebook post by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the elephant, known as Liningkung, was collared by them in May last year.

Due to conflicts with the community, it was translocated from the Telupid area to the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve.

"He lived happily for 18 months before he was most likely shot by poachers.

"The tusks were still on the animal which leads us to assume that he had escaped from his poachers."

DGFC provided Lininkung's location to Sabah Forestry officers when the elephant was stationary.

In the post, they also lauded Sabah Forestry's annoucement on setting up a special wildlife enforcement unit to go after wildlife poachers and traders.


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Malaysia: Exotic meat cargo intercepted at border in Perlis

DZIYAUL AFNAN ABDUL RAHMAN New Straits Times 13 Dec 17;

PADANG BESAR: An attempt to smuggle over RM120,000 worth of goods including dried tortoise meat out of the country was foiled by the Malaysian Border Security Agency (Aksem).

The Perlis Aksem team also seized instant coffee and other herbal products without Health Ministry approval from the 38 year-old man from Taiping, Perak who was subsequently held for investigations.

State Aksem commander Syed Basri Syed Ali said the man was flagged down at a road block at Km27 of the Kangar-Padang Besar trunk road while driving an Isuzu lorry on Monday afternoon.

He said the team ordered the man to drive the lorry to the Padang Besar Aksem Complex upon spotting suspicious boxes in the vehicle.

"Based on further inspection, we found 29 packets containing dried tortoise parts in five boxes while the other boxes contained instant coffee and herbal products without the Health Ministry approval.

"The total value of seizure is estimated at RM123,560," he said in a statement today.

The dried tortoise case is being investigated under Act 716 of the Widlife Conservation 2010 while the instant coffee and herbal products are being probed under Regulation 360B, Foods Regulations 1985 under the Food Act 1983.

Meanwhile, when contacted, the state Wildlife Department director Affendi Ibrahim said the man had been released on police bail pending a chemist report on the dried tortoise.


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