Best of our wild blogs: 3 Mar 12

A New Butterfly Species Found in NTU
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

March and April: Evening at the Pasir Ris Mangrove boardwalk with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Mangrove Pitta in Pasir Ris!
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

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More measures in Singapore being considered to tackle climate change

Esther Ng Today Online 2 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE - A working group under the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC) will study how Singapore can stabilise its long-term emissions, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

These could include putting a price on carbon emissions, contingent on a new binding global framework, he told Parliament.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, said: "Where these measures result in additional costs, the Government will assist our stakeholders, especially the more needy, through policies such as grants and rebates where appropriate."

Other measures being considered include more stringent energy efficiency standards and legislation, along with measures taken by other countries.

He was responding to Members of Parliament - Mr Charles Chong (Joo Chiat), Dr Lam Pin Min (Sengkang West) and Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang) - who had raised concerns on the impact of rising sea levels and climate change on Singapore during the Committee of Supply debate yesterday.

Mr Teo reiterated that Singapore was committed to reducing its emissions by 7 to 11 per cent below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

However, Singapore's "limited ability" to tap on renewable energy (like wind, solar or tidal) means the Government will adopt a "pragmatic approach" and "pace" the implementation of these measures so that "our economy and our people will adapt to the new environment", he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport will introduce a new Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme to encourage car buyers to switch to vehicles with lower emissions, while the Ministry of Trade and Industry will pilot repayable financing schemes to catalyse private sector investments in energy efficiency. ESTHER NG

New laws to deal with climate change
Lee U-Wen Business Times 2 Mar 12;

(SINGAPORE) Singapore has a vision to be a climate-resilient global city that is well-positioned for green growth, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday. The government, in facilitating this transition to a 'greener' Singapore, is set to roll out new policies and legislation, including those that will help consumers make informed choices, he said in parliament yesterday.

Mr Teo, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said that some of these measures will be announced in the coming days by the relevant ministries during the Committee of Supply debates.

The Transport Ministry is set to launch a new carbon emissions-based vehicle scheme to encourage car buyers to switch to vehicles with lower emissions.

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry will soon raise the minimum energy performance standards for air-conditioners and refrigerators from next year onwards, as well as extend it to lighting in 2014. The Trade and Industry Ministry is going to pilot several repayable financing schemes to catalyse private sector investments in energy efficiency.

'We have set a target of reducing our emissions by 7-11 per cent below business-as-usual levels in 2020. This will be raised to 16 per cent in 2020 if there is a global agreement on climate change,' said Mr Teo.

He added that Singapore's National Climate Change Strategy - a document that will be released later this year - will explain in greater detail the government's plans to address the challenges of climate change. It will also share the measures that individuals, households and businesses should undertake to better tackle the issue effectively.

'We can create high-value jobs for Singaporeans and enable our economy to benefit from a green growth trajectory if we continue to strengthen our research and development capabilities and attract investments in green industries,' said Mr Teo.

'We are well-positioned to tap on the opportunities in this transition to a clean energy future,' he added.

Related links
Speech on Climate Change by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, at the Committee of Supply Debate [Speeches] from Green Business Times by Eugene Tay

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There's gold in Johor's waterfront

Lim Kang Hoo is passionate about the southern-most Malaysian state's potential
Pauline Ng Business Times 3 Mar 12;

DRIVING in Johor city and along its new six-lane Coastal Highway, the state's waterfront potential is obvious to most, particularly since land costs are only a fraction of Singapore's.

Having accumulated substantial portions of it over the past 15 years, starting at about the time when the Asian financial crisis hit, Lim Kang Hoo must think he is sitting on a gold mine.

The Selangor-born businessman continues patiently to 'prospect' the land, having received reclamation rights in exchange for his assumption during the Asian financial crisis of RM200 million worth of debts by state investment agency Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

Now a substantial owner of 3,000 acres of prime waterfront land, he has worked tirelessly to convince the authorities and investors of Johor's potential.

Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi agreed and, in November 2006, launched Iskandar Malaysia - an enormous 2,217 sq km area - as a special economic zone. The initiative has continued under Mr Abdullah's successor, Najib Razak, who officiated at Mr Lim's Iskandar Waterfront Holdings' (IWH) 15th anniversary last week.

Of Iskandar, the zones facing Singapore, including IWH's Danga Bay, are considered the most likely to take off.

Even then, it will need huge investments.

IWH has indicated the estimated gross development value (GDV) for a planned integrated waterfront city encompassing the three key areas of Danga Bay, JB-city centre and the Tebrau Coast, to be in the region of RM80 billion, and that it will take 25 years to develop the 25 km stretch.

IWH is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) 60 per cent owned by Mr Lim through privately-held Credence Resources Sdn Bhd, with the remaining 40 per cent owned by KPRJ. The SPV recently made a mandatory offer of 76 sen per share for shares of Bursa Malaysia-listed Tebrau Teguh.

Land owned by Mr Lim, KPRJ and Khazanah Nasional unit Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB) will be consolidated under IWH. Mr Lim maintains that the corporate exercise is necessary to delineate the interests and zone drivers better, but emphasised that all initiatives remain a private-public partnership with the state government.

IWH, which currently owns 33 per cent of Tebrau Teguh, will fully own Danga Bay Sdn Bhd (DBSB), 72 per cent of Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd (IWSB), and 20 per cent of Iskandar Coast Sdn Bhd (ICSB).

IIB will hold 28 per cent of IWSB and, because of its 80 per cent stake in ICSB, be in charge of driving the latter which owns about 2,000 acres of land, mostly in Nusajaya.

But in the Danga and Tebrau areas, Mr Lim is the undisputed driver and promoter. More recently, the transformation and redevelopment of the JB central business district (CBD) was also put under his purview.

Starting out as an underwear salesman, the self-made 57-year old tycoon remains indefatigable, especially now that he sees 'light at the end of the tunnel.'

Mr Lim, who also controls listed infrastructure and highway concessionaire Ekovest Bhd, maintains that his other private concerns have helped him pump money into Danga Bay's expensive reclamation works.

Since the settling of a long-outstanding Points of Agreement between Malaysia and Singapore last year, ties between both countries have warmed sufficiently to encourage businessmen on both sides that Iskandar is worth a second look.

Malaysian builders have been flocking to the state, while foreign investors such as Singapore's Azea group and Australia's Lang Walker are already in, while others continue to nibble. How quickly IWH can land bigger names such as CapitaLand remains to be seen.

At the moment, pricing appears to be the main issue. For IWH, Mr Lim points to reclamation costs and risks. Only about 300 acres of Danga Bay is on solid ground and, in the interim, about RM600 million has been spent reclaiming 500-600 acres of waterfront land. Another 1,000 acres remains to be reclaimed (IWH's also has landbanks along the state's rivers).

But funding IWH's grandiose plans - different parcels have been earmarked to function as distinct zones, including finance, entertainment, a marina, commercial and mixed development - will require huge investments.

Consider the proposed Venice@Danga Bay.

The federal government has promised RM200 million in facilitation funds since it believes the concept will appeal to tourists, especially Singaporeans. Located adjacent to Taman Sutera and Taman Putra, the precinct will be developed in two phases over the next 10 years, at an estimated GDV of RM1.5 billion. About 4.5 million sq ft will be built under the first phase and the masterplan includes a canal network, street mall, hotel, soho and service apartments. IWH hopes private equity funds will sign up.

There are not a few Iskandar and Danga Bay disbelievers. After five years, most say only a few highways and buildings have been completed and that the Johor skyline remains much the same.

PA International Property Consultants executive director V Sivadas is of the view that Iskandar's transformation will take 50 years or double the projected time to realise. He warns of a property glut if developers are not careful.

Mr Lim's mother is also unconvinced. She had questioned the wisdom of reclaiming so much land and using a Hokkien proverb, pointed to the futility of dumping sand into the sea given the enormous effort required to make a difference.

Mr Lim jokes that his fate is linked with Danga Bay because of his name jiang he (river), but willingly concedes he might not be a good businessman given the measly returns on investment to date.

However, he is quick to add: 'But sometimes businessmen are gamblers.' Left unspoken is the conviction that if not he, his heirs will have the last laugh.

But regardless of whether he lives to see his vision achieved, he believes it is crucial for Johor to have a masterplan.

'If nobody does this, it will forever be like this!' he said.

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