Best of our wild blogs: 3 May 13

Bryozoans and Hydroids Workshop Day 4
from wild shores of singapore

Endangered primates and cats may be hiding out in swamps and mangrove forests from news by Jeremy Hance

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Study to boost energy efficiency

Tender put out for expert to look at how Singapore can save energy in long term
Grace Chua 3 May 13;

HOW much more energy can Singapore's buildings, households, transport and other sectors save while still meeting demand? The Government is asking for expert help to work this out.

The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), a division of the Prime Minister's Office that aims to help Singapore address climate change, has called a tender for a consultant to look at the country's energy-efficiency potential across the whole economy until 2050.

The study is expected to take about 1 1/2 years and will be completed at the end of next year, and will be coordinated by the NCCS with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

It aims to address questions such as: Could energy be saved by making lifts and lights in buildings smarter through the use of motion sensors? Could energy be recovered from food waste or waste grease? Could waste heat from power generation or industrial processes be used for other things? And, most importantly, how much would these solutions have to cost to be economically viable?

The NCCS is also calling a separate tender for a study, to be done by next March, on Singapore's industrial energy-efficiency potential. Both tenders were put up last week and will close later this month.

"The focus of the studies is to understand Singapore's long-term energy-efficiency potential, assuming current fuel mix and economic structure," said a spokesman for the secretariat.

Currently, Singapore gets some 80 per cent of its electricity from natural gas, though that is expected to rise to 90 per cent in the future. But it also relies on fuel oil and other petroleum products for transport and other industrial use.

If no action is taken, Singapore will emit around 77.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases - which scientists blame for global warming - in 2020. Most of it is carbon dioxide (CO2), with 60 per cent coming from industry.

In 2008, Singapore emitted 32.3 million tonnes of CO2, or 0.11 per cent of the world's emissions, according to figures collected by the United Nations. The Government has committed to cutting emissions growth by 7 to 11 per cent by 2020.

Consultants must assess the Republic's energy-efficiency potential for every five years up to 2030, and at 2050. The longer timeframe allows the study to take into account possible future improvements in technology that reduce energy use.

The findings will help guide an inter-ministerial working group on long-term emissions and how to reduce them. Already, large energy users must submit energy-efficiency improvement plans under the Energy Conservation Act, which came into effect last month. There is also a slew of grants and initiatives to fund a company's energy-efficiency efforts, but these often require firms to pay for improvements upfront before they get reimbursed.

A 2010 report by the Energy Studies Institute (ESI) think-tank here called energy efficiency the "fifth fuel" after oil, coal, gas and renewables. But while the technology may be available, the ESI cautioned, being efficient in energy use is not necessarily easy. A fear of disrupting production, lack of financing and management support, and space constraints are issues that firms face, the report said.

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New forest loss figures highlight need for green growth in the Greater Mekong

WWF 2 May 13;

Bangkok, Thailand: The Greater Mekong subregion in Southeast Asia risks losing more than a third of its remaining forest cover within the next two decades if regional governments fail to boost protection, value and restore natural capital, and embrace green growth, warns a new WWF report.

WWF’s analysis reveals the Greater Mekong has retained about 98 million hectares of natural forest, just over half of the region’s land area, but further rapid loss is expected if current deforestation rates persist.

Between 1973 and 2009, the five countries of the Greater Mekong lost just under one-third of their remaining forest cover. During this period, Cambodia lost 22 per cent of its 1973 forest cover, Laos and Myanmar lost 24 per cent, and Thailand and Vietnam lost 43 per cent.

Large connected areas of core forest also declined significantly across the region, from over 70 per cent in 1973 to about 20 per cent in 2009.

Core forest is defined as an area of at least 3.2km2 of uninterrupted forest. If current trends continue, WWF predicts that by 2030 only 14 per cent of the Greater Mekong’s remaining forest will consist of contiguous habitat capable of sustaining viable populations of many wildlife species.

“The Greater Mekong is at a crossroads,” said Peter Cutter, Landscape Conservation Manager with WWF-Greater Mekong. “One path leads to further declines in biodiversity and livelihoods, but if natural resources are managed responsibly, this region can pursue a course that will secure a healthy and prosperous future for its people.”

The report, “Ecosystems in the Greater Mekong: past trends, current status, possible futures,” provides new analysis on the current status and potential future of the region’s principal forest and freshwater ecosystems, and some of the most endangered species these ecosystems support.

The report offers two scenarios for the region’s ecosystems, one predicts what will likely happen by 2030 under an unsustainable growth model in which the deforestation and degradation observed over the past decade persists, while the other scenario assumes a 50 per cent cut in the annual deforestation rate and offers a future based on green growth. Under the green economy scenario, core forest areas extant in 2009 across the five Greater Mekong countries would remain intact.

“The green economy approach is the choice for a viable future in the Greater Mekong,” added Cutter. “Regional leaders have already affirmed that healthy economic growth goes hand in hand with healthy and productive ecosystems, but fast and effective responses are needed now to avoid permanent environmental degradation.”

The report highlights the Xayaburi dam development as a key threat to the health and productivity of the Mekong river and delta.

The Mekong basin hosts 13 unique, yet connected, freshwater ecosystems, but the controversial Xayaburi project will sever the mainstem of the lower Mekong river, blocking migratory fish and sediment flow with devastating consequences for livelihoods and food security for 60 million people.

The report also maps the enormous decline in the range of several important and iconic species of the region, including the tiger, Asian elephant, Irrawaddy dolphin and the endemic saola.

The survival of many species in the Greater Mekong depend on the existence of effectively managed protected area systems, and while protected areas have expanded dramatically since 1970, many are not well managed.

“Many protected areas exist in name only,” added Cutter. “Even relatively secure protected areas are under intense pressure from poaching and timber theft, while others have been reduced in size by government’s eager to cash in on land concessions to mining companies or plantation owners.”

Despite documenting the degradation of ecosystems over the past 50 years, the report also emphasizes the region is still rich in natural resources and the value of its ecosystem services, including food, water and fibre, is among the highest in the world.

The Greater Mekong’s vast natural wealth provides a significant opportunity for sustainable development, and WWF believes building greener economies is well within reach.

“Given that the majority of the region’s biological heritage and supporting ecosystems occur in landscapes that cross borders, regional collaboration is critical,” concluded Cutter. “Increased and more sustainable investment in maintaining ecosystem integrity must also be a priority at landscape, national, and regional scales."

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