Best of our wild blogs: 11 Mar 16

Job opening to do outreach about the Marine Park!
Sisters' Island Marine Park

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Sorry hikers, this trail is for bikers only

Tan Tam Mei, The New Paper AsiaOne 10 Mar 16;

Last year NParks proposed to create a hikers trail adjacent to an existing Mountain Bike trail at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. However NParks realised that this was not feasible, as hikers and bikers kept getting into accidents.

Installations for a separate hiking trail alongside the Bukit Timah Mountain Biking Trail will be removed this week.

This is after several accidents along the trail where cyclists would crash while avoiding stray hikers or collide into the concrete bollards that demarcate the separate trails.

The decision is a U-turn on the National Parks' (NParks) plans - announced in July last year - to create an adjacent hiking trail to separate hikers and cyclists.

In a statement to The New Paper on Monday, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation, said that based on feedback and "observations on the ground", initial plans for an adjacent hiking trail were not feasible, and the trail would remain for mountain biking only.

He said that an adjacent hiking trail would require several intersections where cyclists and hikers would meet, and explained that the bollards had been placed to demarcate the trails.

Said Mr Wong: "These intersections and bollards pose safety concerns. We are aware that there have already been a few accidents at these junctions resulting from bikers trying to avoid hikers who have trespassed on the trail."

The hiking trail was created because NParks noticed more hikers using the biking trail. This was after the closure of several hiking trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in 2014 for repair works.

Mr Wong also clarified that while the hiking trail was never officially opened, an initial section of the trail had been put in place to gather feedback.

The removal of the bollards and hiking trail installations will start this week.

NParks will also put up more signs and station staff to remind the public not to hike along the biking trail.

Hikers who trespass on the trail could face a warning or a fine of up to $2,000.

Mr Wong said that existing hiking trails at the reserve will reopen later this year.

Avid cyclist Ivan Tan estimates he has witnessed at least nine accidents happen because of the bollards and stray hikers.


One accident over two weeks ago where a biker crashed into the bollards left the rider with a fractured arm, said Mr Tan, a 42-year-old who works in sales and rides along the trail thrice a week.

"It was one of the more serious cases. He looked like a novice but if the bollards weren't there, the injury might have been less severe," he said.

According to mountain bikers TNP spoke to, another cyclist broke his arm on Saturday morning after allegedly trying to avoid a hiker on the biking trail.

Mountain bike skills instructor Wilson Low, 33, said: "It's good that the decision was reversed by NParks before anything more serious happened."

Mountain Bike Association Singapore secretary Jason Lim, 41, said that removing the bollards and the hiking trail "will reduce the safety hazards".

He added that "injuries could have been avoided" if NParks had consulted the mountain biking community before introducing the hiking trail.

Mr Lim also noted that the incident highlighted the need for improved communication between government agencies and community stakeholders.

"Despite this misstep, we're glad NParks corrected it," he said.

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UN body on Tesla: Singapore likely to be only nation factoring carbon emission from grid for EVs

That said, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) appears to have applied the R101 standard correctly, says the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Kevin Kwang Channel NewsAsia 10 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) appears to have applied the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) R101 correctly when assessing the carbon emission of a used Tesla Model S recently, said Mr Jean Rodriguez, Chief of the Information Unit at UNECE.

However, LTA also appears to be the only national regulator to have included power grid emission into the evaluation of electric vehicles’ (EVs) carbon footprint, he added.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Mr Rodriguez said in an email that R101 only specifies the way to measure the energy consumption of the vehicle, or “tank-to-wheel”.

The LTA had stated that the electric energy consumption of the imported used Tesla car was 444Wh/km. In a statement on Thursday, LTA confirmed that if the car was brand new, it would have enjoyed a rebate with the energy consumption rating of 181Wh/km.

However, Mr Joe Nguyen, the owner of the Tesla Model S in Singapore, had to pay a S$15,000 tax for having a non-fuel-efficient car instead.

Mr Nguyen had earlier questioned if LTA had applied R101 correctly. He said that R101 has nothing to do with CO2 emissions, and was why European countries “do not penalise EVs for CO2 as Singapore does”.

“CO2 testing is only for vehicles that actually emit gases; EVs have no engine and no tailpipe. Even trying to conduct an emissions test is a pure waste of time and money,” he said in an email.

As for the 0.5g CO2/Wh grid emission factor applied by the regulator, Mr Rodriguez said this refers to “well-to-wheel” and the rate depends on the means of electricity generation: “As far as we can read in follow-up stories, electricity in Singapore seems to be mostly generated by gas-powered plants, hence this rate looks to be within the range of accepted estimates.”

LTA had earlier clarified that the grid emission factor was to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions.

Mr Nguyen, an IT executive, had argued that this rationale from LTA appeared to be “logical at first”. However, when the regulator told him to declare that he will only charge his car at home and not at a public charging infrastructure, there appeared to be a double taxation issue at play. “I am already paying for any electrical distribution CO2 surcharge when I pay my electricity bill every month,” he said. “You would not charge someone CO2 emissions for owning an iPhone that they charge at home, would you?”


Mr Rodriguez said Singapore appears to be the only national regulator to have included power grid emission into its evaluation process. “We are not aware that this is currently applied in other countries,” he said, adding that such criterion is up to the national authorities to decide.

He did note that Singapore is not one of the contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement ratifying the harmonisation of vehicle regulations. Of the 62 countries, only six are from Asia Pacific: Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. “Various countries in the world use our UN regulations as reference in national legislation,” he said.

The UNECE executive added that since Singapore has applied grid emission in its evaluation process, “it would seem logical to use this approach across the board for all vehicles”.

The carbon dioxide emitted from transforming oil into petrol or gasoline is limited, said Mr Rodriguez, and is estimated at approximately 10 per cent of the CO2 generated by the engine when the car runs.


Mr Nguyen said he did not take issue with UNECE standard LTA had adopted, but the lack of transparency on both its application and method of testing EVs.

“There is no documentation to be found on the process for electric vehicles. The UNECE Regulation is not mentioned and how it is applied. The correlation chart between power consumption and CO2 is not published anywhere. The equipment VICOM (which tested the Tesla) uses to measure is not documented anywhere. There is little to no transparency,” the IT executive said.

Tesla founder Elon Musk said that he had contacted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after Channel NewsAsia first reported on LTA’s clarification regarding how EVs are evaluated. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office had also confirmed that the conversation took place and that various agencies were looking into the matter, while the LTA on Thursday also confirmed that it and the VICOM Emission Test Laboratory are working with Tesla engineers to look further into this case.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Tesla confirmed that it was having "cooperative discussions with the LTA to ensure a proper understanding of these issues and to make sure that they are correctly testing our customer’s Model S".

"Based on the positive nature of those discussions, we are confident that this situation will be resolved soon," they added.

Mr Musk’s Tesla factory had been one of the places Mr Lee visited in his trip to the United States’ Silicon Valley in February, sparking hopes that the carmaker would return to these shores. The company had pulled out from Singapore in 2011, six months into its entry, due to poor sales and not getting the tax breaks it was hoping to for. It currently has stores in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and China, according to its website.

Mr Nguyen also called on LTA to rethink its stance towards EVs. “LTA can take this as a criticism, or it can take this as an opportunity to really think about the future of EV and/or fuel cell transport, and how it should play a leading role rather than devolving into a bureaucratic swamp.

“They need to clearly document their standards and their processes and work with other governments to see how things are done elsewhere,” he said.

- CNA/av

Tesla car hit with S$15k surcharge ‘as it was used, not emissions-free’
Today Online 11 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Stressing that electric cars are not “carbon emissions-free”, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has explained why a second-hand Tesla purchased by a man here was hit with a hefty emissions surcharge, pointing out that had it been brand new, it would have earned a rebate.

Noting that the car in question — a Tesla Model S — was first registered in Hong Kong in 2014, the LTA said that the emissions and fuel efficiency of a used car can “vary significantly” depending on how it was previously driven and maintained.

Nonetheless, the LTA, together with VICOM Emission Test Laboratory (VeTL), will be working with Tesla engineers to look into testing processes for electric cars.

Last week, Mr Joe Nguyen made headlines when he recounted his journey of importing a used Tesla Model S into Singapore. He questioned why the car, touted as more environmentally friendly, instead left him with a S$15,000 charge for its being a non-fuel-efficient car.

The incident caught the eye of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who reached out to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the matter. In turn, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said various agencies were looking into the issue.

In a statement on Thursday (March 10), the LTA said that while electric cars may not produce emissions from the tailpipe like conventional cars, they take electrical power from the national power grid which produces the electricity by burning fuel. This produces carbon emissions in the process.

The Tesla in question would have had an energy consumption rating of 181 watt-hour per km when it left the Tesla factory on June 28, 2014, putting it in the A1 band of the Carbon Emissions Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), and qualifying it for a rebate. A car in the A1 band qualifies for a rebate of S$30,000.

But when the LTA put the used car to the test at the VeTL, it was found to have an electrical energy consumption of 444 watt-hour per km.

Using an emissions factor commonly applied to electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars, the car showed a carbon emissions level that placed it in the CEVS C3 band — racking up a surcharge of S$15,000.

A used car, said the LTA, must be subjected to emissions and fuel efficiency tests as the authority would not know how much its condition might have deteriorated over time.

“We cannot make exceptions as it would not be fair to other car owners, and would have an impact on our environment-related policies,” said the LTA.

When contacted, Mr Nguyen, 44, who works at an Internet research firm, maintained that he welcomed a re-test of his car under “proper supervision”.

Noting that the car had an energy consumption rating of 181 watt-hour per km when it left the Tesla factory in 2014, he said: “It is very unlikely that a 1.5 year-old car with 1,000km will lose that kind of efficiency.”

Mr Jean Rodriguez, chief of the Information Unit at United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) — whose R101 standards the LTA adopted to test Mr Nguyen’s car — told Channel NewsAsia that the LTA appears to be the only national regulator to have included power grid emission when evaluating the carbon footprint of electric vehicles.

As for the LTA’s application of the R101 standard, Mr Rodriguez said it appeared correct, but noted that it only specifies how to measure the energy consumption of the vehicle.

On the other hand, the emissions factor used by the LTA, which is 0.5g CO2 per watt-hour, depends on the means of electricity generation. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMANDA LEE

LTA explains test results of imported Tesla car, says to relook case
AsiaOne 10 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is in discussion with car maker Tesla after the owner of an imported used Tesla Model S said he was charged $15,000 in carbon surcharge.

In a statement on Thursday, LTA said that emissions and fuel efficiency of used cars can vary significantly depending on their prevailing condition.

The Model S imported by IT professional Joe Nguyen was first registered in Hong Kong in 2014.

Based on tests run by VICOM Emission Test Laboratory (VeTL), Mr Nguyen's used Model S had an electrical energy consumption of 444 Wh/km, LTA said.

An emissions factor of 0.5g CO2/Wh was then applied. This emissions factor, which is based on data provided by the Energy Market Authority, is consistently applied to electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars to account for the carbon emissions produced when the car is being charged.

The outcome showed a carbon emissions level which placed Mr Nguyen's car in the C3 surcharge band under the Carbon Emissions Vehicle Scheme (CEVS).

The authority also clarified that electric cars are not carbon emissions free. "They may not produce emissions from the tailpipe like conventional cars, but they take electrical power from the national power grid which has to burn fuel to produce the electricity, and in the process produces carbon emissions," a spokesperson said.

According to Tesla, the energy consumption rating for Mr Nguyen's Model S was 181 Wh/km when it left the Tesla factory on June 28, 2014.

While a brand new Tesla Model S would have fallen into the CEVS A1 band, and enjoyed a rebate, Mr Nguyen's car is not brand new and was thus subject to emissions and fuel efficiency tests.

"We cannot make exceptions as it would not be fair to other car owners, and would have an impact on our environment-related policies," LTA said.

However, LTA said it will be working with Tesla engineers to re-examine the case.

Singapore's first Tesla Model S is now a mini-celebrity
Olivia Chang AsiaOne 10 Mar 16;

Joe Nguyen, the owner of the only Tesla Model S in Singapore had to wait 7 months and paid close to $400,000 to get the fully-electric luxury sedan registered for roads.

He was also hit with a $15,000 carbon tax surcharge, which created outrage in social media circles because the car usually attracts tax breaks in other countries.

He spoke to SPH Razor journalist Olivia Chang about his ordeal undergoing carbon emissions testing when his car produces no direct emissions, and how it was collecting dust in a Viacom workshop because they did not know what to do with it.

Joe shared that the car is now a mini-celebrity and he often sees people whipping out their phones to snap pictures of his car while driving.

The RazorTV team had a chance to experience the to experience the torque of the Tesla S and its awesome acceleration. Watch to find out how Olivia reacts to the rollercoaster ride.

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Indonesia: Firms tell Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) to stay out of plantations

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 11 Mar 16;

Efforts to repair the environmental damage to peatland areas are under threat as the government’s plan to restore over the next five years 2 million hectares of peatland damaged by forest fires is being challenged by the private sector that is in control of concession areas.

The newly established Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) said on Thursday it expected the private sector to restore the peatland that had been damaged in its areas.

“From the 600,000 hectares of peatland [targeted to be restored this year], I targeted half of it to be carried out by companies with their own money in their concessions,” BRG head Nazir Foead said at his office in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

He argued that the private sector, i.e. concession holders, was responsible for making sure that concessions were free from fires.

“It’s not that the government is begging for companies [to help us], but what we’re talking about is the notion that concessions and companies are fully responsible for protecting their areas,” said Nazir.

Speaking about the other half of the targeted areas, the agency chief said the restoration projects would be carried out by the government. It will cover protected forest areas, conservation zones and peatland areas that are managed by small farmers.

“For the other half, we will do the restoration work by using the state budget, funding from donors and financial aid from companies,” Nazir said. “But if companies wanted to provide financial aid, I will ask them whether they have restored peatland in their concessions first. If not, then don’t help us. Work on [restoring] your concessions first.”

In pursuit of the restoration target, the agency had met and discussed with the related private sector, including the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) and members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a partnership of palm oil companies, regarding the matter.

“We’ve agreed that peatland that is still in good condition must be protected. But in terms of peatland that have been cultivated, we still have to discuss that,” Nazir said. “But in general, all [companies that I’ve talked to] said that they were ready to support this restoration agenda.”

Gapki chairman Joko Supriyono, however, asked the government to focus on restoring peatland still owned by the government, such as peatland in conservation areas, instead of pursuing the private sector’s commitment.

“The areas that need to be restored are those in protected areas. So if peatland is in a protected area, but damaged, that should be the priority [of the government]. If peatland has been converted to plantation, don’t meddle with it,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Joko said that if a concession had been granted by the government to the private sector, then the concession should be cultivated.

“If the peatland is in a concession, why restore it? It’s for cultivation anyway. Restoration is not our concern,” he said.

Joko added that the government had no right to force companies to restore damaged peatland in their concessions.

“If peatland is in a concession, then it must have been taken care of by the company. So [the full authority over] the peatland should be given to the company because it is the one that has the resources [to manage and cultivate it],” he said.

The IPOP, which is an agreement among leading palm oil producers Asian Agri, Astra Agro Lestari, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Wilmar and Musim Mas, as part of their commitment to sustainability practices, said members of the partnership would support the BRG in its work.

“We will support the BRG to the extent of our capabilities,” IPOP executive director Nurdiana Darus told the Post.

However, IPOP members have not decided on what kind of support that they could give, according to Nurdiana.

“We want to work with the BRG to find solutions that are most fitting for businesses, as well as people surrounding the businesses. So we can’t say yet what we want to do. We are still waiting for another dialogue with Pak Nazir,” Nurdiana said.

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CO2 data is 'wake-up call' for Paris climate deal

Matt McGrath BBC 11 Mar 16;

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere grew more in past 12 months than at any time in the past 56 years.

Measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii went up by more than three parts per million(ppm) in 2015.

Scientists say the spike is due to a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather pattern.

They argue that the data increases the pressure on global leaders to sign and ratify the Paris Climate Agreement.

Mauna Loa is the world's oldest continuous atmospheric measurement station, with records dating back to the later 1950s.

It is regarded as the most important site in the global monitoring network, recording the see-saw, rise and fall of carbon in the atmosphere over a year.

Plants and trees tend to absorb more CO2 during the spring and lose it as autumn approaches and leaves die off.

Forest fires

For the past decade the average increase in carbon dioxide at the station has been 2ppm. But in 2015 the level grew by 3.05ppm - In the year to February 2016, the level went up by 3.76ppm.

The global climate phenomenon, El Niño, is believed to have played a role in the rise.

Scientists at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) say that the previous biggest increase was in 1998, also an El Niño year.

The weather event drives drought in many parts of the tropics and in 2015 this led to forest fires in Indonesia and other locations which pumped large amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

"The impact of El Niño on CO2 concentrations is a natural and relatively short-lived phenomenon," said Petteri Taalas from the WMO.

"But the main long-term driver is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. We have the power and responsibility to cut these," he added.

Pressure to sign

The latest figures show that in January and February this year the levels of CO2 at Mauna Loa went through the symbolic 400ppm level.

Prior to 1800, say the US National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), atmospheric levels were 280ppm.

"Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years," said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of Noaa's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

"It's explosive compared to natural processes."

The scientists say the latest figures should encourage global leaders to make progress on the Paris Climate Agreement.

The UN is hoping that prime ministers and presidents will turn up in large numbers at a signing ceremony in New York in April, and that the treaty will become operational this year.

"This should serve as a wake-up call to governments about the need to sign the Paris Climate Agreement and to take urgent action to make the cuts in CO2 emissions necessary to keep global temperature rises to well below 2C," said the WMO's Petteri Taalas.

Scientists will be closely monitoring atmospheric levels this year to see if there is any decrease as El Niño fades over the next few months.

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