Best of our wild blogs: 13 Jul 17

Pasir Ris with signs of dugong
wild shores of singapore

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Probability of 2015 haze repeat much lower this year: Asia Pulp and Paper official

Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 12 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: The probability of a repeat of the 2015 haze is "much lower" this year, the newly appointed managing director for corporate affairs and sustainability for Indonesia's largest pulp and paper group, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), said on Wednesday (Jul 12).

Former Singapore military general Bernard Tan - who is also Singapore country president for Sinar Mas, APP’s parent company - outlined the preparations the company have taken at a press conference to announce his appointment.

"The haze issue is a matter of deep concern to all of us, in Singapore, in Indonesia, as well as throughout the region," he said.

He said APP has invested more than US$80 million since 2015 to strengthen its fire management strategies.

This includes exploring new technologies such as infra-red cameras and mini-satellites to better monitor the ground situation, training and equipping more than 2,700 firefighters (up from 1,500 in 2015), investing in large-scale helicopters to act as water-bombing aircraft to contain fires until ground teams arrive and the setting up of a fire audit team to review the company’s and its suppliers’ concessions.

Internal data from APP has shown that 2017 is expected to be a drier season compared to the previous year.

Mr Tan said he could not predict the haze outlook for the coming year. “Having seen the efforts, and the effects, of our programmes on the ground, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the haze this year."

Mr Tan's appointment comes a few months after the National Environment Agency said it was still investigating four Indonesian suppliers of the company which have been linked to the forest fires that caused severe haze in Singapore in 2015.

Major retailers in Singapore removed APP paper products from their shelves in 2015, after the Singapore Environment Council and the Consumers Association of Singapore asked retailers to declare they had not procured or used wood, paper and/or pulp materials from companies accused of causing fires in Indonesia.

NEA said at that time that information provided by APP had been "limited".

When asked about NEA's statement, Mr Tan said that while he was unable to comment on the issue as investigations were ongoing, engagement with authorities is continuing and APP has been cooperative.

He said the company looks at Singapore as an important market for its brand.

“The first step is to show tangible action that has been taken and to reassure Singaporeans that the production of goods is done in a responsible and sustainable way."

Ex-army general lands dual role with paper giant
SIAU MING EN Today Online 13 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Retired army general Bernard Tan has joined Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) as its new managing director for corporate affairs and sustainability.

The 50-year-old has taken on the role concurrently alongside being the country president for the Singapore office of APP’s parent firm Sinar Mas Group.

APP, one of Indonesia’s largest paper and pulp companies, has been linked to the worst haze episode in the region in 2015.

The firm is working to set up a new fire audit team, which would be tasked, among other things, with reassessing the readiness and effectiveness of APP’s haze combat programmes.

Speaking to the media after a press conference yesterday, Mr Tan — who officially took up the positions on June 1 — said the two new roles were created to tackle the complex work involved in corporate affairs and sustainability, and to manage the brand and “issues on the ground”.

He said: “You are very aware that Sinar Mas still has issues, APP still has issues in Singapore ... (Given that) the commitment has been so much on the ground, in Indonesia ... I think the issues need to be resolved. And a lot of that requires upfront engagement, and perhaps … a different style of communication.”

Mr Tan served 22 years in the Singapore Armed Forces before retiring with the rank of Brigadier-General. Between 1998 and 2001, he also served in the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta and is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia.

Before joining APP, he was the chief marketing officer at defence and engineering group ST Engineering.

In 2015, APP was questioned by the authorities as to whether it was linked to fires responsible for a haze episode.

Wielding Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the first time that year, the NEA served notice to APP to provide information on its subsidiaries here and in Indonesia, as well as the measures taken by its suppliers there to put out fires in their concessions.

The Singapore Environment Council then restricted the use of APP’s Singapore Green Label certification, which saw supermarkets here pulling APP’s products such as tissue paper and toilet rolls off their shelves.

In March this year, the NEA said that information given by APP has been limited and it has asked for more details.

Asked about this, Mr Tan, who is also the deputy president of the Football Association of Singapore, said yesterday that engagement with the NEA is ongoing. “We are scheduled for a meeting very shortly ... we will leave that comment till after the engagement has concluded, and when investigations are resolved satisfactorily on both sides,” he added.

One of his main priorities, he said, is to look into remarketing APP’s products here.

“We are doing all the right things in terms of fire prevention, haze prevention, sustainability. I see no reason why the goods should not return to the shelves in Singapore,” he said.

APP spent a large part of the press conference yesterday explaining its integrated fire management programme, which has cost the company more than US$80 million (S$110 million) since it was introduced in 2015.

It includes preparation plans, such as the use of large helicopters to carry out water-bombing operations when needed. There have also been trials using infrared technology to identify hot spots, and a roll-out of a response regime for the 2,700 firefighters on the ground. SIAU MING EN

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New online platform for electricity retailers set to jolt energy market

JOEY CHUA XUE TING Today Online 13 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — From the second half of next year, domestic consumers here will be able to compare electricity plans online and pick one that best suits their needs from a website.

The recently launched Singapore start-up Electrify.Sg is the first marketplace for electricity retailers here, allowing consumers to compare the prices and packages on offer.

The portal is now available only to businesses and non-domestic consumers using more than 2,000 kWh a month. So far, 15 companies have used it to buy an electricity plan.

As the Government fully opens up the energy market in the second half of next year, all consumers in Singapore — including all 1.3 million households and more than 200,000 small business users — will be eligible to switch from Singapore Power, the national electricity provider.

They will be able to buy electricity from third-party retailers regardless of their minimum consumption.

Mr Martin Lim, 46, co-founder and chief operations officer of Electrify.Sg, told a press conference yesterday: “For the first time, we are going to have every household being able to choose the kind of power they want to buy, at the rate they want to buy and, very much on their terms, how they want to buy it.”

Consumers can enjoy a 10 to 30 percent discount off Singapore Power’s regulated tariff with prices offered by retailers on the platform, he added.

To date, there are 25 licensed electricity retailers, but just 16 are active.

Of the 16, eight — including Best Electricity Supply, Red Dot Power, and Sunseap Energy — have joined Electrify.Sg.

It plans to get seven more retailers on its platform by the end of this month.

Talking about some of the difficulties that consumers face, Mr Julius Tan, 28, co-founder and chief executive officer of Electrify.Sg, said: “With 25 retailers, including both independent retailers and power-generation companies in the market, there is confusion over price plans and still some misinformation and ambiguity about electricity liberation.”

On top of that, many retailers operate in silos, forcing customers to make multiple enquiries through many levels on Web pages to get generic prices.

Finalising a contract can also be a laborious exercise, with most retailers still relying on manual submissions on paper, which can prolong the process to days or weeks.

Electrify.Sg aims to shorten the process for consumers to five to 10 minutes with just four steps.

First, consumers must provide basic information such as their electricity provider, and their consumption levels.

Next, they have to create an account, then choose their preferred electricity package generated by Fibonacci — a pricing engine — based on their consumption profile.

Finally, they make payment online and upload the required documents.

Retailers can publish their raw pricing data and electricity package details on the platform, which uses Fibonacci to generate more than a million price permutations per electricity plan.

The platform also provides retailers with data-driven analytics on customers’ buying patterns, allowing them to deliver tailor-made plans to each client, including bundled deals and electricity plans powered by sustainable energy sources.

Noting that Singapore has “a very dynamic energy market space”, Mr Lim said: “We are not here to fight with anybody, we are here to work with everybody.

“With that, everybody can benefit — consumers as well as retailers.”

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Indonesia: 570 orangutans still in rehabilitation centers

N. Adri The Jakarta Post 12 Jul 17;

Some 570 orangutans are undergoing treatment at rehabilitation centers across East Kalimantan after losing their natural habitat to the conversion of rainforests, conservation group has said.

Conservation group Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) said a rehabilitation center it operated in Samboja Lestari currently held up to 170 orangutans, while another rehabilitation facility in Nyaru Menteng was caring for 400 others.

“The foundation is currently housing the most orangutans that need to be rehabilitated. We want that number to decrease, until there are no more of these animals in our rehabilitation centers,” BOSF chief executive officer Jamartin Sihite said at an event to mark the release of seven orangutans into the wild on Tuesday.

The event was the group’s 14th release, with the latest conducted last month to return a 30-year-old East Kalimantan orangutan named Romeo back to his natural habitat after spending 24 years in the BOSF rehabilitation center. (kuk/ebf)

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Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children

Next best actions are selling your car, avoiding flights and going vegetarian, according to study into true impacts of different green lifestyle choices
Damian Carrington The Guardian 12 Jul 17;

The greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child, according to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions.

The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet. These reduce emissions many times more than common green activities, such as recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line. However, the high impact actions are rarely mentioned in government advice and school textbooks, researchers found.

Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

The figure was calculated by totting up the emissions of the child and all their descendants, then dividing this total by the parent’s lifespan. Each parent was ascribed 50% of the child’s emissions, 25% of their grandchildren’s emissions and so on.

“We recognise these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has,” said Nicholas. “It is our job as scientists to honestly report the data. Like a doctor who sees the patient is in poor health and might not like the message ‘smoking is bad for you’, we are forced to confront the fact that current emission levels are really bad for the planet and human society.”

“In life, there are many values on which people make decisions and carbon is only one of them,” she added. “I don’t have children, but it is a choice I am considering and discussing with my fiance. Because we care so much about climate change that will certainly be one factor we consider in the decision, but it won’t be the only one.”

Overpopulation has been a controversial factor in the climate change debate, with some pointing out that an American is responsible for 40 times the emissions produced by a Bangladeshi and that overconsumption is the crucial issue. The new research comes a day after researchers blamed overpopulation and overconsumption on the “biological annihilation” of wildlife which has started a mass extinction of species on the planet.

Nicholas said that many of the choices had positive effects as well, such as a healthier diet, as meat consumption in developed countries is about five times higher than recommended by health authorities. Cleaner transport also cuts air pollution, and walking and cycling can reduce obesity. “It is not a sacrifice message,” she said. “It is trying to find ways to live a good life in a way that leaves a good atmosphere for the planet. I’ve found it really positive to make many of these changes.”

The researchers analysed dozens of sources from Europe, North America and Japan to calculate the carbon savings individuals in richer nations can make. They found getting rid of a car saved 2.4 tonnes a year, avoiding a return transatlantic flight saved 1.6 tonnes and becoming vegetarian saved 0.8 tonnes a year.

These actions saved the same carbon whichever country an individual lived in, but others varied. The savings from switching to an electric car depend on how green electricity generation is, meaning big savings can be made in Australia but the savings in Belgium are six times lower. Switching your home energy supplier to a green energy company also varied, depending on whether the green energy displaces fossil fuel energy or not.

Nicholas said the low-impact actions, such as recycling, were still worth doing: “All of those are good things to do. But they are more of a beginning than an end. They are certainly not sufficient to tackle the scale of the climate challenge that we face.”

The researchers found that government advice in the US, Canada, EU and Australia rarely mentioned the high impact actions, with only the EU citing eating less meat and only Australia citing living without a car. None mentioned having one fewer child. In an analysis of school textbooks on Canada only 4% of the recommendations were high impact.

Chris Goodall, an author on low carbon living and energy, said: “The paper usefully reminds us what matters in the fight against global warming. But in some ways it will just reinforce the suspicion of the political right that the threat of climate change is simply a cover for reducing people’s freedom to live as they want.

“Population reduction would probably reduce carbon emissions but we have many other tools for getting global warming under control,” he said. “Perhaps more importantly, cutting the number of people on the planet will take hundreds of years. Emissions reduction needs to start now.”

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Giant iceberg breaks off Antarctica

Nina Chestney Reuters 12 Jul 17;

LONDON (Reuters) - One of the biggest icebergs on record has broken away from Antarctica, scientists said on Wednesday, creating an extra hazard for ships around the continent as it breaks up.

The one trillion tonne iceberg, measuring 5,800 square km, calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica sometime between July 10 and 12, said scientists at the University of Swansea and the British Antarctic Survey.

The iceberg, which is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Delaware or the Indonesian island of Bali, has been close to breaking off for a few months.

Throughout the Antarctic winter, scientists monitored the progress of the rift in the ice shelf using the European Space Agency satellites.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," said Adrian Luckman, professor at Swansea University and lead investigator of Project MIDAS, which has been monitoring the ice shelf for years.

"It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters," he added.

The ice will add to risks for ships now it has broken off. The peninsula is outside major trade routes but the main destination for cruise ships visiting from South America.

In 2009, more than 150 passengers and crew were evacuated after the MTV Explorer sank after striking an iceberg off the Antarctic peninsula.

The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, was already floating before it broke away so there is no immediate impact on sea levels, but the calving has left the Larsen C ice shelf reduced in area by more than 12 percent.

The Larsen A and B ice shelves, which were situated further north on the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

"This resulted in the dramatic acceleration of the glaciers behind them, with larger volumes of ice entering the ocean and contributing to sea-level rise," said David Vaughan, glaciologist and director of science at British Antarctic Survey.

"If Larsen C now starts to retreat significantly and eventually collapses, then we will see another contribution to sea level rise," he added.

Big icebergs break off Antarctica naturally, meaning scientists are not linking the rift to manmade climate change. The ice, however, is a part of the Antarctic peninsula that has warmed fast in recent decades.

"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse – opinions in the scientific community are divided," Luckman said.

"Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away."

For graphic, 'Giant iceberg breaks off Antarctica', click

(Editing by Toby Chopra)

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