Best of our wild blogs: 1 Mar 18

17-18 Mar: 'The Fun Odyssea' - community launch for kids and the family
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Parliament: National recycling effort collected 2 per cent of total domestic waste in 2016

Audrey Tan Straits Times 28 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - A national recycling effort collected just 2 per cent of the total amount of waste generated by the domestic sector here in 2016, falling far behind other waste collection efforts.

The informal recycling sector, which includes rag-and-bone men, for instance, collected almost nine times more.

The figure was derived from calculations done by The Straits Times, after Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor on Wednesday (Feb 28) revealed figures for the National Recycling Programme in Parliament- the first time such data was revealed publicly.

She was responding to a question by Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked for the cost and tonnage of recyclables collected under the National Recycling Programme.

Dr Khor said the public waste collectors collected about 44,200 tonnes of recyclables in 2016, but did not say how much the programme has cost the Government.

The 44,200 tonnes collected by public waste collectors work out to about 2 per cent of the 2.1 million tonnes of waste generated by the domestic sector in 2016.

In total, only 435,600 tonnes of waste were recycled.

Recyclables from the domestic sector, which includes public and private estates, schools, army camps, petrol kiosks, places of worship and shophouses, are picked up by public waste collectors under the National Recycling Programme, or collected by the informal recycling sector.

On Wednesday, Dr Khor told the House that the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (Mewr) is looking at how it can improve recycling rates in the domestic sector.

"In recent years, we have been enhancing recycling infrastructure to make it even easier for Singaporeans to recycle," she said.

For example, from April 1 this year, all new non-landed private residential developments will need to provide dual chutes for refuse and recyclables.

All existing condominiums will also have to provide one recycling bin per block from Aug 1 this year.

"We will also use regulatory measures to complement the new recycling infrastructure. For example, we will introduce a new framework to make it easier for Singaporeans to recycle their e-waste," Dr Khor added.

The new measures follow other strategies that NEA has already taken in hopes of boosting Singapore's lacklustre domestic recycling sector.

For example, since 2014, every HDB block has been provided with a blue recycling bin - up from one bin for every five blocks. That year, the Government also announced that all new public housing projects will be fitted with recycling chutes with throw points on each floor.

Still, overall domestic recycling rate - which includes recyclables collected under the National Recycling Programme and the informal recycling sector - has hovered around 20 per cent since 2012.

In comparison, Taiwan has a household recycling rate of 55 per cent. Germany's recycling rate for municipal waste is 64 per cent and that of South Korea is 59 per cent, according to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Carbon tax a conscientious approach for a sustainable future

Where the announced carbon tax rate at Budget 2018 has seen a downward revision from a previously mentioned range, two experts discuss the merits of an entry-level carbon tax.
Allan Loi and Melissa Low Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: There was a sigh of relief during Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement at Budget 2018 that a carbon tax of S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions will be imposed from 2019.

In doing so, Singapore joins more than 67 other jurisdictions in implementing carbon pricing as a tool to reduce carbon emissions.

Since the 1990s when it was first implemented in most Nordic countries, a carbon tax has been progressively accepted as a transparent and accountable way of pricing in the cost of the negative externalities of producing energy, and collecting revenue from the large emitters of harmful greenhouse gases (GHG).

However, to most businesses and individual consumers, a carbon tax is a new and additional expense. They will have to integrate this new cost burden into their operating budget constraints.

Environmentalists may see the landing price point as marginal compared to the prices set in other countries such as Sweden and Norway, where rates go as high as S$186 per tonne of emissions.

Where it had been announced previously that the carbon tax might land at S$10 to S$20 per tonne of emissions, the price point announced at Budget 2018 was a downward revision.

What might be the reasons for this? More importantly, will it still achieve its intended impact in shaping business decisions and consumer behaviour?


Regardless of the imposed amount, Singapore’s carbon tax presents several opportunities to enhance national efforts in tackling climate change, including through more robust data collection and revenue recycling to help companies become more energy efficient.

Companies will be required to submit a verifiable emissions report by Jun 30, 2020. Monitoring plans indicating how each company ensures the quality of data used for computation in the emissions report, which may have to be verified by an independent third party, will have to be submitted by the preceding Dec 31 each year.

Some of these guidelines were earlier introduced as part of enhancements to the Energy Conservation Act.

How carbon tax revenues are reallocated to the economy will be important.

A key question is how should these be allocated among the goals of driving further green investments and energy efficiency? In addition, how much revenue will be directed at fostering industry and job growth in the clean energy sector or in aiding companies working on sustainable urban solutions?

As Mr Heng mentioned, revenue collected from this scheme will be used for two existing funds designed specifically to support further green initiatives for the industry, going some way to help make progress in Singapore’s goal of sustainable development - one that manages our carbon footprint and does our part to combat climate change.

It is unclear if all revenue will be channelled indefinitely to these funds, but the option to use some revenue to drive other productive aspects of the economy such as infrastructure or education could potentially be open.


S$5 per tonne of emissions may sound trivial to some. However, many countries that charge high carbon taxes often include exemptions to avoid the economy being struck too hard by carbon prices.

According to a literature survey of carbon pricing in 2016 by academic journal Energy Policy, Switzerland exempts the transportation sector, whereas France excludes the fishing industry in their system. Singapore, for now, does not view it necessary to employ such exemptions.

Other jurisdictions such as British Columbia and the Nordic countries are less affected by a carbon tax for electricity generation because they are almost entirely fuelled by cleaner renewable electricity sources such as wind and hydropower.

Like some of the more recent adopters of the carbon tax, such as Japan, Chile, Colombia, and Latvia, Singapore is starting with a low initial carbon tax rate. The S$5 per tonne of GHG emissions serves as an entry-level price to allow the economy time to adjust before the tax is increased after review by 2023.

As Joseph Aldy, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, mentioned in a recent paper that the immediate implementation of a large carbon tax in general will “shock the energy system” and destabilise longer-term plans to attract support for the tax.

As a small open economy that has a sizable dependence on foreign direct investments and fossil fuels, Singapore must ensure that the cost from a carbon tax does not unduly increase the cost of doing business in Singapore, risking driving companies away or costing the economy jobs.

Currently, electricity generation for Singapore is still predominantly driven by fossil fuels, even though we’ve moved toward using cleaner burning natural gas. This means unlike some other developed countries, most sectors in the economy will be impacted by the tax.


Looking at the draft Carbon Pricing Bill released late last year and to be read later this year, Singapore’s carbon tax is to be operated as a fixed price credit-based system, where covered entities purchase allowances from the regulator NEA and surrender the amount equal to their respective emissions during the compliance period.

Such a move allows authorities the flexibility to move towards a carbon trading scheme in the future, where Singapore imposes a cap on the total level of emissions, and allow companies with low emissions to sell their excess allowances to larger emitters.

Singapore’s 2030 target of reducing emissions intensity by 36 per cent compared to 2005 levels could act as a cap in such a trading scheme, where emissions based on this are expected to stabilise at 65 million tonnes of GHG emissions by 2030.


What looks certain is that household welfare is unlikely to be adversely affected – given that the resulting electricity and gas expenses from the carbon tax will only rise by about 1 per cent on average and additional Utilities-Save rebates will be provided by the Government to eligible households.

Another offsetting factor may be Singapore’s move towards full retail contestability in its electricity market by the second half of 2018.

Singapore residents could be looking at further discounts off their electricity bills compared to Singapore Power tariffs should they switch to a suitable alternative tariff plan or electricity provider, based on publicly available price offers and assuming oil prices and households’ electricity consumption remain similar.

In addition, consumers may be allowed to switch to providers who use renewable sources of energy such as solar power in the future, further reducing their carbon footprint.


The new carbon tax is intended to price in the costs of climate change and our carbon footprint into energy consuming activities, making them more salient to businesses and consumers.

This complements existing educational and financing schemes in place to reduce our carbon emissions and combat climate change in Singapore.

Putting a price on carbon has proven reasonably successful in most countries that have implemented it. The carbon tax is thus an essential step in Singapore’s climate change efforts, and necessary if we are to meet our international climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Companies and consumers must use the next few years wisely to get a head start before authorities review the carbon tax rate with the intention of increasing it to between S$10 and S$15 per tonne of emissions by 2030.

We must aim to become more energy efficient and factor in the cost of climate change cost into our everyday lives, until it becomes part of our habitual nature to be mindful of our actions and how they impact the environment.

Allan Loi is a research associate at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore. Melissa Low is a research fellow at the same institute.

Source: CNA/sl

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121 live birds, 4,500 sachets of chewing tobacco seized from tour bus at Woodlands

LOW YOUJIN Today Online 28 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE – An attempt to smuggle 121 live birds and 4,500 sachets of chewing tobacco was foiled by immigration officials at the Woodlands Checkpoint early Monday (Feb 26) morning.

The birds, along with the contraband goods, were detected by customs officials at around 6am when they conducted a search on a Malaysian-registered tour bus, according to a joint-media release by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and Agri-food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Wednesday (Feb 28).

TODAY understands that the 30-year-old male driver is a Malaysian citizen. He was charged on Wednesday.

The authorities said ICA officers discovered three black bundles in red plastic bags, which were later found to contain the chewing tobacco, in the luggage compartment located on the right side of the bus.

The birds were also found on the same side of the bus, though concealed in another compartment. The authorities said that live Fischer's Lovebirds, Red Whiskered Bulbuls, White Rumped Shamas and Spotted Doves were found in 10 boxes.

The Fischer's Lovebird is classified as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to the joint-statement, the driver, live birds and the bus were handed over to the AVA for investigation purposes, while the tobacco was referred to the HSA.

The authorities remind the public that the import and sale of chewing tobacco is prohibited in Singapore. Any person who is convicted of importing chewing tobacco can face a fine of up to S$10,000 and/or jailed up to six months for the first offence.

Repeat offenders can be fined up to S$20,000 and/or jailed up to 12 months.

The authorities said that CITES permits are required for any import, export and re-export of CITES species, including their parts and products.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, offenders can be fined up to S$50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of S$500,000) and/or imprisonment of up to two years upon conviction.

The authorities added that the import of animals and birds without a licence is an offence under the Animals and Birds Act.

Any person, on conviction, is liable to a fine of up to S$10,000, and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.

Furthermore, any person who causes any unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of up to S$15,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 18 months.

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Indonesia: Government to relax forest moratorium for military installations

Anton Hermansyah The Jakarta Post 28 Feb 18;

The government is planning to revise a 2017 presidential regulation on forest moratorium to make way for the construction of military installations.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Wednesday the regulation stipulated that new licenses for developments in primary forests and peat lands could only be issued for the development of the government’s strategic projects, but it was unclear if military-related developments were included.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has requested that the regulation be revised.

"I think the request is reasonable, because defense-related matters such as building a military airport in the forest are also strategic projects," she said at the Presidential Palace, adding that she would study the request.

The forest moratorium regulation was first issued in 2011 under the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration. It has been extended every two years, with the latest extension made by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in June last year.

"I will study the proposed revision with my team," Siti said. (ahw)

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Total ban on bee-harming pesticides likely after major new EU analysis

Analysis from EU’s scientific risk assessors finds neonicotinoids pose a serious danger to all bees, making total field ban highly likely
Damian Carrington The Guardian 28 Feb 18

The world’s most widely used insecticides pose a serious danger to both honeybees and wild bees, according to a major new assessment from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors.

The conclusion, based on analysis of more than 1,500 studies, makes it highly likely that the neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned from all fields across the EU when nations vote on the issue next month.

The report from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), published on Wednesday, found that the risk to bees varied depending on the crop and exposure route, but that “for all the outdoor uses, there was at least one aspect of the assessment indicating a high risk.” Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

Jose Tarazona, head of Efsa’s pesticides unit, said: “The availability of such a substantial amount of data has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions. There is variability in the conclusions [and] some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”

The Efsa assessment includes bumblebees and solitary bees for the first time. It also identified that high risk to bees comes not from neonicotinoid use on non-flowering crops such as wheat, but from wider contamination of the soil and water which leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

The assessment was welcomed by many scientists and environmentalists. “This is an important announcement that most uses of neonicotinoids are a risk to all bee species,” said Prof Christopher Connolly, at the University of Dundee, UK. “The greatest risk to bees is from chronic exposure due to its persistence.” Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said: “This report certainly strengthens the case for further restrictions on neonicotinoid use across Europe”.

“We have been playing Russian roulette with the future of our bees for far too long,” said Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth. “EU countries must now back a tougher ban.” Several nations had been waiting for the Efsa report before deciding their position.

However, a spokesman for Syngenta, a neonicotinoid manufacturer, said: “Efsa sadly continues to rely on a [bee risk guidance] document that is overly conservative, extremely impractical and would lead to a ban of most if not all insecticides, including organic products.”

Matt Shardlow, at charity Buglife, said the risk guidance document should be urgently implemented to prevent another pesticide “blunder”. He said: “It is a tragedy that our bees, moths, butterflies and flies have been hammered by these toxins for over 15 years.”

In March 2017, the Guardian revealed draft regulations from the European commission which would ban neonicotinoids from all fields across Europe, citing “high acute risks to bees”. The chemicals could still be used in closed greenhouses.

Efsa’s first assessment in January 2013 found “unacceptable” risks to bees from neonicotinoids and paved the way for the partial EU ban which was passed in April 2013. It banned the use of the three main neonicotinoids on flowering crops, principally oilseed rape, as they were seen as most attractive to bees.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed on disease, destruction of flower-rich habitat and, increasingly, the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

There has been strong evidence that neonicotinoids harm individual bees for some years but this has strengthened in the last year recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

In November, environment secretary Michael Gove overturned the UK’s previous opposition to tougher restrictions on neonicotinoids. “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” Gove told the Guardian. “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

The environment department’s chief scientist, Prof Ian Boyd, warned in September that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false. This followed other highly critical reports on pesticides, including research showing most farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

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