Archive for June, 2011

100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders

The search is on globally for 100 Sustain Ability Leaders. This initiative was announced by abc carbon express earlier this month and we are calling for support and nominations from “sustain ability partners” whether they be in NGOs, Governments, Universities, media, centres of excellence in sustainability and/or like-minded businesses. We call on all readers to send in their nominations, along with a brief description of the person, including why you think he or she qualifies for this leadership listing. It’s easy – just send a reply to this newsletter email. The deadline for nominations has been extended to 31st July 2011. This is an expansion of our previous ABC Carbon 50 into a new international award. Many of the people we might think are deserving of recognition have been reported in this newsletter and we are sure our readers around the globe know and recognise many more. As we have said before: Think sustain ability (two words) and think leadership (one big word)!  We will present our list of winners in our 150th issue due out mid-August. This issue presents a wide selection of news and views, as expected. Extreme weather and the climate change link, along with investing in the risks and opportunities of climate change. Progress – or not – in world talks for an agreement and progress of sorts in Australia on carbon farming, if not carbon tax. Reports from the business world going green and alerts for three major events in Singapore – water, clean tech and leadership. There’s more on energy efficiency, solar, wind, as well as clean energy research centres, including the Earth Observatory. And Jessica Cheam tells us how to keep climate change in the news. So make your contribution and send in your nomination for 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders 2011. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Dr Fatih Birol

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Profile: Dr Fatih Birol

International Energy Agency Chief Economist warns that given the current status quo of international climate policy and efforts, the “door to 2°C may be closing” soon, as it assumes vigorous implementation of emission reduction pledges to 2020 and much stronger action thereafter. Dr Fatih Birol said in Singapore that energy related CO2 emissions need to peak before 2020 and this is not happening. And all major emitters have to move, if not, the problem will not be solved.

IEA Chief Economist offers a look at our energy future

June 21, 2011 by Eugene Tay in Green Business Times  

Filed under Strategy and Leaders

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The era of cheap oil is over, and policies fall short of what is needed for a secure and sustainable energy future, says Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency, in his lecture titled “A Glimpse into the Energy Fututre” at today’s EMA Distinguished Speaker Programme. This lecture is jointly organised by the Energy Market Authority and the Energy Studies Institute.

Era of cheap oil is over

Dr Birol shares that the era of cheap oil is over because of structural changes, and there is growing risk that the upturn in oil prices could undermine economic recovery.

On the demand side, strong growth from the transportation sector due to booming demand for mobility in emerging economies drives up oil use. The global car fleet continue to surge as more people in China and other emerging economies buy a car.

On the supply side, oil production becomes less crude. Global fossil fuel production reached 96 mb/d in 2035 on the back of rising output of natural gas liquids and unconventional oil, as crude oil production plateaus.

There is now more oil from fewer producers. The MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) would account for 90% of net global increase in oil production in 2020, and if current unrest defers investment, it could have implications for global energy security.

Oil prices is reaching a danger zone, and rising oil prices pose inflationary risks. High oil prices also represent significant redistribution of wealth from oil importers to oil exporters, and the impacts differ across OECD, emerging economies and less developed countries.

OECD spending on oil imports will be higher than 2008, if oil prices remain at current levels through 2011, and will present a serious risk to derail global economic recovery.

Stronger penetration of natural gas

Dr Birol shares that stronger penetration of natural gas could have profound implications for global energy markets. The majority of global natural gas production will continue to come from conventional sources but unconventional gas becomes increasingly important.

Natural gas can enhance the security of fuel supply. Global natural gas resources exceed 250 years of current production, while in each region, resources exceed 75 years of current consumption. Natural gas are also dispersed in many countries, unlike oil.

However, challenges remain in shale gas production due to environmental problems. The process need large volumes of water to fracture rocks, and uses chemicals that lead to the contamination of water.

The good news is that the challenges can be fixed with existing technologies, the government putting in the right regulations, and companies using the best technology.

The growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) production also enhances supply security and market flexibility. Australia is becoming the leading LNG supplier, followed by Qatar. Singapore could also become the regional hub for LNG.

Coal and renewable energy

Dr Birol explains that coal would remain the backbone of global electricity generation. The drop in coal-fired generation in OECD countries is offset by big increases elsewhere, especially in China, where 600 GW of new capacity exceeds the current capacity of US, EU and Japan.

Renewables would enter mainstream as the use of renewable energy triples between 2008 and 2035, but only if there is enough government support. Government support remains as the key driver, rising from $57 billion in 2009 to $205 billion in 2035, but higher fossil fuel prices and declining investment costs also spur the growth of renewable energy.


Dr Birol believes that China will be instrumental in shaping all energy markets. China would become the market leader in low-carbon technologies, given the sheer scale of China’s market. Its push to expand the role of low carbon technologies is poised to play a key role in driving down costs, to the benefit of all countries. If China becomes the low-carbon technology champion, this would have impacts on current champions in Europe and US.

Door to 2°C may be closing

Dr Birol warns that given the current status quo of international climate policy and efforts, the “door to 2°C may be closing” soon. The 2°C scenario assumes vigorous implementation of the Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreement pledges to 2020 and much stronger action thereafter. In this scenario, energy related CO2 emissions need to peak before 2020. This does not seem to be happening. In addition, all major emitters have to move, if not, the problem would not be solved.

Nuclear energy

Dr Birol shares that lower nuclear use would have implications for fuel mix, pushing up demand for coal, natural gas and renewables, and have a corresponding knock-on effect on energy prices. The implication for CO2 is that the growth in emissions from the power sector in 2008-2035 would be almost 30% higher in a lower nuclear case.

Dr Birol concludes that existing and announced policies can make a difference, but fall well short of what is needed for a secure and sustainable energy future. Energy and geopolitics will also be more and more interwoven.


Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International  Energy Agency (IEA), today addressed a 350-strong audience of energy players at the second instalment of the EMA’s Distinguished Speaker Programme (DSP).  The first DSP took place on 29 April, with Tenaga Nasional Bhd Chairman, Tan Sri Leo Moggie,speaking on “The Dynamics of the Electricity Industry”.

Speaking on the theme, “A Glimpse into the Energy Future”, Dr Birol began by highlightingthe major structural shift in energy demand from OECD countries such as the US, Japan, Korea and Australia, to non-OECD countries particularly China, India and the Middle East. In fact, the Chief Economist quipped that today’s global energy demand is being driven by five countries and/or region, namely China, China, China, and then India and the Middle East. This, he said, could have substantial energy implications for global energy mix and security.

Announcing that the era of cheap oil is over, Dr Birol revealed how there has been structural changes in oil markets. For example, he shared how the vast majority of demand for oil is being driven by transportation, as opposed to power generation. Unlike power generation, cars, planes and automobiles can run on only oil and this results in rigid demand, said the Chief Economist.  He continued by saying that demand for oil-dependent vehicles is only going to increase, putting pressure on depleting oil resources and the need to find alternative fuel choices for vehicles.  He added that oil resources also lie in areas of increasing geo-political uncertainty, which can impact the security of oil supply.

On the other hand, Dr Birol said the picture for gas is much more positive in terms of both the amount of resources available and security of supply.  IEA, which had recently published the report “Are We Entering A Golden Age of Gas”, projected that  global resources of natural gas will exceed 250 years of current production. In each region, resources will exceed 75 years of current consumption.   Dr Birol also highlighted that the other major advantage of gas lies in its dispersion, which means gas is not confined to or concentrated in any one region.  

Later, Dr Birol would tell audiences during the Q&A session that the Golden Age of Gas must be met by golden standards. For countries to clear the hurdles to gas, particularly to shale gas where its production has caused environmental concerns, governments would need to put the right regulations in place, while companies would have to use the right technology.  Dr Birol also commented that with the upcoming LNG terminal due to come online in 2013, Singapore is well-placed to be an LNG hub for the region.

Turning to coal, Dr Birol reminded all that the fossil fuel is currently the backbone of the global electricity generation industry. He shared that half the world’s electricity generation comes from coal, while the other half is made up of oil, gas and renewables combined.  With electricity generation increasingly fuelled by gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel, he highlighted that this would have a positive impact on climate change and carbon emissions.  Nevertheless, this by itself is insufficient to limit the average global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

In fact, this is a topic close to his heart, and Dr Birol shared his disappointment that an agreement was not reached in Copenhagen.  While the Cancun Agreement does commit countries to reducing emissions, he put this into perspective by highlighting the current debate regarding cutting European emissions to either 20 or 30 percent, which really works out to roughly two weeks of Chinese emissions.

Given the current status quo of the international climate policy and efforts, Dr Birol feared that the “door to 2 degrees Celsius may be closing” soon.

The good news is that every government Dr Birol has encountered is pushing forward a strong renewables programme.  He explained that government support is essential as the cost of renewables can be prohibitive. Again, he sees China emerging as the main driving force behind renewables and low carbon technology, in particular solar, wind, nuclear and electric cars.  The Chief Economist said China’s dominance of the market will positively impact clean technologies by providing the necessary scale to lower costs, but added the caveat that this could also have a converse impact on current cleantech companies.

The Fukushima tragedy has also had an impact on the global energy landscape, with nuclear’s generation share expected to drop to 10 percent in 2035, from 14 percent today. This, he said, will leave a gap that must be filled by coal, gas or renewables, which in turn will result in almost 30 percent greater higher emissions from 2008-2035.

In summing up, Dr Birol felt that energy and geopolitics will become increasingly interwoven, with an impact on supply security.  While existing and upcoming policies can make a difference, they fall well short of what is needed for a secure and sustainable energy future.  The volatility and upturn in oil prices in particular, could undermine global economic recovery.  Against this bleak backdrop, Dr Birol said a stronger penetration of natural gas could have profound and potentially positive implications for global energy markets, with China continuing to be instrumental in shaping our energy future.


China Gets More of the Same: Extreme Weather

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

China Gets More of the Same: Extreme Weather

We all know that it is unwise to attribute major weather events – like the current devastating floods in China – to climate change, but the trend is there for all to see. More extreme weather events, more often. Bill McKibben says it’s because the atmosphere is 4% more wet than 40 years ago because warm air holds more water than cold air. That means more deluge and downpour in wet areas and more dryness in dry areas. So we’re seeing more destructive mega floods and storms, increasing thunderstorms, and increasing lightning strikes.”

ZHUJI, China by Reuters (19 June 2011):

 Torrential rain across southern and eastern China which has killed more than 100 people and triggered the evacuation of half a million has left large areas of farmland devastated as food prices surge, state media said on Sunday.

Weeks of rainstorms in the stricken province of Zhejiang in the Yangtze delta have caused nearly 5 billion yuan (447 million pounds) of damage, reducing vegetable production by 20 percent and pushing prices in the provincial capital of Hangzhou up by as much as 40 percent, Xinhua said.

China is hit by flooding and drought every year.

The rain is expected to continue for the next two days, stretching from the financial hub of Shanghai in the east to rural Yunnan on China’s southwestern border.

Villagers on the outskirts of the city of Zhuji in Zhejiang returned to their homes on Sunday as flood waters began to recede.

“Right now, I am just clearing up the things in my store,” said 37-year-old shop owner Peng Gao. “It’s not about whether the floods will come again. If we don’t clear the things, we will not be able to use them again.”

Two towns were flooded and thousands were evacuated following the breach of two dykes in Zhuji on Thursday.

China has mobilised troops across the region to rescue stricken farmers and distribute food, but some villagers said the local government could have done more to prevent the flooding.

“When it first started, the breach (in the flood protection dyke) was not that huge — we could have easily fixed it,” said 22-year old villager Shou Qiongdan.

“But the government did not do anything. None of the local officials tried to salvage the situation. That’s why we have such huge economic losses and so many people being affected by the flooding.”

In neighbouring Jiangsu province, the city of Suzhou was hit by more than 200 mm of rainfall on Friday night, and water at the Tai Lake had already exceeded flood alert levels, the China News Service said.

In central China’s Hubei, two people were killed after the Yangtze river and its tributaries burst their banks, with as many as 3 million people affected, Xinhua said in a separate report. Further downstream in Anhui province, three died and another 120,000 were evacuated as a result of floods.

In southwest China’s Sichuan province, five people were killed and another seven remain missing after a water diversion tunnel was flooded on Friday, the China News Service said. ($1 = 6.471 yuan)


By Dahr Jamail Al-Jazeera (23 June 2011):

Severe weather events are wracking the planet, and experts warn of even greater consequences to come

The rate of ice loss in two of Greenland’s largest glaciers has increased so much in the last 10 years that the amount of melted water would be enough to completely fill Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in North America.

West Texas is currently undergoing its worst drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, leaving wheat and cotton crops in the state in an extremely dire situation due to lack of soil moisture, as wildfires continue to burn.

Central China recently experienced its worst drought in more than 50 years. Regional authorities have declared more than 1,300 lakes “dead”, meaning they are out of use for both irrigation and drinking water supply.

Floods have struck Eastern and Southern China, killing at least 52 and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, followed by severe flooding that again hit Eastern China, displacing or otherwise affecting five million people.

Meanwhile in Europe, crops in the northwest are suffering the driest weather in decades.

Scientific research confirms that, so far, humankind has raised the Earth’s temperature, and the aforementioned events are a sign of what is to come.

“If you had a satellite view of the planet in the summer, there is about 40 per cent less ice in the Arctic than when Apollo 8 [in 1968] first sent back those photos [of Earth],” Bill McKibben, world renowned environmentalist and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences told Al Jazeera, “Oceans are 30 per cent more acidic than they were 40 years ago. The atmosphere is four per cent more wet than 40 years ago because warm air holds more water than cold air. That means more deluge and downpour in wet areas and more dryness in dry areas. So we’re seeing more destructive mega floods and storms, increasing thunderstorms, and increasing lightning strikes.”

So far human greenhouse gas emissions have raised the temperature of the planet by one degree Celsius.

“Climatologists tell us unless we get off gas, coal, and oil, that number will be four to five degrees before the end of this century,” said McKibben, “If one degree is enough to melt the Arctic, we’d be best not to hit four degrees.”

Climate change is bad for you

Brian Schwartz is a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Increasing temperatures cause direct health effects related to heat; there will be more common events like the 30,000 to 50,000 persons who died in Europe in 2003 due to the heat wave there,” Professor Schwartz told Al Jazeera, “Increasing temperatures also cause more air pollution, due to photochemical reactions that increase with higher temperatures. This will cause more morbidity and mortality from pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.”

Schwartz, who is also the co-director of the Programme on Global Sustainability and Health, said that lack of clean water, a phenomenon that is also a product of climate change, will lead to increases in morbidity and mortality from a variety of water-borne diseases.

In addition, vector-borne diseases, diseases in which the pathogenic microorganism is transmitted from an infected individual to another individual by an arthropod or other agent, will change in their distribution as the climate changes.

“Populations will be on the move as food and water production is threatened; these so-called environmental refugees, that the world has already seen, suffer a variety of increased health risks,” added Schwartz, “How climate change affects economies and sociopolitical systems will contribute to other physical and mental health stresses for populations.”

Professor Cindy Parker co-directs the Programme on Global Environmental Sustainability and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Environment, Energy, Sustainability, and Health Institute.

Like Professor Schwartz, she also sees an increase in vector-borne diseases as climate change progresses.

“Infectious diseases carried by insects, like malaria, Lyme disease, Dengue fever, these are all expected to worsen,” Parker told Al Jazeera, “These diseases will likely worsen, like malaria, at higher elevations in virgin populations who’ve not developed resistance to these diseases, so there will be greater effect on these populations.”

She believes that diseases that have yet to arise will begin to develop as the planet continues warming. “The biggest threat is the disease we’re not yet expecting, but that will develop and we’ll be ill equipped to handle.”

Parker fears other far-reaching health impacts resulting from our heating up of the planet.

“Everything that affects our environment affects our health,” Parker said, “As fancy as our technology is, we still cannot live without clean water, air, and food, and we rely on our environment for these.”

This fact is primarily why she believes that climate change is the most health-damaging problem humanity has ever faced.

Parker cited Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans in 2005, killing nearly 2,000 and pegged as the costliest natural disaster in US history, as a weather warning example.

“If you look at the health impacts on the Gulf of Mexico’s population that was impacted by the storm, mental health illnesses are much worse than the rest of country, chronic illnesses are greater, mostly because trauma has great effects on our psyches and physical bodies,” she explained, “But also because prior to Katrina there were seven hospitals in New Orleans, and now there are 2.5 hospitals operating. Those that were lost didn’t come back. They are gone.”

Hurricane Katrina also caused job loss, which led to loss of health insurance, which led to peoples’ health indicators worsening.

“Homelessness is a big contributor, and these problems are still going on, people have not recovered,” Parker continued, “And with extreme weather events around the world, there are these huge health effects which persist.”

Parker is concerned about what the future has in store for us if climate change continues unabated, as it currently appears to be doing, given that most governments continue to fail to implement an actionable plan to avert it.

“People think technology is going to save us from climate change, but there is no technology on the horizon that will allow us to adapt ourselves out of this mess,” Parker said, “We can physiologically adapt to higher temperatures, but all that adaptation is not going to save us unless we also get the climate stabilised.”

“If this continues unabated this planet will not be habitable by the species that are on it, including humans,” she concluded, “It will be a very different planet. One that is not very conducive to human life.”

“The rule of thumb is that every degree increase in temperature decreases the wheat harvest by 10 per cent,” said McKibben, speaking about the effect climate change has on global food production, “Food cost has increased between 70 and 80 per cent in the last year for basic grains. For millions around the world, they are already affected by not having enough.”

McKibben is deeply concerned about what he sees when he looks into the future of what we should expect with climate change.

“We’re going to keep seeing increased amounts of these extreme kinds of droughts, floods, and storms,” he said, “Everything that happens that isn’t volcanic or tectonic draws its power from the sun and we are getting more of everything by amping up the sun’s power in the atmosphere by adding more CO2.”

Ryerson sees a bleak future for water-starved countries like Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has announced that the water they’ve been depending on, their underground aquifer for crops and drinking, will be gone by 2020,” he explained, “They are dependent on imports, and can pay for it now, but in the future when oil declines, that country faces a serious issue of sustainability.”

He is also concerned about increasing biodiversity loss.

“The key issue is the large populations of plants and animals that make the planet inhabitable,” Ryerson explained, “We need oxygen to breathe and water to drink. A three billion year evolution of plants and animals have made the planet habitable, and we are systematically destroying this biodiversity by plowing, cutting, and burning areas.”

Ryerson believes ongoing demand for products and the encroachment on wilderness areas this causes “will make life on the planet much more difficult. All of this together means the future of humanity, even with assumed innovation, has some very serious concerns. None of these problems are made easier by adding more people. The only way to achieve sustainability is to hold population growth, and have it decline.”

McKibben says everybody should be adopting an emergency response geared towards ending our reliance on fossil fuels.

“This will only be done if we charge carbon for the damage it does in the atmosphere,” he said, “The power of the fossil fuel companies is the power to keep us from doing that. As long as our governments won’t stand up to that industry, I’m afraid we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”


How to Make a Carbon Tax More Appealing

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

How to Make a Carbon Tax More Appealing

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is preparing to deliver relief to nine out of 10 households in Australia in a popular move to help win support for the planned Carbon Tax, which aims to “punish the polluters” and help the country achieve a 5% emissions reduction target. Maybe the approved Carbon Farming Initiative, applauded by Sustainable Business Australia, among others, will go towards restoring the country’s reputation.

16 June 2011

Sustainable Business Australia greatly applauds the breaking news that the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 has been passed through the House of Representatives.

Today the Parliament of Australia has taken a decisive step towards de-carbonising the Australian economy by providing a framework for the sale of carbon credits on domestic and international markets. The scheme utilises the unique role of farmers, landholders and indigenous communities across Australia, enabling them to reduce carbon emissions and develop new income streams. 

SBA has been a vocal and strong supporter of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). We look forward to advancing the opportunities created by the introduction of the legislation through the work of the market-leading SBA Bio-CCS Group.


The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, welcomed the passage of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 through the House of Representatives today, describing it as a win for farmers, a win for Indigenous Australia and a win for the environment.

The Carbon Farming Initiative is a key part of the Gillard Government’s climate change agenda. Under the Initiative, the Federal Government will help facilitate the sale of carbon credits on domestic and international markets, opening up new income streams for farmers and landholders across regional Australia.

Mr Combet said the Bill passed the House of Representatives today with support from the crossbenches, despite a bizarre eleventh hour decision by the Opposition to oppose the legislation.

“This is an important step towards delivering a carbon offset scheme in Australia. We will now work to secure this Bill’s passage through the Senate so that farmers and landholders can start reaping financial rewards from acting to tackle climate change,” Mr Combet said.

“We’ve consulted widely on developing this Initiative, with farmers, with Indigenous groups, with business and industry, and today’s vote is recognition of that work and the significant benefits this Initiative willbring to our economy and to our environment”.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, joined the Minister in welcoming the passage of the legislation through the House, saying the Opposition’s attempt to indefinitely delay the Bill has stripped them of all credibility on the issue of climate change.

“The Opposition’s been blowing hot and cold on the Carbon Farming Initiative, first calling on all sides of politics to ‘embrace’ the proposal, and now at the eleventh hour capitulating to the views of the Nationals and walking away from that commitment,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“Given that the Opposition’s so-called ‘direct action plan’ has been entirely discredited as ineffective, expensive and unworkable, the Opposition should now get behind the genuine, lasting action that will be delivered under the Gillard Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative”.

The Government will now work to secure the passage of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 through the Senate to enable the Carbon Farming Initiative to commence later this year.

Sustainable Business Australia is the peak body for the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector. We are also a think tank focusing on ‘new markets, new industries and new jobs’


7 million homes to get carbon tax relief

Samantha Maiden From: Herald Sun June 26, 2011

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is preparing to deliver relief to nine out of 10 households in Australia.

PARENTS earning up to $128,000 with three children will secure tax cuts and a boost to welfare payments under Julia Gillard’s carbon tax compensation plan.

But some dual-income families earning much more will also secure relief because they can double-dip with family assistance and tax cuts.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the Prime Minister is preparing to deliver relief to nine out of 10 households in Australia as she prepares for a head-to-head battle with Tony Abbott on family tax cuts.

In the first significant detail of her tax plan, the Prime Minister has confirmed more than seven million households – 90 per cent – will secure some assistance. Most will be fully compensated.

Almost two million parents will secure increased payments under Family Tax Benefit A, which cuts out for families earning $100,000 for one child or up to $128,000 with three children.

But Mr Abbott is promising to deliver tax cuts without a carbon tax if he wins the 2013 election, labelling the Prime Minister’s plan “a con”.

Though the Gillard Government is yet to confirm the carbon tax price, the expected impost of about $20 a tonne would hit households by $500 a year or $10 a week.

But the Prime Minister told the Sunday Herald Sun most low to middle-income households would be fully compensated from July 1 next year and would not be worse off as result of the tax.

“These tax cuts and payment increases will be aimed at those who need them most – pensioners, low-income earners and middle-income earners,” she said.

“Not everybody will agree with our package. I get that. But I will be explaining exactly what help Australians get – and how they will get it.”

The Sunday Herald Sun understands that under the compensation plan being finalised:

FAMILIES who already qualify for Family Tax Benefit A will secure a boost to family payments.

DUAL-INCOME families where both parents work will be able to “double-dip”, claiming tax cuts and family payment increases.

PENSIONERS will secure up-front compensation – estimated to be about $500 a year for singles or $760 for couples.

WORKERS earning more than $150,000 a year, who will also be hit by flood tax from July 1, will largely bear the cost of the carbon tax without taxpayer-funded relief.

Mr Abbott also yesterday outlined his plan to deliver relief to families, describing middle-income families with children as “Australia’s new poor”.

“Voters are not mugs,” he said. “They know that a tax reduction to compensate for a tax increase is not a cut but a con.”

In a speech to the Liberal Party’s annual conference in Canberra, Mr Abbott said he wanted to simplify the family benefit payments system.

He said he would pay for his own planned tax cuts by cutting spending and improving productivity.


Climate Change: Investment Risk & Opportunities

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Climate Change: Investment Risk & Opportunities

For all the warm and fuzzy talk of sustainability, there’s a yawning gap between what many big investors practise and what they preach. Not only is this a shame for the environment, it also threatens to short-change the ultimate owners of the assets. According to an Investor Group on Climate Change report published this week, some 98% of global asset owners see climate change as a material risk across their portfolios. But this apparent level of concern hasn’t matched attempts to grapple with climate-related investment risks and opportunities. Only 57% of the global players had managed to specifically refer to climate change in their investment policies.

Clancy Yeates in Sydney Morning Herald

June 18, 2011

Coalmining shares may seem lucrative today, but they could be dud investments tomorrow.

Institutional investors have been reluctant to deal with the risk that changes in climate pose to portfolios.

HOLDING coalmining shares may be lucrative today, but will there come a time when overseas climate policies turn them into dud investments?

This is just one – albeit simplistic – example of the tricky questions for investors thrown up by climate change. Unfortunately, it appears this type of debate is still being shunned by some of the world’s major investment houses.

Big wealth managers such as pension funds have been making supportive noises about action on climate change for years. After all, Australia’s resource-heavy sharemarket means the typical super fund is exposed to a rising carbon price, here and around the world.

Institutional investors also have a critical role in mobilising the $1.3 trillion in super funds under management for spending on cleaner technology.

But for all the warm and fuzzy talk of sustainability, there’s a yawning gap between what many big investors practise and what they preach. Not only is this a shame for the environment, it also threatens to short-change the ultimate owners of the assets. Thanks to super, that’s most of us.

According to an Investor Group on Climate Change report published this week, some 98 per cent of global asset owners see climate change as a material risk across their portfolios.

But this apparent level of concern hasn’t matched attempts to grapple with climate-related investment risks and opportunities. Only 57 per cent of the global players had managed to specifically refer to climate change in their investment policies. The $70 billion Future Fund also came under fire over its approach to climate risks in April after a freedom-of-information request revealed its board had not discussed climate change at any formal meetings since 2007. As the Climate Institute’s business director, Julian Poulter, said at the time: ”It seems extraordinary that potentially the greatest risk to that portfolio has had no consideration by the board of guardians.”

The revelation raises a key question: why do so many big investors seem to be overlooking the serious risks posed by climate change?

The investors like to blame squabbling politicians for failing to introduce a carbon price.

The logic is hard to dispute and the Investor Group’s report this week confirmed what economists know: price signals work.

The report found pension funds in Europe – the biggest economic region to have an emissions trading scheme – were leading the world in climate investments. But even in Europe, only 0.5 per cent of assets were invested in low-emissions projects such as renewable energy.

Australian funds directed just 0.3 per cent into climate-friendly assets. The US, where a carbon price has fallen off the political agenda, lagged behind with less than 0.1 per cent.

It seems clear a carbon price makes a difference, but big investors should also take some of the rap for their sluggish response to climate change risks.

Moves towards greater climate disclosure have been met with stubborn resistance at the big end of town.

The Asset Owners Disclosure Project has faced an uphill battle in attempting to extract climate risk data from the world’s 1000 biggest pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and insurers. When the Climate Institute tabled a resolution calling on Woodside Petroleum to reveal its carbon-price assumptions earlier this year, the move was defeated by an overwhelming majority of shareholders.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that many institutional investors are also guilty of dragging their feet on climate change – just like politicians.


Global Warming Talks To Go On & Europeans Reach Forest Accord

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Global Warming Talks To Go On  & Europeans Reach Forest Accord

New talks on global warming ended in Bonn with the UN’s climate chief calling on world leaders to help resolve issues ahead of a key meeting six months down the road. “There is a growing realisation that resolving the future of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential task this year and will require high-level political guidance,” said Christiana Figueres. Meanwhile, European countries have agreed to begin drawing up the first legally-binding accord to protect the continent’s forests, the Norwegian government has said.

Climate chief pleads for ‘high-level’ push on Kyoto

By Marlowe Hood (AFP) 18 June 2011

BONN — New talks on global warming ended here Friday with the UN’s climate chief calling on world leaders to help resolve the fate of the Kyoto Protocol ahead of a key meeting six months down the road.

“There is a growing realisation that resolving the future of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential task this year and will require high-level political guidance,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“By Durban, governments need to come forward with options that will be acceptable to all parties,” she told journalists, referring to the UNFCCC’s annual gathering, taking place in November 28-December 9 in Durban, South Africa.

Kyoto is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases.

But its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

A first commitment period covering nearly 40 industrialised countries — except for Washington, which refuses to ratify Kyoto — expires at the end of 2012.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations — including emerging giants such as China and India, which do not have binding targets — beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

“It is not enough for the EU to simply sign up for another commitment period,” said Belgium’s Jurgen Lefevere, representing the European Commission.

“We only represent about 11 percent of global emissions. We need a solution for the remaining 89 percent as well.”

Developing countries, though, insisted the Protocol be renewed in its current form.

The Protocol remains critically important because it contains proven market-based mechanisms for CO2 reduction and tools to quantify and monitor such efforts, Figueres argued.

If Kyoto collapses, it could stymie progress elsewhere in the hugely complex, dual-track talks, negotiators here warned.

Figueres said the fate of Kyoto is closely linked to progress in the parallel UNFCCC negotiations, which include all nations under the Convention.

These talks made headway in Bonn on technical matters, but remain deeply riven on the core issue of how to share out the task of slashing carbon pollution.

“Governments are realising that this link needs to be dealt with to get to a global solution, and that will require high-level leadership during the year.”

There will be at least three opportunities for such dialogue between now and late November, she said, including a meeting of heads of state organised by Mexico on the margin of the UN General Assembly in September.

One option discussed being closed doors in Bonn is a “political” deal to extend Kyoto commitments “for one, two, three years,” said Jose Romero, a veteran climate negotiator for Switzerland.

“That gives us some air to look for a solution” under the other track of the climate talks, he said.

The United States recognizes actions taken by China to slow the growth of its carbon emissions, but said they should be more transparent.

“That’s the conversation that we are currently having with the developing government,” said US negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said he had met separately in Bonn with both his Chinese and Indian counterparts.

“But we haven’t agreed on that. That is one of the outcomes that we think would be very significant in Durban.”

Even if a scaled-down second round of Kyoto commitments — including the EU and a few other small nations — may be acceptable to some developing countries.

“It is better to have that than having nothing at all,” said Grenada’s Dessima Williams, chair of the the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

At the same time, rich nations must “raise their level of ambition,” she told AFP.

Under current trajectories, “we are looking at a 4.0 degree Celsius (9.2 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global average temperatures,” she said.

The figure of 2.0 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels is widely viewed as a safety threshold although many scientists say it is no guarantee of preventing extensive damage to the climate system, inflicting worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas.


For a full report on the European forestry accord go to –

 – the website of the International Institute for Sustainable Development

AFP report (15June 2011):

European countries agreed on Thursday to begin drawing up the first legally-binding accord to protect the continent’s forests, the Norwegian government said.

The Nordic country, currently hosting the ministerial conference Forest Europe, described the development as a “historic breakthrough.”

“The reaching of an agreement to begin negotiations is significant progress in itself,” said Norway’s Agriculture Minister Lars Peder Brekk.

“In the field of international forestry policy, it’s a historic breakthrough,” he added.

Forest Europe was created in 1990 to encourage the protection and sustainable development of forests across its 46 member states.

Negotiations on the terms of the accord will begin December 2012 at the latest and will close on June 30 the following year.

According to the report published during the conference Europe, including Russian territory, accounts for about a quarter of the world’s woods.

The State of Europe’s Forests 2011 said the continent’s expanding forest areas removed 879 million tonnes of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere each year between 2005 and 2010 — around 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe in 2008.


Subsidies for China Clean Energy & Solar for New York Roofs

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Subsidies for China Clean Energy & Solar for New York Roofs

The Chinese government is considering plans to subsidize the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy technologies in new buildings and is encouraging provincial and municipal governments to impose stricter efficiency standards than the national minimums, according to Chinese officials. And two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map..

By KEITH BRADSHER in New York Times (15 June 2011):

SHANGHAI — The Chinese government is considering plans to subsidize the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy technologies in new buildings and is encouraging provincial and municipal governments to impose stricter efficiency standards than the national minimums, Chinese officials said Wednesday.

China’s heightened interest in saving energy — a response to electricity shortages and blackouts this year as well as longer-term security worries about dependence on energy imports — comes as the country’s construction industry continues to barrel ahead at a breathtaking pace. Last year, China consumed eight times as much cement as the world’s second-largest consumer, India, and it now leads the world in consumption of steel and other industrial materials by wide margins.

With 13 million to 21 million rural people in China migrating to cities each year — a number comparable to the 18.9 million people in metropolitan New York — the real estate industry has been putting up office towers and apartment buildings at a brisk pace but often with little regard for energy efficiency.

Chinese estimates show that the country’s commercial office buildings use 10 to 20 percent less electricity per square meter than comparable Western buildings. But the savings tend to come not from better designs but from thermostats set as high as 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in summer and as low as 18 degrees (64 Fahrenheit) in winter.

Senior executives in the glass manufacturing and other material industries said that Chinese construction companies had long chosen low-cost, less insulated materials because buildings in China tended to change hands so frequently that owners seldom looked at long-term paybacks from electricity savings.

The construction boom is a central reason China passed the United States last year as the world’s largest consumer of electricity. China has also passed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of global warming gases, although it lags far behind in emissions and electricity consumption per person, because it has more than four times as many people as the United States.

Hao Bin, the building energy-efficiency director at the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said Wednesday that the ministry had already adopted an energy labeling system for new commercial and government buildings but wanted to create fiscal incentives for developers to use more efficient materials and adopt renewable energy. The most effective course seems to lie in subsidies for materials, as government studies have suggested that tax credits would be less effective, he said.

Some Chinese cities and provinces, from Beijing in the northeast to Yunnan in the southwest, already have limited subsidies for construction supplies, including insulation and rooftop solar water heaters. The heaters have water-filled steel tubes that zigzag in front of a reflective surface, which concentrates the sun’s rays on the tubes.

The Chinese central government has begun taking preliminary steps to subsidize the installation of rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, but the Finance Ministry has moved slowly because of concerns about the potential cost. China already manufactures more than half the world’s solar panels, but exports almost all of them.

Mr. Hao declined to provide a date for the introduction of a national incentive policy for energy-efficient construction materials and did not specify what materials would qualify. But he said that it was a focus of policy planners.

The question that policy makers are asking themselves, he said, is, “How can we have a carrot policy which is supplemented by our labeling system?”

Provincial governments have already begun subsidizing the construction of factories that produce energy-efficient products like triple-layer insulated glass.

Hongda Vacuum, a manufacturer of glass-coating equipment for solar panels and insulated windows, bought valuable land next to a large road six years ago on the outskirts of Changsha in Hunan Province for a third of the cost at the time for industrial land, said Huang Le, a marketing executive for the company. Surging land prices since then meant that the property soon became worth 10 times as much on the market as the price the company had paid for it, with a discount, in 2005, he said in an interview last year.

“We got the discount because we are a good project, something the government really wants to promote,” Mr. Huang said, adding that the company could borrow against the value of the land to finance expansion.

The central government has already renovated nearly 5,000 of its own buildings in northern China to install more insulation. It has subsidized similar renovations for buildings owned by provincial, municipal and village governments.

A complication for China is that the latest five-year plan, starting this year, calls for a sharp increase in the construction of low-income housing — traditionally an industry with low profit margins and a bias toward inexpensive materials — together with further curbs on the construction of high-end housing.

But Zhou Jiang, a policy researcher for the housing ministry, said Wednesday that energy-efficient materials added only 5 to 10 percent to the cost of a building.

“It is possible we build our low-income housing as green buildings,” Mr. Zhou said.

He and Mr. Hao were speaking at the opening of the Global Green Building China Focus 2011 conference in Shanghai.

One point that they did not address was how long it might take for energy-saving materials to pay for themselves in electricity savings. The Chinese government has been holding down electricity prices as an anti-inflation measure even as spot prices for coal, the country’s dominant fuel for power generation, have doubled in the last five years.

Chinese electricity companies have responded by limiting the operating hours of coal-fired plants in the last two years and slowing construction of new power plants, causing blackouts that have focused more public attention on the energy efficiency of buildings.

Residential electricity rates in China are half to two-thirds of rates in the United States. Industrial electricity rates in China are officially higher than those in the United States, but large or politically connected users frequently receive discounts.

By MIREYA NAVARRO in New York Times (16 June 2011):

Two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map to be made public on Thursday.

People interested in solar power can now check the suitability of any city address for solar panels and what their impact would be. Details are also available for properties that have panels, above.

The map, which shows the solar potential of each of the city’s one-million-plus buildings, is a result of a series of flights over the city by an airplane equipped with a laser system known as Lidar, for light detection and ranging.

Swooping over the five boroughs last year, the plane collected precise information about the shape, angle and size of the city’s rooftops and the shading provided from trees and structures around them.

The map is at the Web site of the City University of New York. City officials said the information should advance efforts to increase the city’s reliance on solar power as part of its energy mix, reducing the metropolis’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The quality of the Lidar information is so remarkable that it will much more rapidly unlock usable sites,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor for operations.

Over all, the images show that 66.4 percent of the city’s buildings have roof space suitable for solar panels, said the CUNY team, which developed the map in partnership with the city and the federal Department of Energy. The rooftops could generate up to 5,847 megawatts from hundreds of thousands of buildings, the team said, compared with the negligible 6.5 megawatts yielded now from about 400 installations.

At those output levels, the panels could meet 49.7 percent of the current estimated daytime peak demand and about 14 percent of the city’s total annual electricity use, the officials said. The figures consider typical weather conditions.

Yet harnessing solar power also involves overcoming barriers like the upfront costs of installation, the availability of installers and the ability of utilities to integrate solar power into their grid. Solar power is projected to grow into a $12-billion-a-year industry this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, but the sector is still in its infancy.

Nationwide, the installed solar capacity is just 2,300 megawatts, less than half the rooftop potential of New York City.

“We’re just really beginning,” said Rhone Resch, president of the trade group.

The solar map will allow New Yorkers to type in the address of a building where they live or work and find out how much solar power the roof can yield and at what cost. The Web site indicates what government financial incentives are available to help cover the costs and calculates how long it would take a building’s owner to recoup the costs in energy savings.

For the more environmentally minded, the map also shows how much carbon dioxide emissions each property would avoid, in pounds and by the number of trees that, if planted, could absorb that amount of emissions.

The solar map alone cost $210,000 and was financed by the federal Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program. The city provided $450,000 for the Lidar flights.

Lidar produces images of structures, trees, wetlands and other surface terrain by shooting laser pulses from an aircraft and measuring the time it takes the pulses to bounce back. Its data will also be used to update flood maps.

More than a dozen cities already use similar maps, although not necessarily prepared with the Lidar system, and some of the maps have contributed to broadening the use of solar power. In San Francisco, the number of solar installations on private roofs rose to more than 2,300 this year, from 551 in 2007, when the solar map was introduced along with financial incentives like tax credits and rebates.

“It’s sort of a one-stop shop for people to understand what the technology is, does it make financial sense, are others doing this,” said Danielle Murray, the renewable energy program manager for San Francisco’s Environment Department. “You realize that you’re not alone, and that it’s a smart investment.”

In New York, David Bragdon, director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said the city could realistically add “thousands of megawatts” in solar power.

To that end, Mr. Bragdon said, it has been working on streamlining the installation permit process and relaxing building regulations to accommodate the panels, in addition to pursuing larger-scale solar projects at landfills and other sites.

Officials with Con Edison, the utility that supplies electric service to most of the city, said they were developing a centralized Web site to reduce the cost and time of going through all the paperwork required to install the panels, which currently can take up to a year.

The city had already identified some “solar empowerment zones” where solar energy would be most beneficial, based on growing demand for power and other factors. The solar map now will offer roof-by-roof information within those  zones, allowing planners to locate and aid owners in areas with the highest demand on hot and sunny days.

“This map can serve as a key foundation toward building a new infrastructure, a clean energy infrastructure, for New York City,” said Tria Case, the director of sustainability for CUNY.


Energy Efficiency in The Wind & Innovative Systems

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Energy Efficiency in The Wind & Innovative Systems

Energy efficiency need not always be achieved by new forms of technology. Innovative systems thinking will sometimes do the trick, says the Energy Studies Institute. When it comes to energy efficiency, engineers tend to focus on how much they can get from a resource – conversion – and more efficient use of the energy by the consumer at the other end. And the lack of strong wind in Singapore hasn’t stopped Vestas from expanding at the new, energy-efficient Mapletree Business City in Pasir Panjang.

By Catrina Yeo in The Straits Times (13 June 2011):

The writer is an energy analyst at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore.

Greater energy efficiency has been recognised as the most important weapon in the struggle to secure energy sources and battle climate change, but the debate over its potential still rages on.

The usual practice is to take an economic or engineering view of energy efficiency.

A typical engineer would calculate a higher energy efficiency potential than an economist, who would factor in cost. But this does not mean the engineer’s point of view is more accurate or less pragmatic than the economist’s. What is needed is a perspective of energy efficiency that considers the system as a whole.

Mainstream economists argue against a high energy efficiency potential on the basis of price-driven market forces which assume the market will automatically capture the benefits of cost-efficient actions.

Price does drive market forces, but not always. An energy market is an example of a large and complex system in which social and technical factors weaken the influence of price on decisions.

For example, in the early 1990s, Chicago was unable to reduce electricity consumption as much as Seattle even though its electricity tariff was twice as high. Seattle’s success was due to a conservation programme which increased awareness of energy efficiency.

On the other hand, engineers sometimes fall into the trap of their own expertise. They often lack a systemic view due to over-familiarity or over-specialisation. They tend to approach energy efficiency by zooming in on a component or activity, such as retro-fitting, which may not lead to overall improvement.

A system is more than the sum of its parts and component changes do not necessarily improve the whole.

To take a real example from industrial practice, power consumption can be cut without installing a more efficient or sophisticated pump in a heat-transfer pumping loop. It can be done simply by rearranging the pipelines and pumps.

Energy efficiency need not always be achieved by new forms of technology. Innovative systems thinking will sometimes do the trick.

When it comes to energy efficiency, engineers tend to focus on how much they can get from a resource – conversion – and more efficient use of the energy by the consumer at the other end. But these are concerns that target a specific component.

A broader approach would, for instance, try to remove the need for that energy in the first place.

Increasingly, in the area of transport energy efficiency, analysts are working to take vehicles, which will inevitably consume energy, out of the equation. This can be done via efficient urban planning that will enable people to get where they need to go without a vehicle. Why design something that is not needed in the first place, only to try to improve its efficiency later?

A systemic approach also applies to the timeframe of a project. Contrary to the popular faith in the law of diminishing returns, Dow Chemicals in Louisiana saved more energy in the later years of its efficiency efforts.

The potential of energy efficiency will always exist and it changes with its system’s dynamics. Energy-efficient targets should be seen not as numbers to be achieved but as a practice of continuous improvement that requires a view of the whole.

The Straits Times (16 June 2011): 

The possibility of rows of wind turbines on Singapore’s coast, rotating with the breeze while powering the city-state, need not be just a fancy idea blowing in the wind.

Singapore’s wind speeds are too weak to be converted to commercial wind energy but this could change as turbines get more efficient and are able to pick up wind energy at lower speeds, said Danish wind energy giant Vestas Wind System’s president of Asia Pacific, Mr Sean Sutton.

The lack of wind, however, has not stopped Vestas from expanding here. The firm, which set up in Singapore in 2006 with 20 employees, yesterday launched a hub at the new, energy-efficient Mapletree Business City in Pasir Panjang.

It was also Global Wind Day yesterday.

Vestas will house all its units – like research and development, and regional headquarters for sales and operations – on one floor at the business park.

Mr Sutton noted that Vestas here has grown into a busy firm employing more than 200 staff.

It is flying high on the booming wind-energy sector in Asia. Last year alone, it installed more than 1,000 megawatts (MWs) of wind energy capacity in Taiwan, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Asia makes up 22 per cent of revenue – a figure that is set to increase further, he said.

‘In many countries in Asia, wind energy is becoming as cheap as power generated from fossil fuels. In the past, we used to install small 10MW wind farms. Now, it’s in the region of 400MW or more,’ he added.

Singapore’s location serves the firm well because of its proximity to Asian markets and strong financial services and talent pool with qualified engineers.

Vestas recently signed an agreement with Nanyang Technological University to establish a Joint Materials Lab within the School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Vestas Asia Pacific managing director for technology R&D Peter Cheng said yesterday that both parties will collaborate on research into how composite materials used in aircraft can be best deployed in wind technology.

The R&D team at Vestas is also looking into the idea of wind power as a support system for power plants, and how weather forecasting can help wind-power operations, he added.


Sustainability Has Become a Defining Megatrend in this Century

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Sustainability Has Become a Defining Megatrend in this Century

Three new research centres are being set up to look into energy and power usage in Asia. These are  in addition to The Earth Observatory, which is already conducting fundamental research on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami and climate change in and around Southeast Asia, to lead toward safer and more sustainable societies. It believes there is urgency in further accelerating the integration of sustainability knowledge into the decisions taken at senior levels today in business and with policy makers.

Feng Zengkun in Straits Times (15 Jun 2011):

THREE new research centres will be set up here to look into energy and power usage, said the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The centres will study solar energy, ways to convert carbon dioxide into electricity and fuel, and how to create consumer and household products that use less power. They will be housed at a complex at the NUS University Town, which will be completed by the end of the year.

Funding will come from the NRF’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (Create) programme, which pairs up local and foreign institutions.

NRF chairman Tony Tan, 71, said on Monday that the projects are important for Singapore as it lacks natural resources and has a highly industrialised economy. ‘Each of these initiatives will tackle the energy problem from a different perspective,’ he said.

The first centre is a ‘low-energy electronic systems’ project by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), under the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) centre. The scientists intend to find new ways to make household items such as lights and television screens use less electricity.

Traditionally, this was done by making the semiconductors in them smaller and more dense to minimise loss of energy. But the scientists said new techniques may yield more energy savings.

The project brings together experts from MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). They will be from different fields, such as materials, devices and circuits.

Lead principal investigator Professor Eugene Fitzgerald of MIT said the diversity is more likely to lead to a breakthrough. ‘This collaboration could define innovative paths for the industry,’ he said.

The second research centre will look at ways to make solar power cheaper and to convert sunlight into liquid fuels. It is a collaboration between NTU, NUS and the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers noted that solar energy is good for the environment but is not widely used because it is too expensive. The Energy Market Authority here has estimated that the cost of solar power is double the cost of electricity from fossil fuels. Part of this is due to the inefficiency of current solar panels, which the scientists said can convert at most 25 per cent of sunlight received into usable energy.

‘We want to double the conversion to at least 50 per cent,’ said University of California, Berkeley’s Professor Ramamoorthy Ramesh, the project’s lead principal investigator. This would make solar panels more worthwhile and solar power cheaper to produce on average. The scientists are also looking at ways to use the same amount of sunlight to split more water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be used to make methanol, a liquid fuel that can replace fossil fuels.

In the third centre, China’s Peking University will work with Singapore universities for the first time to recycle the carbon dioxide in industrial waste gases into energy and fuel.

Lead co-principal investigator Zhang Dongxiao of Peking University said this would give the manufacturing and chemical industries a greener image. ‘This can also make products from both our countries more competitive,’ added Professor Zhang.

The new centres bring the Create programme to eight overseas collaborating universities and 12 research groups. Previous collaborations under the programme have resulted in projects like the Future Cities Lab, which looks at ways to develop sustainable buildings and keep a city’s water supply clean.

NRF has set aside a total of $1 billion for the Create programme.


Earth Observatory Singapore

Here’s some insight into the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), an Institute of the Nayang Technological University. Its director is Kerry Sieh.

Kerry SIEH initiated the field of paleoseismology thirty five years ago, with the discovery of how fast California’s infamous San Andreas fault slips and how often it generates great earthquakes. Subsequently, in the formative years of the Southern California Earthquake Centre, Sieh led its effort to characterise earthquake faults beneath Los Angeles.

Prior to his arrival in Singapore, Sieh was a chaired professor in Caltech’s Tectonic that he and others at Caltech created.  Over the past two decades he and his colleagues have used coral reefs and GPS measurements to understand the patterns of great earthquakes on the Sunda megathrust, offshore Sumatra.  These discoveries have led to useful forecasts of recent and impending large Sumatran earthquakes and tsunamis. He and his students recently completed a 6-year study that redefined the active tectonics of Taiwan, and are now engaged in a comprehensive study of the earthquake faults of Myanmar.

Earth Observatory

EOS was officially launched at the Nanyang Technological University in February 2009, to study and forecast natural phenomena threatening Southeast Asia.

Natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and global climate change pose major threats to our very young, 10,000-year-old, increasingly fragile civilization.

The first few years of the 21st century have provided ample evidence of our vulnerability and our exposure. The devastations of Acehnese and Thai coasts in 2004, of Kashmir and New Orleans in 2005, of southwest Java in 2006, of Sumatra again in 2007, western Sichuan and Myanmar in 2008 and, in the early days of 2010, of Haiti, comprise a nearly incessant litany of death, loss and suffering.

In some of these cases we knew well that we were living on dangerous ground; in other cases we did not. For example, New Orleans and Port au Prince had long been recognised as a catastrophe waiting to happen, but for a variety of reasons that knowledge had no effect. Similar incongruities exist here in Southeast Asia as well. There are places sitting in the jaws of a dragon that have no scientific awareness of the tenuousness of their existence. Such was the case of the hundreds of thousands who perished in Aceh and Kashmir.

These tragic examples, one of very basic ignorance and the other of the inability to translate knowledge into action, illustrate well the challenge of acquiring basic scientific knowledge of natural processes and then utilising it effectively and in a timely fashion. 

The Earth Observatory is well positioned to face this challenge. We intend to help blaze new paths through the fascinating mysteries of this dangerous, dynamic, thin shell of our planet that we call home. We look forward to sharing our research with civic leaders, engineers, planners, and many others working to make the world a safer and a more enjoyable place.


To conduct fundamental research on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami and climate change in and around Southeast Asia, toward safer and more sustainable societies.

Sustainability has become a defining megatrend in this century. International negotiations on global climate change policy framework, stimulus packages targeted at accelerating economic transformation towards ‘green’ industry sectors, the inclusion of ‘eco-strategies’ as a thrust for multinational corporations – this all bears witness of the development.

We believe there is urgency in further accelerating the integration of sustainability knowledge into the decisions taken at senior levels today in business and with policy makers.

Through our research, executive education programs and other forms of engagements we want to contribute in building up and conveying this knowledge.


Water, Water Everywhere: Singapore Hosts Global Events

Posted by admin on June 26, 2011
Posted under Express 146

Water, Water Everywhere: Singapore Hosts Global Events

Singapore hosts one of the largest gatherings of the global water community from 4 to 8 July. Policymakers, captains of the industry and water experts will convene for the fourth edition of the Singapore International Water Week.  One highlight is the new ‘Water & Cities” showcase, which has been introduced to reflect the focus on water solutions for cities and the urban environment, highlighting case studies and business opportunities on integrated water and urban planning, as well as innovations and technologies.

Special Preview of the Singapore international Water Week:

From the 4 to 8 July 2011, Singapore will host one of the largest gatherings of the global water community. Policymakers, captains of the industry and water experts will convene at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre for the fourth edition of the Singapore International Water Week. 

Themed “Sustainable Water Solutions for a Changing Urban Environment”, this global platform for water solutions will address the latest and most pertinent water issues amid a rapidly changing urban environment.    

Today, more than half of the Earth’s population lives in cities. This trend is set to accelerate in the coming years. According to the United Nations, the world’s population will reach around 9 billion by the year 2050, of which 70% is projected to live in cities.  This growing global population, rapid urbanisation and emerging economies will place even more strain on scarce resources, one of the most precious is water.

As urbanisation and industrialisation gain momentum, the exigency is for urban planning and water management to work in tandem to address the challenge of increasing demands for clean and safe water. This creates vast opportunities for businesses and water practitioners to identify and create sustainable water solutions to meet water demands.

The flagship events of the Singapore International Water Week will deliver value to delegates, trade visitors and exhibitors, reinforcing Singapore International Water Week as the global platform for water solutions that brings policy makers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners together to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities and celebrate achievements in the water world.

The flagship programmes are:

• Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize

• Water Leaders Summit

• Water Convention

• Water Expo

• Business Forums

In just three short years, Water Expo has grown to become Asia’s most important and comprehensive water trade show that focuses on innovations and products and services, as well as best practices, successful case studies and the practical application of water technologies that are suitable across all industries. Water Expo 2011 is set to be the biggest ever with more than 600 participating companies.  It is the marketplace to connect with key customers and potential business partners as well as showcase the latest and widest range of products, services and water technologies.

This year, we continue to receive strong support from participating countries and regions. Turnout at Water Expo is set to be boosted by six new group pavilions – the Australia Pavilion, the Belgium Pavilion, the UK Pavilion, the Milwaukee Water Council Pavilion, the Water Environment Federation Pavilion and the Maryland-Asia Environmental Partnership Pavilion. This is testament to the strategic value and pro-business environment of the Singapore International Water Week, and takes the total number of group pavilions to 15 as they join returning pavilions from Canada, China, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Singapore and Taiwan.

A new element in this year’s Water Expo is Water Innovations@SIWW, which showcases the latest R&D projects spawned in Singapore, and TechXchange, a platform connecting researchers with investors to explore commercialisation opportunities for these R&D projects.

Another highlight is the new ‘Water & Cities” showcase, which has been introduced to reflect the focus on water solutions for cities and the urban environment. This showcase aims to highlight the case studies and business opportunities in Singapore and other cities on integrated water and urban planning, as well as the innovations and technologies offered by industry leaders.

With its comprehensive programme line-up, Singapore International Water Week 2011 is set to deliver value to delegates, trade visitors and exhibitors, as the global platform for water solutions.