A is for the Act of Giving

A is for the Act of Giving

Long-awaited, missed and even in-demand. Yes, we’re talking about this newsletter, which has been in a state of suspended animation for a few months.

We’re back with a vengeance to reinforce the Act of Giving, and recognise all the wonderful people who give so much of their time and effort to champion the cause of sustainability and climate change action. Who are committed to the blue economy, going beyond green to transform organisations, businesses, cities and countries for a low carbon, clean and healthy future. Cleantech, clean energy and zero waste.

It’s also a year in review, not just by 12 months but 26 letters of the alphabet, recalling my 2009 book “The ABC of Carbon” which did it lexicographically as well.

Many important A’s appear. Acronyms in lights: APO and ADB. While Armstrong Asset Management and Asia Plantation Capital show their mettle. Read your ABCs to appreciate what we’ve done best and what we can do better. Maybe this holiday season will allow more time for some of us to read and reflect. To absorb and act. We think 2014 was a watershed year in more ways than one. Art and Sustainability came together, as well as a landmark report to give Asia Pacific countries 10 actions to help counter “climate departure”. Read More     Ken Hickson


Highlights from March 2014:

Message from the Editor:  Two articles which are worth repeating, as we do believe in recycling. The second  was based on an Outcome Document which I helped write during the APO Taipei event in March 2013. The Art and Sustainability article appeared in the Straits Times, written by Sacha Kagan, who was one of the speakers at the forum help in conjunction with i Light Marina Bay 2014, where SASA was the sustainability consultant.

Let artists shape a resilient city


LAST month, I was invited to give a keynote address on art and sustainability at the i Light Symposium held at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road. The aim of the conference was to bring together leading thinkers in the area of light and art, interrogating art’s power to improve society. I had diverse conversations with artists, architects, social scientists and others, on unsustainable development. I visited neighbourhoods ranging from Marina Bay to Bukit Brown.

These first impressions raised my awareness of the specific challenges of urban resilience for Singapore. In particular, impending climate change raises the question of Singapore’s “resilience” to serious future crises.

Will it survive when the trusted approaches that granted wealth and stability to the island in the past are severely tested?

The concept of “resilience” comes from the scientific study of how natural and social systems, in the past, have managed (or not) to survive by evolving in response to changing circumstances.

Species, ecosystems and societies that have proved able to survive extreme crises share three characteristics:

“Redundancy” or having multiple pathways to doing similar things. Redundancy, however, is severely reduced by efficiency. Efficiently organised societies generally have less redundancy, thereby threatening their resilience.

Diversity – for example, having multiple ways to see the world and express ourselves, as well as multiple ways to learn from experience and transmit knowledge. Cultural diversity, as well as biological diversity, should be preserved and even increased.

Self-organisation, or the ability of communities, neighbourhoods and groups of people to organise themselves to help determine their responses to crises. This goes against the expectation that direction should come from the top. It also goes against the naive expectation that some natural market laws will spontaneously solve problems.

Urban resilience requires the realisation of these three characteristics through a city’s fabric. Singapore has a rich cultural diversity, but there is much room for progress concerning the other two characteristics.

One promising way for cities to develop these qualities of resilience is through art.

I do not mean the promotion of commercial art or art for art’s sake. Rather, the involvement of artists and other unconventional creative people in the process of urban development, to help un-plan our cities. Artists should be allowed to shape spaces where the creative and experimental spirit of the city’s inhabitants is stimulated.

Contemporary city dwellers should be allowed to freely re-imagine possible futures and experiment with more sustainable ways of life. Creative, non-commercial “spaces of possibility” are needed, countering the cancerous growth of malls in the city.

The locations of these spaces should not be government-controlled or pre-designated, as these approaches kill creativity.

Instead, they should be spaces that grow organically from efforts by the different creative, social and cultural communities.

One hopeful example of how artists have made an impact on city spaces comes from the city of Hamburg in Germany. In that city, artists are generally being pushed to market themselves as business entrepreneurs for a short-sighted “creative city”. But many artists and creative folk opposed that strategy. In 2009, a group of them formed a “Right to the City” network, gathering 100 local groups around one common principle: Urban development should be determined by its inhabitants, not by real estate.

On Aug22, 2009, 150 artists, architects and marketing experts illegally occupied a group of buildings called the “Gangeviertel”, historic workers’ quarters in the city’s centre. It was not an ordinary “squatting” but an art exhibition and series of events.

The occupiers did not merely protest against the plans of the city government and the investor: They put up an elaborate alternative plan to re-imagine the place as a centre of culture, complete with work places and social housing, to inject vibrancy into an area dominated by commercial and expensive residential buildings.

For the first time in decades, the city government, which normally evacuates occupied buildings by force within 24 hours, listened to the proposal. Seduced by the artists’ vision, they even bought back the buildings from the investor and gave the occupiers a year to finalise their concept. Rehabilitation work started late last year. Historical buildings were saved and social housing preserved.

Realising urban resilience through the arts will be a great challenge in Singapore, too, but it is not an impossible one. I saw many creative seeds which would need to be encouraged to grow. I saw young people with interesting ideas, designing and making objects, growing their own food.

There are many values of cultural heritage and biodiversity being rediscovered in the historical site of Bukit Brown.

Such sites can become exactly the kinds of undesignated spaces of experimentation and imagination that a city needs.

Source: stopinion@sph.com.sg

Sacha Kagan,the writer is a research associate, Institute of Sociology and Cultural Organisation, Leuphana University, Lueneburg in Germany. For more:https://www.sachakagan.wordpress.com/writings/

Top 10 actions to help counter ‘climate departure’ in Asia Pacific

By Ken Hickson in Eco-business.com (21 March 2014:

Ten recommended actions on energy, consumption, and cities were outlined in an outcome document at the end of a three-day conference by the Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) last week in Taipei.

The APO International Conference, under the Eco-Products International Fair 2014, focused on the impacts of climate change, particularly the concept of ‘climate departure’ or the projected timings of when countries will face the dangerous repercussions of climate change from 2020 onwards.

This refers to the findings of a University of Hawaii study reported last October in Nature, which detailed the clear indication that this ‘climate departure’ is expected to occur earlier than previously thought in Asia and the Pacific.

The APO document stressed the “need for a sense of urgency” – to set in motion “actions to make our cities and countries more sustainable, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, speed up the introduction of renewable energy, increase energy efficiency measures, and promote the prudent use of natural resources”.

The document, which will be delivered to the United Nations and its agencies, is seen as a wake-up call for all countries in the region. The targets listed demand that cities and countries in the Asia Pacific to meet at least 20 per cent of energy demand from renewable sources by 2020, as well as “to achieve up to 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency across the board by 2020”.

Other calls to action include the promotion of “sustainable consumption and production”, calling on governments to set examples for green purchasing and procurement, and the need to build “resilience into sustainable, smart, liveable cities”, such as by introduction of “sustainable technologies and transport in urban areas”.

“The APO document stressed the “need for a sense of urgency” – to set in motion “actions to make our cities and countries more sustainable, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, speed up the introduction of renewable energy, increase energy efficiency measures, and promote the prudent use of natural resources”

This document reflects APO’s strong commitment to making a positive contribution in line with the objectives of producing “action-oriented, concise, and easy to communicate” sustainable development goals following the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and “The Future We Want” outcome document adopted at Rio+20. Here are the ten recommended actions:

Creating an energy future sustainable for all

Action 1: Set targets for cities and countries in the Asia Pacific to meet at least 20% of energy demand from renewable sources by 2020

While there is an awareness of the amount of work done by various enterprises to initiate and fund renewable energy projects in the Asia Pacific, greater recognition must still be given to these efforts, along with more funding and policy support from international agencies and governments.

Other countries in the region continue to be constrained in terms of importing energy supply, although some nations are already ahead with their use of renewable energy. The EU has increased its renewable energy target to 27% by 2030; therefore, a regional approach with regional targets is required in the Asia Pacific.

Action 2: Set targets for cities and countries in the Asia Pacific to achieve up to 20% improvement in energy efficiency across the board by 2020

Since energy efficiency is the quickest way to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, countries and cities in the Asia Pacific should commit to a target of 20% improvement (compared to 2014 levels) in energy efficiency across the board by 2020. They should also standardise the energy efficiency criteria for industries, buildings, automobiles, and home and office appliances in the region.

More collaboration between the public and private sectors is required in every city and country to commit resources and funding to achieve the required level of energy efficiency.

Action 3: Encourage greater participation and partnerships among diverse stakeholders to enable access to sustainable energy for all

International and regional agencies, along with APO member governments, should encourage greater participation by all stakeholders and increase partnerships between the public and private sectors. This is to ensure that all have access to energy from sustainable sources and energy security is achieved.

This is in line with the objectives of the UN initiative on “Sustainable Energy for All” and other similar “Energy for All” campaigns. Greater media and community involvement is required to draw attention to what governments, businesses, and NGOs are currently doing. Establishing a Clean and Green Energy Day (or Week) and intensive information campaigns would help focus attention on this, especially if promoted across all cities and countries in the region.

Action 4: Adopt low-carbon technologies along with other energy management initiatives

Low-carbon technologies, along with the use of renewable energy sources, must be considered as an important part of environmental solutions and a key factor in introducing and managing energy security, productivity gains, sustainability of supply, and technological innovations.

For example, advancements in solar panels have significantly brought down costs and led to wider adoption of solar technologies by businesses and households in many countries. Similarly, feed-in tariffs have incentivized purchases of solar systems. These help encourage the use and production of low-carbon technologies, especially in countries where there are subsidies for fossil fuels.

“With the growing threat of climate change, cities in vulnerable locations need to prepare for the worst and adapt to rising sea levels, extreme weather, and possibly more frequent storm surges. There is a need to recognise the role of various stakeholders in promoting urban planning practices that take into account sustainability and smart livability.”

Promoting sustainable consumption and production

Action 5: Recognise the need for governments to set examples for green purchasing and procurement

Governments should adopt policies and practices that only allow the purchase of sustainable products and services, such that these use less energy and raw materials, produce less waste, and these support small producers and fair trade. This would minimize the overall environmental footprint in the region.

Governments also need to work with the private sector to encourage behavioural changes in the purchasing departments of public and private organisations. Sustainable consumption and production should likewise be mainstreamed as an overarching development framework in the planning process of each country.

Action 6: Emphasise the importance of designing and producing sustainable products and services among businesses

Businesses must manage the environmental and social impacts of their production and operations. They should design products and packaging that can easily be reused, repaired, or recycled. The private sector should also examine new business models for turning products into services, so that consumers pay for access rather than ownership of products.

Action 7: Encourage public-private sector partnerships to promote sustainable products among consumers

The public and private sectors should develop effective educational campaigns that enlighten consumers on the environmental impact of their choice of products and services. Businesses should ensure that their products and services are certified by recognized eco-label and green certification programmes so consumers can consciously opt for green products.

They also need to conduct shared research studies and surveys on consumer attitudes toward green products and services, eco-labels, and how these affect their purchasing behaviour.

Building resilience into sustainable, smart and liveable cities

Action 8: Develop benchmarks and best practices for more resilient, sustainable, smart and liveable cities

With the growing threat of climate change, cities in vulnerable locations need to prepare for the worst and adapt to rising sea levels, extreme weather, and possibly more frequent storm surges. There is a need to recognise the role of various stakeholders in promoting urban planning practices that take into account sustainability and smart liveability. Cities that have started to take the lead in these areas should be duly recognised.

Action 9: Encourage more test bedding of projects with public–private partnerships

Test-bedding projects should be encouraged within public–private partnerships since this leads to smart, sustainable solutions and technologies for cities, which can be shared among countries in the region.

Governments should also initiate holistic programs in the urban sector to promote renewable energy use, deploy electric vehicles or special-purpose vehicle systems, design self-sustaining buildings, and adopt municipal and industrial waste or biomass-to-energy projects.

Action 10: Introduce sustainable technologies and transport in urban areas

More sustainable transport systems and measures should be introduced in urban areas. This will help manage the mobility and settlement of people, reduce poverty, create jobs, and resolve other social issues, as well as reduce traffic congestion and air pollution that occur in a number of cities in the region.

Transforming cities for the better through sustainable technologies should be prioritized. With the need to improve quality of life and economic competitiveness, cities must become more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly. Technology is a key lever for sustainable city development.

Effective infrastructure contributes to economic prosperity and an improved quality of life. Urban residents need clean air, potable water, security, efficient buildings, a reliable power grid, and mobility solutions.

Source: www.eco-business.com


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