Archive for the ‘Express 125’ Category

Making Sustainability Sexy!

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Making Sustainability Sexy!

No excuses this week. We’re late out because we’ve been on the road again but we have tried to give our readers something more than the Australian political scene. Finally resolved, but for how long?  Maybe it will depend on how quickly the “New Coalition of Labour, Greens & Independents” deal with climate change policy and puts a price on pollution. The call is coming from everywhere – union, business leaders and the community – for action. Also no excuse for profiling a Singaporean on the go. Howard Shaw is all for the environment but has a few novel approaches, including a G1 to rival the F1. Energy Matters has a review of solar take up in Europe & China, while HSBC has a comprehensive survey on the spectacular rise of electric vehicles. Malaysia has put a stop to a coal fired power station on environmental grounds and cargo ships are taking a faster route through  the melting Arctic ice. Singaporean Grace Chua says you cannot separate climate from the economy, while Australian David Potts reports that we’re missing out on major investments in clean tech. The Green Asia Group Carolyn Kenwrick reports on efforts to save the Bali Starling from extinction and Green magazine editor Tamsin O’Neill is doing her best to make sustainability sexy. So say all of us! – Ken Hickson

Profile: Howard Shaw

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Profile: Howard Shaw

He’s from Asia’s biggest cinema and property owning family. He’s a young man in a hurry to make a business out of being green. He runs the Singapore Environment Council and is organising a ‘green grand prix or G1′ for locally made eco cars a week before the Formula One Race in Singapore. Howard Shaw’s idea is to move away from the doom and gloom of climate change by creating awareness for the environment and emerging clean technologies.

Ken Hickson met with Howard Shaw in Singapore this week to discuss plans for the innovative G1 event as well as a host of educational and awareness raising activities he has underway for the Singapore Environment Council.

He has already taken the environmental movement further into boardrooms than anyone before him. Described as a “green crusader”, Howard is modest about his achievements but determined to get businesses on board to become more sustainable in a city noted for its high rise living, ever expanding shopping centres and high growth economy.

To provide greater insight into the man and his approach to his job as executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, we draw on this article which appeared in the Singapore Strait Times a few days ago:

Going deep-sea fishing with his family from a young age, Howard Shaw developed a love of nature.

Akshita Ninanda in the Straits Times (6 September 2010):

On a boiling hot afternoon, the air is still and heavy at the headquarters of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) in Cluny Park Road. Even a short 10-minute wait is uncomfortable. Not a fan stirs to cool the corridors in keeping with the office policy of minimising energy consumption.

Stepping into executive director Howard Shaw’s office is a welcome relief. The noon sun streaming in through big bay windows is defused by blinds and air-conditioning turned on low. Cool water is offered in reusable tumblers. Rescued from heatstroke, I admire the view of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The only plant inside the office is a small perennial in a jar reused as a plant pot. To my surprise, Mr Shaw confesses: ‘I’m lousy with plants. I kill them.’

Another surprise: The 39-year-old says he spends much of each working day in meetings with corporate bodies and associations willing to adopt eco-friendly practices. His desk is bordered by neat stacks of paper and a tie on top ‘in case of emergencies’, that is, meetings that require him to dress formally.

‘We’re unlike traditional non-governmental organisations, which are placard- holders and fence-blockers,’ he explains. ‘In Singapore, it’s very much about engaging stakeholders and finding win-win solutions.’

An example is persuading local supermarkets such as FairPrice and Cold Storage to ask customers to pay for plastic bags. It not only cuts retailers’ costs but also reduces the use of these land polluters. Bring Your Own Bag Day was launched by the council and the National Environment Agency in 2008 and is now a weekly affair.

A similar win-win green scheme is certifying products that are eco-friendly. This accreditation gets manufacturers to do their part to conserve precious planetary resources and, in return, benefit from the growing market for green goods. This certification forms a large part of the work of the council, which was set up in 1995 to facilitate green causes locally.

The council works to make businesses, schools and members of the public more conscious of their impact on the environment and helps them take action. Activities include working with school eco-clubs to design water-treatment plants and recognising industries employing eco-friendly practices at the yearly Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards.

Mr Shaw joined the council 14 years ago and has been the executive director of the non-profit, non-governmental organisation since 2003. He says he earns a monthly four-figure salary.

The council employs a staff of 11 and charges for its accreditation work. However, it is largely supported by donations in cash and kind from the Government and bodies such as the Lee Foundation and Shaw Foundation. As an Institute Of Public Character, donations to it are tax exempt.

Fund-raising can sometimes be a problem for Mr Shaw. ‘When people think of SEC, they think, ‘It’s being run by Howard Shaw, so they don’t need money’. They are wrong,’ he says with a laugh.

The middle child of three, he is the younger son of Shaw Vee King, managing director of cinema giant Shaw Organisation and son of its founder Runme Shaw. Howard’s brother Mark is vice-president of the company, which was set up in Singapore in 1924 and soon expanded to making and distributing movies in various parts of Asia. Their younger sister is a corporate analyst.

The family business supports the council in kind, allowing it to hold fund-raising gala premieres of eco-themed movies such as Earth in April.

While Mr Shaw says he has little desire to enter the family business, he refuses to comment on whether he will ever leave his job at the council.

His first nine years were spent in Hong Kong, where his father ran that overseas arm of Shaw. Even though he played on movie sets there as a child and loved watching film crews stage explosions, he says he was always more fascinated by nature than the art of film. He puts that down to being allowed to keep pets and encouraged to spend time outdoors.

‘Even when I returned to Singapore in 1979, after school, I would get together with the neighbours and go catch guppies in drains. Or spiders. I’ve a lot of scars to show from those rambling days.’

The guppies were food for the fish he kept in a marine tank, set up with the aid of his maths tutor. ‘We spent a large part of the time playing with the aquarium and less with maths,’ he recalls.

Sent to boarding school in England at age 12, he spent his free time in Marlborough House in Kent climbing trees or observing pond animals and thinking of ways to transform his love of nature into a career. Those were the years of the recycling boom, as landfill sites were being depleted in the United Kingdom and the United States.

‘My mother told me, ‘You should go into the waste business, you could potentially make a lot of money.’ Those were the days when garbage men in Los Angeles were making more money than some lawyers,’ he says. His mother, Linda, 62, is a housewife.

After finishing his A levels, he signed up to do a degree in environmental biology at Oxford Brookes University. In between, he headed back to Singapore to do his national service, volunteering for the navy diving unit.

Aquatic activities held great appeal, given the family hobby of deep-sea fishing. But going underwater was an eye-opener. ‘If you think there are a lot of plastic bags on land, there is a sea of plastic bags under the sea,’ he says with distaste. ‘It was distressing.’

And more garbage floated down each day into their training area in the Strait of Johor, according to his then diving buddy James Han, now 41. ‘It is unimaginable, the whole seabed is covered with plastic bags. You can’t even get a look at the sand,’ says the marine industry executive.

According to him, Mr Shaw was not content to just complain. He devised a barrier to trap floating debris and made his fellow national servicemen use it.

‘It made a lot of difference to us,’ says Mr Han, who was not at all surprised when his friend went on to join the Singapore Environment Council after completing his degree.

It was a new operation at Fort Canning Park in 1996 when Mr Shaw came looking for a job. It was love at first sight, he recalls. The office used recycled materials in furnishing and equipment and often kept doors and windows open instead of using fans and electric lighting. ‘Everyone walked around barefoot. I thought, this is where I want to work, it’s like Bali,’ he says.

Mrs Kirtida Mekani, 50, was then the executive director of the council. Rather than relying on his resume, she gave him five topics and access to their little library and told him to write an essay on any issue he chose.

His composition about needing to get children to engage with nature at an early age won her over. ‘I believe in picking up people with a passion. I saw his enthusiasm, I knew I had to take him. He was hungry to do things, which is important,’ she recalls. It was only later that she found out that he was ‘one of those Shaws’.

His first assignment with the council was engaging with industries and developing what would become the Singapore Environment Achievement Award.

Family connections helped, he says, usually as an ice-breaker in meetings. ‘I’m always being asked why I’m not doing movies,’ he says with a smile.

In the beginning, he says, the award was just an added trophy for the meeting room, but as consumers became more aware of eco-issues, green ideas gained credence in industry.

The Green Label now seen on products from photocopiers to food packaging is one of the checks the council administers to inform consumers that such products are easier on the environment than others. The scheme was launched by the Government in 1992 but the council keeps it going.

This year, the council got together with the Singapore Contractors Association Limited to start certifying ‘green’ contractors. It is working on ways to accredit hotels, food courts and offices for their eco-friendly stance, looking at areas from building materials to energy consumption to whether employees recycle. The benchmarks used are set through consultations with international organisations worldwide.

Demand for such accreditation is going through the roof, Mr Shaw says, as consumers have become more conscious of what they are buying. Travelling executives choose eco-friendly hotels as part of corporate social responsibility, while consumers expect purchases to come in recycled packaging.

‘Today, these green labels are essential to export-based countries. Even places such as South Korea and Taiwan will ask about your green credentials,’ he says.

As an ambassador for eco-friendliness, he tries to walk the talk, while saying he is not as hardcore as he could be.

He owns two pairs of office shoes and wears them until they fall apart. He brings tupperware to hawker centres to take food home and drives a hybrid Toyota Prius, advising family members to do the same when their cars are ready for scrap.

‘We have a lot of monster cars in the family,’ he adds with a laugh. The owner of a folding bicycle, he cycles to work ’20 per cent of the time’.

In the SEC headquarters, air-conditioning is limited to the meeting room and some workspaces and not used on Thursdays. Mr Shaw says he often feels the heat and is full of admiration for the staff who stick to their guns.

At his home in Balmoral Park, where he lives with his sister, her husband and their grandmother, natural ventilation is preferred to air-conditioning and kitchen waste is composted for the garden.

The divorced father of two daughters, aged nine and 12, says his children keep him toeing the green line, scolding him if he leaves the door to an air-conditioned room open, for example. He shares custody of them with his ex-wife and does not comment on his current partner of four years, except to say that she shares his decision to eschew shark’s fin dishes.

While not strictly vegetarian, he limits his meat intake and avoids exotic foods, since transporting them adds to greenhouse gas pollution. Recently, he gave up tuna sashimi after learning that the species is being over-fished.

He is not the sort of activist who is constantly seeking a soapbox or sending fiery missives to the media. This often comes as a surprise to people, he says.

‘But I understand the Singapore way of doing things,’ he explains. ‘It’s about consultation, a lot of it is closed door. To present your request, you have to put up a good business case for it, put up a good social case for it, rather than just go to the press straight away. If you do that, the doors slam shut.’

He learnt the value of working with the system the hard way. This was the failure of Car-Free Day in 2000, an attempt to get Singaporeans to stop driving their cars and use alternative means of transport. ‘Addressing climate change, we have to talk about cars, that’s 20 per cent of global gas emissions,’ he says.

Unfortunately, the scheme received more criticism than support from the public. ‘I don’t think we realised what we were facing in terms of the mentality of the target group. We basically got a campaign from Europe and we lifted it and dropped it in Singapore. Dropped is the right word because it went down like a lead balloon,’ he says.

‘People wrote in saying ‘On average I spend $20 a day on owning a car and SEC is telling me I shouldn’t drive it.’ There were fears that the transport system would be overcrowded. Even then Acting Environment Minister Lim Swee Say was quoted as saying that it’s okay to drive on Car-Free Day.’

The scheme was replaced with Green Transport Week to promote ‘greener mobility’, but Mr Shaw found to his dismay that this only preached to the converted. ‘If you ask the average person about GTW, they’ll say ‘Huh?”

So, he says, to widen their outreach, the council is going with the zeitgeist this year instead of against it. They are organising a ‘green grand prix or G1′ on Sept 19, a week before the Formula One Race.

Contestants from schools and polytechnics will build cars from recycled plastic and wood and zip around the F1 track. Teams from tertiary institutions will have a separate race in eco-cars they have designed to run on solar energy and electricity.

The idea is to move away from the doom and gloom of climate change and create awareness of emerging technologies, says Mr Shaw.

‘We decided we needed to have a lot more fun with this to draw people from all over Singapore. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of the whole F1 Singapore Grand Prix season?’

Source: and

Priority for Politicians: Put Price on Pollution

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Priority for Politicians: Put Price on Pollution 

A broad coalition of conservation, community and employee organisations urges the new Government  “to increase accountability and transparency on climate change policy and to ensure Australia moves quickly to establish a price on pollution and respond to climate change”. And at least one of the powerful independents now working with Government has a track record for action on climate change.  Tony Windsor introduced a private member’s bill to radically cut Australia’s carbon emissions even before the Garnaut report was released.

Media announcement (8 September 2010):

Civil society statement on a credible plan on pollution and climate change:

We are a diverse group of leading civil society organisations that represent a broad cross-section of Australians.

We believe that Australia urgently needs a price on pollution as the cost cost-effective way to reduce our greenhouse pollution and its impacts on our climate, health, environment, and security.

We strongly support the establishment of a multi-partisan climate change committee as part of a broader effort to increase accountability and transparency on climate change policy and to ensure Australia moves quickly to establish a price on pollution and respond to climate change.

It is well established that the longer we delay action, the more expensive action will be. It is also well established that an equitable, efficient and effective response to climate change requires major polluters to take responsibility for the pollution they cause.

As citizens and consumers, we will share this responsibility.

A price on and commitments to reduce pollution, alongside the Renewable Energy Target and a national energy efficiency strategy, will provide incentives for business to shift to cleaner energy and products.

The current uncertainty surrounding pollution pricing has undermined investor confidence and is delaying the long-term investments that are necessary to shift to a cleaner economy and provide abatement opportunities for regional Australia.

There is strong community support for urgent action to tackle pollution and climate change. Most Australians recognise that pollution is currently at levels that threaten the wellbeing of our nation and the lives of the world’s poor — who are most at risk from the impacts of the changing climate.

We need to begin immediately to make the change to clean energy to ensure there is a future for all of the world’s children.

A credible and effective plan to reduce pollution and respond to climate change will release billions of dollars of new investments. This will make clean energy cheaper, ensure major emitters take responsibility for the pollution they cause, create thousands of new jobs in clean energy industries and new opportunities in regional Australia.

We urge the next Australian Government to include a strong platform for action on pollution and climate change.

Specifically, we urge all members and senators to commit the next Australian Parliament to implement a price and a limit on carbon pollution, effective from 2011, that will provide long-term confidence and encouragement to enable investments in clean technologies in Australia and developing countries, that will ensure that the vulnerable are not adversely impacted, and will set us on the right course to meet the challenge of climate change.

Signed by WWF-Australia and: Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Climate Action Centre, Climate Action Network Australia, The Climate Institute, Climate Change Australia, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Environment Victoria, GetUp, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Oxfam Australia, Terrain Natural Resource Management, Total Environment Centre, Uniting Church in Australia, and World Vision Australia.


The Australian (6 September 2010):

TONY Windsor introduced a private member’s bill to radically cut Australia’s carbon emissions before the Garnaut report was even released.

The Member for New England proposed Australia’s carbon emissions be cut by at least 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 – and by 80 per cent by 2050.

Mr Windsor’s decision to vote against the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme has been read in some quarters as a sign he will back Tony Abbott’s ‘direct action’ approach to climate change.

But as the trio of country independents continue to weigh up their options, Mr Windsor has hinted the ambitious targets in his private member’s bill may not reflect his personal beliefs.

And he has played down the bill’s ambitious targets as a sign he could back a Labor-Greens minority government.

He described the private member’s bill as a “composite of what people in my electorate and other groups were saying”.

“As an independent I introduce what people want me to introduce, I don’t become the judge and jury. So there are plenty of things I have supported in the parliament that I personally don’t agree with. I try to judge the electorate’s view,” he said.

“I didn’t support the CPRS because I thought the 5 per cent was too low to rearrange the economy. If you are serious about climate change you’ve got to do something serious about it, rather than the tokenistic approach that the CPRS was,” he said.

The next government should re-think their approach to parliament, he said.

“What I have said, and I agree with the Greens on this particular point, I think we should step back from that (climate change) debate because it became very partisan in the annihilation of Malcolm Turnbull et cetera, so it’s probably a good opportunity in the hung parliament to step back again, reconsider, look at the options, you know, the real action that Tony Abbott talks about, the need for a market mechanism possibly, rather than debating the politics of it.”


Feed in Tariffs Drive Solar PV Expansion in Europe

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Feed in Tariffs Drive Solar PV Expansion in Europe

The world is experiencing an explosion of photovoltaic solar power system installations, with the European Union leading the race in clean energy generation. Germany tops the ranking in new solar energy system installed capacity, followed by Spain, thanks largely to those countries’ supportive feed-in tariff policies.  China remains the largest manufacturer of solar PV technology.

Report from Energy Matters (7 September 2010):   

The world is experiencing an explosion of photovoltaic solar power system installations, with the European Union leading the race in clean energy generation.

In 2009, newly installed photovoltaic (PV) cells world-wide produced a peak amount of electricity estimated at 7.4 GW, out of which 5.8 GW was located in Europe, according to the ninth annual Photovoltaics Status Report published today by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre(JRC). 

Germany tops the ranking in new solar energy system installed capacity, followed by Spain, thanks largely to those countries’ supportive feed-in tariff policies, which pay households and businesses a premium rate for electricity fed back into the national grid.   

The JRC report found China remains the largest manufacturer of photovoltaic cell technology, producing 4.4 GW in 2009 as compared to 2.4 GW in 2008. Taiwan (1.6 GW and 0.8 GW respectively) and Malaysia, whose production grew from 0.16 GW to 0.72 GW also lead the field.

Such is the success of renewable energy generation in the EU that another study by German energy agency DEA, to be discussed at a conference in Berlin later this year, recommends many countries on the continent will need to massively enlarge their energy grids to meet the combined demands of isolated wind and solar power stations and ambitious renewable energy targets. 

Italy alone, which trailed only Germany in new solar PV system installations in 2009, will need to expand its power grid by 170 percent by 2050 to ensure the north of the country maintains energy access to the production-heavy south.

Other key findings of the report:

- Wafer-based silicon is still the main technology for solar cells and represented 80% of the market share in 2009.

- The market share of thin-film solar products has increased from 6% in 2005 and 10% in 2007 to 16-20% in 2009.

- Concentrating photovoltaics (which uses lenses to concentrate sunlight on to photovoltaic cells) is an emerging technology growing at a fast pace, although from a low starting point.

 The existing photovoltaic technology mix is a solid foundation for future growth of the sector, as no single technology can satisfy all the different consumer needs.

The variety of photovoltaic technologies is an insurance against a “roadblock” for the implementation of solar photovoltaic electricity if material limitations or technical obstacles restrict the further development or growth of a single technology pathway.


Climate Change & Energy on Political & Business Agenda

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Climate Change & Energy on Political & Business Agenda

The head of property giant Lend Lease and chairman of the National Business Leaders’ Forum on Sustainable Development has called on business leaders to support the introduction of a price on carbon and an emissions trading scheme, saying climate change should be put firmly back on the political and business agenda. So who will head the climate change and energy portfolios in the new Government? Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator speculates.

Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator (9 September 2010):

There is growing speculation in Canberra that Senator Penny Wong will no longer be in the climate change portfolio when the new ministry is announced early next week.

Three names have been suggested as her replacement – Greg Combet, Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke. None of these are particularly contentious, even among the environmental NGOs, although Albanese’s appointment might be coloured by his animosity towards the Greens that nearly unseated him in the latest poll.

There is also talk that the energy portfolio could, or at least should, be on the move. This, however, may be based more on hope than fact; from those who either believe that climate change and energy should be part of the same portfolio, or who have been frustrated by Martin Ferguson’s perceived lack of enthusiasm for non-carbon energy.

Wong’s predicted departure is seen as voluntary as much as enforced. She is said to be exhausted by three years of working on the incredible detail of the CPRS, dealing with international climate negotiations, and then having the whole issue used as a political football between the competing ambitions of Labor apparatchiks and conservative scaremongers.

She and others feel a fresh start is needed – if not in policy, then at least in positioning. Labor has to learn how to sell its climate policy, and the new parliament will require someone with considerable negotiating skills to deal with the Greens and the independents. Wong is seen as more of a technocrat than a wheeler-dealer.

Combet would make sense because he acted as junior climate change minister in the latter part of the Rudd government – although there is also speculation he may go to defence – while Burke has acted in the agriculture and sustainable population portfolios, which gives him a sort of appreciation for the issues at hand.

Albanese might be motivated by his own political survival: if the ALP fails to advance climate change policy in this parliament, then his seat of Grayndler is most under threat.

Other names mentioned as possibilities include Kevin Rudd and Bill Shorten. The more fanciful suggestions have been Rob Oakeshott, or even Malcolm Turnbull, although that might be too much to digest even in these extraordinary times!

The fate of the energy ministry is of equal interest. Ziggy Switkowski last week made a public call for the energy portfolio to be merged with that of climate change – as has happened in the UK. And many agree – the stationary energy sector must, ultimately, bear most of the load of any far-reaching policies to reduce greenhouse emissions.

After all, it was the department of climate change that ultimately negotiated the amended legislation for the renewable energy target, and also looks after energy efficiency. It doesn’t make much sense for one market mechanism to be administered by one department, while other government mechanisms, such as the $5 billion promised to various clean energy funds, remain administered – and largely unspent – in another.

There is also immense frustration that Australia remains almost alone in the developed world in refusing to entertain market mechanisms such as large-scale feed-in tariffs, loan guarantees and tax incentives to encourage emerging technologies. Instead, the developers of these technologies  are forced to spend months competing with each other for handouts under various government programs such as Solar Flagships and the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, all the while being told the government is not in the business of picking winners, when it is patently obvious that is exactly what it is doing.

And it seems clear – at least to the renewable energy industry – that the sector is best served by a progressive thinker who understands the dynamics in play from emerging technologies such as solar, geothermal and wave and tidal; new concepts such as distributed rather than centralised energy; and the possibilities, and changing business models, presented by smart technologies in grid and home infrastructure.

There are very few – beyond the tight cabal of coal-fired generators – that believe Ferguson is the right man for that particular task.


Business calls for carbon tax intensify

Nicole Stevens for AAP (3 September 2010):

The head of property giant Lend Lease has called on business leaders to support the introduction of a price on carbon and an emissions trading scheme, saying climate change should be put firmly back on the political and business agenda.

“A price on carbon will ensure Australia is well positioned to face the future and while both political parties vie for office, we have an opportunity to firmly place this issue back on the agenda,” Lend Lease chief executive Rod Leaver said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Leaver made the comments in his new role as chairman of the National Business Leaders’ Forum on Sustainable Development (NBLF).

The comments came as both major parties vie for independent support to win office.

Mr Leaver said the introduction of a carbon price would offer Australian businesses the certainty needed to invest and develop the economy.

“I am urging other business leaders in Australia to speak out and show their support for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme within the next year.”

Mr Leaver, who succeeds Martyn Myer as chairman, will serve a three-year term at the helm of the NBLF.

The NBLF is calling for 23 key reforms, including a 25 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 90 per cent cut by 2050.

“We’ve long embraced sustainability in our work practices at Lend Lease and I believe it’s vital for Australia’s business success to help progress this agenda,” Mr Leaver said


Malaysia Rejects Power Station in Environmentally Sensitive Area

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Malaysia Rejects Power Station in Environmentally Sensitive Area

The Malaysian government rejected the latest bid by a consortium to build a coal-fired power plant on a pristine coast line in Borneo.  The proposed power plant had come under fire from a coalition of environmental groups in eastern Sabah state, arguing that the location was too close to environmentally-sensitive areas like the Coral Triangle.

Radio Australia reports (6 September 2010):

In Malaysia, a coalition of environmentalists has scored a rare victory, after the government rejected the latest bid by a consortium to build a coal-fired power plant on a pristine coast line in Borneo.

The proposed power plant in Lahad Datu had come under fire from a coalition of environmental groups in eastern Sabah state, arguing that the location was too close to environmentally-sensitive areas like the Coral Triangle.

Presenter: Luke Hunt

Speakers: Allan Haywood, Australian seaweed farmer and businessman. Wong Tack, President of Sabah’s Environmental Protection Agency and spokesman for the Green Surf Coalition

HUNT: The victory came after a three-year bitter fight between Green Surf, which led the environmental coalition and a consortium that included national electricity provider Tenaga Nasional.

They wanted to construct the 300 megawatt power station near Lahad Datu on the north east coast of Borneo in the state of Sabah — where the plant would have faced one of the world’s most bio-diverse marine environments known as the Coral Triangle.

It spans the seas around East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands and is home to 75 percent of all known coral species.

Australian businessman Allan Haywood was involved in the construction of a scientific seaweed culture farm in Lahad Datu, not far from where the 550 million dollar plant was to be built and he says the Coral Triangle and fish stocks would have been damaged by chlorine thermal discharges.

HAYWOOD: Coal fired power stations are known to be worst type of power station that you can build. They are the dirtiest and the most environmentally damaging. There are options and the simplest option would be to increase the size of gas fired power stations which are environmentally friendly.

HUNT: Green Surf is a coalition of NGOs that emerged out of protests against construction of the plant.

Its spokesman Wong Tack is also President of Sabah’s Environmental Protection Association. He says there is an abundance of alternatives to coal, in particular solar power and bio-mass that can be produced as a derivative from the state’s enormous palm oil industry.

WONG: Just looking at oil palm waste alone we have close to 30 million tons of oil palm waste. And then this is an island with long hours of sun exposure, so we look at the short term is to start a bio mass plant and the long term is the solar energy.

HUNT: Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed at the Copenhagen climate change conference last December to reduce this country’s carbon emission intensity by 40 percent by 2020. Environmentalists say this would be improbable if the country keeps building coal-fired power plants.

The plant also highlighted the differences between the isolated states of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia and the country’s west where federal politicians are often viewed as overbearing and unwilling to listen to the local population.

As a result, Wong fears that the federal decision not to build the plant was made for political expediency more than environmental concerns as there are expectations an early election will be called for the first half of next year.

WONG: We foresee an election coming soon and I think this is a political sensitive project, the coal fired power plant. So it looks like the rejection of the environmental impact assessment at this moment by the federal department of the environment is a political decision.

HUNT: Following the rejection of the impact assessment report, which claimed it was environmentally safe to proceed with the plant, a new pro-coal group emerged calling itself the People’s Assembly Action Committee.

It says most people around Lahad Datu are in favor of the plant.

The action committee is now appealing the decision and Wong says it remains possible the government could reverse its course after the next election.

If the pro-coal group succeeds then Malaysia’s efforts to meet its international obligations on carbon reduction will be seriously compromised.

Luke Hunt for Radio Australia, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia


Creating Critical Mass for Political Action on Climate

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Creating Critical Mass for Political Action on Climate

Australia is at a turning point. Whether or not the movement in public opinion turns into a vote for the Greens depends on how quickly the major parties and the independents adopt effective climate change policies. So says Professor Nicholas Low of the Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport.

Nicholas Low in The Age (6 September 2010):
Effective policies are being demanded by more and more people.


The science of climate change does not appear to be understood by the leaders of the major political parties, though it appears to be better understood by at least three of the four elected independents, as well as by the Greens MP for Melbourne.

Climate change is not just a theory, it is a scientific fact, like gravity or the orbit of Earth around the sun. The consequences of global warming are so severe that avoiding climate change is not just a policy, it must become the overriding context of policy: economic policy, social policy, infrastructure policy and foreign policy, including policy on immigration and refugees.

The surging Greens vote in the federal election shows that after 20 years the public are now awakening to that reality.

People cannot be forced to accept the fact of climate change. But people are ultimately persuaded by rational argument and the objectivity of science. What I and my colleagues at the University of Melbourne’s transport research centre can do to put climate change at the top of the transport policy agenda is only a tiny part of a widespread movement of general persuasion about climate change that is now taking off.

Politicians sometimes forget that today people do not have to be told what to think. They actually persuade one another in a process that seems to go on beneath the political radar.

It is ”under the radar” because opinion polls and focus groups can only deliver snapshots of the present. They do not pick up underlying long-term movements.

Consider the following thought experiment on mutual persuasion. Suppose we date the start of public persuasion at 1990, the date of publication of the first report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

Let us suppose that each year one person who accepts that climate change is real and requires strong action persuades one other person to think the same way. At the end of 1991 there are two people who are persuaded.

In the following year, those two people each now persuade one other person, so at the end of 1992 there are four people. Thus each year the number of people who think action on climate change is needed doubles.

How long will it take for a majority of the Australian electorate to be persuaded that effective action on climate change is necessary?

Considering that by the year 2000, only 1024 people have been persuaded, one might think that we will have to wait a very long time for all the voters of Australia to come round. But of course this is not so. Continue the doubling each year and by the end of this year, about a million people will have been persuaded.

What lessons can we draw from this thought experiment? In reality, the process by which the public takes on a new idea is very uneven. As debate over the issue rages in the media and in the political arena, in some places and among some sections of the public the process will be much slower, or even go the other way. Correctly, action on climate change is seen to have a cost. In other places, persuasion will move much faster.

In some periods opinion will surge and at other times retreat. A single movie, such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, can persuade thousands in one year. Readers of Mark Lynas’s book Six Degrees (based firmly on the published science) will be frightened out of their wits by the dangers of climate change.

Sober government-sponsored reports, such as those by Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut, carry weight with policymakers. If people with power over policy are persuaded, then action may even move in advance of public opinion. But perhaps it is reasonable to suppose that, on average, all the unevenness might balance out, and a time scale not unlike that in the thought experiment might occur.

If this is so, this year we are just at the point on the exponential curve of mutual persuasion when public opinion really begins to take off. In the next three years, according to the curve, the population demanding action will grow more than eightfold. Perhaps the result of the federal election, in which the Greens received about 1.5 million votes, shows that Australians are moving faster than the thought experiment.

Those who believe that climate change requires real and effective action, which must include putting a cap and a price on carbon emissions, are still a minority. According to the thought experiment, however, the next three years will see that minority rapidly swell into an overwhelming majority in Australia.

This movement goes beyond party politics and even beyond the Greens. Australia is at a turning point. Whether or not the movement in public opinion turns into a vote for the Greens depends on how quickly the major parties and the independents adopt effective climate change policies.

Professor Nicholas Low is director of the Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport, at Melbourne University


New Hope & Home for Endangered Bali Starling at Green School

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

New Hope & Home  for Endangered Bali Starling at Green School

The Green School in Bali has a new added attraction. A home and breeding ground for the endangered Bali Starling has been established there by the Begawan Foundation, which has already had great success in breeding the precious bird in captivity and releasing into the wild. Carolyn Kenwrick of The Green Asia Group has the full story.

The Bali Starling

This report from Carolyn Kenwrick of The Green Asia Group (6 September 2010):

A bird on the edge of extinction? Many species are currently in this dangerous position, and our attitude towards this planet brings rare animals and birds closer to this edge daily.

According to the latest update in May 2009 of the IUCN Red List, the bird portion of which is Bird Life International’s domain, 12% of known bird species are threatened; and nine new species are listed as critically endangered.

In 1999, Bradley and Debbie Gardner, the creative forces behind the world-renowned Begawan Giri Estate on the Indonesian island of Bali, set out to breed the Bali Starling with a privately funded captive breeding programme.

The Bali Starling had been registered as an endangered bird species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in 1970. The bird that had lived in its small corner of Bali for a long time, in modern times was becoming increasingly rare in the wild – and now teetered on the edge of extinction.

Two pairs came back to Bali from England in 1998. By 2001, with the establishment of Begawan Foundation, the number of birds had risen to thirty six and a section of the open area at Begawan Giri Estate was filled with carefully designed aviaries, enabling guests to see these endangered birds, and giving the Bali Starlings a safe place in which to breed.

By 2005, with a total of 97 birds successfully raised, most of the birds, along with their cages, were moved from the Estate to a newly established bird sanctuary, set up in 2004 by Bayu Wirayudha, who established Friends of National Parks Foundation (FNPF) on Nusa Penida, a small island south of mainland Bali, and a release program took place over the next four years.

In 2009, with a sustainable flock on Nusa Penida, the decision was made to bring the remaining captive birds to Green School on mainland Bali, and to start a new breeding program in readiness for a release program on mainland Bali.

The plan was for the Bali Starlings to arrive at Green School in October 2009. In August 2010, they finally arrived. Long wait, but the enclosures were constructed, the bamboo kitchen and quarantine room, in typical Green School bamboo, in place, the gardens planted. Arrival date was August 2nd with the birds taking the journey from Nusa Penida to Green School escorted by Department of Forestry officers.

15 breeding enclosures are currently occupied by a lone Papuan Pouched hornbill who needs a mate, 3 pairs of Mitchell’s Lorikeets and 11 pairs of breeding Bali Starlings. The four Java peacocks occupy the large net enclosure where they have plenty of room to fly and to show their fantails.

The breeding enclosures have been stocked with small palms, a useful source of nest material, tree branches for perches are in place, as are sprinklers to ensure a daily bath. The nest boxes are being installed, and hopefully, we can set up an internal camera so that the laying of eggs and the raising of the young can be observed easily.

The young Bali Starlings and Lorikeets are in the large socialisation enclosure where they will mature and find a mate, and be ready to move to a breeding enclosure. Live trees here emulate the outside world, and as the trees grow, they will provide fruit. The small pool provides daily water, as do the overhead sprinklers.

Begawan Foundation has recently signed an agreement with Bali Bird Park, where the two new birdkeepers undertook their training prior to coming to Green School. 

The project on Nusa Penida is about to enter another stage. Alongside Bali Bird Park, Begawan Foundation will oversee an independent third party audit to confirm the number of birds currently flying free.

A report has also been made that a couple of Bali Starlings have made the flight across to Nusa Lembongan where they have nested and raised a chick. This audit, conducted over several counts, will give us the opportunity to write up the project scientifically.

Source: and

Ship Makes Historic Voyage Through Melting Arctic Ocean Ice

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125

Ship Makes Historic Voyage Through Melting Arctic Ocean Ice

While many scientists are alarmed by the widening expanse of open water in the Arctic, blaming it on global warming, shippers see a new international route. The MV Nordic Barents is lugging 40,000 tonnes of iron ore from Norway to China on a shortcut through melting ice – and is making a little history in the process. It is the first non-Russian commercial vessel to attempt a non-stop crossing of a route that skirts the receding Arctic ice cap.

Business Times, Singapore report (6 September 2010):

The MV Nordic Barents is lugging 40,000 tonnes of iron ore from Norway to China on an Arctic Ocean shortcut through melting ice – and is making a little history in the process.

Steaming east along Russia’s desolate northern coast, the ship departed on Saturday as the first non-Russian commercial vessel to attempt a non-stop crossing of a route that skirts the receding Arctic ice cap.

‘We’re pretty much going over the top,’ said John Sanderson, the Australian CEO of the Norwegian mine where the iron ore comes from.

By using the northern route from Europe to Asia, the Nordic Barents could save eight days and 5,000 nautical miles of travel thought to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the owners of its cargo.

While many scientists are alarmed by the widening expanse of open water that the ship will traverse, blaming it on global warming, shippers see a new international route.

Sanderson’s ASX-listed Northern Iron Ltd has sent 15 ships to China since it began mining in the northern Norwegian town of Kirkenes last October. All steamed south, then east through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope.

To reach Chinese steel mills hungry for ore, they had to brave pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The Arctic route is no picnic either. On Saturday the polar ice sheet remained almost as big as the US mainland. But over the summer it has shrunk about as far from the Russian coast as it did during the biggest Arctic melt on record, in 2007, according to the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center.

And the Russians are waking up to the business potential of a route that was mostly reserved for domestic commercial vessels in the past.

‘Suddenly there is an opening that gives this part of the world an advantage,’ said Felix H Tschudi, whose shipping company is Northern Iron’s largest shareholder.

Willy Oestreng, chairman of research group Ocean Futures, called the trip of the Nordic Barents ‘historic’.

‘The western world is starting to show an interest and a capability to use that route,’ he said.

Two days after Russia and Norway agreed last April to settle a 40-year-old dispute over economic zones in the Barents Sea, government and business leaders of the two countries met in Kirkenes to sweep away hurdles to international shipping.

Russian law still requires icebreaker escort even where ice danger is small, due to a lack of onshore mechanical or medical support. But fees and rules are starting to loosen.

‘Russian companies and Russian authorities are now ready to assist,’ said Mikhail Belkin, assistant general manager of the state-owned Rosatomflot icebreaking fleet.

Lots of Russian vessels have plied the passage, and two German ships traversed it last year with small cargos delivered to Russian ports. But the Nordic Barents, an ice-class Danish bulk carrier chartered by Tschudi, is the first non-Russian ship with permission to pass without stopping.

Rosatomflot has assigned two 75,000-horsepower icebreakers to the vessel for about 10 days of the three-week voyage.

Tschudi won’t say how much Rosatomflot is charging but praised it as ‘cooperative, service-minded and pragmatic.’

‘Today the route is basically competitive with the Suez Canal, and we can subtract the piracy risk,’ he said.

Excluding icebreaking fees, a bulk ship that takes the Arctic route from Hamburg to Yokohama can save more than US$200,000 in fuel and canal expenses, Mr Oestreng said. — Reuters


Distasters Show Climate Impacts on Economy & Development

Posted by admin on September 10, 2010
Posted under Express 125


 Distasters Show Climate Impacts on Economy & Development

The disasters like we are seeing in Russia and Pakistan are sparking a shift in the perception of climate change. Instead of seeing climate change as a purely environmental issue, governments and international organisations are increasingly viewing it in economic terms – an environmental and development issue.

Grace Chua in Straits Times Singapore (5 September 2010):

This summer’s fires in Russia and floods in China and Pakistan fit right into patterns of climate change predicted by scientists’ reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

While scientists may shy away from linking these natural disasters directly to climate change, what is absolutely certain is that heatwaves and high water hurt developing countries and poor people more as they are less able to pay to protect themselves.

For instance, Pakistan’s flood-plains and dry riverbeds were occupied by poor squatters, who were the first to be swept away by the raging torrents.

Poorer quarters in developed countries are also the worst hit when disaster strikes, such as when heatwaves hit Tokyo or American cities. The urban poor in Phoenix, Arizona, for instance, tend to live in more built-up areas which trap heat, while the rich live in cooler areas with more greenery.

The disasters are sparking a shift in the perception of climate change.

Instead of seeing climate change as a purely environmental issue, governments and international organisations are increasingly viewing it as an environmental and development issue.

At a talk here recently, Boston University public policy professor Adil Najam explained why development versus environment is a false dichotomy.

Climate issues, Professor Najam said, are often viewed as natural phenomena one cannot do anything about, ‘whereas economic growth is something you can’ act on.

In fact, the two are really inextricable, contends Prof Najam, who was born in Pakistan and is an expert on South Asian development and politics. Growth that destroys the environment and changes the climate is unsustainable, he said.

But given that fast and unsustainable growth now could make countries more liable to pay for climate change adaptation later, does it make sense to develop in an unsustainable way?

‘No country ever says, ‘We’re going to choose between children’s health and economic growth’,’ Prof Najam said. ‘It’s not a choice.’

Countries like China and India are beginning to recognise this and responding.

For instance, China’s four trillion yuan (S$795 billion) stimulus package in 2008 funded railroads, power grids, ecological restoration and other projects, and has been lauded for its ‘greenness’.

In February this year, Chinese President Hu Jintao, addressing a Communist Party meeting, said: ‘We must make tackling climate change an important strategy for our socio-economic development.’

Mr Wilfred Walsh, managing director of carbon trading and advisory firm Biosphere Capital, pointed out that sustainable energy is actually cheaper than fossil fuels – over the right time scale and when the damage caused by fossil fuel pollution is factored in.

‘The developing world might as well develop itself using appropriate, sustainable energy technologies,’ he said, rather than face problems when the time comes to switch from established coal, oil and gas infrastructure.

But even when policymakers understand the issues involved, Prof Najam said, the short-term pressures they face to win elections and stay in power work on a different time scale from climate change, which works over decades.

However, some nations are realising that environmental issues have political mileage – sometimes for the whole nation.

Last year, for example, the Maldives made headlines by staging a Cabinet meeting underwater to underscore the urgency of climate change for small island states.

Indeed, said policy coordinator Sandeep Rai of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Global Climate Initiative, climate change for these states is a direct threat to their very survival.

With climate change presenting a tremendous threat to developing countries, these nations are taking a leadership role and offering the greatest opportunities to turn it around.

A WWF Global Climate Initiative report last year examined new renewable energy legislation by China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. And the International Energy Agency this year reckoned that over the next four decades, the developing world will need US$27 trillion (S$36.4 trillion) worth of clean-technology investments.

Energy use does not always have to increase in proportion to a country’s economic growth, Prof Najam pointed out.

‘The decoupling on economic growth and energy consumption is already happening, mostly through efficiency. Part of the technological race today is over who will be able to decouple the two the most, because in the decoupling are not only energy savings but also cost savings.’

Countries like Singapore, he added, have a ‘great opportunity’ to lead in such decoupling, both through increased energy efficiency and through adopting and developing efficient technologies.

The United Nations’ climate talks in Mexico in November will probably not amount to much in terms of binding international agreements, Prof Najam believes.

But having successful climate negotiations will matter less and less because of the size of developing-country populations – China and India alone house two billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people – and because governments and businesses will go ahead with green development on their own.

‘On numbers alone, if the world is going to be saved, China and India are going to save it,’ he said.

Others like Biosphere Capital’s Mr Walsh are less bullish.

‘We don’t know yet if this will happen,’ he said. ‘Right now what is most obvious is a glaring lack of international leadership on climate change mitigation.’