Archive for the ‘Express 197’ Category

The Future is Now

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

Three of a kind – but not at all kind  – as thousands suffer through devastating floods in Pakistan, China and the Philippines. If that’s not enough, we have seen record heat-waves in Asia – Japan, Korea and China. And the heat is on in California as wild fires rage out of control. It is not your imagination or mine. We are seeing more of these tragedies than ever before – extreme weather events – and they will be more frequent. All the climate change predictions are being borne out. It is not something to expect in the future. The future is now. So we will continue to bring this to your attention. But we will also do our best to look on the bright side. In this issue, each of our “articles” will be three in one. Reports, cases and solutions. Funding for clean energy in Asia and new places to find it – even underwater. Dealing with waste as a resource. Protecting the trees from illegal logging. Awareness of the health impact of air pollution. Green purchasing, electric cars and sustainable rubber. What’s up in the Arctic, Antarctica and Africa. Fast, clean travel forms for the future. The last word is on books – old and new – and writers honoured. But before that – the annual call for leaders to stand up and be counted or nominated. The search is on for 2013′s 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Looking for Leaders

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

It’s that time of the year again when we put out the call for nominations and recommendations for 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. Even if you are on the 2012 (or 2011) list or know those who are, feel free to nominate deserving leaders of old or new. We are looking for people who are making an impact; who write, talk, practice and promote sustainability at home and abroad. On the job or in the community. We expect the list to be published in our 200th issue in the first week of October. Nominations close Friday 20 September. Read More


Introducing 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders:

This will be the third 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders list, which has been devised and produced by Ken Hickson, Chairman/CEO of Sustain Ability Showcase Asia and ABC Carbon, and will be published in this the 200th issue of abc carbon express , expected in the first week of October 2013.

Nominations are invited now from anyone, anywhere in the world. You can nominate yourself if you think you qualify. You can nominate someone you admire.

Check out the last year’s list of leaders to see who’s there and why they’re listed. Go to:


You will also find the list on

What are the criteria to bear in mind?

  1. Individuals who have made their mark – in words and in deeds – and shown true leadership in sustainability policy and practice on a local, community, regional, national or international level.
  2. Leaders in business, in the community, working for NGOs, in Government or in the media. Prepared to stand up and be counted. To speak their mind and make an impression. To live and work, as well as preach and practice sustainability.
  3. As we believe sustainability incorporates four factors – Energy, Economy, Environment and Ethics – and goes even further than the triple bottom line, bear that in mind when making your nomination.
  4. Even if someone has been on the list before – in 2011 or 2012 – they can still be nominated and selected this year. But we are sure there are some additions and maybe some who should be “retired”!

How do I nominate someone?

Please email me – – with the full name, position and location of the nominee.

Set out in no more than 100 words why you think the nominee deserves to be on the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders list.

Please provide a short CV/biographic data on the nominee or provide a link to a website or a Linked In profile.

Get onto it now. Spread the word.

Nominations close 20 September 2013.


Ken Hickson

Chairman and CEO

Sustain Ability Showcase Case (SASA)

Source: &

Asia & China Taking Energy & Poverty Seriously

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

The Asian Development Bank has figured prominently recently with the findings of two of its studies, one highlighting the need for continued fight against poverty to ensure the future prosperity of Asia. The other looks at the state of energy efficiency in Asia, which is an increasingly important resource in managing the changing demographics and economic conditions of Asia. An observation well taken by China, who announced recently its plan to make energy efficiency a ‘pillar’ of its economy. Read more

Growth Not Enough To End Poverty and Deprivation – Study

15 August 2013:

Asia’s future prosperity will only be assured if countries continue the fight against poverty and other areas of deprivation, and this will require proactive state intervention, not just economic growth, says a new ADB/National University of Singapore study.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES—Despite Asia’s rapid growth, vast sections of its population still live in poverty and suffer hunger and other forms of deprivation, which could threaten the sustainability of the region’s growth and its integration, says a new study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the National University of Singapore.

“Asia’s future prosperity will only be assured if countries continue the fight against poverty and other areas of deprivation, and this will require proactive state intervention,” said Kazu Sakai, Director General of ADB’s Strategy and Policy Department. “As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) looms in 2015, this publication provides a timely reminder of the vast unfinished business in the region and the steps needed to end deprivation across the board.”

Despite a sharp reduction in income poverty in recent decades, a fifth of Asia’s population still lives in extreme poverty. If the highly vulnerable who can easily revert to extreme poverty are included, this figure could rise to one in two. Many countries will likely fall well short of achieving the MDGs in areas such as basic sanitation, underweight children, infant and maternal mortality, while growing income gaps and other forms of inequity are becoming increasingly acute.

The ‘Ending Asian Deprivations’ study, compiled with contributions from 23 Asian development experts, says the number of people being left behind despite the region’s boom shows that past development efforts have not been sufficient to end poverty and deprivation. The study shows that while GDP growth on its own helps reduce income poverty, it plays a much smaller role in reducing other deprivations, like education and health outcomes. The spike in inequality will also impact future economic growth through slower poverty reduction and employment generation.

New approaches may need to be considered to make growth more inclusive and to promote more effective state action in areas such as skills development, delivery of quality education, and incentives for entrepreneurs. These measures must be carried out in conjunction with institutional improvements and stepped-up partnerships with the private sector and civil society. Policymakers will also need to do a lot more to create conditions for more small-and-medium enterprises – a key jobs generator – to flourish, and to reduce the informal sector through actions like improved property rights and access to finance.

Other areas where the state needs to increase support include infrastructure, improving urban environments, social protection programs, and the removal of gender inequities and labor market rigidities to boost employment opportunities. Closer regional cooperation is also crucial, with ADB estimating that the rollout of needed infrastructure for cross border connectivity will deliver benefits equivalent to about $13 trillion for developing Asia in the decade up to 2020 and beyond.

The report says any successful new development approach must have clearly defined goals with a definite timeframe, a credible strategy to achieve them, and a detailed list of public interventions. The MDGs provide an effective base but future development goals also need to incorporate region and country- specific needs. A reasonable time frame for ending deprivations in Asia would be 2025, a decade after the MDGs come to an end.



China to make energy efficiency a ‘pillar’ of its economy

By Nicky Stubbs (17 August 2013):

The Chinese state council announced plans last Sunday that will see energy efficiency placed at the heart of economic activities by 2015.

Although it is the world’s most densely populated nation, and therefore the biggest global polluter of harmful carbon dioxide, China’s state council has committed to tackling climate change by implementing energy efficiency policies that will see positive steps to reduce its risks.

The Chinese cabinet expects the environmental protection industry to grow by 15% year-on-year, to a value of 4.5 trillion Yuan (£474m).

Figures from the Nation Resource Defence Council (NRDC) suggest that China burns more coal than the rest of the planet combined. Alvin Lin, NRDC’s China climate change advisor warned of the implications of such mass usage.

“The impacts of coal mining and consumption on China’s environment, public health and the economy are already astronomical”, writes Lin, “China’s leaders are paying close attention to coal and have sought now seek to reduce coal consumption and pollution by introducing a suite of policy measures”.

Measures, according to Lin, include carbon trading, capping energy consumption, resource taxes, new emissions controls and regional coal consumption caps. He criticises the government however, for not doing enough, saying that targets are non-binding and that there are no penalties in place for non-compliance.

The announcement comes amid China’s attempts to bring its excessive carbon emissions under control, with authorities even suggesting they could sentence polluters to death in extreme cases.

Despite being the most densely populated country on the planet, Chinese authorities are considering lifting the country’s one child policy, which was introduced in 1971 to tackle mass population, due to the ageing crisis that is on the horizon.



From the E2 Singapore website (23 August 2013):

State of Energy Efficiency in Asia

Energy efficiency is an imperative of our modern world. Unfettered consumption of energy of our past no longer has a place with better understanding of the consequences, and of the benefits of energy efficiency.

The need for increased energy efficiency could not be higher in Asia. Population growth, increasing affluence, and increasing economic activity are expected to increase energy demand significantly. However, a 1-4% investment in energy efficiency, as share of overall energy sector investment, can meet as much as 25% of the projected growth in primary energy consumption in developing Asian nations by 2030.

In the report ‘Same Energy, More Power: Accelerating Energy Efficiency in Asia’, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) examines the causes of underinvestment and obstacles to energy efficiency in Asia. The report further considers the ramping-up efforts in the region by ADB for greater utilisation of energy efficiency.


Causes of Underinvestment and Barriers to Energy Efficiency in Asia

Within Asia, profitable opportunities for energy efficiency investments struggle to compete with alternative investments for new energy supply. Some reasons for of this underinvestment are considered below:

•             Economic

o             Energy price distortion: Price distortion may result from incomplete prior knowledge of the full range of costs associated with energy production and consumption, or from poorly designed policy or regulatory interventions, such as energy subsidies. When energy tariffs do not accurately reflect the true cost of resource capture and delivery, adoption of more energy efficient technology may be discouraged.

o             High transaction costs: Beneficiaries of energy efficiency investments may not be able to obtain financing for proposed projects, or the cost of capital may prove to be excessive. Access to professionals with the appropriate managerial or financial expertise may also be hard to come by.

o             Perception of risks: customers may experience concerns about larger impacts of project implementation on the normal operations of their business and the disruptions that may occur.

o             Savings may appear too small: This is especially in the short term, relative to the cost of the immediate required investment.


•             Social

o             Requirements of demographic trends: Attention of investment is on the need for expanded energy access and supply, due to growing population and economic activities.


•             Behavioural

o             Passivity towards energy management: Consumers are typically content to passively receive energy service if the cost is reasonable, and lack the initiative to actively seek ways to alter or reduce their consumption.


•             Institutional

o             Lack of public institutional leadership: Absence of government leadership, or lack of a centralised authority or agency that can lead, encourage, or manage wide-scale energy efficiency implementation.

o             Lack of familiarity in financial institutions: Many banks continue to lack familiarity with energy efficiency projects and the type of value streams that are likely to result.

o             Lack of capacity or authority by tenants to improve: Developers of owners of buildings rarely occupy or utilise their facilities on a daily basis, and may fail to incorporate energy efficiency improvements without incentives or requirements to do so

o             Split incentives across various agencies: Bureaucratic character of many government functions often results in the performance of planning and management duties according to very specific mandates, within discrete agencies. This can impede collaboration and information sharing, resulting in duplication of effort while not reaping the maximum benefits.


•             Policy design

o             Level of administrative and regulatory oversight: Stakeholder compliance enforcement can be expensive and time-consuming compared to market-driven forces. Public authorities may also lack the will or capacity to pursue ambitious enforcement, which can be better facilitated by self-enforcing markets.

o             Clarity and consistency of policy design and implementation: Policy and program stability can enhance stakeholder confidence in the credibility of energy efficiency initiatives. Consistent enforcement and implementation across stakeholders encourages robust compliance. These are important determinants of a desirable investment climate for energy efficiency.

o             Awareness campaign: This can help targeted groups or sectors understand new energy efficiency initiatives and methods for compliance, or may encourage participation by emphasising the benefits.

o             Financial schemes for energy efficiency projects: Commercial banking sector may have to make changes to the credit review process and loan terms for energy efficiency projects. Also, with better understanding of energy efficiency’s value to different customers, banks may devote attention to devising sophisticated financing mechanisms to encourage more ambitious action in different sectors.


Scaling-up of Energy Efficiency Efforts

To increase its investment in energy efficiency efforts throughout the Asian region, ADB may draw upon a mix of approaches, characterised by ambitious targets or mandates with goals for participation across sectors and stakeholders:

•             Energy efficiency policy and regulation

•             Energy efficiency standards and building codes

•             Utility demand-side management market activities

•             Innovative financing mechanisms

•             Development of national and/or local institutional capacity

•             Energy efficiency information systems

•             Awareness of energy efficiency means and benefits

More systematised program support and investment can leverage existing resources to generate broader and deeper impacts while generating momentum for further energy efficiency market development. Areas where ADB may engage such activities to significant effect in Asia include:

•             Regional and country-specific thematic energy efficiency programs

•             Investments in utility-sponsored performance-based energy efficiency resource programs

•             Investments in raising energy efficiency standards

The role played by the Asian Development Bank in promoting investments in energy efficiency programs throughout Asia is a crucial one to ensure economically and environmentally sustainable development. Energy efficiency remains the least-cost solution to meeting Asia’s growing energy demand in face of its changing demographic and economic development.

To read the full report ‘Same Energy, More Power: Accelerating Energy Efficiency in Asia’, please visit:


Green Purchasing Event in Malaysia, Plastic Recycling & Powerful Devices

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

Here’s news about a plastic recycling centre and devices which power themselves. Next month the international conference for the Green Purchasing Network is on in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 18-20 September and we will be there to speak and report. We will also be reporting even more about eco-products, green purchasing, sustainable supply chains and all the other impacts of the greening of the world of goods and services as we come on board the Green Purchasing Network for Singapore. Read More

Environmental Leader (21 August 2013):

Command Packaging to Open Agricultural Plastic Recycling Center

Command Packaging is planning to tun part of the former Firestone plant outside of Salinas, Calif., into a 124,500-square-foot recycling facility for plastics from the agricultural industry.

Encore Recycling, as the new operation will be known, will eventually turn 100 million pounds of agricultural plastic each year into reusable plastic bags.

The plant will immediately provide 40 manufacturing jobs in October and up to 100 by 2014. CEO Pete Grande said if the company is successful he foresees hiring 500 people.

Grande said his company will invest $8 million to get the facility off the ground and, if his plan to sell reusable plastic bags works out, up to $40 million.

Although there are recycling facilities in the area, Command general manager Aviv Halimi said none of them could handle the scale of plastic needed to be recycled by the agricultural industry. He also said many products used by growers are not accepted by recyclers, such as strawberry mulch, the massive plastic sheets which cover strawberry fields.

Dole’s Thomas Flewell says the operation will recycle 135 tons of his company’s plastic each year, resulting in ‘”significant cost savings.”

In a further nod to sustainability, water used at the facility will be in a 100 percent “closed loop,” meaning all water used in the wash will be reused.

In July, UK specialty paper company James Cropper opened what it says is the world’s first facility that will recycle disposable coffee cups and reuse the pulp to make paper.

Until now, the plastic content of cups has made them unsuitable for use in papermaking, James Cropper says. In the UK alone, the company estimates about 2.5 billion paper cups go to landfill.



Green Purchasing EXPO 2013

18 – 20 September 2013,

Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa,


The three day conference will bring together world renowned experts and practitioners with more than a decade of green purchasing and green productivity experiences. Experts will share the critical factors & conditions for the successful implementation of green purchasing and green productivity; and how to formulate a strategic approach to resource productivity in industry, agriculture, retail and service sectors.

Day 1 and 2: will examine how the roadmap for government green procurement (GGP) has been successfully implemented in advanced green purchasing countries. Japan has successfully implemented 100% Green Procurement in 22 local governments and is working to achieve 100% implementation for all other local government in Japan.Strategies, techniques and mechanism such as resource productivity, eco design and materials, eco-labels, biomass and green supply chain to achieve successful green purchasing in governments, private enterprises and the retail sectors will be shared.

Day 3: will discuss how to build Safe and Green Commercial complexes and high rise buildings. Case studies will be taken from Kuala Lumpur City. Techniques for keeping complexes safe and green through the mobilization of safety strategies and the efficient use of waste resources will ensure better bottom lines for all owners.


Buying and selling ‘green’ is no longer a trend but an essential part of building and driving sustainable business practices. Now more than ever supply chain practitioners have to heed the clarion call to adopt more efficient spending and investment processes in order to achieve environmental, social, and economic objectives (UNEP 2012).

Green buyers have the opportunity to adopt a myriad of green and ethical purchasing options. This passive solution allows for new markets to be created with emphasis on innovations in green technology, green productivity practices, and eco-friendly business operation.


• Rationale for green purchasing and how to tap on this opportunity

• Ethical, social and Government Green Procurement policies internationally and by local government

• The best way of implementing Green Purchasing and Green Productivity and the resulting benefits

• How to measure GP processes?

• Strategic Green Productivity through Green Purchasing

• Best practises and case studies on Green Purchasing and Green Productivity process

• Update on the latest Fire Hazards Abatement strategies and Effective control on waste resource recovery to maximize profits for owners

• To enhance safety in work place and create fire safety awareness through the efficient management of fire risks, waste recycling and fire certification.



New wireless devices need no power supply, can harvest energy from TV towers

By Derek Markham in Treehugger (19 August 2013):

Wireless devices and sensors capable of sending and receiving data may soon be able to also harvest the power they need, right from the air, thanks to the radio waves that already emanate from cellphone and TV towers.

To really take advantage of the coming “Internet of Things”, a whole lot of sensors and microcomputers will be needed, all of which will require some method of being powered, preferably without needing any cords or wires. And while putting a battery onboard the device is one solution, it also creates another issue, which is the need to replace or recharge all of those batteries at certain points in their life. But a new breakthrough from engineers at the University of Washington could help to do away with the need for a battery for some wireless devices altogether.

The team at UW has developed a technique they call “ambient backscatter”, which can let devices use the cellular and TV transmissions already being broadcast around us, reflecting those signals to send and receive their own data to similar devices, without the need for a battery or other power source.

“We can repurpose wireless signals that are already around us into both a source of power and a communication medium. It’s hopefully going to have applications in a number of areas including wearable computing, smart homes and self-sustaining sensor networks.” – Shyam Gollakota, lead researcher and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering

“Our devices form a network out of thin air. You can reflect these signals slightly to create a Morse code of communication between battery-free devices.” – Joshua Smith, co-author and a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering

To test the ambient backscatter technology, the researchers set up a small testing network in Seattle, and the devices were able to communicate with each other, as sensors would in a real-world application, even up to 6.5 miles away from a TV tower.

The future of the Internet of Things might get a jumpstart with the ability to use wireless power transmission for its sensors and microcomputers, because removing the need for a power source will greatly increase the possibilities for connected devices.

“Our devices form a network out of thin air. You can reflect these signals slightly to create a Morse code of communication between battery-free devices.” – Joshua Smith, co-author and a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering

To test the ambient backscatter technology, the researchers set up a small testing network in Seattle, and the devices were able to communicate with each other, as sensors would in a real-world application, even up to 6.5 miles away from a TV tower.

The future of the Internet of Things might get a jumpstart with the ability to use wireless power transmission for its sensors and microcomputers, because removing the need for a power source will greatly increase the possibilities for connected devices.

It’s possible that small sensors could be built right into any device or structure, without the need for later access to replace the batteries, or built with a very tiny physical footprint to be placed in hard to reach places. For example, building these into some of our urban infrastructure, such as bridges, tunnels, subways, etc., could allow for real-time monitoring of the conditions or integrity of the structures, without requiring a remote power source.

Researchers also noted that the technology could be built into devices that also have an onboard battery, such as cellphones, so that even if that battery were to die, text messages could still be sent using ambient backscatter, powered by a TV tower.


Thailand Solar Investments, Indonesia’s Sustainable Rubber & Saving Islands

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

Private and non-governmental organisations often take the lead in the quest for sustainability. Singapore-based Armstrong Asset Management is committing up to US$30 million to finance renewable energy projects developed by Annex Power in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Meanwhile, Halcyon Agri had the distinction to be the first midstream rubber processor to release a sustainability report. Non-governmental organisations Carbon War Room together with The Make Yourself Foundation launched the Ten Island Renewable Challenge aimed at weaning ten islands off their reliance on fossil fuel. Read more

Armstrong Invests in Annex Power for Regional Solar Expansion (16 August 2013):

Armstrong Asset Management is committing up to US$30 million from its South-East Asia Clean Energy Fund to finance an initial pipeline of solar photovoltaic (PV) and biogas power projects developed by Annex Power in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Andrew Affleck, the Managing Partner of Armstrong Asset Management, said the opportunity to work with Annex was attractive due to the firm’s track record and its expanding commitment to the development of projects of the type and scale suitable for the Fund.  He also said it is very clear that the experienced team at Annex offers “internationally proven engineering and construction capability, which has been field-tested with matched components and robust, reliable operations.”

Annex has achieved impressive results in the Thai solar market and is strengthening its leadership position with a strong pipeline of large-scale Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) projects.  Annex has completed the engineering and construction of 58 MW of solar PV projects in Thailand and has secured contracts to construct a further 30 MW.

Daniel Gaefke, the Managing Director of Annex Power, said ‘We are delighted to be expanding on our strong relationship with the Armstrong Fund whose investment objectives align very well with our own and whose experience in the renewables sector and in SE Asia creates many synergies we plan to build on.’

The partnership with Armstrong will enable Annex to further grow its development and asset management operations upon the base of its core EPC and consulting businesses in Thailand and the expanding project opportunities in Indonesia and the Philippines.


In April, Armstrong announced its first investment from the Fund being a strategic cooperation with energy developer Symbior Solar Siam, a solar focused subsidiary of business incubator Symbior Energy, to develop and operate a portfolio of solar power generation projects in Central and Northeast Thailand.  The portfolio of six small-scale solar power plants will deliver a combined capacity of 30 MW to the Thai national grid.

Thailand’s renewable energy market is the most established in South East Asia with a target of 25% of total energy to come from renewable sources by 2021.  The Thai solar sector is growing steadily with recent approvals confirming an increase of the solar power target to 3,000 MW and the presence of many world class equipment suppliers and service providers.

Mr Affleck confirmed that Armstrong is on track to achieve a final closing of US$150 million for the fund in September this year following an initial close in April 2012.  Investors include private corporations, European development finance institutions (DFIs) such as GEEREF and DEG, as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector investment arm of the World Bank.

About Annex Power

Annex Power is an experienced and proven renewable energy group focused on Southeast Asia.  With over 80 professionals experienced in the engineering and construction of solar, biogas- and wind power plants, Annex has planned, financed, built and operated more than 100 MW of renewable energy projects.  Annex insists upon high quality products, components, and engineering standards to help generate clean and efficient energy for homes, businesses, governments and utilities in the region.  Annex’s philosophy is to offer clients and partners independent solutions that are not only reliable and value-driven, but that also generate the greatest environmental and community impacts.

About Armstrong Asset Management

Armstrong Asset Management is an independent asset manager, based in Singapore, focused on the clean energy sector in Southeast Asia’s emerging markets.  Armstrong invests in small-scale infrastructure projects and is on track to achieve a target final closing of US$150 million by September 2013.  Its multidisciplinary team consists of 8 investment professionals with deep sector knowledge and a collective 80 years of Southeast Asia operating experience.  Armstrong integrates strict environmental, social and governance compliance into its investment process to deliver tangible benefits and reduce risks for all of its stakeholders.




  • First sustainability report by a natural rubber processor
  • CEO says sustainability is a business imperative
  • Group outlines six strategic priorities in report

Singapore, 6th August 2013 – Halcyon Agri Corporation Limited (Halcyon) today presented its 2012 Sustainability Report, its first to shareholders since it was listed in February this year, and the first by a midstream rubber processor.

The Report outlines the measures that the Catalist-listed company has taken in conserving the environment, engaging stakeholders from upstream suppliers to end customers, and implementing best practices that comply with certified standards.

Halcyon operates in the midstream of the natural rubber supply chain where it supplies rubber raw material for tyre companies through sourcing and processing rubber slabs which it buys from local suppliers, mainly in South Sumatra. It processes the natural rubber from its two facilities in Palembang in Sumatra, Indonesia, and exports to a global customer base that includes many of the world’s top 20 tyre manufacturers.

In the Report, Halcyon said it started its sustainability journey by first identifying its stakeholders and the material issues relevant to its business. To this end, it conducted a sustainability assessment in mid-2011 and has identified six strategic priorities that have an impact on its industry and business, namely staff welfare, staff health and safety, adherence to customer requirements and quality standards, production efficiency, environmental compliance and good housekeeping.

Mr Robert Meyer, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Halcyon, said its first sustainability report “demonstrates our commitment to change and progress, benchmarked against internationally accepted sustainability guidelines.”

He explained: “For us, sustainability is a business imperative. With greater growth comes added responsibility…developing and implementing the best practices in corporate social responsibility make perfectly good business sense.”

The Report explained how Halcyon engaged and obtained feedback from stakeholders, ranging from local suppliers to regulators, staff, industry associations, competitors and customers.

The feedback helped Halcyon to implement changes including implementing new housekeeping benchmarks and setting up housekeeping teams in its processing facilities, providing employees on the production floor with personal protective equipment, setting a goal of achieving the OHSAS18001 certification for health and safety by this year, and providing rest areas and refreshments for rubber suppliers.

Plans are also in place to raise operating standards at its processing facilities to achieve ISO14001 certification, the international benchmark for environmental management.

Moving forward, Halcyon said it will focus on water conservation efforts through water reuse and is also exploring a shift to cleaner energy sources.

Caring for its employees, Halcyon provides housing and facilities for approximately half of its workforce and their families in Indonesia, and provides housing allowances for the balance.

Halcyon’s Sustainability Report has been presented in close alignment with the principles and framework of Global Reporting Initiative’s 3.1 Reporting Guidelines as well as the SGX Guide on Sustainability Reporting for Listed Companies.

For the full report, please refer to the attachment. Copies of the report are available for collection at Halcyon’s headquarters, located at 250 North Bridge Road, #12-01, Raffles City Tower, S(179101), or can be downloaded at

About Halcyon Agri

Halcyon Agri Corporation Limited and its subsidiaries (the “Group”) operate in the midstream of the natural rubber supply chain, specialising in the processing and merchandising of natural rubber. Headquartered in Singapore, where its risk management and merchandising operations are located, the Group owns and operates two rubber processing facilities, HMK1 and HMK2, in Palembang. The Group’s products, namely SIR20, SIR20-VK and SIR20-Compound, are exported to a global customer base, including many of the top 20 international tyre manufacturers.



Carbon War Room (14 August 2013):

Carbon War Room, in partnership with The Make Yourself Foundation, brings you the Ten Island Renewable Challenge.

The race has already started to transition the world’s first ten islands off fossil fuels and onto producing their own renewable energy using sun, wind, sea and waste. Together we can help these islands show the world what’s possible and inspire a more sustainable planet.

Help keep our islands beautiful forever. Show the world what’s possible.

The Ten Island Renewable Challenge works with islands to build their own renewable energy models, find the solutions that match the islands needs and at the same time, provide the opportunities on island that motivate investors and funders to work with them.

In partnership with The Make Yourself Foundation, we are seeking to raise $1m through this campaign to provide the capacity for building workshops on islands, the design and development of the renewable energy models, and to bring the right experts needed to switch sun, wind, waste and sea into energy and water.

We want you to be able to see amazing array of windmills and solar panels as you fly over the Caribbean and Pacific to your vacation – and make all islands energy independent.


Islands across the globe face huge risks to their futures as they are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and they also face huge financial challenges in the way they live today. The dependence on imported fossil fuel to produce energy is hugely expensive, and people living on islands are paying the some of the highest prices in the world just for food, water and energy. The additional demand we make, as tourists doesn’t help the situation either. The use of air-conditioned hotel rooms, cars, and the huge amounts of waste left behind are all putting an even bigger strain on its resources.


The answer lies in the resources that make islands so idyllic: sun, sea and wind are all in abundance on islands and don’t place a burden on the environment. And like the best things in life, they are free!

However, choosing the right technology and building the infrastructure isn’t!

The Carbon War Room is a non-profit working with islands to make this remarkable change happen. We work as an ‘honest broker’ for islands, helping them identify the best available technologies, attracting the right experts and the investment, because we want to help them choose the best technology options for their islands, their economy and the people.

Switching to renewable energy can boost the island’s own economy, creating more jobs, helping local businesses thrive – and allowing making their tourist industry more sustainable.


Hot …Hot… Hot…..In Asia, the Heat Is on Japan, China & South Korea

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

The headlines in papers a week ago screamed it out. Power shortages and a big sweat in South Korea, Nine die from heatstroke in Japan, and Orange e alert for heat in China.  The met offices explained that a strong Pacific high pressure system was lingering and it was to blame for the extreme weather, keeping warm, stagnant air over three countries. Read More

South Korean workers sweat it out amid power crisis

Turn off air cons and take stairs, Seoul tells office staff as energy shortage hits at summer’s height

South China Morning Post (13 August  2013):

South Korea has ordered sweltering government offices to turn off their air conditioning and avoid using elevators as two power plants stopped operations and a minister warned of an imminent national energy crisis.

The timing could hardly be worse, coming in the midst of an extended heat wave, with temperatures nudging 34 degrees Celsius. One Seoul city government employee described her office as “one big dim-sum basket”.

The coal-powered Dangjin III plant, with a capacity of 500 megawatts, was taken offline yesterday by mechanical issues and will likely remain shut for a week. Technical problems also shut down the nearby Seocheon plant. Although operations resumed after an hour, the plant, also coal-fired, is working at only half its 200-megawatt capacity.

The shutdowns come amid a long disruption in South Korea’s nuclear power sector

“We are facing potentially our worst power crisis,” Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick said.

“We may have to carry out a rolling blackout … if one single power plant goes out of operation,” Yoon said, appealing to factories, households and shops to curb consumption over the next three days.

We are facing potentially our worst power crisis. We may have to carry out a rolling blackout … if one single power plant goes out of operation

Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick

The last time the Seoul government was forced to resort to nationwide load shedding was in September 2011, when unexpectedly high demand pushed power reserves to their lowest level in decades.

The unannounced blackouts hit more than six million households and businesses and left 3,000 people trapped in elevators. The outcry forced the then-energy minister to resign.

The government fears a future power outage on a similar scale would result in massive economic losses.

National reserves of 4 gigawatts are considered the minimum necessary to guarantee a steady power supply. If they drop below 2 gigawatts, it triggers an automatic alert requiring all government offices to turn off air conditioners, lights and any non-essential devices.

In a pre-emptive move, the energy ministry ordered such measures effective immediately, even though the key reserve mark had not been breached.

Describing the situation as “extremely urgent”, the ministry also ordered government offices to turn off water coolers and staff to use staircases where possible, rather than elevators.

The ministry added it would tighten monitoring on shopping malls, which face fines for bringing indoor temperatures below 26 degrees Celsius.

A sweltering summer has resulted in a sustained energy consumption spike.

At the same time, the nuclear industry is struggling to emerge from a mini crisis that has forced the shutdown of numerous reactors, either for repair or as the result of a scandal over forged safety certificates.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Korean workers sweat it out amid power crisis



Japan swelters in heatwave, nine dead

Herald Sun (14 August 2013):

BROILING temperatures in Japan has seen the mercury hit a record 41C, after at least nine people died from heatstroke over the weekend.

The nation’s weather agency issued heat warnings for 38 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, telling people to keep hydrated and use their air conditioners.

Sweltering temperatures contributed to the deaths of at least nine people from heatstroke on Saturday and Sunday, Japanese officials and media reports said.

Another heatwave last month claimed at least a dozen lives.

Japan’s record temperature on Monday was registered at 1.42pm (1442 AEST) in Shimanto, a Pacific coast city on the western island of Shikoku, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

That broke the old high of 40.9C in August 2007 registered in two central Japanese cities, the weather agency said.

Temperatures have soared above 40C for the third straight day across parts of Japan as a Pacific high-pressure system covered most of the country.

Energy costs have rocketed after Japan shut down its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima atomic crisis two years ago.

The move forced Tokyo to turn to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives to plug the gap.

In the bustling Tokyo shopping district of Ginza people were trying to guard against the scorching weather.

“I use a special deodorant. When you put it on it feels really fresh straight away. It sells everywhere in Japan,” said Takenori Omori, a 27-year-old computer specialist.

Hiroko Mimura, a 63-year-old receptionist, added: “The sun is really strong. I use gloves to avoid getting sunburn on the hands.”

Another shopper, Aya Kida, said she wouldn’t try to save electricity any longer, although the Japanese people are encouraged to do so after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, stalling the country’s nuclear power generation as a whole.

“It’s too hot. The air conditioner is on all day and all night long at home,” said the 25-year-old saleswoman.



Orange Alert maintained for S China Heat

Xinhua News (13 August 2013):

China’s top meteorological authority on Tuesday continued to warn of prolonged heat that has afflicted central and eastern China since July.

The National Meteorological Center (NMC) announced an orange alert for the heat wave on Tuesday, marking the 20th straight day such an alert has been issued. Orange represents a level-two warning in the nation’s three-tiered color-coded alert system for high temperatures.

The NMC forecast eastern regions including Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, and central regions including Hubei and Hunan provinces will see a maximum temperature of 42 degrees Celsius during daytime on Tuesday.

Guizhou and Chongqing in southwest China and some spots in the north will also experience at least 35 degrees during the day, according to the NMC. But it forecast the intensity of the heat and the regions it affects will gradually dwindle over the next three days.

In contrast, rain of medium to heavy strength will continue battering northeastern regions over the next three days, with some areas expecting heavy rainstorms, the NMC forecast.

Torrential rain hit large parts of northeast China on Monday. Precipitation in Heilongjiang Province hit as high as 14 cm in some areas.

The NMC also forecast that Utor, the 11th typhoon to hit China this year, will gather more strength on its course and make landfall in coastal regions of Guangdong and Hainan provinces on Wednesday night.


Heat Island Effect, Wildlife Islands from Landfill & Underwater Tidal Energy

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

It’s getting hot in the city. Urban Heat Island Effect ensures that temperatures in city are higher than its surrounding rural areas, even when receiving the same amount of solar radiation. Well, if it gets too hot in the city, why not escape to the off-shore islands? Singapore’s Semakau Island – site of the nation’s landfill – has gained traction as a wildlife hotspot; while St John’s Island and Pulau Sebarok are believed to have strong enough current speeds to potentially power 6,700 flats using tidal turbines. Read more

Eco (12 August 2013):

Some homes in Singapore could be powered by the sea in future – if scientists manage to prove that tidal turbines in nearby waters can help meet the country’s growing electricity needs.

From next month, researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will survey two sites, one near St John’s Island and another near Pulau Sebarok.

The two locations are believed to have strong current speeds of about 1.2m to 3m per second – enough to generate power from turbines placed on seabeds.

Based on estimates by other researchers, the two spots could house enough tidal turbines to power about 6,700 flats here, said project leader Michael Abundo from the Energy Research Institute at NTU.

The project will involve confirming the estimated tidal current speeds. Sensors will also be left on the seabed for a month to collect data, which will allow the scientists to forecast long-term current speeds.

“Wind and solar energy may be affected by the weather, but tidal currents are very predictable. If you have data from one lunar month or 29.5 days, you can forecast the current every hour for the next year,” said Dr Abundo.

The two sites were selected after ruling out other areas which had maritime traffic, or were aquaculture zones and marine protected areas.

Results from the survey will be ready by the end of the year, and will be used to fine-tune the turbine designs.

Turbines in other countries have been designed for higher current speeds of about 4m per second. The survey will also include a sonar scan to profile the seabed’s slopes, as steep slopes are not suited for most tidal turbines.

This is all part of a larger plan by the institute to map areas where Singapore can tap renewable marine energy. The scientists believe the project is critical because renewable energy from the sea can help quench the country’s growing thirst for electricity.

Singapore consumed about 41,730 gigawatt hours of energy in 2011, up about 10 per cent from 2009. About 80 per cent of its fuel mix for electricity generation today comes from natural gas.

The NTU team had previously estimated that tidal currents in several spots south of Singapore could meet 1.5 per cent of the country’s electricity needs in 2011.

But there are challenges ahead.

The Energy Market Authority has said that marine renewable energy is limited in Singapore as much of its sea space is used for ports, anchorage and shipping lanes. Most funded projects here are also focused on solar energy.

“Singapore should not disregard any energy option that is tappable,” argued Dr Abundo.

“Even if the technology may not yet be widely deployed in Singapore, it could still be used elsewhere in the region, and this would boost Singapore’s reputation for renewable energy research and development.”



By Kate Allen, Science and Technology reporter (17 August 2013):

Bike down a city street on a hot summer night until you pass a park and be rewarded with a blast of cool air.

This, in miniature and in reverse, is an easy way to understand what geographers and climatologists call the Urban Heat Island effect: even if a city and its rural surroundings receive the same amount of solar radiation, the city will be hotter.

But if the Urban Heat Island sounds simple, it masks a host of social thorny ramifications.

In Toronto, there is “almost a perfect overlay between poor areas and hot areas,” says Kevin Behan, deputy director of the Clean Air Partnership, an environmental group.

Mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect — which can be as easy as switching roof colours — is a matter of social justice, many experts say. And as climate change continues to amplify weather extremes, that task is increasingly urgent.

“During the summer, cities are getting a lot warmer,” says Hashem Akbari, an Urban Heat Island specialist at Concordia University in Montreal. “People need to have air conditioning, if they can afford it. If they cannot afford it, they pay for it in different ways” — with their health and sometimes with their lives.

Scientists began noticing the Urban Heat Island effect almost as soon as cities were first industrialized. In London, a chemist and amateur meteorologist named Luke Howard showed in the early 1800s that the heart of the city was an average of 0.9 C hotter than the leafy suburbs of Tottenham, Stratford and Plaistow.

Modern scientists have confirmed that the average temperature difference between an urban heat island and its rural belt is usually 1 C to 2 C but can reach as much as 12 C in extreme cases.

Cities, with their smokestacks and exhaust pipes, produce more heat than the countryside, but they also retain more heat. Concrete, brick and asphalt absorb energy from the sun and radiate it back into the urban atmosphere at night — that’s when the urban heat island effect is most pronounced.

Trees, soil and water, on the other hand, release cooling moisture into their surroundings through the process known as evapotranspiration.

“The areas of Toronto that we know are highly treed — the central areas, like Rosedale, Forest Hill and the ravines — come out looking much cooler than parts of the city that are much more built up,” says Stephanie Gower, a research consultant at Toronto Public Health.

Gower described a heat “doughnut” that rings the city, including those areas of Scarborough and Etobicoke where there is less mature tree canopy.

Even within a small section of the city, the contrast can be extreme. The leafy streets of High Park are separated from the highrise apartment buildings of nearby Parkdale by a mere railway line, but heat-wise the two neighbourhoods are “chalk and cheese,” says Behan.

The Urban Heat Island problem “doesn’t affect everyone equally,” he says.

People who are more vulnerable to heat tend to live where the effect is most amplified or in buildings with no air conditioning.

“Children under 5, people over 65, those without English as a first language, immigrants, even from hot countries, are part of the vulnerable populations in Toronto,” says Behan.

For that reason, city officials take a keen interest in the Urban Heat Island effect. For instance, after a formal recommendation from Toronto Public Health, the city’s Urban Forestry department began using heat vulnerability maps to determine where new trees should be planted first.

In Toronto, it is estimated that heat contributes to an average of 120 premature deaths a year. But that average can mask extremes — deaths spike during very hot summers.

Last year, Concordia’s Akbari wrote a study that examined the effect of changing roofs from black, which absorbs sunlight, to white, which reflects it back into space.

In simulations, Akbari found that every one percentage point increase in a square metre of urban reflectivity could offset seven kilograms of carbon dioxide.

If every city in hot and temperate climates changed its roofs and road surfaces to reflective colours, Akbari calculated the effect would be the equivalent of taking every car off the road for the next 50 years.

Green roofs also significantly offset the urban heat island effect, turning a heat-absorbing surface into one that participates in evapotranspiration.

“I’m not only interested in the science,” says Akbari. “I would measure my success by the amount of energy and number of peoples’ lives saved.”



By Francesca de Châtel for CNN (26 July 2007):

Semakau now attracts diverse wildlife, like this great-billed heron.

LONDON, England (CNN) — Garbage dumps are generally not associated with thriving coral reefs, vast mangrove plantations and rare bird species.

Yet on Pulau Semakau off Singapore, this is exactly what you will find: just beside a secluded ecological zone that harbors dozens of rare plant, bird and fish species lies the world’s first ecological offshore landfill.

Located 8 kilometers south of Singapore and covering an area of 3.5 square kilometers, the Semakau Landfill was designed by engineers and environmentalists at Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA). It consists of two small islands that have been connected by a rock embankment. The area inside the landfill is divided into 11 bays, known as ‘cells’, which are lined with thick plastic and clay to prevent any harmful material from seeping into the sea.

Since the landfill was put into use in 1999, four of the 11 cells have been filled, covered with earth and planted with grass.

The landfill, which cost around $400 million, can hold up to 63 million cubic meters of rubbish, enough to satisfy Singapore’s waste disposal needs until 2040.

Clean and odor-free

What distinguishes Semakau from other landfills is that it is clean and free of smell. Two thirds of the material that comes to Semakau has passed through one of the city’s four incinerators, reducing it to approximately ten percent of its original volume. Waste from construction material is also processed, while toxic waste like asbestos is packaged in such a way that it cannot leak into the surrounding environment.

Two mangrove groves that were destroyed when the embankment was built have been replanted near the landfill and today they serve as biological indicators for the local environment. If they were to start dying, it would be seen as a sign that harmful material had leaked from the landfill.

Scientists expected that some of the mangroves would not survive the relocation, but today they cover 1.4 square kilometers around the island and even have to be cut back in places — a sign that the landfill is indeed leak-proof.

Flourishing wildlife

Together with the island’s other ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, coral reefs and sandy shores, the mangroves serve as a habitat for a variety of birds, fish and plants.

The decision to build a landfill off Semakau was taken in the 1990′s when the previous landfill on the main island had nearly reached capacity. “As land is scarce in Singapore, it was decided from the outset that the new sanitary landfill in the smaller islands would be designed as an environmentally friendly facility which would be used to meet Singapore’s land use needs when it was eventually filled up and closed,” the NEA explained in an official statement. Every effort was made to minimize the impact on the local environment so that the area beside the landfill, which always had a rich flora and fauna, has remained intact.

“Great effort went into making sure that the impact of the landfill on Pulau Semakau’s biodiversity was minimized. In fact, biodiversity remains high and we have not lost a single species because of the landfill,” says Wang Luan Keng, an education and research officer at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) in Singapore.

New species

She adds that as the island’s various ecosystems continue to flourish, scientists are still discovering new species on Semakau.

In July 2005, the government decided to open the western part of Semakau up to the public for recreational purposes. Today there are guided nature walks along the island’s coast, while sports fishing and bird watching associations also organize special excursions to the island.

“When we do the tours around the island, we have a powerful message,” says Ria Tan, an associate at the RMBR and owner of a popular Web site, “We tell people: ‘Look how beautiful this is, and imagine what could be destroyed if the landfill had to be expanded.’ This makes them think and when they go home they are more careful about how they deal with waste.”

Rich biodiversity

Thus, the Semakau Landfill project has inadvertently turned into more than just a trash dump; it is becoming an educational project and could serve as a model for sustainable urban development around the world. “The rich biodiversity around the sanitary landfill shows that development and environmental protection can co-exist and need not be mutually exclusive,” says the NEA.

“It is of course a compromise, but in the context of urban living I think it is a good one. Some nature lovers criticize the project, but in the end we have to throw our rubbish somewhere and this is a good solution,” says Tan.

Wang agrees. “I see Semakau Landfill as a great way of striking a balance between the need of urban development and nature conservation.”


Trouble is Brewing at the Ends of the Earth & in the Middle Earth

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

All is not well at the ends of the world. A warming Arctic may release enough methane currently trapped in submarine permafrost to trigger an economic meltdown. A warming Antarctica will impact krill habitats, affecting the marine food chain and lives of countless marine animals. The situation is not any better in the belly of the world either, as the practice of hydraulic fracturing used in gas mining has been proved to trigger earthquakes. Read more

Arctic warming poses potential economic meltdown

If the Arctic Ocean warms enough to release much of the methane stored beneath the seabed, the cost could almost equal the value of the global economy, scientists say

By Tim Radford in Climate News Network (4 August 2013):

The true cost of an ice-free Arctic summer could be counted in lives lost, communities flooded and economies ruined, three scientists warn.

Methane in the submarine permafrost could be released on such a scale that the cost to the world’s economy could reach $60 trillion.

The value of the entire world economy in 2012 was $70 trillion.

Gail Whiteman is at the school of management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Peter Wadhams is a professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge and Peter Hope is at the Judge Business School in Cambridge.

All three argue, in the journal Nature, that while businesses consider the benefits of Arctic warming in terms of shorter sea routes and easier access to fossil fuel reserves, the potentially catastrophic consequences are being ignored.

The problem they foresee is relatively straightforward and has been of concern to climate scientists for years. For all human history, the Arctic Ocean has been capped by ice.

Beneath the ice is sunless ocean, and beneath the ocean is permanently frozen seabed, and within the seabed are billions of tonnes of marsh gas or natural gas stored as frozen methane hydrate.

For the past 30 years, the ice has been reducing both in volume and in area, and in September 2012 reached an all-time low.

Some researchers calculate that by the 2050s, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in September.

But, says Wadhams, beneath the ice cap the ocean was effectively maintained at freezing point, which meant that the ocean floor below remained permanently at freezing point, which meant that methane hydrate, held under pressure for millions of years below the ocean floor, stayed safely locked away.

Once the ice is gone, the sea starts to absorb solar radiation, and last year reached almost 7°C.

The East Siberian Sea covers a shallow shelf, 50 to 100 metres deep, and in recent summers a joint Russian-US research team has been measuring releases of methane from the warming sea bed.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas: it is relatively short-lived in the atmosphere, but it is also 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide as an agent of global warming.

So a massive and sustained release of 50 billion tonnes of methane from the East Siberian shelf alone, they calculated, would speed up global warming, bring forward the date at which the world would warm by 2°C by between 15 and 25 years, change weather patterns, precipitate extremes of flooding, drought and storms, bring health risks, mostly for those in the developing world – and have major implications for national economies.

To find out just how much of a disaster could occur, they took an economic model used for the British Government’s 2006 Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, and ran it 10,000 times to find a mean economic cost, which is how they arrived at the $60 trillion figure.

But, of course, had they factored in other consequences of global warming – ocean acidification is one of them – the figure could have been still higher. Gail Whiteman described the data they had arrived at as “incredibly compelling” and warned that it presented an economic timebomb.

“All nations will be affected, not just those in the far north, and all should be concerned about changes occurring in the region”, the authors warn. “More modelling is needed to understand which regions and parts of the world economy will be most vulnerable.”

They also warn that it may be impossible to avoid large releases of methane without major reductions in global emissions of carbon dioxide, and they urge the World Economic Forum to ask world leaders to consider what might lie beyond short-term gains from a more open Arctic.

“Arctic science is a strategic asset for human economies because the region drives critical effects in our biophysical, political and economic systems”, they write. “Without this recognition, world leaders and economists will miss the big picture.”



Warming Antarctic seas likely to impact on krill habitats

21 August 2013:

Antarctic krill are usually less than 6 cm in length but their size belies the major role they play in sustaining much of the life in the Southern Ocean. They are the primary food source for many species of whales, seals, penguins and fish.

Krill are known to be sensitive to sea temperature, especially in the areas where they grow as adults. This has prompted scientists to try to understand how they might respond to the effects of further climate change.

Using statistical models, a team of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Plymouth Marine Laboratory assessed the likely impact of projected temperature increases on the Weddell Sea, Scotia Sea and Southern Drake Passage, which is known for its abundance of krill. This region has experienced sea surface warming of as much as 1°C over fifty years. Projections suggest this could rise by another 1°C by the end of the 21st century.

The models are based on equations which link krill growth, sea surface temperature, and food availability. An analysis of the results, published this week in the online journal PLOS ONE, suggests warming, if continued, could reduce the area of growth habitat by up to 20%.

In the early life stages krill require deep water with low acidity and a narrow range of temperatures for their eggs to successfully hatch and develop. The larvae then feed on algae on the underside of sea ice.

The adults require suitable temperatures and enough of the right type of food (larger phytoplankton) to successfully grow and reproduce. Many of these critical environmental features (temperature, acidity, sea ice and food availability) could be affected by climate change.

The projected effects of warming are not evenly spread. The island of South Georgia is located within the area likely to be worst affected. Here the reduction in krill habitat could be as much as 55%. The island is home to a range of animals such as fur seals and macaroni penguins that depend upon krill, and others, such as black-browed albatrosses, which eat substantial amounts of krill as well as fish and squid. The researchers say animals which don’t travel far to forage, such as fur seals, would be most affected by the projected changes.

Krill is also being commercially fished, although there is nothing to suggest current levels are unsustainable. In fact, at less than 1% of estimated biomass, catches are much lower than most other commercial fisheries.

But the Antarctic krill fishery took 68% of its total catch between 1980 and 2011 from the area of projected habitat degradation. The scientists suggest improved management systems to ensure the fisheries take into account both growing demand for catches and climate change.

Lead author, Dr. Simeon Hill, a marine biologist at BAS, said:

“Each year, growth of Antarctic krill in the Southern Ocean produces new material that weighs twice as much as all the sugar produced in the world. Krill grow fastest in cold water and any warming can slow down or stop growth, reducing the food available for wildlife. Our research suggests that expected warming this century could severely reduce the area in which krill can successfully grow.”

Although there is evidence that warming seas pose a threat to Antarctic krill habitats the team of researchers believe this can be significantly reduced by putting effective management systems in place.



Does fracking cause earthquakes or not?

By Andreas Späth for News 24 (23 July 2013):

Last week I asked (and tried to answer) the question whether or not fracking causes groundwater pollution. Another issue that’s been in the news lately and one that causes a fair amount of confusion concerns the connection between the controversial oil and gas extraction method and earthquakes.

On one level, the answer to this one is straight forward enough: yes, fracking does cause earthquakes. In simplistic terms, the pressurised fluids injected into fracking wells lubricate pre-existing but dormant fault planes and thus increase the likelihood that they rupture, causing two adjoining bodies of rock to slide and grind past each other and the ground above to shake.

But that only addresses part of the matter. The more pertinent concern is how severe these fracking-related seismic events are.

In 2011, the British Geological Survey confirmed that two earth tremors near Blackpool in North-West England were most likely to have been the result of exploratory shale gas drilling operations employing fracking in the area and the company doing the drilling, Cuadrilla Resources, accepted responsibility for the events.

Causing earthquakes

The quakes in question were very weak, however, with magnitudes of 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale respectively, and they caused neither damage nor injuries.

A recent study by a group of British scientists identified merely three earthquakes caused by human activity that could be attributed to fracking since 1929 – one each in the USA, Canada and the UK. The largest of these occurred in the Horn River Basin in Canada and had a magnitude of 3.8.

While the study “established beyond doubt” that fracking can indeed cause earthquakes, the lead author, Professor Richard Davies of Durham University concluded that it’s not a significant mechanism for inducing tremors that can actually be felt by anyone other than a seismologist using fairly sensitive measuring equipment.

So if fracking is ever going to happen in South Africa, a direct increase in earthquakes powerful enough to cause damage or injury is not something we should worry about a whole lot. Which is, of course, not the same as saying that fracking won’t cause damage and injury in a number of other ways – it will!

But this is not quite the end of the story. While fracking itself is not a major inducer of dangerous earthquakes, a closely associated activity may well be.

Fracking produces millions of litres of wastewater in the USA every year and a lot of that waste is disposed of by pumping it into deep underground wells. Over 150 000 of these injection wells are now in operation in the country to get rid of wastewater from the oil and gas fracking operations.

This practice (which is illegal in the EU) has been directly linked to significantly more severe earthquakes than those caused by fracking itself. In 2011, for example, a 5.7 magnitude tremor in Oklahoma believed to be caused by injection wells for fracking wastewater was felt in 17 states, destroyed 14 homes and injured two people.

In Arkansas, earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 and larger have increased drastically since similar injection wells became operational in 2009 (up from just one in 2007 to 157 in 2011) and 98% of them occurred within 6 kilometres of three wells after wastewater injection started.

The verdict

In the whole of the American Midwest, in what should naturally be a tectonically stable region, “a remarkable increase” in the rate of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and higher has been documented since the fracking boom took off there.

This month, researchers showed that in areas that have undergone extensive underground injection of fluids, significantly tremors can be triggered by much larger earthquakes thousands of kilometres away. The event in Oklahoma I mentioned above, for instance, is likely to have been set off by a magnitude 8.8 quake in Chile.

So what’s the verdict in a nutshell?

Current scientific opinion suggests that fracking in and of itself is unlikely to cause dangerous earthquakes. If, however, large quantities of wastewater from fracking operations are injected into disposal wells, the area in question is likely to become susceptible to more powerful and potentially damaging earthquakes.


  • Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry


Wood Products From Where? DNA Detectives Could Stop Illegal Loggers

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

The beautiful hardwood table in your dining room may be of more dubious origin than you thought. BBC Television’s Panorama programme has revealed that new EU timber regulations are falling short against Congo rainforest logging scam. Such scams, though, can be overcome with a new technology involving DNA sampling and testing developed by Singapore-based DoubleHelix. Elsewhere in Africa, the new nation of South Sudan shows great promise in developing a sustainable agricultural sector, though challenges still remain which require extensive aid to overcome. Read more

Has the EU fallen for Congo rainforest logging scam?

By Raphael Rowe for BBC Panorama (22 July 2013):

BBC Television’s Panorama programme has spent six months tracking illegal logs from the Congo rainforest to western Europe. The investigation has revealed that new EU timber regulations are failing to stop illegal wood getting into European stores.

I have been on a stakeout for two days, but finally the moment I have been waiting for is about to arrive. I have been monitoring a ship carrying wood to Europe from Congo-Brazzaville.

It is the dead of the night and I am at the port of La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic coast.

While its marina and pretty cafes make it a popular holiday destination, La Rochelle is also a major European gateway for West African logs.

The logs on board were delivered shortly after the EU Timber Regulation came into force in March. Behind the regulation is a desire to end corruption, exploitation and create a sustainable rainforest logging industry.

This high-risk shipment will test the promise to European consumers that the timber they buy is legally harvested.

As dawn breaks, the cargo is unloaded and I can check the log markings that reveal which company felled the wood.

The engravings show they are Okoume tropical hardwood trees from Banda Nord – one of two forest cutting zones in Congo-Brazzaville used by logging company Taman Industries Limited.

But the markings appear to have been altered to change the zone of origin.

Last year so many logs were shipped abroad that the government stepped in and imposed an export ban.

The ban prevented the export of logs from 13 companies including from Taman’s other cutting zone.

But soon after, logs supposedly coming out of Banda Nord increased dramatically and were found with altered markings. The zone of origin had been changed.

Taman said it was a mistake due to human error and paid a small fine.

“Based on the sheer volumes that were coming out of Banda Nord we thought this doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem possible to be cutting that many trees,” said Serge Moukouri, of Resource Extraction Monitoring, which has been observing the logging industry for the past seven years.

Logging export ban The export ban affected 13 companies that had topped their annual quota in just five months

They found timber harvested from Banda Nord had increased by nearly 500%.

Their investigation concluded Taman was using the Banda Nord concession fraudulently as a front to illegally export thousands of logs which would otherwise have been part of the export ban.

We asked Taman about the changed markings and whether the La Rochelle logs were part of a scam. They agreed the markings appeared to be changed and promised to get back to us with further details, but never did.

During a meeting they told Panorama: “I think there is nothing illegal from the Congo here. The exports are handled by… a branch of the Ministry of Forests. It is shown very clearly on the ticket on your logs that they are allowed to be exported.”

The forest monitors are concerned that the scale of illegality committed by Taman did not trigger an investigation into the La Rochelle logs by the European authorities and importers.

“I think that enough information was out there to raise enough doubt that at the very, very, least more in-depth investigation should have been done by the importer to access the risk,” said Brad Mulley, country co-ordinator at Forest Monitors.

We tracked down the importer of the logs. Edwood is one of La Rochelle’s biggest timber importers and is managed by Fabrice Gautier from a small office close to the port. Under the new EU laws it is their responsibility to ensure the timber has been sourced and imported legally.

We contacted Fabrice Gautier a number of times, but many questions remained unanswered. He would not tell us how he could be sure the logs were legally sourced.

We asked Taman what checks Fabrice Gautier had made about the logs they supplied. They told us he was given proof of their licences to cut and export timber.

But under the new regulations he should have done much more.

“Under the new EU timber regulations the import of this timber into France should have raised a red flag, this is at the very highest risk of what these timber regulations are about. And the operator who was importing the timber should have been held to account,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK.

“It’s absolutely urgent that France does set up a proper body to deal with it because if France or other countries don’t participate properly and effectively in the European timber regulation then of course it will weaken it and it won’t work in the way that it was set up to do”.



Tracking timber: could new technology help clean up the supply chain?

By Will Henley in Guardian Professional (14 August 2013):

The prized tropical hardwood merbau was once found in abundance from east Africa to Tahiti. It is beloved of homebuilders and furniture stores around the Asia-Pacific region, but, thanks to decades of merciless logging, today only New Guinea holds enough to be harvested in commercial quantities.

Verifying that merbau, which fetches about $2,500 a cubic metre on the open market, is genuinely sourced from sustainably forested areas, either in Papua New Guinea or West Papua in Indonesia, gives the conscientious buyer an almighty headache. But it is also proving a boon for wily technology companies.

Tracking timber

In 2007, Simmonds Lumber, a wholesaler based in Sydney, became the first company in the world to trial a new technology involving DNA sampling and testing. Developed by DoubleHelix, based in Singapore, and certification body Certisource, the technology involves checking wood fibres against the genetic code of trees known to exist in sustainably managed areas.

As a business that imports more than 50 containers a month of merbau into the country, mainly from Indonesia, it was essential to ensure that the wood was coming from where its suppliers claimed, explains John Simon, chief executive at Simmonds Lumber. “The trickiest thing about importing from Indonesia is ensuring that the paperwork is correct and not, as we say in Australia, bodged up.”

And, at least according to Simon, the Double Helix DNA tracking system provides a higher standard of proof than that offered by either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, both of which he says focus on auditing company processes, not authenticating individual shipments.

However, DNA testing is not the only tracking technology being employed by suppliers and customers keen to ensure that they are not felled by fraud perpetrated by sawmills, factories or traders. Companies such as Track Record and SGS have popped up in recent years to offer software, digital barcoding, radio frequency identification tags and even satellite tracking to corroborate timber batches.

“Technology can play a real part in proving traceability,” insists Karim Peer, chief executive of Helveta, a firm based in Oxford, which offers a “digital passport” for buyers and sellers. Helveta’s verification system, used in countries such as Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, claims to track a product back to the forest where it began life as a sapling using barcode tags, which are then fixed to the product.

The introduction of tough new legislation aimed at combatting the trade in illegally sourced timber – such as the 2008 amendments to the US Lacey Act, 2012 Illegal Logging Prohibition Act in Australia, and 2010 EU Timber Regulation – has helped increase the appeal of authentication technologies, Peer says.

“The impetus for organisations in Europe and the US is that under the legislation, there are penalties that will be imposed if they don’t comply,” explains Peer. These penalties include criminal convictions, fines and even prison sentences – a sobering thought for a wholesaler or retailer who might have otherwise drawn comfort from their wilful ignorance of the supply chain.

Tackling the fraudsters

While new technologies may offer promise, neither the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) nor PEFC currently mandate that their members adopt them. According to Jonathan Geach, executive director of Double Helix, this leaves their chain-of-custody systems open to abuse, which he says act more like an “honour system” based on trust.

The access to markets and suppliers that FSC or PEFC certification offers creates a “perverse incentive” for fraudsters to cheat the system, adds Geach.

“FSC is very good at making sure that forests are well run, but, once a product gets out of a forest, you have myriad middle men and traders,” Geach says.

“Factories that sell certified products also sell uncertified products alongside. Now it doesn’t take much imagination to see that they may be mixing and through that laundering.”

However, to accuse the FSC or PEFC of being blind to the opportunities presented by technology would be unfair. Phil Guillery, systems integrity director for FSC International, explains that his organisation is already embarking on a project with Historic Futures, another British IT firm, to develop an online claims platform to verify the certification status of FSC suppliers.

“As the FSC has grown to cover almost every product from maple syrup to wood furniture – from the B&Qs and Ikeas of this world to small operations – [we have found that] the paper-based system we created needs to be modernised,” Guillery says.

DNA technology is under consideration, Guillery acknowledges, but he expresses reservations about its limitations.

“At this point, the cost effectiveness and the science aren’t quite there,” he says. “You can’t do testing on paper or lots of composite wood products because the DNA is generally removed. For some tropical species, there are many closely related relatives, which also makes it difficult.”

For all this focus on technology, there is a danger that companies may not see the wood for the trees, so to speak, at least when it comes to other important issues related to sustainable forest management.

“I don’t see how a DNA test will guarantee that workers in Malaysia or China or anywhere have their freedom of association or bargain rights honoured. I don’t see how barcoding will guarantee that forest workers come home at night with the body parts that they left with in the morning,” says Bill Street, chairman of PEFC’s board of directors.

“The goal, at least for PEFC, is that we put an end to deforestation and that requires focusing on a much larger picture than just technology.”



Planting the Seeds of Sustainability in South Sudan

By Colin H.P. Buckley  (20 August 2013):

In the world’s newest nation of South Sudan, the legacy of four decades of civil war continues to challenge efforts to gather reliable current statistics on health, education, the economy and other factors. USAID and other development partners are seeking to help the South Sudanese people build a robust and resilient economy. Key to that effort is modernizing and expanding the agriculture sector. Because decades of war often forced people from their land, South Sudan as a whole lost much of its agricultural knowledge base. As a result, most of South Sudan’s food is imported, despite significant arable land, plentiful water and good quality soil. In spite of the challenges, most South Sudanese are still involved in agriculture, typically as subsistence farmers producing crops such as maize, sorghum, cassava and groundnuts. Production levels are low, however, and even farmers in the most fertile region—the “Greenbelt” that crosses the three Equatoria states—are affected by a number of adverse conditions, including poor quality seeds, deficient farming equipment, lack of roads to get their goods to market and post-harvest losses due to inadequate or nonexistent storage.

To examine the effects of USAID’s assistance in South Sudan’s agriculture sector since 2012, a USAID team led by economist Paul Pleva recently completed a cost-benefit analysis of the $26 million in USAID funds currently being spent annually in South Sudan in support of the Feed the Future Initiative.  Part of the analysis examined two different techniques for improving crop yields, both being promoted under USAID’s Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets (FARM) project.  Begun in 2010, the FARM project seeks to boost agricultural growth through improved inputs, strengthen market linkages, improve the conditions for private sector investment and improve infrastructure to facilitate trade.

Pleva analyzed the two techniques being implemented through the FARM project to improve crop yields. One technique required relatively expensive farming inputs, but promised potentially dramatic yield increases.  A second technique focused on more simple improvements such as improved seeds, proper weeding and seed row spacing for more modest yield increases.  The team observed actual outcomes produced by the two techniques and considered the sustainability of each.

Pleva led a collaborative effort to collect data from multiple sources, identify inconsistencies and compare the quality of those sources. He used inexpensive technologies such as Google Apps to ensure that USAID implementing partners around the world could provide input.

Cheaper farming techniques improve farming yields and result in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers. Photo credit:

Cheaper farming techniques improve farming yields and result in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers. Photo credit: Sait Mboob

After comparing the results, the USAID team found that of the two interventions, the cheaper technique of improving farming yields resulted in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers and provided a much better chance of sustainability after the project ends.  The evidence for this finding was significant and, as a result, USAID turned the focus of the project toward the cheaper and more sustainable intervention.

Small sums can generate big returns—in this case for both farmers and USAID. USAID made a modest investment of resources—the staff time of a small team—to conduct the cost-benefit analysis, and in doing so, increased the development impact of taxpayer dollars significantly. Farmers in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, stand to benefit economically from the findings of this analysis—a potential path out of poverty.

By using economic analysis to prove that simple techniques can best assist South Sudan’s farmers, USAID had avoided an all too common trap in development—unsustainable projects that fall apart when donors conclude a project or cease assistance to a sector or country. Lessons like this one not only save money in the short-term, but by helping people to increase their household income and food security they also decrease the likelihood that emergency funds will be needed to help these communities in the future.


Bio-Fueled Personal Jet Packs or High Speed Vacuum Packed Tubes?

Posted by Ken on August 26, 2013
Posted under Express 197

The future of transportation is upon us. From personal to public, visions of the modes of transportation in the future will have us racing through tubes in high-speed capsules, or taking to the skies in personal jetpacks. Whether inevitable or just the product of somebody’s whimsical fantasy, moving around in the future will be definitely be a very different affair – and hopefully a much speedier one. Read more

Hyperloop, Vacuum Tubes Shaping Up As Travel Of The Future?

CBSNewYork/AP, Los Angeles (12 August 2013):

Imagine traveling from Manhattan to Beijing in two hours. A couple of innovative minds believe they know how to cut travel time drastically, using high-speed capsules racing through tubes – much like making a drive-through transaction at a bank.

Colorado inventor Daryl Oster calls his idea the “Evacuated Tube Transport Technology” and says it can send someone 400 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about a half-hour. His technology would require a system for sending a capsule through a vacuum tube with the air sucked out just like outer space, eliminating friction.

“What you’ll feel is like if you’re in a Corvette and push the throttle down all the way,” Oster told CBS 2’s Barry Petersen.

Oster’s idea is similar to another one being floated by Elon Musk, who has made billions of dollars creating Tesla electric cars, the online payment system PayPal and SpaceX, one of the world’s first private rockets for launching satellites.

Musk has been dropping hints about his “Hyperloop” system for more than a year during public events, mentioning that it could never crash, would be immune to weather and would move people from Los Angeles to San Francisco also in about 30 minutes. On Monday, he finally revealed details of his plan for the solar-powered, elevated transit system.  Musk said his Hyperloop would transport people — or cars — in aluminum pods traveling 800 mph through steel tubes.

“You just see a carpet of cars that aren’t moving, and it’s just like, ‘Wow, how much misery is that causing?’ and surely there’s something we can do about it,” Musk told CBS in an earlier interview.

Musk, however, said he is too focused on other projects to consider actually building it.

“I think I kind of shot myself by ever mentioning the Hyperloop,” he said. “I don’t have any plans to execute because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla.”

Musk said he invites critical feedback to his design “to see if the people can find ways to improve it.” It will be an open-source design, meaning anyone can use it and modify it.

So why aren’t Oster’s and Musk’s plans imminent? It will take at least several billion dollars before one or the other can come to life.

Complicating matters further is that another set of California dreamers has already come up with a high-speed rail system with speeds of 220 mph, making an L.A.-to-San Francisco trip in three hours possible. The rail, approved by voters last November, would cost nearly $70 billion.

“To meet the needs of the 50 million people that we’re going to have in the next 20 or 30 years, we have to build more freeways, more airports and do things that are going to cost a lot more than the high-speed rail system is going to cost,” reasoned Dan Richards, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Musk and Oster said their transport devices would cost only about one-tenth of the California high-speed rail.



Jetpack man soars over U.S. alongside B-17 bomber

Yves Rossy, known as Jetman, wowed attendees at the EEA air show, which also hosted Terrafugia’s flying car.

By Tim Hornyak for Cnet (30 July 2013):

Next time you’re stuck in traffic, just imagine soaring above it all with a personal jetpack like Yves Rossy. The Swiss adventurer just made his debut U.S. flight in grand style.

Jetman, as Rossy is known, appeared alongside a vintage B-17 bomber at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wis., in his first public flight in the U.S.

He flew in formation with the bomber, coming within several feet of the fuselage, before parachuting to a safe landing.

Jetman has been thrilling crowds and aviators around the world with his custom-made jet suit, zooming across the English Channel in 2008.

The wing measures 6.5 feet across and is powered by four JetCat P200 turbines with 48 pounds of thrust each. The suit’s average speed is 124 mph.

Rossy, a veteran fighter and commercial pilot, has been working on various prototypes of the wing since 1993, going through inflatable and rigid versions and experimenting with engine configurations.

Check out a video of Rossy’s latest flight at BBC News.

Jetman was joined at the air show by the Terrafugia Transition, the greatly anticipated flying car that has gone through several prototypes on the road to commercialization.

The sky-mobile, which could cost nearly $300,000 when it comes out in a few years, marked its first public demonstration of driving and flying as it sailed low above onlookers.

Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of “Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots.” He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade.



Jetpack cleared by New Zealand authorities to carry a pilot

By Dominique Schwartz for ABC news (14 August 2013):

The New Zealand makers of a one-person jetpack hope to have it on sale by the middle of next year.

The Martin Aircraft company says its jetpack can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour and soar 1 kilometre high.

The Christchurch-based firm has been testing its prototype 12 via remote control.

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority said the jetpack has now been issued with an experimental flight permit for development test flying, which allows someone to pilot the aircraft.

Martin Aircraft says it has had 10,000 enquiries from people keen to take to the skies, but it is likely to first sell the jetpacks to government and emergency agencies involved in search and rescue and defence.

Chief executive Peter Coker said a simpler model aimed at the general public is expected to be on the market in 2015.

He said the certification was a significant milestone in the development of the jetpack.

“For us it’s a very important step because it moves it out of what I call a dream into something which I believe we’re now in a position to commercialise and take forward very quickly,” he said.

The jetpack is the brainchild of inventor Glenn Martin, who began working on it in his Christchurch garage more than 30 years ago.

Inspired by childhood television shows such as Thunderbirds and Lost in Space, Mr Martin set out in the early 1980s to create a jetpack suitable for everyday use by ordinary people with no specialist pilot training.

The jetpack consists of a pair of cylinders containing propulsion fans attached to a free-standing carbon-fibre frame.

A pilot backs into the frame, straps himself in and controls the wingless jetpack with two joysticks.

While the jetpack’s concept is simple – Time magazine likened it to two enormous leaf blowers welded together – fine-tuning it into an aircraft that is safe and easy to use has been a lengthy process.

Mr Coker said the latest prototype incorporated huge design improvements over earlier versions.

“Changing the position of the jetpack’s ducts has resulted in a quantum leap in performance over the previous prototype, especially in terms of the aircraft’s manoeuvrability,” he said.