Tropical Singapore could show Australia a thing or two

Tropical Singapore could show Australia a thing or two

When Australian Prime Minister was in Singapore to open the new campus of the James Cook University, he heard about the university’s work to draw attention to the tropics – a region where the world’s future will be decided as it is the most vulnerable to climate change early impacts. He also needed reminding about the state of Australia’s tropical gem – the Great Barrier Reef – but that didn’t stop his Government as it ploughed ahead with plans to derail Australian’s clean energy ambitions. Pity he didn’t pick up on what Singapore is doing about climate change, even though it is not blessed, as Australia is, with vast wind, solar, wave, hydro and other clean resources of energy.  Read More

Ken Hickson reports on the Australian Prime Minister’s visit to Singapore:

It was a monumental day for James Cook University, honoured to have Tony Abbott turn up to officially open the new and expanded Singapore campus.

Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding didn’t hesitate to point out to the assembled gathering that the University was leading the way in tropical studies, as the world’s future will be decided in this important region, with half of the global population and 67% of the world’s children under 15 years of age living in the Tropics by 2050.

“We believe Australia and Singapore have an important role to play as key economies located in the Tropics,” Professor Harding said.

We also heard Mr Abbott speak at the ShangriLa Hotel, in front of a very large audience which included Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong. I was tempted to jump up during question time, but decided my question might seem impolite – or even embarrassing – for the hosts, if not the visitor.

I wanted to ask Mr Abbott if he had discussed the possibility of Singapore and Australia working together on climate change “solutions”, sharing technology, ideas, energy and clean tech plans, as he was quick to point out all the reasons why the two countries should work together and encourage an even flow of talent, trade and technology transfer.

Singapore acknowledges, as the rest of the civilised world does, the reality of climate change and has taken significant steps to cuts its emissions of greenhouse gas, even though it relies of fossil fuels to provide for nearly 100% of its energy.

It has consciously moved to the cleaner natural gas, and away from coal and oil dependence. It has also embarked on a major energy efficiency campaign to reduce energy use and intensity. It is also doing all it can these days to get as much as its possibly can from solar – latest research shows that Singapore could get 20% of its electricity from solar.

There is still hope the new partnership agreement between the two countries can go beyond security, trade, services, technology, tourism and cultural exchanges, to incorporate a collaborative approach and a sustainability agenda. Australia needs to learn from Singapore all about creating a sustainable society – which includes energy, environment, economy and ethics.

Mr Abbott and his strong supporters in the fossil fuel industry need to accept that it is no longer ethical – or even legal – to continue to dig up and burn coal, for example, when it is known to be the biggest (and dirtiest) contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and its seriously impacting on the health and the environment of the whole world.

Singapore’s PM was too polite to tell a visiting head of state – while a guest in his country – anything like that, just as I was not wanting to create a scene. But somehow Singapore must engage with Australia to share not only the secrets of its success, but why it has accepted the inevitability of climate change, recognised what needs to be done to “come clean” and  work together to help give  the whole Asia Pacific region a clean energy low carbon future.

Here are three reports to absorb – one relating to Mr Abbott’s Singapore visit to the James Cook University, one drawing attention to the state of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, and one an ABC report on what the current Australian Government is doing to disrupt the transition to a clean energy, low carbon state of affairs:

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott opens new JCU Singapore campus

From James Cook University Report of the visit (28 June 2015):

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has officially opened James Cook University’s new Singapore campus.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, and a delegation of senior executives from major Australian corporations.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Palaszczuk also attended the event, along with Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education, Ms Indranee Rajah.

The new JCU Singapore campus is located close to Singapore’s Central Business District on 24,000 square metres of land. It has a gross floor area of 19,000 square metres, consists of over 40 modern classrooms and lecture halls, 10 computer and research laboratories, administration offices, a purpose-built electronic financial trading room, and a Psychology Clinic.

JCU is the only Australian university with a fully owned and operated campus in Singapore. JCU Singapore was established in 2003.

JCU Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Sandra Harding said Singapore is a fantastic location for an Australian university that has been charged with pursuing education and research on issues of importance to the peoples of the Tropics.

“Internationally recognised as a university that has focused on conducting teaching and research related to the Tropics, we believe that it is appropriate for us to build upon our presence in Singapore to give better effect to our ambition to be one university in two countries in three tropical locations,” Professor Harding said.

Dr Dale Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of Singapore Campus said that the new campus will allow JCU Singapore to innovate and provide the best facilities for its multi-national student body.

“Having been part of the local education landscape since 2003, JCU Singapore is keen to provide a learning infrastructure that befits our status as the only EduTrust Star institution in Singapore,” Dr Anderson said.

“Every attempt was made to create a cutting-edge learning environment at this new campus, which will allow us to advance James Cook University’s intent to create a brighter future for life in the tropics,” he added.

The opening of the new campus follows the release of the Federal Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. It emphasises that northern Australia sits at the intersection of the two great regions of global economic and population growth – Asia and the Tropics.

“The expansion of JCU’s presence in Singapore underscores the growing and strong bilateral relationship between the two countries, and the importance of the Tropics,” Professor Harding added.

The opening of the new campus coincides with the first anniversary of the launch of the State of the Tropics report, which was led by James Cook University. T

The report revealed that the world’s future will be decided in the Tropics, with half of the global population and 67% of the world’s children under 15 years of age living in the Tropics by 2050.

“We believe Australia and Singapore have an important role to play as key economies located in the Tropics,” Professor Harding said.

“James Cook University decided to establish a presence in an advanced tropical location where the focus on expanding knowledge, innovation and scientific discoveries is aligned to the University’s intent to promote teaching and research that improves the lives of people living in the tropics.”

JCU Singapore is the only education institution in Singapore to have attained the country’s highly acclaimed EduTrust Star quality mark from the Council for Private Education (CPE).

The EduTrust Star is given to institutions that excel in all key areas of management and the provision of quality education services. This mark is also a symbol of recognition for sustained efforts in organisational improvement.



World heritage committee seriously concerned about a real future for the Great Barrier Reef: “in danger” listing remains a possibility

From Environmental Justice Australia (1 July 2015):

Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee on the Great Barrier Reef highlights the poor condition of the Reef and expresses serious concerns about the Reef’s health.

Lawyers from US-based Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia, who together recently released a report finding that the Reef meets the legal criteria to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, say that if Australia does not take stronger action at the domestic and international levels to address climate change – the greatest threat to the Reef’s long term survival – it will remain open to the Committee to list the Reef as “in danger” in 2017.

“The World Heritage Committee found that the outlook for the Reef is poor and that climate change, poor water quality, and coastal developments are major threats to the health of the Reef,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“It recognized the importance of Australia restricting major new port developments and limiting capital dredging to ensure the ‘future conservation’ of the Reef, and it imposed an 18 month review upon Australia,” she said.

“The World Heritage Committee’s decision shows that the international community is watching Australia – and it does not like what it sees,” said Earthjustice’s Australian lawyer, Noni Austin.

“The evidence is clear: climate change is one of the greatest threats to the Reef’s long term survival. But at a time when we must burn less coal, Australia is proposing to expand coal export terminals like Abbot Point on the Reef’s coast.

“These port expansions directly harm the Reef and enable Australia to open massive new coal mines in the Galilee Basin – adding insult to injury by exacerbating climate change.

“Last month we released a legal analysis that found that the Reef meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee gives Australia a reprieve from an ‘in danger’ listing.

“But if Australia does not take stronger climate action and stop the coal port expansions and the development of the Galilee Basin, it will remain open to the World Heritage Committee to place the Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger when it considers the Reef again in 2017,” said Ms. Austin.

“It is time for Australia to step up to ensure this unique and threatened part of humanity’s world heritage is not lost forever,” Ms. Wilkinson concluded.

Read the full Report:


Government ‘sabotages’ thousands of jobs as it ends wind, solar power investment,

By Katri Uibu for ABC (15 July 2015):

Thousands of Australians could lose their jobs because of the Federal Government’s latest “ideology-driven” decision not to invest in wind and small solar power projects, the head of the Australian Solar Council (ASC) says.

The Federal Government has ordered the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stop financing wind and household solar energy and instead invest in “new and emerging technologies”.

But ASC chief executive John Grimes said small business owners would be most affected by the change, saying the “tragic” decision would compromise thousands of jobs.

“There are about 18,000 people in Australia directly employed in the solar industry,” he said.

“These are the jobs of rural and regional Australia and these are the jobs that we want to create. So, the Government is sabotaging the whole industry because of its ideology that we should burn more coal and we need to shut down the renewable sector.”

Mr Grimes said the Government was “completely out of touch with the people of Australia” on the issue and vowed to “campaign hard” for policy change.

Small-scale solar energy installers labelled the Government’s policy a “stupid” decision that was causing them to “move out of the solar industry”.

Installing solar panels has been Richard de Bruin’s livelihood for five years.

Because of the Government’s decision, Mr de Bruin — the owner of R&R Solar Installations — is facing an even “bigger drop” in his revenue. It is a predicament that has forced him to explore alternative business ideas and axe the job of his own son.

“The uncertainty that we’ve had for the last six to 12 months has just really hurt the business to the effect that now we’re moving to a new site, trying to find some more work,” he said.

“I had three employees, now I’ve got two. I’ve got to keep the money coming in. If I can’t get it through the solar I’ve got to find other ways.”

Flow of money ‘not there anymore’

Mr de Bruin said the number of stints provided by his contractors had significantly plummeted, therefore, rather than “working in solar we’re moving out of solar”.

“Currently we’re doing some contracting for other companies. The two businesses that we’ve been flat out working for, one of them has given us one job this year in six months, we usually would get five jobs a week,” he said.

“The other one has given us maybe 10 jobs for the last six months. Hence the reason we’re looking to move to another industry.

“We’re starting to work in wireless where we’re putting up satellite dishes on houses and installing them. We’ve had to completely change what we’re doing.”

What is the CEFC?

The CEFC was set up by the Gillard government in 2012.

It mobilises capital investment in renewable energy, low-emission technology and energy efficiency in Australia.

The corporation operates like a traditional financer, working with co-financers and project proponents to seek ways to secure financing solutions for the clean energy sector.

It focuses on projects and technologies at the later stages of development which have a positive expected rate of return.

As at June 30 last year, the CEFC had contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion.

He said the financial situation had had an impact on his family life and he could not afford to live in a house.

“Our business was going strong. I had my two sons working for me, one bought himself a house,” he said.

“The flow of money in and out just isn’t here anymore. I had to fire one of them, [I] just couldn’t afford it anymore.

“He was the one who bought the house. He went to charitable organisations to get food. I live in a caravan park here in Brisbane to keep my costs down.”

Mr de Bruin said the Government’s decision not to invest in wind and solar energy projects sprung from a “conflict of interest” as it promotes coal exports.

“It’s a stupid idea to reduce investment in an area where it has the effect of saving our environment,” he said.

“Their sales model is to sell coal and to sell coal is to move away from the renewables, because there seems to be a conflict of interest.”


Leave a Reply