Idea of carbon tax to change mindsets, hit large energy users hard

SINGAPORE: Reactions to the announcement of an upcoming carbon tax system for Singapore have been generally positive, with stakeholders and observers calling the move timely and one that will transform Singapore’s economy for the better.

The system, when implemented from 2019, will target direct large emitters of greenhouse gases, rather than individual electricity users such as households. While the Government said it has started industry consultation and will also reach out to the public, it is looking at a tax rate of between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of emissions.

Speaking after the Budget address in Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) for Sembawang GRC Vikram Nair told Channel NewsAsia that the best way of solving environmental problems is to link them to economic incentives.

He said when companies consider maintaining their profitability in future, they would have to take into account measures to reduce emissions. “(With carbon tax,) there will be a cost imposed to companies’ polluting in line with their emissions, which will mean that the cost of pollution goes up so it becomes a cost they have to take into account,” Mr Nair said.

In his Budget address, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the implementation of the scheme may spur the creation of new opportunities in the clean energy sector for example.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) echoed this point, saying a carbon tax regime could boost Singapore’s economy. “Singapore should aspire to be a global leader in the research and development of renewable technologies as this will boost our economy by creating jobs and attracting investments,” said Ms Isabella Loh, chairman of SEC.

Executive director for the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore, Kavita Gandhi, said the timeline for imposing the scheme from 2019 is “sustainable”. “The large emitters are already on the path due to the Energy Conservation Act and other initiatives to stimulate efficiencies. (The carbon tax scheme) will further enhance such measures being undertaken,” she added.

According to the National Climate Change Secretariat, there are between 30 and 40 large direct emitters of greenhouse gases.

PETROCHEMICAL COMPANIES REACT

In a statement, Shell Singapore said it has long supported a “strong and stable Government-led carbon price”. “Properly implemented, a Government-led carbon pricing mechanism stimulates technologies for the part of the economy that can decarbonise quickly; while providing time for other sectors that will take longer.”

ExxonMobil Asia Pacific said that while a uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to reducing emissions, a carbon tax regime that is added to the refining and petrochemical industry in Singapore would impact Singapore’s competitiveness as an export manufacturing centre.

Still, it said it is committed to working with the Government in subsequent consultations, and in finding a balance between providing affordable energy, addressing the risks posed by greenhouse gases while ensuring Singapore’s long-term competitiveness.

Chief sustainability officer of City Developments Limited (CDL), Esther An, said the introduction of the new carbon pricing system is “timely as the world steps up towards a low-carbon economy”.

The property developer said it included a carbon pricing system into its strategic sustainability plan from as early as 2015. “CDL recognises the importance of future-proofing our business and continues to proactively manage climate-related risks, which comprise both physical risks to buildings and potential financial risks such as carbon pricing and taxation.”

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/

As sea levels rise, Singapore prepares to stem the tide

With climate change will come rising sea levels, and while Singapore has taken steps to brace itself against the consequences, some experts say more can be done.

Sea levels are projected to rise between 0.25m and 0.76m towards the end of the century, according to Singapore’s Climate Action Plan published in 2016 by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS).

As a low-lying island, the rise in sea level poses the most immediate climate change threat to Singapore, it said. Much of the country lies only 15m above the mean sea level, with about 30 per cent of the island less than 5m above the mean sea level.

So the authorities have been preparing early to safeguard Singapore.

In 2010, the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) carried out shoreline restoration works to stabilise a section of the beach at East Coast Park. This consisted of large sand-filled bags, laid several metres into the ground to be level with the low tide, helping to reduce sand erosion.

In 2011, the minimum land reclamation level in Singapore was raised from 3m to 4m above the mean sea level.

And last year, Singapore raised the coastal Nicoll Drive in Changi by up to 0.8m.

A 1km stretch of Nicoll Drive, next to Changi Beach, will be elevated by 80cm to prepare for rising sea levels due to climate change. PHOTO: ST FILE

 

The BCA is now conducting the Coastal Adaptation Study (CAS), which aims to safeguard the country’s long term coastal protection needs, and is expected to be completed by end 2017.

Today, over 70 per cent of Singapore’s coastline is protected with hard structures such as seawalls and rock slopes. While lauding the efforts, experts have pointed out various ways in which these can be boosted.

Visiting associate professor at the University of Adelaide Wong Poh Poh, who also served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes that another approach which could help is the use of amphibious architecture, which he points out is cheaper than raising land or building sea walls. Such buildings stay on the ground during dry times. But when water comes, they float on the surface, while their foundations anchor them to the ground.

He gave the example of amphibious homes in Maasbommel, the Netherlands, which have concrete barges anchoring light timber-frame construction on top.

Prof Wong also feels that Singapore should incorporate more natural methods using mangroves to protect coastlines. He stressed the importance of mangroves which help to dissipate waves and trap sediment, potentially serving as a flexible form of coastal defence while preventing erosion.

An Indonesian boy plants a mangrove at Ujong Pancu beach in Aceh Besar, Aceh province on April 22, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
“Utilising mangroves is not only less costly, if the process is done carefully, they are still able to be effective in protecting shorelines to keep up with rising sea levels, which hard methods such as sea walls are not able to adapt to,” he said.Assistant Professor Dan Friess, a mangrove expert at the NUS Department of Geography, explained: “Mangrove restoration isn’t new in Singapore, with examples on Pulau Semakau and Pulau Tekong, and steps are currently underway to assess the potential for restoration on Pulau Ubin too.”

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the NUS Department of Geography pointed out that not many other countries have “similar constraints” like Singapore in terms of preparing for climate change – given its unique geographical circumstances as a low-latitude island city-state.

More research is needed to look at the impact of climate change on various parts of the urban system, noted Ms Helena Hulsman, associate director of Singapore operations at Deltares, which jointly undertakes applied research in water, subsurface and climate change with NUS under the knowledge alliance NUSDeltares.

Ms Hulsman suggested looking into coastal protection solutions through “building with nature”, giving examples of successful pilot studies of ecologically optimised coastal protection solutions in the Netherlands, using natural processes to increase wave dampening, reduce erosion and enhance soil stability.

Dr Aron Meltzner of Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore said there are overseas examples that Singapore can learn from. These include the Maeslant storm surge barrier in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, which augments a system of levees and dikes already in place, and the Thames Barrier, which is a movable flood barrier in the River Thames east of Central London.

A sailing ship travels past the Thames Barrier on its way upriver in London, Britain. PHOTO: REUTERS

 

There were regional fluctuations in sea levels long ago not due to global warming, and that could happen again in the future, exacerbating the effects of sea-level rise, said Dr Meltzner.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the NUS Department of Geography said in order to truly combat the problem of rising sea levels, more can also be done to “address the root cause of climate change” by relying more on non-fossil fuel energy sources such as solar energy or hydroelectric energy.

Ms Ria Tan, a nature enthusiast who runs the wildsingapore.com website, believes that the public and the Government need to have more conversations about these issues and how to solve them.

“I feel that more engagement has to be done in the face of rising sea levels as it is also a pressing issue that Singapore faces. More discussions and attention in this area can better allow agencies to understand the concerns of citizens and educate them on the issue, just like how the issue of water is heavily discussed,” said Ms Tan.

Prof Wong agrees that more open discussions have to be held by the Government with various groups within societies such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and citizens. He also feels that more people have to be trained to gain an expertise in climate change adaptations.

He said: “There is a lot more work to do if we truly want to combat rising sea levels and climate change.”

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/

Cow farts + seaweed = no more methane?

This is one form of climate change mitigation.

The significance of cow farts and burps to climate change:

“Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it’s not a small number,” said Kinley, an agricultural research scientist now working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia.

“We’re talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars.

How seaweed comes to the rescue?

Joe Dorgan began feeding his cattle seaweed from nearby beaches more than a decade ago as a way to cut costs on his farm in Seacow Pond. He was so impressed with the improvements he saw in his herd, he decided to turn the seaweed into a product.

“There’s a mixture of Irish moss, rockweed and kelp, and just going to waste,” he said. “And I knew it was good because years ago, our ancestors, that’s what they done their business with.”

Then researcher Rob Kinley caught wind of it.

The agricultural scientist, then at Dalhousie University, helped test Dorgan’s seaweed mix, and discovered it reduced the methane in the cows’ burps and farts by about 20 per cent.

Kinley knew he was on to something, so he did further testing with 30 to 40 other seaweeds. That led him to a red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis he says reduces methane in cows burps and farts to almost nothing.

While it’s difficult to consider a post with ‘farts’ and ‘burps’ seriously, the impact of this research is actually very impressive. 🙂

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-cow-farting-1.3856202

 

Nile farmers adapt to Climate Change

There are 2 ways to face the threat of climate change:
1. Climate change mitigation – reduce the effect of climate change by reducing ghg emissions,
2. Climate change adaptation – accept that things are changing, consider ways to survive in the new conditions

It doesn’t mean that the 2 are mutually exclusive (an either-or choice) – one can adapt but still work to mitigate climate change’s impacts.

The Nat Geo article discusses how international organisations like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works with Egyptian farmers, who have for centuries been relied on the Nile River and consistent weather conditions for farming, to adapt to climate change and find new ways of growing crops.

Fortunately for Regaa and his peers, there is some help at hand. The FAO has launched 15 schools across five regions. Here, in informal settings such as the field shack, groups of 15 to 25 farmers meet once a week for four months to talk through their struggles and receive instruction in more efficient agricultural techniques. “We teach them to pick better seeds, to disinfect them before planting, and to level the soil—this is crucial. It saves water and improves germination,” says Zahra Ahmed, FAO’s lead project manager in Egypt.

And despite some early opposition from older agricultural laborers, who’ve regarded the reforming outsiders with suspicion, most indications so far suggest Ahmed and her counterparts might be onto something. The Beni Suef farmers who’ve adhered to their coach’s advice have seen their yields grow so much—often at least 50-60 percent, that the governor has pledged to roll the teaching scheme out across his entire portion of the Nile Valley.

Source: NatGeo

Reservoirs, climate change and the danger of methane

Turns out overcoming global warming is way more than merely reducing our energy consumption and burning less fossil fuels. What we thought was clean energy – hydropower – may end up being a source of greenhouse gas (methane) in the atmosphere.

Reservoirs are a classic instance of how major human alteration’s to the Earth’s landscape can have unexpected effects. Flooding large areas of Earth can set off new chemical processes as tiny microorganisms break down organic matter in the water, sometimes doing so in the absence of oxygen — a process that leads to methane as a byproduct. One reason this happens is that the flooded areas initially contain lots of organic life in the form of trees and grasses.

The impact of agriculture (farming) nearby also excerabates matters:

Meanwhile, as nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus flow into reservoirs from rivers — being poured in by human agriculture and waste streams — these can further drive algal growth in reservoirs, giving microorganisms even more material to break down. The study finds that for these reasons, reservoirs emit more methane than “natural lakes, ponds, rivers, or wetlands.”

“If oxygen is around, then methane gets converted back to CO2,” said John Harrison, another of the study’s authors, and also a researcher at Washington State. “If oxygen isn’t present, it can get emitted back to the atmosphere as methane.”And flooded areas, he said, are more likely to be depleted of oxygen.

Similarly, our asian food staple of rice also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

A similar process occurs in rice paddies, which are also a major source of methane emissions.

So what now? Stop consuming rice and abandon all reservoirs? No…

…reservoirs may be emitting just shy of a gigaton, or billion tons, of annual carbon dioxide equivalents. That would mean they contributed 1.3 percent of the global total.

Just as there are unavoidable contributions to ghg emissions – hydropower is most likely still cleaner than fossil fuels, and rice will still remain a staple food for many Asians, we can focus out attention on avoidable sources of greenhouse gases. These include the excessive usage of electricity, overuse of motor vehicles instead of public transport or other means of transportation, etc.

Source: washingtonpost