Skip to content

South East Asian Haze, Forest Fires and Me: Who are the Stakeholders?

October 31, 2014

stakeholder relationship

The chart above provides a simplified overview of the perpetual problem that is forest fires. Most of the fires in Indonesia are caused by intentional clearing of forests by large corporations. The land left behind will then be used as palm oil plantations. There are a number of other causes of the fires which are discussed in the blog’s pages. From cooking oil to biscuits, from peanut butter to soap, palm oil is a necessary ingredient for almost all organic and many non-organic household items. With the earth’s population ever increasing, there is perpetual increase in demand of palm oil every year. According to Bloomberg’s report, in 2011, global demand of palm oil rose 5% to 48.9 million metric tons from 46.6 million metric tons in 2010.

The huge demand of palm oil naturally pushes large corporations to seek ways to be able to find new lands to produce the goods. Governmental rules serve to regulate the parties involved in the industry so as to ensure a balance between economic prosperity of the people and the conservation of Indonesia’s rainforests. Sadly, so far the Indonesian government has not been able to tackle the problem satisfactorily. Some point at the lack of manpower and expertise of the Forestry Ministry as the main reason while others point at the rampant corruption among the government officials who are famous for receiving bribes in exchange for permits.

Peoples affected by the forest fires, both local and international are always swift in blaming the government, the large corporation and even the farmers. From a psychological stand view, this is normal as people are quick in using heuristics or mental shortcuts in trying to apportion blame. The media often exaggerate this process by focusing their reports solely on those who have a direct hand on the problems and neglected the fact that more often than not, those who are affected by the haze are alsoconsumers who drives the demand for palm oil.

Get Your Eco Face On!

October 30, 2014


Been actively protecting the environment and want to show the world how they can do it too? Put your Eco Face On!

Earlier in October, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources launched they #EcoFaceOn selfie contest. All you need to do is take a selfie/photo and submit it at, or via INSTAGRAM with the hashtag #EcoFaceOn! Attractive prizes such as terrarium kits, eco-friendly gadgets, dining vouchers and a 1-night stay at Siloso Beach Resort Sentosa await those who participate! 

Remember, getting your #EcoFaceOn isn’t that hard. It can be as simple as bringing your own bag to the supermarket, recycling old items, or conserving water by taking shorter showers. The possibilities are endless!

What are you waiting for? Show us your eco-efforts and get your #EcoFaceOn today!

1 x Staycation at Siloso Beach Resort

3 x Goodie Bags worth more than $120 each (Goodie Bags contain terrarium kits, eco-friendly gadgets, and dining vouchers)

31 November 2014

Cycling to reduce emissions

October 29, 2014

Over the last two days, I have been working on a rooftop garden in a school located in Admiralty. The aim of the project is to eventually involve the students of the school in the maintenace of the garden, thereby fostering a sense of responsibility towards the community and raising environmental and food security awareness.

En route to the school, one can see bicycle paths alongside the foot paths. Although not pictured here, I also saw many residents who were fully utilising the bicyle paths.

As I arrived at Admiralty MRT Station, I saw designated bicycle racks installed for the convenience of commuters who would like to continue their journey on the train. This is part of the SMRT’s Park & Ride scheme along with designated car parks conveniently located around selected MRT stations islandwide.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2010 the transport sector was responsible for 22% of global CO₂ emissions worldwide. With transport-related emissions expected to increase by 57% between 2005 and 2030, the transport sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

A sustainable transport policy, including promoting the use of bicycles as a mode of transport, can help in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. With the bicycle paths and designated bicycle racks in Admiralty, we can see that the public is also engaged in the government’s efforts as the facilities are well utilised. Commuters’ daily decisions also make an impact on the nation’s emissions.

While cycling has yet to become a principal mode of transport in Singapore, cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are evidence that the introduction of cycling infrastructure can benefit both the people and the cities, leading to cleaner cities and healthier lifestyles.

UK-Singapore joint statement on climate change and low carbon business cooperation

October 29, 2014
President Tony Tan receiving a print of "A Lane in Singapore" as a gift from Lord de Mauley  in the Marianne North Gallery during a visit to Kew Gardens on Friday. (Source: AFP)

President Tony Tan receiving a print of “A Lane in Singapore” as a gift from Lord de Mauley in the Marianne North Gallery during a visit to Kew Gardens on Friday. (Source: AFP)

The following statement was released by the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Singapore on the occasion of the visit of Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of the Republic of Singapore, to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on 24 October 2014.

The UK and Singapore reaffirm our commitment to continue taking action at a national level to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions and address the impact of climate change on our countries. We also remain committed to working constructively at the climate change negotiations to achieve a new agreement in Paris next year under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which is applicable to all Parties. This agreement should be consistent with the goal of keeping the global average temperature rise within two degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. It should also be an inclusive agreement which allows all nations, big and small, to make a responsible contribution to tackling the climate change challenge.

Our strong bilateral relations provide a good basis for cooperation on climate change issues. In 2013, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) established the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), dedicated to researching the unique aspects of climate and weather in the tropics. Collaboration between MSS and the UK Met Office has strengthened regional capacity to anticipate the effects of climate change. In June 2014, the Singapore and UK Governments collaborated on the inaugural Green Growth & Business Forum in Singapore. The Carbon Trust in the UK and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore will also cooperate to enhance the implementation of energy efficient practices amongst small and medium sized enterprises in Singapore. Tom Delay, Chief Executive of The Carbon Trust met with President Tan during his visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on 24th October.

PM Lee: Singapore will join the fight against climate change

October 28, 2014

In a Business Times article by Claire Huang, PM Lee was reported saying that in the context of the UNFCCC negotiations on climate change, “Singapore will support such efforts, even though the agreement will hit the Republic’s petroleum industry”.

PM Lee was speaking when he conferred Royal Dutch Shell the inaugural Honorary Partner-in-Progress Award at the Istana on 9 October 2014.

Power generation and the petrochemicals industry are major sources of emissions for the island city-state of Singapore. With limited capacity to tap on alternative energy resources due to high amounts of cloud cover and dispersed irradiation as well as a general lack of recourse in other renewables such as wind, tidal and hydropower, Singapore relies heavily on imported fossil fuel to power our nation.

Singapore is also one of the world’s leading energy and chemical industry hubs, both in terms of output and research. The Economic Development Board of Singapore reports that in 2010, the chemicals and chemical products sector contributed S$38 billion of the manufacturing output, a significant rise from S$28 billion in 2009. Singapore’s position as a global chemicals hub has grown in tandem with the extensive development of Jurong Island — an integrated complex housing many of the world’s leading energy and chemical companies, among them BASF, ExxonMobil, Lanxess, Mitsui Chemicals, Shell and Sumitomo Chemicals. Presently, Jurong Island has successfully attracted investments in excess of S$35 billion.

To learn more about the development of the Petrochemical industry in Singapore, a MAS Occassional Paper was published in June 1999. The paper can be accessed here.

Jurong Island

Jurong Island Photo (Source: Economic Development Board, Singapore)

Some of you may be aware that PM Lee has been involved in the climate change negotiations process for some time now, dating as far back as 2007 when he attended and delivered Singapore’s national statement at the Bali COP. In 2009, the ECO Singapore Youth Delegation met up with him in Copenhagen. The two videos below capture some of the questions we asked then, many of them are still relevant today. Enjoy!

Solidarity Message from Yeb Saño to #PowerShiftMsia

October 27, 2014

From 16-19th October 2014, two Singaporean youth, Nor Lastrina Hamid and Kephren Ayanari, part of the organising committee of Singapore Power Shift which happened 12-13th July 2014, went over to the neighbouring island of Penang, Malaysia to volunteer for Power Shift Malaysia. The event, which was held at the Center for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS) in Penang helped 60 youths from Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Sudan, Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ghana acquire the knowledge and leadership skills necessary to fight for climate justice.

To see pictures and video recap of #PowerShiftMsia, do check out the Malaysia Facebook Page.

#PowerShiftMsia participants were privileged (and touched) to receive this video from Yeb Saño.

Naderev “Yeb” Madla Saño is a Filipino climate change commissioner, environmentalist, philosopher, nature lover, and peace activitist. He is the chief negotiator in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He serves as the Chair of the UNFCCC’s Long Term Finance Work Programme.


This video was made possible by Kephren Ayanari, who is also currently volunteering for the Climate Walk. In solidarity with the global call for climate justice, climate advocates in the Philippines embarked on a journey, by foot, on October 2, the International Day for Non-Violence, from Kilometer Zero (Rizal Park, Luneta, Manila) to ‘ground zero’ of Yolanda/Haiyan (Tacloban City), the first anniversary of the super typhoon’s historic landfall, to continue the call for climate justice. The walk is estimated to end mid November 2014.

If you would like to join in parts of this Climate Walk in the Philippines, do check out the info page here.

South East Asian Haze, Forest Fires and Me: an Overview

October 26, 2014


Indonesian forest or plantation fires occur yearly mostly on peat lands and peat-swamp forest (PSF) in the dry season and are worse in drier years. While mostly caused by intentional land clearing for commercial purposes, the fires are strongly influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In El Niño years, dry-season rainfall can be less than half of normal Severe El Niño events have long been associated with large scale fires for e.g. 1997, 2006. (Field et al, 2009)

The high carbon content of peat means peat fires release vast amounts of smoke and carbon. Tropical peatland fires emit more than 300 million gram of carbon per hectare, compared to 7.5-70 million gram of carbon per hectare from other habitat types (Cochrane, 2003).

The most severe Indonesian forest fire recorded in history happened in 1997 in Borneo (Kalimantan) and Sumatra. According to Page et al, 2002, during the severe 1997 El Niño, fires destroyed approximately 8 million hectares of Indonesian Forest (In comparison, Singapore’s land area is 70,000 hectares) and released 810-2,570 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere which constituted 13 to 40% of mean annual global carbon emissions.

Forest fires have adverse effects on people, flora, fauna and their habitats. Health problems among people have been reported in areas affected by haze produced from the fires which include most parts of Indonesia and neighbouring countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Economic and material losses caused by the fires stand at the billions of USD. Furthermore, forest fires are often cited as one of the primary reasons for the decimation of protected animal and plant species in Indonesia.

Effects on the Climate

Global warming –The massive carbon emissions from peat fires makes them a major contributor to the global increase in atmospheric CO2. The Kyoto Protocol, to which Indonesia is a signatory, obliges ratifying countries to reduce CO2 emissions by $5% of 1990 levels by 2012. Based on the findings of Hooijer et al (2006), eliminating Indonesian peatland fires completely would achieve this in one fell swoop.

Reduced light intensity – Smoke blocks out the sun, reducing light intensity. Sunlight intensity can decline by up to 92% under thick smoke conditions, negatively influencing plant photosynthesis rates (Davies and Unam, 1999) and possibly reducing food security in the region.

Potential influence on El Nino South Oscillation (ENSO) – ENSO has far-reaching effects on world climate. The frequency of El Niño events is thought to have increased since the mid-1970s, due to global warming (Trenberth and Hoar, 1997). This could create a positive-feedback loop: increased burning increases atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which raises temperatures, and increases the frequency and severity of ENSO events, thereby increasing the incidence and severity of future fires, etc.

How does it affect me? Am I somehow responsible for it? The next post on the Haze, Forest Fires and Me will discuss this.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers

%d bloggers like this: