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Political posturing while Asian forests keep burning

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The Indonesian government appears to be taking a tougher line on forest fires, but the haze is worse than ever. Southeast Asia’s haze is back. Forest and peatland fires in western Indonesia are causing clouds of thick smoke full of unhealthy particles, which blow north across Malaysia and Singapore, disrupting daily life and causing a health hazard.

Originally published by Innovation Forum and reproduced with permission.

The Pollutant Standards Index reading in Singapore reached 249 on 14-15 September, far exceeding the safe level of 100. Indonesia’s government is under pressure to deal with the haze. But the default position of the authorities in Jakarta seems to be to blame companies that operate in the affected regions.

Government gets tough
For example, charges have been reportedly levied against Bumi Mekar Hijau, a plantation company that supplies Asia Pulp and Paper, and against two palm oil companies, Tempirai Palm Resources and Waymusi Agro Indah.
Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, made an unannounced visit to one burned-out Tempirai concession and threatened the company with withdrawal of its permit, and with criminal investigations.

Other measures have been taken to target companies. Singapore, for example, adopted in August 2014 a bill enabling companies that contribute to the haze to be fined – even if those companies are Indonesian. The main effect of the law seems be to making it hard for company officers to visit Singapore, where liability notices might be served on them.

Measures are also being implemented at higher level. For example, in September 2014, Indonesia ratified the 2002 Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, brokered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The agreement is mainly aimed at information sharing and monitoring.

The right crackdown?
But is a crackdown on palm oil and pulp companies really the right way to resolve the issues underlying the haze problem? Experts are sceptical.

Erik Meijaard of the Borneo Futures Initiative says that large companies that serve international markets “use almost no fire” in managing their concessions.

Instead, it is smallholders and small and medium-sized companies that are likely to slash and burn, Meijaard says. Fires can occur naturally, and the haze that blows across Malaysia and Singapore is also a function of geography and prevailing winds. Indonesia’s forest fire problems are moderate compared to other parts of the world.

Peat’s the problem
Luca Tacconi, professor of environmental governance at the Australian National University, says that peatland fires cause most of the haze. Rather than blaming current management practices, this is to a great extent a consequence of past draining of peatland. Once dry, peat “keeps burning as the fires go underground and become very difficult – almost impossible – to extinguish”, Tacconi says.

Rather than a short-term crackdown on companies, the answer for Indonesia is likely to be a coordinated long-term plan to rehabilitate degraded peatlands and ban clearing of peatland. Meijaard says peatland burning has “almost no function” and can lead to flooding, so it is in the interest of local communities to restore their ecosystems.

Tougher enforcement of the law is undoubtedly required to prosecute those that do set fires, and Widodo seems to be making the right commitments on this.

A global deal
But for the longer term, hopes rest on Indonesia seizing the opportunity offered by the United Nations climate summit in Paris that starts on 30 November. The summit will aim for a global deal to tackle global warming that will be based on national pledges, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs).

Indonesia has not yet submitted its INDC, but the government says it will cut emissions by 29% by 2030, on the face of it a reasonable pledge, though it is unclear if this would be relative to business as usual or an absolute cut. And a 29% cut may in fact be a step backwards from a previous Indonesian target of a 26% reduction by 2020, according to Greenpeace.

Whatever the eventual target, as peatland and forest burning and clearance contribute the largest proportion of Indonesia’s emissions, a robust target and proper plan would seem to be essential. And all the while, the fires continue to burn.

 

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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