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The 2012 National Environment Conference

Guest blog post by Rob Fenn about ISB's Green Flag and the 2012 NEC

Editor's Note: Greetings Readers! It has been a busy two weeks for me. I have been heavily involved in a number of local events, one of which was Asia Inc Forum's National Environment Conference 2012. The theme of the Conference was "Conserving our Resources for a Sustainable Future", and discussions revolved around 'Water', 'Consumption and Wastage', 'Sustainable Development', 'Resource Efficiency', 'Education' and 'Litter-Free'.

His Excellency Rob Fenn, the British High Commissioner to Brunei kindly offered to share his thoughts about the Conference via a guest blog post. For more articles about the 2012 National Environment Conference, see here, here and here.


The National Environment Conference: Pure Water in a Glass Half Full

By Rob Fenn

Dear Projek Brunei followers,

This is Rob Fenn, British High Commissioner. Delwin has kindly let me share with you my impressions of the National Environment Conference organised by Asia Inc Forum at the Empire Hotel on 20th June 2012.

I’ll start by explaining the connection between the NEC and the photo which accompanies this blog. That’s me at the wheel of the High Commission’s hybrid vehicle outside the entrance of International School Brunei (ISB). We took our Prius round to help the school celebrate their achievement of Green Flag status, the first school in South East Asia to get that accolade. It was ISB students who designed the car’s colourful livery – on “Heart of Borneo” themes.

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Green Flag status does not come easily; years of effort by students and teachers at ISB culminated last week. The award has enabled David Taylor, ISB’s Executive Principal, to leave on a high. He’s moving to lead a school in Thailand, so perhaps we’ll eventually have a network of Green-Flagged international schools in this region, fanning out from Brunei.

The drive for the Green Flag has involved the whole student body. I know, because it has inspired my own children, who are ISB students. David Taylor’s “Future Flash” at the NEC underlined how striving for the Green Flag has taken the school’s green ethos to another level. One of his slides gave us a glimpse of ISB’s future campus, a fully-fledged Eco School.

Another link between our Prius and the NEC is HSBC, who sponsored both, in a way. Three years ago, there were no hybrid vehicles in Brunei. Many people and institutions were keen to try one, but only when HSBC committed to buying a fleet of them could NBT Toyota be sure it had a market here.

How things have changed in three short years. Now hybrid vehicles are commonplace, and this year’s NEC – which has become a fixture in the nation’s calendar – no longer feels like a platform from which imported environmentalists preach about initiatives in far away countries. It is a clearinghouse for good ideas “made in Brunei”.

My personal favourites were:

  • Composting - something we can all do, which may be why it caught the imagination of so many in the room. At my house we separate-out organic waste and use it on the garden. If, like tree-planting or plastic bag-free weekends, a composting movement springs up in Brunei, it should also reduce the amount of “open burning”.
  • Not running the tap while brushing my teeth; and cutting out long showers and unnecessary laundry. It’s hard, in a country where water is so plentiful, to remember that it has a cost. But the Director of Water Services at the PWD did a fine job of reminding us that, though it falls from the sky, it is not cost-free.
  • Developing that thought in the session on rainforest conservation, the Permanent Secretary at MIPR helped us see that the rainforest is “upstream of everything”. It purifies water vital for the nation’s industry. In another session Dr Gallo reminded us that the ocean is “downstream of everything”. Plastic we throw in the river is ending up in the fish we eat.   

An oration by a Bruneian student, Ms Adibah Syazwani Binti Hj Hariah Mohamed (which, incidentally, would not have been out of place at this month’s Rio+20 UN Summit), and the films submitted the Youth Eco-Video Documentary Awards showed that this agenda is supported right across Bruneian society.

NEC Guest of Honour Yang Berhormat Pehin Suyoi was right to emphasise how much work remains to be done. Brunei’s glass of water is indeed only half full. But the NEC also underlined how that work will not all fall to the government. Civil society is ready and willing to play its part. Half full or not, the water in Brunei’s glass is still pure.

Note: Photographs courtesy of Asia Inc Forum. For more, check out their Facebook Fanpage album here.

Guest of Honour, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman, Minister, Ministry of Development, Brunei Darussalam delivering the opening keynote address

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Attendees of the National Environment Conference 2012

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Guest of Honour Yang Berhormat Pehin Suyoi meeting Ms Annie Leonard, Author of the Story of Stuff

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Guest of Honour Yang Berhormat Pehin Suyoi meeting Dr David Gallo, Ocean Explorer & Director of Special Projects, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

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Mr Wade Hughes, Director, General Business Development & Public Strategy, Alcoa with His Excellency Daniel Shields, the US Ambassador to Brunei

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Dyg Hjh Normah Suria Hayati binti Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama (Dr.) Hj Mohd Jamil Al Sufri, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources in a moderated dialogue session on Conservation & Sustainable Development

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Moderated Dialogue session on Resource Efficiency

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His Excellency Rob Fenn, the British High Commissioner engaging in open dialogue at the Conference

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Guest of Honour Yang Berhormat Pehin Suyoi at the Green Expo

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Guest of Honour Yang Berhormat Pehin Suyoi with the corporate partners of the National Environment Conference

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Special Guest, YM Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yusoff bin Haji Ismail, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education, Brunei Darussalam awarding winners from the Youth Eco-Video Documentary Awards

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Mr David Taylor, Executive Principal, International School Brunei

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Ms Annie Leonard, Author of the Story of Stuff delivering her keynote and engaged in a moderated dialogue session

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Questions and comments from National Environment Conference participants

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Moderated dialogue session on Litter-Free Brunei

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Photograph of Annie Leonard with Conference participants and Mark Cheng, Regional Director (Asia) of Green Prints (third from right)

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