Singapore

Singapore to reduce carbon footprint by 36% by 2030

A day before heading to Paris for the COP21 World Climate Change Conference, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan talks green issues with the media. JUDITH TAN (juditht@sph.com.sg) reports on his main points​

SINGAPORE'S STAND & INPUT

We are a small island and we will be at risk.

We have, in a sense, been able to sail through this because of extensive preparation, investment in our infrastructure, improvement of our drainage systems, further investments in water recycling plants and desalination.

All these have put us in good stead. But there's still much more work to be done in the decades to come

If you look at our global impact, Singapore generates only about 0.11 per cent of global emissions.

If you contrast this figure with the fact that about 2.2 per cent of global trade flows through us, you will see we're a very efficient economy.

Nevertheless, as a responsible and vulnerable member of the global community, we will do our part.

That is why we put forward our own INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) of achieving a reduction of our own emissions by 36 per cent by 2030.

HOW TO 
ACHIEVE THIS

We need to be far more energy-efficient. I believe all of us can reduce 10, 20, 35 per cent. In other words, I'm not asking you to make sacrifices. I'm asking you to save money.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is looking at introducing smart home meters, so you will know how much electricity you are wasting when you leave your set-top box on standby.

Did you remember to switch off your computer, your fan, your air-conditioning? What about the setting of your air-conditioning?

The point I'm making is focusing on energy efficiency and saving money for ourselves will make a difference.

Another big area we need to improve on is energy efficiency within industry.

There's a whole system of grants, incentives and technology transfers, so that companies will know what are the most efficient motors, engines, equipment which allow us to achieve our economic output while saving money by saving energy.

You will notice that BCA (Building & Construction Authority) under the Ministry of National Development has been encouraging the construction of green buildings.

Another sector undergoing transformation is our transport sector, in particular public transport.

The Ministry of Transport is embarking on a massive rail building programme in the next 20 years.

The bus network is also being supplemented with additional buses.

So we expect to see, by 2030 or so, 75 per cent of all trips we take should be on public transport because it is more efficient, and it becomes the first choice for anybody thinking of moving around, from home to work and within the city.

THE HAZE

In the last three months, the burning of the forest and the peat land in our neighbour, by their own estimates, put out more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

That last three months will represent 20 per cent of all that savings that we have been trying to achieve.

It's a very big number, so the burning of forest and peat lands is terrible from a greenhouse gas emission perspective, and it's also terrible from its impact on pollution and human health, and that's why I had previously said it is a crime.

It is a tragedy that it is man-made and citizens in Indonesia and in Singapore have a right to demand that everybody does what he is supposed to do - comply with the law, enforce the law, share information, prosecute the culprits and these are really commercial interests that ought to be prosecuted.

From a foreign policy perspective, what we need is more effective collaboration, greater trust between authorities in the countries so that we can do the right thing for our citizens.

This is about authorities in the region dealing with errant companies that are releasing unconscionable amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment and are putting the health of millions of people at risk and, in fact, are damaging the regional economies by many billion of dollars.

The rains have come, the blue skies have returned, but we must not allow things to go back to "business as usual" and we have to keep up the pressure.

Things get tricky when countries cry 'It's not fair'

Sometimes countries bicker like children. And like five-year-olds arguing, their most common phrase is "it's not fair".

In a funny but painful way, that same style of argument goes on in international affairs, says Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in highlighting one of the factors that could derail the climate change talks.

Referring to common but differentiated responsibility, he said that a group of developed countries has a historical responsibility for putting out excessive carbon dioxide over the past 2½ centuries.

But these countries are saying, "Ah, but the world has changed and the developing countries are now putting out a greater share of the carbon dioxide to date."

The immediate counter-argument is, "Yes, the world may be changing but you cannot wish away historical facts."

"This fight of differentiation is really a fight about fairness," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"If you use your experience as a parent, trying to resolve fights on fairness is not trivial, so don't underestimate the ability for this issue to derail the process."

But he remains optimistic a universal agreement can be achieved at the Paris talks, noting that "never before" have so many nations committed carbon pledges towards tackling climate change.

SingaporeEnvironmentDr Vivian BalakrishnanUncategorisedparisHaze