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Does Singapore treat global warming seriously enough?
By SUN Xi
The recent super Typhoon Haiyan has severely hit 41 provinces in the Philippines, leaving thousands dead, millions displaced and more than 10 million affected. At the center of the storm, roughly 90 percent of the 201.7-sq-kms Tacloban City was totally destroyed, according to the city administrator Tecson John Lim.
You can imagine that it must be a fatal disaster for Singapore if Haiyan hits the 710-sq-kms “Little Red Dot”. Fortunately, that will highly unlikely happen in the near future. Singapore enjoys a favorable geographical location, which not only forges it as a regional transportation hub, but also shelters it from serious natural disasters, such as earth quakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.
The Philippines delegate at the recent UN international climate talks in Warsaw, Poland blamed Typhoon Haiyan on climate change and vowed to fast until a “meaningful outcome is in sight.” Although the exact link between the record Typhoon Haiyan and climate change may need further scientific examines, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Typhoon Haiyan was an example of climate change and should serve as a warning to mankind.
Therefore, besides its short term donations and other disaster relief aids to the Philippines, Singapore should and can do more to curb global climate change in the long run, because Singapore is not an isolated haven immune to global warming. Recently, Singapore has experienced heavy downpours and flash floods caused by strong storms and the city-state is expected to face more rising frequency of intense storms as sea levels rise due to global warming.
Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, recently published an inspiring article “Can Singapore ‘electrify’ the world?”. In his article, Professor Mahbubani dreamed a bold national project that “let Singapore become the first country in the world to have an all-electric fleet of vehicles” which can help to delay global climate change.
I am actually very receptive to Professor Mahbubani’s great idea. However, I have a big question that even Singapore really has the capability to ‘electrify’ the world, but will it be willing to do so?
As a green and clean city, Singapore has been a very successful business society with advanced environmental management expertise. Last June, Singapore government issued its National Climate Change Strategy 2012.
However, does Singapore really treat global warming seriously enough? Singapore contributes less than 0.2% of global carbon emissions, but it had the largest carbon footprint per capita in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report (2010).
The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) of Singapore rebutted that the WWF “seriously misrepresents the situation” and pointed out that based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s method, Singapore ranked below countries such as Brunei, Australia and South Korea in terms of per capita emissions.
Data issues aside, residents in Singapore lack real actions. Although most Singaporeans find air-conditioning too cold in public areas such as offices, cinemas, schools, MRT trains and buses, who really care about stopping such energy wastage? By contrast, tens of thousands of protesters recently attended climate change rallies across Australia to urge government to retain the carbon tax so as to curb emissions.
Meanwhile, although Singapore is an internationally renowned business and financial hub, its companies and investors are not so enthusiastic about joining environmental campaigns. As November 2013, there are only 69 among those 11983 participants in the UN Global Compact and 5 among those 1217 signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) from Singapore.
High GDP per capita fuelled consumption habits are commonly evident in Singapore. 703,200 tonnes food wastage was generated last year, a 26 per cent increase compared to 2007. Although water is a naturally scarce and precious resource in Singapore, water usage (152 liters water consumption per capita per day) and water waste are still high, while the daily usage is already around 100 liters in Hamburg, Germany and Barcelona, Spain.
Therefore, Singapore should really contribute its parts to curb global climate change starting from its residents’ daily life and companies’ daily operation. Otherwise, it may be the next victim, as environmental disasters have no boundary.
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