Singapore Is Serious About Climate Change

Fountain of Wealth, Suntec City – Singapore

Tan Yong Soon, Singapore's Permanent Secretary for Climate Change, recently declared global climate change to be "one of the most important and pressing challenges facing the international community."

Speaking at the conference on EU and Asian Policy Responses to Climate Change and Energy post Copenhagen, held July 26th, 2010, at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in Singapore, the Secretary acknowledged Singapore's vulnerable position as a small and low-lying island, where any rise in sea-level and temperatures can have significant consequences.

But with its total carbon emissions accounting for less than 0.2 percent of the global total, there's not much Singapore can do alone to alleviate future climate changes. That's why Singapore wants to see the issue effectively addressed and to work toward a global regime that commits every nation to take action.

Singapore's goal is a global legally-binding agreement with comprehensive targets for all countries. The feared alternative would be individual actions by separate countries, with carbon tariffs creating trade impediments and provoking retaliations by countries that fail to curb their emissions sufficiently, inevitably undermining economic trade and growth.

To achieve a sustainable global agreement, Singapore has been very active at the UN negotiations to promote long-term cooperation on climate change, increasing awareness of the issues involved, and encouraging closer cooperation among all the players.

In addition, Singapore has announced actions to reduce its own emissions by 16 percent below Business-as-Usual (BAU) in 2020. Part of this program is an Energy Conservation Act that will take effect in 2013, facilitating coordinated standards for energy efficiency and energy management for the state's largest private companies. There is also a Clean Energy Programme Office that supports clean energy applications in government buildings, and a new effort by the government's Housing & Development Board to install solar panels at six public housing precincts across Singapore. By far the single largest solar panel procurement in Singapore to date, this green initiative will power common service areas such as lifts and will benefit 3,000 households.

All this is on top of the country's previous actions, such as limiting the number of cars on the road and switching from oil to natural gas for electricity generation.

Singapore businesses have also taken steps to run more energy-efficient operations and facilities, including better cost analysis of energy use on a life-cycle basis, so high upfront costs do not disguise the pay-offs over longer periods, increased management focus on energy efficient practices, and incentives so developers are more willing to install energy efficient equipment even though it is tenants that will save on day-to-day energy costs.

In addition, Singapore is actively monitoring alternative energy sources in preparation for adopting new technologies as they improve and their costs come down. The government hopes that advances in technology will help the country turn alternative energy solutions into competitive advantages, if only as a reference site for emerging ideas to be tested before larger cities commit to them.

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Photo Credit: Williamcho