Climate Week — It is about Politics

There are a lot of talks about climate change and how YOU can play a part by reducing your carbon footprint and managing your waste. However, a few years ago, there was a report to claim that just 100 companies are responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions.

Most of the carbon emissions come from oil companies and cement companies. Although every little bit counts, changing your CFL lightbulbs to LED lightbulbs is not very effective at combating climate change.

Sadly, many governments, political parties and companies have not grasped the urgency of climate change and the ecological crisis. Singapore, like many other countries are looking at protecting its national interests before global efforts. Even when Singapore has signed the Paris accord, there is a lot more to be done, but little actions are taken.

The petrolchemical industry in Singapore create a lot of jobs and contributes to a significant portion to the GDP. And the Prime Minister pledges to support them and will continue to help them to succeed.

This can be seen in many of Singapore’s policy by placing high taxes on electric and hybrid vehicles. There are still no subsidies for renewable energy, and you have to register with the Energy Market company to sell energy to the grid. You also need a license to turn on your solar PV system.

USA is the biggest carbon polluter and countries like Singapore and USA view the Paris Agreement as “a bad deal for the country”, then the whole climate change may become political topic.

There is no doubt that government can legislate changes that can impact the climate. However, making such decisions will also impact the economy, which affects jobs and most importantly — votes.

Inaction however continues status quo. People comfortable with their way of life can continue, economy can continue to grow. However, living conditions and the survival of the biosphere is sacrificed. Voters may not be able to feel the immediate impact of this but their kids and future generations will have a bleak future which money cannot solve beyond the tipping point.

In Singapore, officials say that many measures have helped Singapore scale down its energy footprint. Yet government statistics also show the country’s total electricity consumption more than tripled between 1990 and 2012.

Singapore as a “rich nation” has a big sovereign fund which can be used to encourage clean-tech startups and attract such companies to come to Singapore to solve the problem of reliance of the oil companies but so far, this is not a top priority as Singapore even opened a new coal powered plant in 2012 to diversify its energy sources.

Singapore’s growth is seen as an example for the region. The development model is well studied by the neighboring countries and Singapore’s stance on renewable energy also sets an example for many developing nations that they can follow. In this case, the stakes are high as Singapore forms the norm for Asean countries to sacrifice their environment for economic growth.

Another way to cut emissions is to cut down on cement use. This is hard for developing countries to achieve as they need to build new infrastructures, but for Singapore, this can be done, but as the construction industry and real estate contributes a lot to the economy as well, there will always be mega projects and all structures — the Merlion in Sentosa — are only temporary, and will be torn down just to build the next big thing in a space of as little as 10 years.

A big challenge is also the population who is already too comfortable with what is provided. 80% of Singapore live in HDB flats and they have access to rubbish chutes on every floor. Sadly, recycling is in the blue bin on the ground floor and for convenience, many throw everything down the rubbish chute instead of recycling.

Living in the city also makes a of Singaporeans get annoyed with nature. Singaporeans complain about leaves, flies, cockroaches, mosquitoes. When a nature walk does not have a proper walkway, people will complain it is not wheelchair accessible, they will also complain about lack of vending machines on the nature trails. Singaporeans live in manicured doused in pesticides, maintained by low skill labor without horticulture training, managed by fearful bureaucrats who would rather chop off most branches off trees then have a branch break during heavy rains.

After going to the Climate Rally and listening to Greta Thunberg, I was inspired that youths today are bold enough to be fighting for their future. We need to take actions now. We need leaders that would act on solutions that would give our youths a chance to thrive tomorrow.

The $100B pledged over 100 years by Lee Hsien Loong should be spent now on funding renewable energy to overhaul our energy and enviromental policies to look for Greener energy partners and restructure our economy to solve the problems now, instead spending in the future to continuously fix the problems caused by our actions today.

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