links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on November 27th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

South East Asia and climate change.
Climate change is a critical and pressing issue we are faced with today. In Southeast Asia we are increasingly exposed to the results of climate change, such as the latest typhoons and floods in the region, causing loss of lives and damage to property as well as displacing familes and increasing the spread of tropical diseases.

Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) and former chairman of Singapore National Energy Agency
There is also the risk of rising sea level and increasing temperatures. A recently released report from the Asian Developing Bank (ADB) shows that South East Asia is likely to suffer more from climate change than elsewhere in the world. There will be considerable economic costs too, with a projected 7-8 per cent lost in GDP, unless climate change is addressed.

It is an issue, on which developed and developing countries should come together. Yet differences and suspicions remain.

The date for COP15 in Copenhagen is rapidly approaching and nations worldwide are going to great lengths to reach a consensus on a new climate agreement. However, after the Barcelona meetings earlier this month, it seems that the negotiations have not progressed so far that a new legal framework will be ready for Copenhagen. A realistic outcome will probably be a political framework which can form the basis for future negotiations on the post-Kyoto treaty.

South East Asian countries, including Singapore, need to think about their position on the international stage. We all see the need to bring together the US, India, China and south-east Asia, and mediators can help bring these nations together. Singapore and other countries in the region could very well play that role. South East Asia and Singapore should engage and have an active role.

If we do not, we risk having larger and more powerful countries coming to agreements alone and the decisions risk being made without our full attention and participation.

Singapore, along with the rest of the world is also looking at alternative sources of energy. It is clear that some countries are more able and capable to deploy energy saving mechanisms such as windmills and water/tidal turbines. Solar energy, though a good solution, is still very expensive and presently is not optimal for Singapore due to our small land size and cloud cover. But we can participate in helping develop the technology and know how and benefit.

Singapore drew up a sustainable blueprint earlier this year which stressed issues such as increasing energy efficiency. Singapore also has an excellent past record in many areas of environmental proection as a green city. But we, and all other nations, should also be committed to the global effort to address climate change.

Singapore has good engineering and technology and export environmental services like water treatment and recycling. We pride ourselves on our development despite the lack of natural resources. We should regard carbon emissions as a constraint, like the shortage of water, land and clean air. By doing this, we would find innovative ways to minimise such emissions. The world is moving towards being carbon neutral. Carbon markets are thriving in places like London and China. Singapore should have a slice of the cake too. Singapore is after all an energy hub and one of the world’s leading future trading hubs.

Without the big nations on board, it may be understandable that other nations approach Copenhagen cautiously. A solitary commitment by any single nation cannot solve this global challenge.

But I hope that all governments will leave Copenhagen energized and with greater political commitment. In the post-Copenhagen scenario, many Singaporeans will hope and expect Singapore to play its role.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article