Focus on renewable energy innovations to reduce carbon emissions

It was a relief to read that Indonesia has finally agreed to sign on the dotted line as a sign of its commitment to fight its extensive deforestation and forest fires that have contributed greatly to its carbon emissions ("Indonesia ratifies Paris climate change pact"; Oct 20).

However, certain green groups have described that goal of Indonesia as "ambitious", as the country's climate woes are deeply rooted and intertwined such that there are no easy answers.

Singapore has been steadfast in its efforts to contribute towards a better environment ("Singapore ratifies Paris Agreement"; Sept 22).

Now, buildings being built are required to be more green and energy efficient. There are even plans for future buildings to produce more energy than they consume.

The Republic has pledged to reach its peak in emissions by 2030; which is also the year in which our population is projected to reach 6.9 million by the Population White Paper in 2013.

The Paris climate agreement may look good on paper, like the Kyoto Protocol, but the gist of the whole venture is to garner tangible changes that could be measured in terms of the actual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

So, what does that mean to the man in the street?

It has often been said that our people are enslaved by the 3Cs, namely comfort, convenience and consumerism. Such a pursuit is not letting up soon, as the reduction of energy consumption is not achievable without some trade-off in comfort and people are generally reluctant to compromise on their quality of life.

Another scenario is that energy consumption would come down only with a reduction in human population, which could only happen on the back of undesirable events.

Countries generally strive to maintain a level of population such that there is a sufficient ratio of young people to the old.

This would likely lead to a world population that could eventually reach 11.2 billion by 2100 and a concomitant increase in future energy consumption.

It would surely be inevitable for Singapore to phase out the use of natural gas for generation of electricity in the future as it had for oil in the past.

Singapore might be a small city state, but it can be a pioneer in developing new technology in renewable energy, especially solar. Such innovations can be applied across many other countries and help in worldwide efforts to rein in global warming.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Focus on renewable energy innovations to reduce carbon emissions'. Print Edition | Subscribe