Climate change campaigns on the cards for Singapore in 2018

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said at a climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, that Singapore will be designating next year as the Year of Climate Action.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said at a climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, that Singapore will be designating next year as the Year of Climate Action. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES

SINGAPORE - The Republic is ramping up efforts to tackle climate change on a new frontier: public perception. This will supplement its existing suite of strategies that affect mainly industries.

On Thursday (Nov 16), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said at a climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, that Singapore will be designating next year as the Year of Climate Action, to instil awareness among citizens and inspire them to act.

On what this would entail, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (Mewr) told The Straits Times that there will be outreach efforts to "bring into the national consciousness the impacts of climate change and the urgency of reducing our carbon footprint to build a sustainable future for generations to come".

The ministry spokesman did not give details of these efforts, but said: "We will also be working closely with the community, businesses, schools and non-government organisations to rally them to this cause."

The Government's move to increase awareness about climate change among people was welcomed by green groups such as the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and the Singapore Youth for Climate Action.

"Climate change is arguably the most important issue of our time," said SEC executive director Jen Teo. "It is important that everyone, including businesses and individuals, understands what climate change is and supports the Government's strategy to combat it."

Climate change refers to the human-induced warming of the Earth, due to deforestation and the excessive consumption of resources that result in the production of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. 

SEC’s Ms Teo said the council will be working closely with the ministry on the issue of climate change. Campaigns could include "experiential education", and involve people taking action through reducing waste, or participating in urban farming, or learning more about consuming home-grown produce, for example. Eating local could reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fewer resources are needed to transport goods from farm to market.

The amount of waste in Singapore has grown from 5.02 million tonnes in 2005 to 7.67 million tonnes in 2015, which is why many campaigns in Singapore are looking to reduce this.

Ms Nor Lastrina Hamid, co-founder of the Singapore Youth for Climate Action and #LepakInSG, a website which lists environmental events in Singapore, said campaigns in Singapore's Year of Climate Action could be aligned with regional or international events.

For example, the International Coral Reef Initiative - a worldwide campaign which advocates the conservation of marine habitats - has declared that 2018 will be the third International Year of the Reef, she said.

"The Singapore marine community has come together this year to organise outreach activities for the entire year, and I think that is amazing. To help raise awareness for the International Year of the Reef, #LepakInSG has a young team organising a workshop in December, and planning a series of workshops for 2018. Moving forward, the #LepakInSG team and the marine community might want to consider highlighting the climate change aspects more."

Warming sea surface temperatures resulted in Singapore's corals suffering from the longest bleaching incident on record last year.

Miss Pamela Low, also from the Singapore Youth for Climate Action, said campaigns should relate to the daily lives of Singaporeans, and allow them to take action.

"Content has to be bottom-up for people to feel confident and empowered that they can make a difference to climate change... It starts with bringing our own containers for takeaways. It starts with sorting your trash, turning your air-con (temperature) up a few degrees," she said.

"Campaigns have to show Singaporeans how their action adds up collectively. The (discussions over a possible) plastic bag charge forced people to think about plastics and trash. Similarly, we need more conversations and solutions that reflect on global and local case studies."

During the climate conference in Bonn, Mr Masagos said raising awareness about climate change among people will supplement Singapore's other climate change resilience strategies.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Singapore has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, come 2030. Emissions intensity is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product. Singapore has also pledged to stop any increase to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

The nation has implemented a slew of strategies to achieve these targets. These include enhancements made this year to its Energy Conservation Act, which aims to get large polluters to be more energy efficient, and plans to implement a carbon tax from 2019.

The Republic has also pumped money into research for innovations that can help the island-state develop sustainably. It is banking on solar power to reduce its reliance on natural gas, and has invested in ways to better harness energy from the sun, by piloting floating solar systems, for example.

A Mewr spokesman said: "The Government alone cannot tackle climate change; it requires the collective action of all stakeholders - businesses, communities, non-government organisations and individuals. Every positive action counts, and can help to reduce our carbon footprint."