Act now to reduce our carbon footprint

Commuters at Hougang MRT station. Public transport infrastructure could be improved to reduce energy consumption.
Commuters at Hougang MRT station. Public transport infrastructure could be improved to reduce energy consumption. PHOTO: ST FILE

I am glad that Singapore has signed the Paris Agreement to reverse the effects of climate change ("Singapore among 175 nations which signed landmark Paris Agreement climate accord"; ST Online, April 23).

Singapore may rank low on the list of carbon-emitting countries, but this is because we are a small country. If we normalise population numbers and calculate the emissions per person, Singapore would not perform as well.

Each person in Singapore produced more than eight tonnes of carbon in 2013, compared with around 6.6 tonnes by each person in China, which was the No. 1 emitter that year. In India, which ranked third, each person produced only about 1.5 tonnes of carbon.

This is shocking. More can be done to avoid energy wastage and reduce power consumption.

Perhaps a major contributing factor is our heavy reliance on air-conditioning. To address this, there is a need to ward off heat in buildings.

This can be done by avoiding glass roofs and laying grass turfs on rooftops and walls to act as a natural coolant, or using blinds as a shield against infrared radiation.

We must make more use of natural ventilation. Perhaps we could plant more trees to cool down the surroundings and to absorb carbon dioxide.

Companies which reduce their energy bills can be offered tax incentives.

In terms of transport, we could enforce compulsory deregistration of energy-inefficient vehicles, especially of cars older than 15 years.

The number of certificates of entitlement can be reduced to discourage car usage, and Electronic Road Pricing charges can be waived for cars that carry four or more adults who are carpooling.

Public transport infrastructure and cycling routes could be improved.

Smaller-capacity buses and trains could be deployed during off-peak hours to reduce energy consumption.

Food produce could also be imported from countries nearer to Singapore to shorten the distance travelled.

The public must be educated on how best to conserve energy at home and at work. An annual Green Report can be published to inform the public on how well it is doing.

The Paris Agreement would mean little if we continue as we have always done. Tough decisions and effective measures are needed to reverse the trend of increasing emissions.

For the sake of a better future for our children and generations beyond, change has to start today.

Chan Swee Wing

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Act now to reduce our carbon footprint'. Subscribe