Reframe narrative to tackle climate change

An oil refinery at Pulau Bukom on is seen from Sentosa.
An oil refinery at Pulau Bukom on is seen from Sentosa.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is heartening to see climate change on Singapore's agenda, as reflected in the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong advocated individual action, such as switching off lights and changing wasteful habits, and also discussed engineering-based solutions to counter rising sea levels.

What he did not say is that Singapore is not just a victim of climate change, but a driver as well.

We have one of the largest oil refinery hubs in the world. Our ports and airport are among the busiest in the world, contributing substantially to greenhouse gas emissions.

While it would be difficult to change our economic and industrial orientation, this does not mean that it should be excluded from the national narrative.

The individual actions PM Lee advocated are insufficient to make a meaningful difference.

While switching off lights diligently does reduce energy usage, its effect on the national scale is minimal as domestic energy consumption constitutes just 4.3 per cent of electricity generated in Singapore.

Meaningful climate action will need to straddle the individual and corporate-political spheres.

Examples include making environmentally sound investments, backing grassroots calls for greener business practices and engaging the Government in crafting Singapore's climate policies.

I acknowledge that climate mitigation is harder than adaptation, and that drastic mitigation measures are out of the question in Singapore's context.

But a better understanding of the issues involved should include confronting the hard truth of our own culpability.

Liang Lei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2019, with the headline 'Reframe narrative to tackle climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe