Forum: Singapore should set electric vehicle targets

Vehicles on the PIE near Bedok, on March 15, 2019.
Vehicles on the PIE near Bedok, on March 15, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources summed up the positive steps the authorities here are taking as climate change makes an increasing impact on our lives (S'pore taking range of actions to cut carbon emissions, Jan 8).

It is clear that a small, densely populated island like Singapore is restricted in what actions it can take.

The authorities also have to take into account any trade-offs between environmentally sustainable measures and the economic effects on the population.

It is heartening that Singapore is part of the worldwide community of nations under the Paris Agreement seeking to solve the problems the world faces.

The sad fact that the world's largest economy does not want to contribute to these global efforts should not deter smaller nations from playing their part.

The one area in which Singapore has been slow to take action is electric vehicles. Road transport is presumably the single largest source of air pollution here, especially of the very harmful PM2.5 particulates.

We are seeing trials of e-buses on Singapore's roads and a few electric taxis and private vehicles, but only in very small numbers.

A radical solution is quite easy to adapt and can make a very significant impact.

To cite just one example, all 16,000 of the buses and almost all of the 22,000 taxis in the city of Shenzhen in China are electric. Anything Shenzhen can do, a highly developed and affluent city like Singapore should be able to emulate quite easily.

It could be the precursor of making all private cars on the road electric, which of course would take longer. The road tax regime here is currently unfavourable to electric vehicles (Current road tax regime penalises electric vehicles, by Mr Tobias Eriksson, Jan 20).

Many countries have set a target for all new cars sold to be electric; Norway, for instance, has a 2025 target. Singapore would benefit from a similar commitment. It would be quite easy to institute, especially against a background of an efficient and cheap public transport system.

 

There is also a need for a holistic approach to air pollution in modern societies. For instance, the practice of flaring, recently done by ExxonMobil on Jurong Island, causes the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and of soot.

Nick Cox

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore should set electric vehicle targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe