The Straits Times says

Setting green bar higher for good of all

The Trump administration's historic mistake, in pulling America out of the Paris climate agreement, has put the superpower at odds with the rest of the world. China, the world's largest polluter, has vowed to stick to the course abandoned by America, the second-largest offender. India, the third-largest polluter, also views failure to act on climate change as being morally criminal.

Only by acting in concert can the planet be saved, a hope that France expressed in a stinging repartee to Mr Donald Trump's project of making America great again. Astonishingly, that national greatness is supposed to arrive in the wake of a dogmatic refusal to believe in the global science of climate change. The European Union has distanced itself from America by rejecting a suggestion to renegotiate the accord. Swathes of American public, political and corporate opinion, to say nothing of the scientific and liberal intelligentsia, have come out in opposition to an action that will endanger America and others one day.

Singapore's support for the Paris accord shows that it believes in treating the environment as the final arbiter of economic growth and social life, not as a commodity to be traded for short-sighted populist ends. In that spirit, Singapore treats ecology as a dispassionate marker of national sustainability. According to the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, the nation must reinforce three mutually-reliant pillars in order to be sustainable. These are an economy that can provide jobs; a society of inclusive communities that enjoy a high quality of living; and an environment that enables the country to thrive. Sustainability means taking a long-term view of economic development that balances it against the needs of the environment.

Thus, the public sector has embarked on a plan to slash its consumption of electricity and water. This is not a small effort, given that it is Singapore's largest employer. By 2020, the public sector will use 15 per cent less electricity and 5 per cent less water. Also, it will buy more green electronics and paper products, invest in green technology, and seek to harness renewable energy better.

These steps should prompt businesses and people to avoid ecologically regressive practices for the sake of short-term gains or short-sighted convenience. The path ahead, however, will not be easy. For example, Singapore will have to devise new ways of disposing its garbage after the Semakau Landfill is filled to the brim, since burning garbage would not be an ecologically viable option. Hence the need to think and act green now by taking firm steps to become a zero-waste nation. It is hoped that the private sector will emulate its public counterpart in making ecological sustainability a part of its own plans. Firms need to fall in line with the higher environmental consciousness of a growing number of consumers.

Correction note: This story has been edited to change Pulau Semakau to Semakau Landfill. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Setting green bar higher for good of all'. Print Edition | Subscribe