I’m honestly really glad that our government rhetoric has gone on the green bandwagon. And knowing Singapore, we want to be able to deliver on our goals and make a reportable difference. However, I think it is vital to really interrogate those plans and consider if on a overall scheme of things, the plan is actually really green.
Looking just at the key areas; beginning with parks and trees – City in Nature pillar. The setting aside of land for more parks and planting more trees is definitely welcomed – but I’m not too sure if the destruction of trees/grassland to make way for further developments is progressing at a faster rate than the increase in parkland and trees. Is there some overall measure instead that the government can hold itself accountable to? Or if actually it just serves to slow down the destruction, can we also be transparent about it and confess when will we actually be increasing rather than decreasing green land and green cover?
On the Energy Reset pillar, Singapore is rightly described as an energy-disadvantaged country especially when it comes to renewables so I think we can be forgiven for still having to resort to fossil fuel for most of our baseload power. However, I think the opportunity is really not in putting solar panels on HDB, or doing small things to optimise efficiency of our plants. The real opportunity is in improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and ideally banning completely individual air-conditioning units. There’s a real waste in having individual units stacked one on top of another in a single row as in HDB flats because the hot air from one compressor is just feeding the one on top of it and once you reach high floors like for my unit, I’m wasting a tonne of energy keeping my compressor working. And besides that, our vehicles is another huge opportunity – using the same principle of freezing our vehicle growth, can we simply not ban the internal combustion engine on passenger vehicles by 2030? Our COE system can just dole out the last COEs to ICE cars and from now on, only allow EVs for passenger cars to get COEs? Then by 2030, most of our roads will be EVs – never mind the charging infrastructure; once people who wants to drive buy the cars, the market incentives to bring about charging and all will come.
And there are industries whose energy efficiency can be improved further, not just buildings – which by the way is more or less pretty well managed by BCA’s green mark certification system. The government can and should take the lead by making sure all of their facilities are green. 30% of schools being carbon neutral by 2030 is a little slow in my opinion given that more schools can simply fit itself with solar panels (even for education purposes) and do a host of other things like composting food waste, doing grey water recycling. Yes, Singapore managed to close the water loop for most part but encouraging grey water reuse would be able to improve water efficiency further.
Talking about water – how about having potable water supply pipes vis-a-vis non-potable water? So that we can reduce the energy intensity of our water treatment? Well, maybe the cost doesn’t add up as well – but all of these decision making process and sustainability considerations can be made more transparent as well so that citizens can be more involved. Accountability is key when it comes to environmental governance and sustainability – not just voicing out of plans.