singapore


The big day is fast approaching, and there has been a lot of comments and discussions about Live Earth.

Not everyone supports the concert. The Today newspaper helpfully published letters from both sides of the debate.

Tan Chee Sean questions:

Beamed across eight cities, this concert will be watched by more than 2 billion people. At the same time, millions
of television sets will be turned on for up to 24 hours, so viewers can watch their favourite artistes. Ironically, wouldn’t this contribute to even more global warming?

In an attention grabbing-ly titled letter, Eugene Tay (pdf link) asks us to:

Give up hope. Because when hope dies, action begins.

What he actually meant was that saving the environment starts with personal action and responsibility. We shouldn’t hang on to the wishful thinking that someone else will do the job for us.

The blogosphere is buzzing too. Below are just some of the varied responses from Singaporeans I came across:

Scott Thong is more annoyed at MediaCorp’s Live Earth “We are not exaggerating” advertising campaign than the event itself. I haven’t seen the TV advertisements myself, but hey Scott, don’t mistake the messenger for the message. 🙂

Ordie helpfully points out that Mediacorp is encouraging Singaporeans to wear green to show how much we love hugging trees. Not very imaginative but definitely easy enough.

Sharp-eyed Liang Cai noted that the language one gets on the Live Earth official web site when clicking on the Singapore flag is… Malay. Well yes, it is our national language but not many of the non-Malays here actually speak it. One of the little ironies of Singapore.

No matter your personal sentiments about it, Live Earth is indeed going ahead. So why not make the most of it and see how we can use this unique opportunity to raise awareness about climate change?

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Shopping for a new refrigerator or air-conditioner will be much easier come 1 Jan 2008. That is when compulsory energy labelling laws kick in. This was an extension of 6 months to the original deadline of 30 June 2007.

Energy labelling rules benefit both the retailer and consumer. An energy-efficient air-conditioner can save over $500 per year in electricity cost compared to an inefficient one. The higher upfront cost can be recouped in less than 2 years.

So why have retailers and manufacturers been slow to get their act together? After all, voluntary energy labelling regulations have been in place since April 2002. After more than 4 years, over 80% of the products in the market are still unlabelled.

Could it be the cost of registration and certification, at around $100 per product model? However, NEA has waived this cost till 30 June 2008.

More likely is the fact that most of the products sold in Singapore would simply score poorly, especially the cheaper models imported from China. Given this market reality, voluntary registration would never take off.

Singapore has already lagged badly behind other countries:

  • The U.S. introduced its mandatory labelling program in 1979.
  • The energy labelling programme in Australia started in 1985.
  • EU in 1992

Manufacturers and retailers in other countries have successfully adapted to compulsory labelling more than 20 years ago, and the results have been hugely encouraging.

Better late than never.

Update (26/6/07): The Today reporter said she only reported the estimated figure of 2.5m (which was prominently featured in the headlines), as provided by NWDCD, and advised me to contact them for clarification. I have emailed them and will update here if they reply.

I saw this headline in the Singapore papers today: “North West CDC initiates move to recycle 2.5m bottles yearly.”

That’s great news. For a population of 4.5 million people, 2.5 million plastic water bottles is a substantial quantity.

Until I read the article and realised that this plastic waste is created by North West CDC (NWCDC) itself.

OK, some background information for our overseas readers: A CDC is a government organisation which organises community-building programmes for Singapore residents. CDCs are divided according to geographical regions, and there are five in all.

NWCDC formed a Brisk Walking Club (BWC) five years ago to encourage regular walking as a form of exercise. BWC is not a single club, but an umbrella of over 100 separate clubs and 28,000 members. A typical walk is 2.4km long with warm-up exercises at the start.

Singaporeans love freebies. So there are various enticements to get us to participate, such as a complimentary breakfast at the end of the walk.

And a free bottle of water.

Hmm, there are 2 things I don’t get:

First mystery is why go to this trouble of recycling plastic waste that could have been avoided in the first place.

Simply encourage participants to bring their own water bottles. Or they could provide re-usable water bottles, similar to our recent campaign for plastic carrier bags.

What is also puzzling is how the figure of 2.5 million bottles is derived:

Liang Eng Hwa, MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said: “In the case of North West CDC Brisk Walking Club, we have monthly walks.

28,000 bottles per participant x 12 walks a year = 336,000 bottles per year

Can anybody enlighten me? 🙂

I love cars.

So do 4.5 million other Singaporeans.

The problem is that there is limited land in Singapore. So there are various measures in place to limit the number of cars on the road, such as the COE car ownership quota system and high car taxes.

The road tax is calculated based on the engine capacity of the vehicle, and designed to encourage small cars especially 1600cc and below.

I don’t quite agree with this but at least it makes sense: small-engined cars are, as a rule of thumb, more fuel-efficient than those fitted with thumping V8 powerplants.

Singapore is a city-state, so we spend most of our time in start-stop traffic. This is exactly the scenario that hybrid cars are designed for.

Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid, have a conventional petrol and an electric motor. At low speeds, they are powered solely by the electric motor. The petrol engine only kicks in at higher speeds, making them eminently ideal for urban driving.

So why is Singapore discouraging the ownership of hybrid cars?

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The big news last weekend in Singapore was the announcement by S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry that the F1 carnival is finally coming to our shores.

F1 is the most un-green sport today. Today’s Straits Times newspaper carried an article with some fascinating nuggets of information to show just how polluting it is:

  • Each F1 car burns up to a litre of fuel and releases 1,500g of carbon dioxide per km, which contributes to an estimated 10 tonnes of CO2 per race weekend.
  • The mooted night race format requires an estimated 500 energy-sapping high-intensity light poles.
  • F1 car engines are loud enough to be heard literally half way across Singapore, or shatter glass windows of nearby buildings.

Coincidentally, S Iswaran was also the Guest-of-Honour at the prize-awarding ceremony for the Eco Products International Fair (EPIF) 2006 where Star Bamboo won the Silver Medal for our bamboo flooring:

EPIF 2006 award ceremony

The EPIF and F1 are at opposite ends of the eco-friendliness scale, but there is one common link.

From the outset, the Singapore government has cited commercial reasons for courting F1: tourism receipts, branding of Singapore as a cosmopolitan and glamourous city to 500 million television viewers, and jobs creation.

That is why the Singapore government has committed itself to spending up to S$90m per year for the F1 race. If green businesses were ever to enjoy this level of support, we would have to demonstrate the same kind of ROI.

After all, it’s just business.

This ChannelNewsAsia report caught my eye this morning – “Easier entry for green energy suppliers”.

Unfortunately, reality is not as rosy as the headline.

The electricity market in Singapore is tightly controlled, and previously monopolised by Singapore Power – a corporatised body spun off from a government statutory board.

Liberalisation first started in January 2003, and it has been a slow process. The industry regulator Energy Market Authority (EMA) is doing it in slow, painful phases, beginning with the commercial sector.

The “easier entry” above simply refers to the scrapping of a relatively paltry $5,000 joining fee to join the energy market as an energy provider.

More than 4 years later, the entire domestic market of 1.2 million households in Singapore remain tightly bound to one company – SP Services (which happens to be a subsidiary company of Singapore Power).

It’ll be 2009 before a pilot trial to let the average consumer buy from other electricity providers even begins. Give or take another 2 years for the trial to be completed and analysed, it will easily be 2011 before we begin to see real alternative choices in the electricity market.

Even more astonishingly, the same CNA report above says that Singapore is planning to test by 2009 if renewable energies e.g. solar and wind power, can be fed into our national power grid.

I’m no energy expert, but it sounds like a relatively straightforward task. The Chief Executive of the wholesale market operator, Energy Market Company (EMC), Mr Dave Darlson himself admitted “there are no technical constraints to prevent renewable energy generators from joining the market“.

All these delays are highly unfortunate. The reason is simple – solar power.

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