Wanted: Public's ideas for a greener Singapore

Feedback from the ground to shape 10-year programme
Tania Tan, Straits Times 29 Jul 08;

SINGAPORE is embarking on a 10-year journey to build a greener future - and the first steps start with you.

Views from individuals, businesses and interests group are being sought in a ground-up approach to drafting government policy that will shape how Singaporeans live, work, play and commute for years to come.

The goal - to create a 'liveable, lively home, with a vibrant economy', said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan. He co-chairs a high-powered inter-ministry committee appointed by the Prime Minister in February to spearhead the green push.

Over the next three months, the public can give feedback on topics like transport, housing and industry at a dedicated website.

Public forums will also be held, and there will be consultations with volunteer groups, grassroots, and companies to involve as many people as possible.

Suggestions on everything from improving public transport to boosting recycling in homes will be woven into the committee's report to be tabled at next year's Budget.
Five ministers representing Environment, Transport, Trade and Industry, National Development and Finance came together yesterday to unveil this initiative, a sign of the far-reaching impact the committee's work will have.

'Energy is our biggest concern right now', said Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who co-chairs the committee.

Rising fuel prices and an affluent growing population are putting immense strain on already limited resources, he explained.

The hope - to find a Newater solution for the energy sector.

Investing in home-grown R&D will help make clean energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.

But do not expect solutions to come quickly or without sacrifice, cautioned the ministers.

Using raised road tolls as an example, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said that unrestrained driving was 'not possible' as it undermined the urban environment by creating pollution and gridlock.

The benefits will come with time when the $40 billion being invested in new rail lines and road projects take shape.

What will not be compromised is economic growth, said Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

'We will balance the costs and benefits,' he added.

To achieve that, solutions should be 'pragmatic and result- oriented' but at the same time 'bold'.

The committee will tread carefully with top-down mandates.

Other countries have gone ahead of the curve by legislating green policies but at great cost to the people and companies, said Mr Mah.

Endorsing the ground-up approach being taken, Dr Amy Khor, chairman of Reach, the Government's feedback unit, said: 'This is especially important for such a topic which the ground may not find easy to relate to since some policies implemented in the immediate future may not directly benefit them now, but (will)ensure that future generations will continue to have a high quality living environment'.

Three areas of focus for a liveable city

TRANSPORT

Residents in Yishun and Sembawang might be sharing their footpaths with cyclists soon, following a similar effort already underway in Tampines to promote cycling.

Cycling is part of the plan to get more people out of cars and onto public transport, said Transport Minister Raymond Lim.

Its part of the 'BMW' approach, which has nothing to do with the German car-maker.

'Next time you take a trip, instead of driving, consider taking the Bus, the MRT and Walk.'

ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUILDINGS

Commercial buildings guzzle about half the country's annual power output, mainly for cooling.

To ease the costs of retrofitting buildings to make them green, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the Government will look at how to help companies 'cross initial hurdles' by building on existing green initiatives.

RECYCLING

Last year, homes and businesses generated about 5.6 million tonnes of waste. Companies recycle about half of what they throw out, but getting households to recycle and not litter is still 'something we crack our heads over', said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim.

Education and community involvement can help turn this around, he believes.

Log on and give your feedback

A WEBSITE set up to collect suggestions from the public on building a greener Singapore made its debut yesterday.

It offers background material so that netizens can make informed suggestions on how to improve the way they live, work, play and commute.

It also lists the areas in which ideas are being invited.

For example, a member of the public interested in offering ideas on more efficient commuting will find information on the relative efficiency of buses and cars as modes of transport as well as figures on the level of air pollution here.

He will also learn that the Government will home in on four aspects of this issue, namely, making public transport a choice mode, cycling as a form of transport, fuel-efficient private transport and clean transport.

The deadline for suggestions is October.

The ministries will also organise focus-group discussions during this period.


Nationwide call for ideas on sustainable development
Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 08;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has launched a nationwide call for ideas to make the country more eco-friendly and to ensure more efficient use of its resources.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee – tasked to promote sustainable development – said on Monday that it will not shy away from bold approaches. But its recommendations, which are likely to be announced next year, will not compromise economic growth.

Climate change and escalating fuel prices have been on the international agenda recently, and Singapore, too, will push for more optimal use of scarce resources, especially energy.

Individuals will have to make lifestyle changes and companies will be encouraged to adopt more efficient practices.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, who sits on the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development, said: "There are also significant opportunities in clean energy and alternative energy, and these are areas we should be promoting with greater effort in the R&D area.

"Some of these have yet to be competitive in the cost point of view, compared to conventional energy sources.

"The key thing to do here is to facilitate greater R&D so that they can boost the technology to make it more efficient, and therefore competitive and viable, and sustainable in an economic environment."

The committee said it would explore ways to help companies make the transition. But one thing is certain – the government will not be too eager to amend legislation or give out subsidies unnecessarily.

Industry players said sustainable development is not just about money; it is also about creating greater awareness among consumers. They suggested that establishing an industry-wide accreditation scheme to honour green companies may help facilitate the process.

Kurt Wee, vice president of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME), said: "Maybe some kind of certification process can be initiated so that consumers or product and services buyers have a choice between one that is environmentally certified and one that is not. Of course, the one that is environmentally friendly may cost more, but we can let the market decide."

Apart from the cost issue, there is also a concern about timing. For instance, some companies are worried that their investment in new environmentally sustainable techniques or practices may be obsolete within a few years as newer technologies become available.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee is now seeking views on ways to drive the green building movement and pollution control by launching a website to solicit feedback from the public.

The committee is expected to table its report in Parliament next February during the Budget debate.- CNA/so

Links

Sustainable Singapore on the MEWR website
http://app.mewr.gov.sg/web/Contents/ContentsSSS.aspx?ContId=1034

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