In an interview with a newspaper down under called The Australian, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admitted that reaching zero net emissions by 2050 is a very ambitious target that Singapore might not practically achieve, but adds that it is “a very serious target because climate change is going to be a great issue.”
During the interview on 20 March, PM Lee was asked whether the global target of zero net emissions by 2050 is unrealistic as it fails to consider Asia’s need to balance economic growth with climate action.
In response, PM Lee said, “For Singapore, we are anxious about rising sea levels as well as more extreme weather, droughts and rainfall. So, we have to do our part to bring down emissions and hit the UN targets.”
Admitting that the country will not likely reach zero net emissions in the prescribed timeline, he said that Singapore will bring down its emissions “substantially” by 2050, or by half it’s 2030 peak, and aims to reach zero “as soon as viable in the second half of the 21st century.”
When pressed about the attempts at balancing economic growth in Asia with climate change, PM Lee said he thinks that attitudes will change with development.
Looking to China as an example, PM Lee said, “If you look at China, where they are at today, compared to where they were in 2009, at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, their position has shifted a long way. They signed on to Paris, they have introduced alternative energy on a massive scale – in fact, people are now accusing them of distorting the solar panel market.”
Mr Lee asserted, “So you cannot fault them for not trying hard enough. It does not mean that they can reach zero easily, but I think their attitudes have shifted because I think they realise that this is actually going to affect them and their own coastal populations in a big way.”
In terms of Singapore, the premier added that the country is small and “what we do will not have a material impact on the outcome”. However, he added that the nation will have to do its part nonetheless.
Singaporeans understand the importance of tackling climate change; feel more can be done to cut emissions
In March last year, a public research report, commissioned by NGO Climate Conversations and carried out by Singapore-based consumer research firm Milieu Insight, found that 92 percent of the 3,000 Singaporeans surveyed agree that climate change is mainly due to human activities.
The report also showed that Singaporeans almost universally fear that climate change will impact food prices and create economic hardship within their lifetimes. The majority of respondents expect these issues to be felt within the next two decades.
However, only 50 percent consider climate change a high priority and only about 50 percent felt a moral duty to take action.
In fact, the report demonstrated that many Singaporeans feel disempowered in this area with over 50 percent of respondents had no idea what they can do to make a difference and about 30 percent saying that they don’t think their actions make a difference at all.
However, Singapore’s first Climate Change Rally which took place in Hong Lim Park in September of 2019 showed that Singaporeans, mostly young people, are taking the fight seriously as they called for the government to implement specific and drastic measures to effectively bring the country’s carbon emissions down to net-zero by 2050, which they feel is achievable.
The SG Climate Change Rally manifesto urged the government to do more in terms of educating the public on the key contributors of carbon emissions which happen to be industries, not individuals, which is the common narrative propagated by the government and media.
The manifesto also called for the government to declare a national climate emergency, create and make publicly accessible a national climate mitigation plan to slash emissions, and to fully divest from polluting industries.