Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources told The Straits Times this week that floods like those seen in Bangkok are not likely to happen in Singapore.
Massive floods unlikely here, says Environment Minister
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday called on governments and businesses to think long term when making multibillion-dollar investments in energy, as such choices will have significant impact on the future.
As the world’s population hits seven billion and millions of people move from rural areas into cities, the choices of individual governments and their choices of technology will have implications for sustainable growth, he said.
‘We are living at a point of great inflection,’ he added, in his address at the opening of the three-day Clean Energy Expo Asia, a trade fair and conference for business leaders from the technology, services, finance and government sectors.
Participants at the event at Suntec will discuss issues in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable-mobility solutions.
The minister said the problem is that the world has enjoyed economic growth without paying for its cost to the environment in the last two centuries.
But as resources become scarcer, these costs have to be borne, and the right price has to be paid for energy, he said.
Dr Balakrishnan expressed doubt that the world will reach a legally binding deal at the upcoming United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, at the end of the month. The deal would have bound governments to reduce their countries’ levels of carbon emissions and put a global price on carbon, regarded as the culprit behind climate change.
‘There isn’t the political will or financial resources to make such a deal stay,’ he said, so rational government policies are key in creating effective energy markets.
Citing Singapore as an example, he said the Government here does not give subsidies for energy, because these ‘distort the economy and distort consumption’ in the long term.
Because Singapore has no natural resources, it has to import almost all of what it needs. About a decade ago, it obtained 80 per cent of its energy from fuel oil; today, 80 per cent comes from natural gas, a cleaner form of energy.
Singapore has also chosen to liberalise its energy market, allowing technologies and companies to compete. Because energy subsidies are not given out here, people are motivated to conserve energy and cut wastage, he said.
Malaysia’s Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Peter Chin, who also addressed conference participants on Tuesday, shared his country’s experience with energy subsidies. He said it has discouraged power companies from investing in more costly but cleaner sources of energy, and now that the people, especially the rural poor, have become used to fuel subsidies, it is politically difficult to wean them off it.
Malaysia’s response has been to set up a legal framework to encourage the development of the clean energy industry such as by guaranteeing companies generating solar power attractive electricity tariffs.
The Malaysian government has also set aside RM300 million (S$123 million) in a renewable-energy fund, which Mr Chin said he hoped would propel Malaysia into an Asean list of clean-energy leaders. Malaysia is expecting RM70 billion in revenue and 52,000 jobs to be created in the clean energy industry by 2020.
The industry here also has targets to shoot for: It is expected to add $3.4 billion to the country’s gross domestic product by 2015, and generate 18,000 jobs.
Dr Balakrishnan noted that Asia is making steady progress in clean energy, pulling in US$82.8 billion (S$106 billion) in global investments last year – an increase of 33 per cent from the year before. The figure is set to rise.
Clean Energy Expo Asia is organised by event firm Koelnmesse and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS) under the umbrella of the annual Singapore International Energy Week.
SEAS chairman Edwin Khew disclosed on Tuesday that the association is looking to set up a service centre to give support to overseas clean-energy firms setting up here, to encourage the growth of the nascent clean-tech industry.
Image taken from #PACOM