Co-organized by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) and Shell Companies in Singapore, the Shell-SIIA Expert Roundtable on 11 October 2007 gathered representatives from the Government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, and multinational corporations to assess environmental challenges including the impact of rapidly increasing car ownership in Southeast Asia. The Roundtable discussed strategies for sustainable development and touched on how nations, corporations, and individuals can participate to curb climate change.
Amid the current focus on global climate change, what is increasingly being recognised and acknowledged is that what we do in our everyday lives collectively has a huge impact on the environment. As pointed out by Associate Professor Simon Tay, chairman of the SIIA, in his opening remarks, individuals and corporations can take crucial steps even before the Government makes the rules.
Addressing the first panel topic, Southeast Asia and climate change, Ms Isabelle Louise, director, WWF International, Singapore, updated on how global climate change is affecting the day-to-day livelihoods in the region and beyond and how it leads to severe economic costs. Environmental impact forecasted for the future included more floods and displacement of population owing to rising sea levels – one of the most vulnerable areas is the coast of Vietnam. Mr Terence Siew, head, Climate Change Unit, National Environment Agency (NEA) meanwhile shared on three important steps that could be taken to prepare for the impact of climate change in the coming years: i) Adaptability, so that we can respond to actual climate change; ii) Mitigation, so as to reduce emission of greenhouse gases; and iii) Tolerability, so that the region can better cope with the changes brought about by climate change.
During the second panel discussion on sustainable cities, urban planning and mobility, panelists called on the authorities to consider planning the way people live, work and play so as to reduce the need for transportation. Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw proposed that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) consider opening up more lanes on the expressways to ease traffic jams during peak hours to lower the carbon emissions of vehicles stuck in traffic. Other proposals included: having the Government consider building roads in coastal areas to free up land for community uses; and converting all of Singapore taxis, numbering more than 20,000, into hybrid vehicles.
In closing, Associate Professor Simon Tay pointed out that information, attitudes, political will, and willingness to collaborate are crucial in striving to address climate change. There is a need to bring more people on board – from the government to shareholders – and encourage more participation on the part of corporations. More importantly, Singapore also needs to play a bigger role in the region via technology and information sharing.
The Expert Roundtable is part of the SIIA’s education and outreach program and falls under the Institute's Sustainable Development and Governance research pillar. Through outreach efforts such as the Shell-SIIA Expert Roundtable, the SIIA aims to generate greater awareness on transnational environment issues, particularly in the context of their impact on Singapore and the region.