12 December 2007 - SIIA chairman Simon Tay attended the Bali conference on Climate Change, to speak at a number of side events with other think tanks, NGOs and business groups. The SIIA also launched its report on Asian perspectives on the Climate Change Negotiations, co written with the Civic Exchange of Hong Kong.
Tay was interviewed by the Straits Times on Singapore's role. He urged that the country could play as an example for others in Asia, but should not take on any binding caps on carbon emissions at present. He also suggested that, in the long term, Asia and ASEAN could think of an overall emissions target for the region, as the European Union has done. See Straits Times interview.
Singapore 'can lead by example on green issues'
By Arti Mulchand
BALI - THE real contribution Singapore can make to climate change is not in committing to hard targets, but in playing 'broker' for the region and in leading by example.
That approach was suggested by Mr Simon Tay, chairman of both the National Environment Agency and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, as the United Nations climate change talks in Bali this week reached a heated frenzy over numbers.
Staying cool in a crisp white linen shirt yesterday, he casually declared that he dons his non-governmental organisation, and not his official hat, at the conference, leaving much room for 'creative thinking'.
But in the same breath, he said Singapore's interest in the talks, and what might come out of it, is serious.
Decisions made here are something Singapore 'has to be a part of' - a point best underlined, he said, by the fact that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is choosing to be here.
PM Lee arrived last night, and will address delegates on Singapore's stand today, as the high-level segment of the conference begins.
PM Lee arrives at Bali talks
SINGAPORE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived in Bali yesterday to attend the high-level segment of the United Nations climate change conference.This three-day portion of the conference brings government leaders, ministers and heads of international agencies together, and is where agreements are expected to be finalised.
'It is not just about sending the light of goodness,' he said. 'It is a recognition that climate change is a global challenge and a national one.
'Singapore is playing a fairly proactive role in gathering momentum in Asia. The real question, though, is what does it mean to be a leader.'
What it does not mean, he said, is for the country - responsible for 0.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions - to take on any kind of binding targets, as called for by environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace.
'Singapore taking emission reduction targets will not save the world...If Singapore has something to add, it should be to look at how it can use its resources, technology and capacity to make a change ourselves...and lead by example,' he said.
Singapore's establishment of a committee from various ministries to look at green issues, for example, is a 'first step' - something most countries have not even thought about, he said.
That the country also placed climate change and environmental policy atop of the agenda during the recent Asean Summit shows its ability to play 'broker' to the region.
Meanwhile, he mused over how the region, like the European Union, could one day take an 'envelope' approach to its emissions.
Singapore, for example, could meet its power needs by plugging into a regional power grid, which could be supplied by hydropower from Laos. That way, the region's carbon consumption goes down collectively.
'Whether it is a pipe dream or something that could be in the pipelines, I don't know,' he said.
But those notions are far in the future. For now, he admits that much of what will come out of Bali could be a lot of 'hot air'.
'It is like a steam engine. You get a lot of smoke, and initially the wheels spinning, but there is no movement for a while...But once it starts moving, you would be surprised how fast it can go,' Mr Tay said. 'I just hope it does not stall.'