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First-ever Red Alert for Transboundary Haze in 2023

20 Jun First-ever Red Alert for Transboundary Haze in 2023

Media Release
For Immediate Release

First-ever Red Alert for Transboundary Haze in 2023

Heatwave this year will be a stress test for cooperation between governments and the private sector

21 June 2023 – There is significant risk of haze occurring this year, especially given predictions that there will be a severe dry spell resulting from El Niño. The likelihood of a severe transboundary haze incident is rated Red on a scale of Green (Low Risk), Amber (Medium Risk), and Red (High Risk). This is the key finding from the Haze Outlook 2023 report launched by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) today. This is the first time that the SIIA has given a Red rating since the Haze Outlook was first published five years ago.

Introduced in 2019, the Haze Outlook provides a risk assessment of the probability of a severe transboundary haze incident affecting ASEAN, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Red risk assessment for 2023 is based on three factors: weather (meteorological forecasts), policy (actions taken by governments), and markets (price signals that may drive deforestation, as most forest fires are linked to land clearing for agricultural purposes).

The Red rating is driven primarily by the heatwave expected this year, which will increase the chance of forest and peat fires burning out of control and creating haze. Temperature and rainfall in the ASEAN region will be adversely impacted by the climate effect known as El Niño. This year will likely also see the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), a similar phenomenon, contributing to hotter and drier conditions in ASEAN.

If the heatwave in 2023 is not as strong as expected, then fire prevention efforts and law enforcement in ASEAN should be able to keep the haze under control. But a severe dry spell will test these systems.

“There has been a positive tone of cooperation between ASEAN countries on the haze, and between governments and the private sector, which has improved in the past few years,” said Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA, who directed the report. “But we are now facing a time of stress testing. It remains to be seen if this coordination can be maintained in the coming months.”

On 8 June, ministers and senior officials from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand met in Singapore for the 24th Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution. They discussed measures that have been put in place across the region to manage fires and haze.

But companies in the agribusiness sector respond not only to government regulations but also to markets and prices. Smaller plantation operators selling to the ‘grey’ or leakage market may expand irresponsibly in response to price signals, leading to illegal encroachment on forest areas.

“The price of agricultural commodities has been on a rollercoaster since the start of the pandemic. Prices are starting to stabilise, but remain higher than before COVID-19. There is evidence that planting activity is on the rise,” said Ms. Khor Yu-Leng, Associate Director, SIIA, who co-authored the report.

“Preventative actions and proactive responses are critical. It is important that officials continue to closely watch the situation on the ground as weather conditions turn,” said Mr. Aaron Choo, Senior Assistant Director (Special Projects and Sustainability), SIIA, a co-author of the report. “Preparedness is needed to ensure there are sufficient N95 masks and other supplies, if the worst does happen.”

The Haze Outlook 2023 report provides a risk assessment of the probability of a severe transboundary haze incident affecting Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in 2023. The report aims to inform regional governments, businesses, and the public about the factors contributing to haze risk, drawing attention to the problem, and galvanising action. The report also explores current sentiment regarding green and transition financing for the agribusiness sector, as well as new opportunities for sustainable development emerging from the sector.

This is the fifth annual edition of the Haze Outlook and is based on the research by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) and the SIIA’s engagement with sustainability stakeholders in the region, including government bodies, businesses, NGOs, and academics.


Download the Haze Outlook Report 2023


For further enquiries, please contact the SIIA:

Ms. Rohini Nambiar
Assistant Director, Policy Programmes and Media

Ms. Hazeera Bi W.
Senior Executive, Media

About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

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Established in 1962, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is a non-profit and independent think tank committed to producing policy analysis, fostering in-depth dialogues and bridging gaps between policymakers, private sector decision-makers and experts to shape public policy and social responses. Centred around ASEAN focused themes, the institute aims to deliver policy analysis in international affairs and on issues driving environmental sustainability. The SIIA has been consistently ranked as one of the leading think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in the Global Go To Think Tank Index by the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2017, the SIIA was ranked the No. 1 independent think tank in Asia. It was also recognised as one of the top 50 think tanks globally, excluding the United States of America. For two consecutive years since 2019, it was recognised as the No. 1 think tank in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific (excluding India). In 2020, it was also recognised as one of the think tanks with the best policy and institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the SIIA’s Sustainability Programme

The SIIA’s Sustainability Programme was established in 1997 when we organised Singapore’s first haze dialogue with the Singapore Environment Council. Since then, the Sustainability Programme has evolved to address a range of climate issues that ASEAN faces. Following the severe transboundary haze in 2013, the SIIA established the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR) in 2014. The dialogue is now into its 10th year. The Programme continues to focus on the forestry sector, as well as the use of finance as a lever to advance supply chain sustainability and drive Southeast Asia’s green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term transition towards carbon neutrality.