Singapore's rush to renewables is a model to follow

Environment minister says improving public transport is effective in reducing car use

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., Janualry 15, 2019.  
Day 2 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Singapore.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Nick Webster

A carbon tax to limit emissions and widen use of public transport could prove a successful initiative in the UAE, Singapore’s minister of environment has said.

Speaking at the Future Sustainability Summit in Abu Dhabi, Masagos Zulkifli referred to numerous projects in the Asian country that were already proving effective.

Floating solar fields and a carbon emission limit on new cars were both doing their part in reducing the nation’s environmental footprint, he argued.

“There’s a blueprint for sustainable projects in Singapore that is addressing climate change,” he said.

“Sustainability is being addressed by the whole of government, so we do not compromise what we need to do to develop as a nation.

“In transport, many people are pushing for electric cars because it is difficult to control the amount of cars on the road.

“The solution we have has been to control the growth of private cars on the road. It is a balanced approach.”


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Since February 2018, Singapore has not allowed any increase in the total number of cars permitted on its roads.

Authorities are also investing S$20 billion (Dh54bn) in new rail infrastructure and S$4bn (Dh10bn) in bus subsidies in a five-year plan launched in 2017.

Currently, there are some 600,000 cars registered in Singapore, which has a population of 5.7 million.

The country has just 12 per cent of its 721 square kilometre land mass taken up by road networks.

"It is only possible to own a car for 10 years, and it is expensive to drive in Singapore to encourage people to use public transport,” said Mr Zulkifli.

“We want everyone to be able to walk to a train station or bus stop, and we are making public transport reliable and affordable to encourage more cars to come off the road.

“Car sharing programmes are popular and buses come every 10-15 minutes, and not just in the city centre.”

Singapore has set a carbon tax on businesses producing annual greenhouse emissions of more than 25,000 tonnes.

The tax is set at S$5 per tonne until 2023, with that cost potentially likely to treble beyond that date.

Penalising the worst carbon emitters will encourage business to introduce renewable energy schemes, it is hoped.

By 2020, Singapore aims to put in place enough solar systems to supply 350 megawatts of electricity - about 5 per cent of projected peak electricity demand.

“Even if we all switch to electric cars, they still need to be powered by fossil fuel so the goal should be to reduce the number of cars in use,” said Mr Zulkifli.

“For us, we want our public to think if they really need to own a car at all, and if they do - can they share it.

“Effective public transport is crucial to helping achieve that.”