Workers' Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MP) Dennis Tan and Louis Chua urged the government in parliament on Monday (Feb.1) to declare a climate emergency to reflect the gravity of the issue and its commitment to "seriously address" this long-term threat.
Tan and Chua were the first two opposition MPs who spoke in response to the motion on sustainability and climate change.
Declare climate emergency in amended motion
Tan introduced two amendments to the motion mooted on Feb. 1 by the Government Parliament Committee (GPC) on Sustainability and the Environment led by the People's Action Party MP Louis Ng.
Tan proposed to insert the words "acknowledges a climate emergency" and to include "civil society" after the words "private sector".
The initial motion proposed was:
"That this House calls on the Government, in partnership with the private sector and the people of Singapore, to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to embrace sustainability in the development of Singapore."
Chua also mentioned in his speech that the United Nation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recently urged all governments to declare a state of climate emergency at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020.
"Are we doing enough as a nation? Are we acknowledging the climate emergency for what it is?" Chua asked in Parliament.
Chua said that Singapore has always been daring in its vision for the future, and "climate change should be no different".
Amendments to WP's amended motion
Following the speeches by all the opposition MPs, PAP MP Cheryl Chan proposed to amend "climate emergency" to "that climate change is a global emergency and a threat to mankind".
In response, Tan quipped that a more gender-neutral term "humankind" instead of "mankind" should be used instead.
Include civil society in the amended motion
The other amendment that Tan proposed was to include civil society as one of the key partners government should work with to deepen efforts to tackle climate change. He said,
"The pivotal role that civil society stakeholders such as academics and NGOs have played and will continue to play in guiding our response to climate change cannot be understated."
Tan gave some recent examples to illustrate the role academics, NGOs, and activists play in the call to protect Clementi and Dover forests.
"They are surveyors of our ecosystems and stewards of our environment, many of whom engage in public education," Tan said.
Tan also gave credit to the civil society for playing a critical role in safeguarding precious green spaces such as Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, which will not be retained without "significant pushback" and their "decades of commitment".
The Parliament passed the amended motion that included Tan's initial and Chan's subsequent inputs and it now reads:
"That this House acknowledges that climate change is a global emergency and a threat to mankind and calls on the Government, in partnership with the private sector, civil society and the people of Singapore, to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to embrace sustainability in the development of Singapore."
Greater transparency in progress made
Both Tan and Chua also mentioned in their speeches on Monday that when they had asked ministries for an update of our climate action in the past and did not receive satisfactory updates.
Tan said that he asked for an update on our efforts to address the climate emergency since last February during the Unity Budget and for an assurance that Singapore is on track to meet our goals and timelines for the Paris Agreement.
"No answer was given," he said.
Tan then questioned again how Singapore is working with other countries, especially the ASEAN countries, to curb global emissions.
Chua also said in his speech that earlier in Jan. 2021, he asked the Minister for Trade and Industry whether Singapore has a target mix for the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. But the ministry did not share a target, he added.
Having a target is a starting point and will hold the ministry accountable for the climate action, Chua said.
He added that WP had proposed to call for 10 per cent of Singapore's energy to come from renewable resources by 2025.
Tan also made some suggestions in the hope that there will be greater transparency in Singapore's progress in its climate action. They include:
- To track and publish changes in land use areas in Singapore on a biennial basis.
- To conduct environmental impact assessments in a more transparent manner, engaging the public in the process.
Top photo via CNA video screengrabs