S'poreans not taking action against climate change due to cost & inconvenience: OCBC Climate Index

Other reasons also include finding it hard to maintain sustainable habits, feeling status quo is sufficient, and individual action is too small to make an impact.

Zhangxin Zheng | August 17, 2021, 12:34 PM

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Singaporeans have high environmental awareness but their adoption of green practices is not on par, the inaugural OCBC Climate Index launched by OCBC Bank revealed on Aug. 17.

Cost and inconvenience are cited as key reasons, albeit being reasonable considerations, the findings revealed.

The climate index is a measurement of environmental awareness and climate action among Singaporeans, developed in partnership with Eco-Business.

How was the study conducted?

An online survey was conducted with 2,000 Singaporeans aged between 18 and 65, and they were asked 106 questions relating to three key pillars: Awareness, adoption and advocacy.

These questions are also related to four lifestyle themes: Transport, home, food, and goods.

These themes were selected because they are the main sources of carbon footprint in individuals' daily lives, with transport given a 45 per cent weightage, followed by home at 25 per cent, food at 15 per cent, and goods at 15 per cent.

The survey was conducted from May 19 to June 3 this year.

Based on how the respondents answered the questions, a score for each pillar and then an overall score, duly weighted, are derived, according to the press release.

The overall score can range from 0 to 10.

Overall, Singaporeans scored an average of 8.3 for "Awareness", 6.5 for "Adoption", and 5.6 for "Advocacy".

High awareness but adoption not as high

However, the high awareness does not translate into equally highly adoption in green practices.

For example, even though 95 per cent of drivers surveyed are aware that driving private vehicles generates 12 times more carbon dioxide emissions than travelling by train, 78 per cent said they drive an average of 30 minutes a day.

At home, 87 per cent of respondents said they know that air-conditioning units generate the most carbon emissions of all household appliances, but 34 per cent of them use air-conditioning at home for more than seven hours a day on average.

Among those who eat meat, 76 per cent are aware of how food consumption can contribute to global warming, but almost half of them consume red meat more than twice a week, on average.

Some 81 per cent of the respondents know about the environmental impact of plastic bags, but 78 per cent of them do not bring reusable bags when they shop.

Cost and inconvenience main reasons

The climate index found that the top two reasons why Singaporeans are not adopting green practices were cost and inconvenience.

Other reasons also include how respondents feel that it is hard to maintain sustainable habits, status quo is sufficient, and individual action is too small to make an impact.

via OCBC Bank.

A majority of the respondents carry out green practices such as switching off appliances at power sockets if not in use and reducing new purchases.

Singaporeans at different stages of life fare differently at becoming more eco-friendly

Respondents at different life stages also show differences in how they fare in the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle.

For example, Millennials, aged between 25 and 40, form the group that has the highest proportion of car owners, with a likelihood of owning larger cars above 1,600cc.

They are also the group that cited inconvenience as the top reason for not adopting green practices.

This group is also most likely to have young children aged 12 years and below, the index explained.

The Gen Zs, younger Singaporeans aged between 18 and 24, do not fare as well in adopting green practices at home.

This group has the highest proportion of respondents who use air-conditioning at home for more than seven hours a day, twice the percentage of Baby Boomers using air-cons at this rate.

This could be due to the fact that the Gen Zs are not yet responsible for household electricity bills and do not appreciate the cost associated with the use of air-conditioning as much as the older respondents.

Baby boomers that are aged 57 and above are the least likely to purchase eco-friendly products if they cost more.

About 76 per cent of this group are concerned about costs as they could be more concerned about saving up for retirement.

The data on attitudes and behaviour of Singaporeans from this OCBC Climate Index will help the bank review their support for ground-up projects, OCBC Head of Group Brand and Communications Koh Ching Ching said:

“In line with the push for greater climate action, the OCBC Climate Index gives an indication of where Singaporeans are in terms of our knowledge and lifestyle habits that affect climate change. We hope that the Index can raise Singaporeans’ awareness on the carbon emissions driven from human activities and to nudge more environmentally sustainable behavioural change.”

Top image adapted from SG Climate Rally/Facebook