Consider using ‘carrots’ to combat haze

Published: 4:03 AM, October 12, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, October 14, 2013

SINGAPORE — Beyond the focus on assigning blame and beefing up laws to prosecute errant companies and landowners who contribute to the haze, could “carrots” be used to incentivise stakeholders do the right thing?

This approach was brought up by several participants at an informal haze dialogue yesterday organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), which was attended by representatives from non-government organisations, academic institutions and companies from the private sector.

Assistant Professor Jason Cohen from the National University of Singapore, who specialises in climate change models, also suggested the need for more awareness among firms on the negative long-term effects of slash-and-burn practices. He cited countries such as China, Japan and the United States, which have banned such practices after evidence showed that this led to land degradation in the long run.

Others pointed out the drawbacks of the “stick” approach, such as the difficulty in pinning down errant companies due to poor satellite mapping information and long supply chains.

A member of the Haze Elimination Action Team, Ms Sumi Dhanarajan, also questioned whether prosecuting large companies was enough to push to them to take action against contributing to the haze. “For example, by targeting the companies higher up the value chain, how big an impact would that have upon reducing the haze?” she asked.

SIIA Deputy Director Chua Chin Wei acknowledged that ground engagement is difficult with the increasing number of small plantation holders in Indonesia.

“There are possibly about close two million small holders, typically holding less than 50ha of land ... we recognise that this responsibility has to lie with Indonesia. The question then of course, is to see how Singapore can play a constructive role,” he said.

Earlier this week, ASEAN leaders had approved a joint haze monitoring system developed by Singapore, which will help in the tracking down of culprits behind the haze.

SIIA Chairman Simon Tay noted that the Singapore government’s response to the haze “has been very different” compared to previous years. “That’s why also even on the ASEAN level, they’ve been pushing much harder,” he said.

Still, the participants questioned if Singapore was doing enough to help Indonesia combat the haze, whether in monetary terms or by initiatives on the ground. Woo Sian Boon