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Lion City’s green ranking worsens

SINGAPORE — With the growing population driving up carbon emissions, Singapore’s environmental ranking has worsened in the latest Living Planet Report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

WWF International’s Dr Lambertini said Singapore should focus on consuming wisely, such as choosing certified sustainable seafood. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

WWF International’s Dr Lambertini said Singapore should focus on consuming wisely, such as choosing certified sustainable seafood. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

SINGAPORE — With the growing population driving up carbon emissions, Singapore’s environmental ranking has worsened in the latest Living Planet Report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Out of more than 150 countries analysed, the report found Singapore to have the seventh-largest ecological footprint — a measure of the population’s demands on natural resources — in the world. Singapore ranked 12th in the 2012 report. In the top five are Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark and Belgium.

With limited natural resources, about 70 per cent of Singapore’s footprint comes from carbon emissions, produced within the country as well as indirectly through activities driven by Singapore’s economy in other countries, the WWF said. Consuming large amounts of imported food and services also contributes to the amount of carbon emissions produced per capita.

If every person in the world lived like Singaporeans, 4.1 planets would be needed to sustain our needs, the WWF noted in its report.

Published biennially, this year’s report reflects 40 years of data from 1970 to 2010 gathered and calculated by the National Footprint Accounts from sources such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others.

The ecological footprint measures the amount of natural resources such as the productive land and water area a country has, versus how much is needed to sustain population development and absorb carbon emissions generated by these activities.

A country’s ranking is determined by goods and services consumed by an average person and the efficiency of resources used in providing these goods and services.

In an interview yesterday, WWF International’s director-general Marco Lambertini said Singapore is following the pattern of other high-income economies developing at the expense of resources. Aside from carbon emissions, consumption in these countries also drives habitat degradation and sometimes unsustainable practices in other countries, he said.

The report also found global wildlife populations have declined by more than half over the past 40 years, with the Asia-Pacific region showing the second-highest biodiversity loss due to accelerating development in the region in the past 20 years.

Beyond reducing consumption, Dr Lambertini said Singapore should focus on consuming wisely, such as choosing certified sustainable seafood and sustainable timber. “Consume products that have a lower footprint or no footprint or products that are incentivising sustainable practices,” he said, adding that consumers have more choices now.

As a global investment hub, Singapore can also make great impact by redirecting investments towards applying sustainable standards, investing in companies with high corporate social and environmental standards and divesting from fossil fuels.

“We’re also considering the footprint you’re having through operations outside and a lot of the carbon emissions are actually not necessarily in Singapore, but are also outsourced,” said Dr Lambertini. “All these investment here is a critical one because that’s really one of the key drivers of ecological footprint globally and you’re a major hub and you can really make a big difference there,”

He commended the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act as an innovative measure by Singapore to manage impact from other countries and suggested expanding this concept to other areas — such as carbon emissions and deforestation. This would help other countries preserve their existing natural assets, he said. “Their natural capital is everybody’s natural capital. It’s a common good that we need to be committed to preserve.”

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