LONDON: Last year's haze episode - caused by forest fires in Indonesia and exacerbated by a severe El Nino effect - cost Singapore an estimated S$700 million of losses, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Tuesday (Mar 15).
Mr Masagos, who is in London attending The Sustainability Summit organised by The Economist, stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation, among other issues like corporate and consumer responsibilities, to tackle the problem.
”We cannot have just one approach to address the problem. One of these approaches that we're trying to commit is the bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore," he told Channel NewsAsia.
"In this aspect, we have been asking them to officially provide us the names of the directors of companies, as well as the locations where these fires have occurred, so that the companies can be put to task, particularly if the haze has affected Singapore.
Haze-shrouded Singapore as seen from Marina Barrage on Sep 15. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)
“We know where the hotspots were when the haze occurred. We know from the NGOs, but we need to execute this legally. Therefore, we need to have the cooperation of our counterparts to give us these names officially.”
Mr Masagos added that this is not the only way to address the problem. “Their own action in putting some of these companies to task in court is exemplary,” he said.
“However, we are disappointed that the outcome has not been what everyone has hoped for. But I know they are still pursuing the matter, and I hope the Indonesian justice system and legal system will bring these people to task.”
SINGAPORE'S EFFORT TO BALANCE, PROTECT ENVIRONMENT
Besides haze, Mr Masagos, who was invited to speak as a panelist at the conference, spoke about Singapore's efforts to balance development and protecting the environment, as well as the country's success in no longer relying heavily on Malaysia for water.
The minister also spoke about the importance of meeting the commitments to an agreement inked at a climate change conference known as the COP21 inked in Paris last year. “For now, the COP21 has got no other commitment than just promises to be kept,” said Mr Masagos. “But we foresee by 2020, things will shift.”
He added that there will probably be calls for penalties for countries that make promises, but do not keep them. “Therefore, it's important for Singapore, among other things, to try and be on track to meet these commitments that it has made during COP21 conference,” Mr Masagos said.
“This is important for the future of the Earth. This is something we all share. And if we do not meet our commitments, we all know that climate change will bring higher temperatures for everybody, and more intense and bad weather that we have to cope with if we do nothing.”