SINGAPORE: Singapore is not on track to achieve its air quality targets by 2020 which are benchmarked against the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to figures from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), in the past two years, Singapore fell short in meeting its targets for pollutants such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particulate matter (PM10) and ozone.
“Unfortunately if you look at our trajectory, we are not meeting our targets and therefore we need to do more to ensure that our air pollution issue is being addressed,” said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jan 25).
Speaking at a pre-Budget focus group discussion, Mr Masagos said Singapore is committed to finding ways to address air pollution.
For instance, his ministry will review its vehicular emission policies, including the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which gives rebates or surcharges depending on how much carbon dioxide a car or taxi emits. The current scheme is due to expire this year.
ALTERNATIVES TO DIESEL VEHICLES
The review follows a six-month study conducted by Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). It was commissioned by MEWR last year in light of increasing concerns over the harmful effects of diesel vehicular emissions.
The study found that powering vehicles with electricity and renewable diesel are two of the more viable and cleaner alternatives to conventional diesel. But costs remain a concern.
While electrification is a “promising technology” for vehicles like cars, buses and those that carry large and heavy goods, Asst Prof Cheah laid out the limitations.
“The technology is available. As to how we can convert the market today, that’s a different story. In terms of price, (electric vehicles) cost more than the conventional diesel vehicles,” she said.
There are also concerns like how far vehicles can travel on one charge, as well as a lack of charging infrastructure.
As for using renewable diesel, the study found that it can achieve immediate reductions in emissions. Such a fuel is produced from treating feedstock like used cooking oil. With a chemical makeup that is similar to diesel, it can be used to power a diesel vehicle without having to modify it.
However, even though renewable diesel is cleaner than conventional diesel, it still emits harmful pollutants. It is also twice as expensive.
“We also don’t have yet a market in Singapore for (renewable diesel). There are a lot of unknowns in terms of distribution. But there are markets that use renewable diesel - in fact in some places, they are mandated, like in California”, said Asst Prof Cheah.
Commenting on the study's findings, Mr Masagos said: "This is just the beginning of a journey to understand our options. We have to be practical on the solutions that we adopt over the years. There are many objectives of why diesel is used in the first place."
"We have to understand it properly so that when we implement it for the longer term, we are also not inadvertently putting too much cost on the industry or the users to switch to these alternatives," he added.