“He said that if Singaporeans paid more attention to their household electricity bills, they may find it possible to cut electricity consumption by 10 or even 25 per cent” (Minister Calls On Singaporeans To Save Money, Not Make Sacrifices, Albert Wai).
By appealing through pragmatic rhetoric – calling on Singaporeans not “to make sacrifices”, and instead “to save money … at the personal, national, and industrial level” (TODAY, Dec. 5) – it would appear that Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is looking to spur the country into action. Yet campaigns in the past, such as those from the National Climate Change Secretariat, have made use of such appeals to no avail. A forthcoming campaign by the National Environment Agency is also looking to compare the cost of food waste and how the money could be spent otherwise, but previous endeavours have not been successful.
Most Singaporeans should be aware of climate change and its global impact – increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events, for instance – although the persisting lethargy, not apathy, could stem from perceptions that Singapore is insulated from such impact. Why bother to make a difference, they argue. Furthermore, antiquated mind-sets that individual action would amount to nothing significant could be to blame too.
Against this background, the answer should be a more holistic, target-driven effort encompassing both information and involvement. Taking stock of what has been done by its agencies or other organisations, the government should: stress the direct consequences of climate change on Singapore, highlight examples of households which have made changes in their lifestyles and routines, as well as to empower the young. Like the global discourse on global warming, words have not necessarily translated into deeds, and the introduction of targets for awareness and action campaigns in Singapore can hence be productive.
Policies at the national and industrial level have gained traction in recent years, though besides proclamations of targets more information could be communicated, pertaining likewise to past benchmarks and performances. Urgency on climate action can only be built if there is a broad evaluation of the past, knowledge of present plans, and a vision for the future.