Q16: On doing our part for climate change, even if others do not (SUSS Ministerial Forum 2019)

If other countries do not do their part, and
reduce CO2 emissions, slow down the global warming, and slow down sea level rise, it endangers all countries, themselves, as well as the world, as well as Singapore. We cannot force other countries to do what we think we would like them to do. All we can do is our share and because we are doing our share, we can stand up and we have the moral standing to say, “I am doing my part, please do your part.” But if they still do not do their part, what do I do? I have to protect myself and therefore I must prepare for rising sea levels and I must spend, if need be, $100 billion over 100 years, it may be more than that in order to make sure that if the sea levels rise, Singapore does not become a smaller island, which otherwise is very much on the cards. We can afford the money and we will make our plans carefully, we make sure that the money is well spent. But we have to protect ourselves. It is not just right wing governments, even
left wing governments in countries. Basically it is countries where there is population pressure, where they find it difficult to look into the long term, and they want here and now – I need land to plant new crops, I need money, so I am mining coal and selling to other countries; I have oil, I am not very good at doing anything else very much and therefore I am taking the oil out of the ground and I am going to sell the oil to people who will burn it and put CO2 in the atmosphere. I do not think those are pressures which governments can easily ignore. Because if you ignore them, somebody else will turn up and say, “Take that, why don’t you do that? It is money for jam.” The government which wants to be green is kicked out and somebody else comes in, and he despoils the planet. So all we can do is to say, “Let us work at this together”, there was a Paris Accord, it is a first step. It is not enough but anyway, it is a step in the right direction. Other steps will have to be taken later on but this is a first step and everybody is signed up. So if we do not do our part, we are not a good global citizen – whether you are big or small, if you do not do your part, you are not a good global citizen. We hope that has some impact. The world is an imperfect place and that is the way difficult problems can be solved or at least tackled with partial solutions.

Danny Hutson

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