Back to Basics!
You may notice this newsletter looks a bit different–that’s because we’ve migrated to Substack! All existing subscribers have been ported over so you won’t have to re-subscribe, but please forward our newsletter to your friends if you find it useful! It is also now easier to read past issues of this newsletter.
Singapore may have removed most of the remaining restrictions, but as we properly say goodbye to COVID, we musn’t forget that the climate crisis is still happening. The most recent Budget 2023 was scarce on climate-related policies, with Deputy Minister Lawrence Wong mentioning “climate resilience” and giving an overview of Singapore’s strengthened net zero ambitions and policies to adapt to climate change such as the Coastal and Flood Protection Fund, but otherwise not announcing any new policies. In the ongoing Budget debate, several MPs have raised climate issues, and we are looking forward to more discussions over the next few weeks.
We’ve also launched a new Climate Justice 101 series for our followers new and old alike, to serve as a (re)explainer of our organisation’s focus, and how we see the intersectionality of different issues with the climate. And as usual, if you want to write for us, collaborate, or even join the movement, drop us a message on our website, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and we’ll get back to you!
Sometimes, talk in climate circles can become full of jargon and insider speak, but the one principle that we feel underlies everything is climate justice. For those who’ve followed us recently and might not know what it means, here’s a short intro we did in our new climate justice 101 series!
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A new report has found that the difference in carbon emissions between the rich and the poor within a country is now greater than the difference in emissions between countries. This suggests that people with lower incomes from developed countries contribute less than rich people from developing countries. The authors of the study proposed windfall taxes on excess profits and progressive taxation in all countries to help fund low-carbon investment.
A cargo train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio state in the midwestern United States on 3 February, sparking a massive fire and releasing toxic fumes such as vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic colourless gas used to make petrochemical-based plastics. Several thousand residents in the area have been evacuated, however the cleanup remains slow and the surrounding area remains contaminated, including drinking water for nearby residents. The long-term environmental impact of the derailment remains unknown, and highlights the need for more regulatory oversight over the transport of toxic chemicals. We should also question our dependence on these fossil fuel products that is driving the industry’s large investments in petrochemical plants, making it increasingly the largest driver of oil demand.
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In last month’s newsletter, we mentioned an investigation into how Verra, one of the world’s leading carbon markets program, had reportedly approved forest carbon offsets that had a negligible effect on the climate. MP Louis Chua from the Workers’ Party asked a question about it in Parliament, and in her reply, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu replied that MSE is aware of the investigation, and “take all scrutiny of carbon markets and projects seriously, and are committed to ensuring that carbon credits uphold high environmental integrity standards.” MSE will finalise the environmental integrity criteria for eligible carbon credits and publish a whitelist of acceptable credits by the end of this year.
On the theme of greenwashing, a Reuters investigation found that a shoe recycling program spearheaded by the government and US petrochemicals company Dow Inc may not have actually resulted in the recycling of most of the shoes. The project sought to grind down donated shoes into a material to be used in building new playgrounds and running tracks in Singapore. To prove this was being done, Reuters placed trackers in 11 shoes and dropped them off at donation points all over Singapore. None of the shoes ended up being recycled, with some ending up as far as Indonesia to be resold. Watch the video below to find out how they carried out the investigation:
When presented with the findings, Dow said it had opened an investigation with its other partners including Sport Singapore, and concluded that the used-clothing exporter it used to retrieve the footwear from the recycle bins had been responsible for erroneously sorting some shoes for resale, and had been removed from the project. Dow, Sport Singapore, and the other partners of the program have apologised for the ‘lapse’. This is not the first time Dow has faced accusations that its recycling projects are overstating their impact. The investigation also shone a light on the second-hand clothing import market in Indonesia, which reportedly adds to the country’s garbage problem, as only a small percentage of such clothing are reusable, and most are burnt or dumped in landfills due to their poor condition. The myth of plastics recycling only helps the growth of petrochemical companies that may lead to more disasters like East Palestine, while distracting governments from more effective policies like single-use plastic bans.
The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) has received a $101 million donation from the Low Tuck Kwong Foundation, named after coal tycoon Low Tuck Kwong. The donation will fund leadership programmes for public officers and scholarships for LKYSPP students. However, questions have been raised about whether it is appropriate at this juncture for LKYSPP to accept the money from a foundation linked to fossil fuels, especially for a school that specialises in public policy.
This documentary by CNA looks at businesses who are involved in the circular economy, and also briefly touches on the wider green economy and ESG investing. The question is whether businesses who do good can also make money. However, as we’ve explored in a previous post, ESG standards remain highly nebulous, and enforcement is lax. As long as sustainable investing remains motivated primarily by profit, firms will always find ways to greenwash their activities.
As the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) goes up, so will the demand for lithium, which is used in EV batteries. This necessitates increased mining and may result in increased environmental harm even as emissions are decreased. A new report by the Climate and Community Project in the US found that lithium demand can be reduced by up to 92 percent in 2050 by decreasing car dependency, right-sizing EV batteries, and creating a robust recycling system. SGCR believes that policy focus should be on developing robust public transit systems and boosting the use of public transport instead of EVs, which, while are useful in reducing carbon emissions, remain inaccessible to large parts of the world, and may result in a more car-centric and resource-intensive transport system overall.
Ever wanted to collaborate with other countries to reduce carbon emissions? You don’t need to go to the UN for this, when you can now do it in the comfort of your home. Several game designers have created climate and biodiversity-themed board games that encourage players to work together to achieve climate-themed targets, such as creating a harmonious ecosystem, or saving families from floods. At least no one will be bankrupt and destitute with no properties at the ending of these games…