How Singapore turned into global lab for environmental sustainability
A view of the Singapore Flyer with the financial district in the background before the start of Earth Hour 2010 in Singapore, Mar.27, 2009. EPA-EFE/FILE/STEPHEN MORRISON
By Amaya Quincoces Riesco
Singapore, Jun 7 (efe-epa).- With its innovative green development projects, Singapore, a tiny nation of just 5.5 million people, is inspiring many countries to emulate its environmental sustainability model.
Far from being just associated with its modern skyscrapers, the island nation has now become an extensive laboratory in green city planning and is attracting many foreign companies, seeking to address environmental challenges in the face of the alarming climate crisis.
Against this backdrop, the country was chosen to host the global Innovate4Climate conference concluded on Friday.
The key conference on environmental sustainability was jointly organized by the World Bank and the relevant departments of the governments of Singapore, Spain and Germany.
Big players involved in the fight against climate change, including various Spanish companies active in Asia, attended the meeting.
Around a dozen of these companies, from areas as diverse as finance, energy, consultancy, environmental certification and verification, urban waste management and tire recycling, on Friday met officials of the Spanish government at the Spanish embassy in Singapore to discuss business opportunities related to sustainability in Asia.
Around 140 Spanish companies operate in Singapore, although some of them just have offices to manage their business in the entire Southeast Asia.
Until half a century ago, the tiny nation was mostly unsustainable territory similar to other developing countries in the region with a combined population of more than 600 million.
But in a very short span of time it progressed exponentially and can now be described as highly developed country with deep commitments to safeguard environment.
The city-state's environmental commitment can be attributed to its small size and its policy of reclaiming land from sea, which forces it to pay attention to sustainability.
However, representatives of the Spanish companies gathered at the Embassy told EFE that there was still a long way to go despite Singapore's significant advances.
The business representatives added that European and Spanish companies could play an important role in the country because they were highly regarded in the region.
Patri Tarek Kheireddine Dorronsoro, a representative of the Spanish architecture and engineering consultancy Idom, told EFE that the technology in the "intelligent cities" of Singapore was very cutting-edge, and the island was one of the most architecturally advanced countries in Asia.
Other companies, including BBVA, Naturgy and Aenor highlighted their products and executives of Cepsa discussed their new completely sustainable factory in Indonesia which produces vegetable oil-based cosmetics.
Tire recycling company Life for Tires - with businesses in four continents - discussed its latest technology.
Pablo Viejo, the director of Pitgem - a small technology company - discussed its pest-control technology, dealing with one of the problems which have grown along with climate change.
Since its independence from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore has become an economic benchmark for Southeast Asia both from the technological and financial perspectives.
“The new generations of green bond funds (whose proceeds are used to finance environment-focused projects) is working in Singapore. The financing terms for projects are relaxed if the project has a positive impact on environmental sustainability,"Jose Maria Blasco, the economic and trade attache at the Spanish Embassy, told EFE.
One of Singapore's flagship program is the "Zero Waste Nation”. And one of its biggest engineering projects is a sustainable landfill at high sea, which has vegetation growing on top and is inhabited by some animal species too.
Blasco said that in recent decades, the focus of the development plans of the country shifted from industrial transformation, investment and employment generation to an economy based on talent, R&D and innovation.
This, he said, boosted productivity with a "very liberal implementation of economic programs," relying on a foreign trade sector 2.5 times bigger than its GDP.
The tap-water in Singapore is potable - fit for human consumption - even though the country lacks it naturally, as the authorities have established plants to treat the water with latest technologies.
Currently, the island is in the process of designing a pioneering project: an integrated plant for treating water and waste, with the two processes fueling each other with a very high level of efficiency.
Singapore has also made significant efforts in the field of renewable energy despite the shortage of resources, covering roofs with solar panels and building solar energy production units at sea.