Singaporeans need three planets


Image source: UNEP
The WWF released its latest Living Planet Report yesterday, and I went along in person to the Botany Centre in the beautiful Botanic Gardens here in Singapore to get it from from the Chair of the Board of WWF himself, Dr Christopher Hails.

The launch of the Report was billed as an important precursor to the next gathering of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity scheduled to be held in Nagoya, Japan later this month and I had assumed, therefore, that there would be a focus on biodiversity loss. Instead Dr Hails gave a broad and far ranging presentation that described the general health of the planet (or lack thereof). He certainly did not disappoint and the audience (all of whom, it’s fair to say, could be counted as converts) was more numerous than I expected and certainly well-informed.

One surprise for me was that, for the first time, I was presented with data on the ecological footprint for Singapore. For some reason, Singapore has always been missing from any international league table of ecological footprints. Less surprising, given the passion for consumption in this country, was the world ranking of 21st, each person requiring 5.34 biologically productive hectares to fuel this consumption and dispose of the associated waste. Putting it another way, if everyone in the world lived like Singaporeans, we would need three planets.

Breaking the Singaporean ecological footprint down, carbon emissions is the biggest offender. This came as a surprise to some members of the audience, but Jurong does house one of the top three largest oil refining centres in the world. Then there is the aircon! If the owners of some of the buildings in Singapore turned the thermostat down a notch, maybe a Singaporean lifestyle would only require two planets.