Green issues in politics: exploring the parties’ stances

Credit: flickr/emilstefanov
Credit: flickr/emilstefanov

On 3 September 2015, representatives from PM.Haze and other green groups, members of the public and political candidates gathered for a special election-themed edition of Green Drinks. In tandem with the impending elections, this edition of Green Drinks aimed to identify Singaporean green issues and subsequently, discuss the different political parties’ views on these issues. In attendance was Ajax Ke from People’s Power Party and Louis Ng from People’s Action Party.

A pre-event survey was sent out to the active political parties to gauge their positions on green issues, and their responses were discussed during the event. Only the People’s Power Party (PPP) responded before the deadline. To measure the other parties’ commitment to green issues, their manifestos were analysed.

Selected responses by Louis Ng , first-time candidate for the PAP, now elected MP in Nee Soon

Animal welfare activities
Louis, who is Executive Director of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), mentioned several animal projects that he is involved in. In Nee Soon East, where Louis is based, he has met with stray feeders and the practice of cat culling and trapping has ceased. The Cat Welfare Society was also involved in discussions. Louis promised that shark’s fin would not be allowed at any events in Nee Soon East and Chong Pang.

Environmental issues in policymaking
Louis was questioned on whether issues such as building a green economy, green jobs, and development that factor in social inequality and environmental impacts would be part of the policymaking process. He was unable to speak on behalf of the PAP on the specifics but assured that he would champion environmental issues.

When questioned whether it would be difficult to raise environmental concerns in Parliament, Louis replied that he did not think so.

Louis shared with the audience that he participated in the Animal Welfare Legislation Committee, stating that legislation was amended based on public feedback. Louis pointed out the significance of these changes, as the Bill was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill, and the Bill was ultimately drawn up and proposed based on public feedback.

Government procurement
On whether environmental factors would be considered during government procurement, Louis replied by saying that currently, majority of procurement is being made based on cost considerations, but did not respond as to why environmental factors were not considered.

Private companies’ involvement in green issues
Louis mentioned that government policy was not the only way to effect change in green issues, and that when private companies were willing to take a step as well, people’s actions could be changed. He mentioned IKEA’s policy of charging for plastic bags and that customers carrying purchases by hand without plastic bags, was a common sight at the checkout area.

Environmental issues related to construction
Bishan resident Leroy Kwok mentioned that in his estate, lift upgrading projects take almost 4 years to complete, and that most of the time, construction workers are not present at the work sites. Also, diesel trucks used by the contractors leave their engines idle for hours.

Louis mentioned that parking and leaving the engine on is a criminal offence, and that the National Environment Agency (NEA) can impose a fine in such situations, and advised Leroy to contact the NEA in future situations.

Green Drinks’ take on party positions regarding green issues

• People’s Power Party
PPP’s response to the survey was encouraging. PPP indicated that multiple issues such as food security, rising sea levels, sustainable development and animal conservation would be discussed with the public during the election period.

Ajax Ke from the PPP was asked whether his party’s responses in the survey would be present in the PPP manifesto, but was unable to answer with certainty, as the PPP manifesto was still in development on the date of the event.

• People’s Action Party
The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) manifesto included plans to create “vibrant and liveable” environments. Specific initiatives included the formation of pedestrian and cyclist friendly precincts, abundant green public spaces and making the commute to workplaces easier. Also included were plans to double the rail network.

• Worker’s Party
The Worker’s Party (WP) manifesto included numerous initiatives. The WP would push for the proliferation of cycling lanes and signage to create cycling towns, to create more connected communities. Car sharing schemes would be also be given a boost with more car-sharing locations. Priority at prime parking spaces in HDB estates would also be given to car sharing schemes. WP’s manifesto also contained plans for making HDB towns more walkable, enhancing Singapore’s food security, protecting our natural heritage and several other initiatives.

• SingFirst
Singaporeans First (SingFirst) aimed to transform estates into vibrant communities that are self-contained. Workplaces, services and entertainment would be situated in proximity to homes.

• Singapore Democratic Alliance
The Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) planned to nationalise the public transport system. Failing this, the transportation sector in Singapore should be liberalized by increasing tender opportunities for private transport companies. Measures such as full-day concession rates on public transport for elderly citizens would also be pursued.

• National Solidarity Party
The National Solidarity Party (NSP) proposed for more studies to be undertaken on the optimal population size of Singapore in sociological and economic terms, and to only grow our population when the necessary infrastructure was in place.

• Reform Party
Reform Party (RP), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Singapore People’s Party (SPP) had either no manifesto published during the date of event, or had no relevant mentions of green issues within their manifesto.

Discussions of other green topics
Participants also formed discussion groups about suggested environmental topics. Each group then had a chance at a post-discussion presentation that outlined the group’s concerns on their topic, as well as potential opportunities and solutions that could apply to Singapore.

For more details, please view a full version of the event report on the Green Drinks website.

This report was prepared by Teo Kia Meng.