Singapore’s haze casts a sustainability shadow

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The race is on: not Formula 1 but environmental challenges.

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Singapore’s Formula 1 race in September brought with it the customary onslaught of related conferences.

These included the state-backed Singapore Summit, the Milken, BNP Paribas’s Sustainable Future Forum conference and Euromoney’s very own Asia private banking seminar.

The race, in the end, is something of a relief from the panels and keynotes.

The BNP event seemed particularly well-timed. There’s not much common ground between sustainability and motor racing, but it did coincide with the worst haze for years in Singapore as Sumatran forest fires combined with unlucky wind direction to place the city under dense smog.

Plastics

It felt a suitable time to be discussing Asia’s legion environmental challenges, which have been brought into stark relief by China’s decision last year to stop importing used plastics, with a consequent displacement of waste to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Five Asian countries dump more plastic into the oceans than the rest of the world combined – and they are all in Asia.

The Sumatran fires, and the dull haze over Singapore, added a note of urgency to it all. As the endlessly repeated soundtrack to the conference, the Crowded House song Now We’re Getting Somewhere had it: Oh tell me please/ why it takes so long/to realise when there’s something wrong.