An article by Ernesto Simanungkalit, The Jakarta Post.

Singapore is moving toward uncharted territory by mulling a draft bill on transboundary haze pollution. The bill is a response to the haze problem allegedly caused by Indonesia’s forest fires.

The bill consists of three key features: extraterritoriality, criminal liability and civil liability. It will impose sanctions on any entity, regardless of nationality, whose activities outside of Singapore contribute to pollution in the country. Penalty for offenders can be up to S$450,000 and avenues to recover damages are made available.

Currently, the bill is still in public consultation until mid-March this year.

Coming from a country like Singapore, this bill is both unprecedented and inspiring. However, extraterritoriality, including criminal extraterritoriality, is nothing new in international law.

Indeed, it’s not a new invention, it has been done, and ironically, Singapore is at the forefront of the fight against extraterritoriality.

Back in 2008, the European Union passed a regulation on the Emission Trading Scheme for the aviation sector (ETS). In this scheme, airplanes flying to Europe, regardless of from where they departed, Johannesburg or Singapore, have to pay levy.

The problem that many believed, including Singapore, was that aircraft flying from one point, for example Changi Airport, would fly many hours above non-EU territory before entering the EU space for only around 2 hours. Thus, they see this as unfair levy imposed extraterritorially.

Singapore, along with other countries, rejected the extraterritoriality of the ETS at the 194th Session of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council and urged the EU to refrain from including flights by non-EU carriers to and from an airport in the territory of an EU member state as it is inconsistent with applicable international law.

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