An article by Aaron Wong, The Brunei Times.

FINANCIAL capital is the Sultanate’s biggest strength in progressing towards environmental sustainability. However, it has to take steps to lower consumption of subsidised amenities that represent the nation’s biggest challenge, according to a Singaporean environmental consultant.

Speaking to The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the Seventh National Environment Conference, Chief Operating Officer of The GreenAsia Group, Vinod Kesava said that the government, as state regulator held the key in consolidating different viewpoints on environmental issues as the market becomes increasingly specialised.

“The concept of an ‘eco city’ has to be lead by the government,” he said.

“With the government of Brunei being the largest stakeholder and employer, the country’s population being well controlled and natural resources available, Brunei in some ways has it better than Singapore, with potential to make a quicker changes (relating to the environment).”

One solution Kesava noted, was to begin building an incinerator, whereby all trash would be first separated from organic waste, with the latter then depleted of its moisture to render it much more compact before it is incinerated.

This saves space in landfills, and remaining waste could be recycled.

Meanwhile heavy subsidies on fuel and electricity means that awareness on climate change has to be at the forefront of the public’s mind if consumption is to be lowered, Kesava added.

“You cannot change the rate of electricity from say 10 cents per kilowatt to 30 cents per kilowatt, or you risk a huge amount of instability.”

”It (dramatic, sudden increases) will never happen, so you need to incentivise people from the climate change perspective – make the public see the incredible value of these subsidies and to remain eco-conscious through education over time.”

Meanwhile the British High Commissioner David Campbell said the move to “eco-city” required a legal framework that is supported by the free market’s ability to self regulate provided shifts in consumer attitudes take place.

“In the UK, we have legally binding targets in terms of reducing emissions, as supported by all the parties,” he said.

With this overarching law, there are standards in place, he added, “but it’s a mix of legal requirements and trying to encourage consumers to be more environmentally aware when making purchases.”

“When a customer buys a freezer, as the government we don’t say you have to buy this freezer specifically; but we are trying to educate the consumer to see that the economical choice and the environmental choice can be the same choice. The better product for the environment which uses less energy will cost you less to run.”