In Conversation
December 2014

In Conversation with: Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

This issue of “In Conversation with” features Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), who shared with us Singapore’s plan to move to Euro VI standards. We would like to thank him for sharing his thoughts and views on the subject.

Profile

Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, 53, is currently the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) of Singapore. A Member of Parliament since 2001, he previously held appointments as the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister responsible for Entrepreneurship, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts and Minister of State for National Development.

In Parliament, he has moved several pieces of new legislation on environmental and water issues. These include the Energy Conservation Act and the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. He has also moved amendments to the Animals and Birds Act, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority Act, Sale of Food Act, the Public Utilities Act, the Sewerage and Drainage Act, the Environmental Public Health Act, and the Radiation Protection Act.

At MEWR, Dr. Balakrishnan has commenced building new hawker centres, the establishment of the Centre for Climate Research Singapore and the Department of Public Cleanliness, the implementation of a mandatory licensing scheme and progressive wages for the cleaning industry, and the adoption of higher air quality targets based on World Health Organisation’s Air Quality Guidelines, as well as a revised air quality reporting index which incorporates PM2.5.

Q: What are the drivers behind Singapore's initiative towards introducing Euro 6 emissions standards for diesel and petrol vehicles? Why is the planned introduction of Euro V standards for fuel retailers scheduled for one year later?

A: We plan to tighten the emissions standards for new petrol and diesel vehicles to Euro VI. These measures help to ensure that we continue to enjoy good air quality in Singapore in order to protect the health of our residents.

Compared to Euro IV petrol and Euro V diesel emissions standards, Euro VI petrol and diesel emissions standards have a more stringent limit on nitrogen oxides. They also include a limit on particle number, which is absent in the current standards. Health and carcinogenic research studies have suggested that nanoparticles can penetrate human bodies and may pose a health risk. Adopting the more stringent Euro VI emissions standards will reduce the emission of nanoparticles.

In preparation for this, we have been consulting the industry to ensure a smooth implementation of these new standards.

Q: Singapore is the first country in Southeast Asia to announce these stringent regulations on fuel. How can you help and support your neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to also initiate a move towards 'Cleaner Fuels for Cleaner Air’?

A: Every country has its own unique social, environmental and economic circumstances. Notwithstanding this, I believe all countries would want to ensure that air quality and public health are given important consideration in public policy. Singapore has progressively adopted more stringent fuel regulations to ensure healthy air. We are happy to share our experiences with other countries in the region.

Q: There is a fleet of commercial and private vehicles entering Singapore from Malaysia every day. What is Singapore doing to control the entry of smoky Malaysia-registered vehicles?

A: Foreign-registered vehicles entering Singapore via both the Woodlands and Tuas land entry checkpoints are screened for smoke emissions. Those spotted emitting visible smoke are subjected to a smoke test. If they fail the test, they will be fined or turned back to Malaysia.

The smoke test for all vehicles entering Singapore was recently tightened. Since 1 July 2014, all vehicles entering Singapore have to pass a more stringent smoke opacity test of 40 Hartridge Smoke Units (HSU), compared to 50 HSU previously.

Q: Singapore is one of the largest fuel trading and blending hubs in the world, and most certainly the number one turnover point in Southeast Asia. How can Singapore further lead in the quest to achieving cleaner fuels?

A: We have always worked closely with companies in the refinery industry to keep abreast of advancements in the field, to ensure that the technology employed in Singapore is “best-in-class”. We will continue to keep an open channel of communication between ourselves and industry partners as we move towards higher fuel standards.

Q: What has been the reaction from the industries most affected by the fuel legislation changes, such as the car manufacturers and the oil industry?

A: The car manufacturers and oil industry recognise the need for higher standards. They have been important and supportive partners in our quest for better air quality and we will continue to work with them as we move towards even higher standards in the future.  

Q: What are the expected consequences of the new fuel legislations for the consumers?

A: Consumers can expect cleaner fuel, better air quality and hopefully better health.

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