S’pore ranked the greenest city in Asia

Dear creators of the inaugural Asian Green City Index,

I refer to the 15 Feb 2011 Straits Times report on the Index for which Singapore came in tops. It is worth noting that:

1) 15 out of the 22 cities surveyed come from developing nations. It is not surprising therefore that the other 7 cities are the ones that attained “above average” or better overall ratings. The impression given is that of two rather different leagues being compared together.

2) The number of “above average” and “well above average” ratings attained by the seven developed cities are quite similar suggesting that Singapore is not far and above the rest of the field of developed cities:

Average Above average Well above average
Singapore 0 6 2
Tokyo 1 5 2
Osaka 0 7 1
Yokohama 0 7 1
Hong Kong 1 6 1
Taipei 1 7 0
Seoul 1 6 0

3) Comparing the quantitative measures also reveals that little separates Singapore from fellow developed cities like Tokyo or Hong Kong.

4) The report itself admits that based on quantitative measures alone, Singapore would have ranked one band below, together with the other six developed cities. Singapore’s rank has been specially pushed up on the basis of its comprehensive and effective policies. However, giving extra credit to policies in and of themselves compromises the comparability and objectivity of the study. Take for instance Singapore’s use of natural gas to generate 80% of its electricity. While such a policy is indeed desirable, the positive outcomes of such a policy – cleanliness of air and greater energy efficiency are already captured in the quantitative measures. To give extra credit to the policy of natural gas use would amount to double counting. Policies for consuming energy more efficiently should similarly be captured in quantitative measures already and should therefore not be double counted. Policies for having an energy reduction strategy may only bear fruit in the future. To give credit to the policy is to accept its virtues now regardless of whether or not it actually bears fruit in the future. Even if the policy does indeed bear fruit in the future, the positive outcomes should be captured in the improvement of quantitative measures in the future. To count it now would be to double count too.

5) Singapore is the only city that scored well above average for the waste category and supposedly generates lower than average waste per person per year. However, this contradicts another study, the Solidiance’s inaugural Asia Pacific Top 10 Green Cities Index, reported by Straits Times on 13 Feb 2011. According to that report “S’pore tops in building policy, water management”, Singapore came in last in overall waste management and fared poorly both in terms of waste produced per capita and municipal recycling ratio.

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