Environmental issues have become overwhelming. The ecological crisis has reached the remotest spots on the planet. Few, if any, territories were able to retain their environmental authenticity. Urbanization, resource depletion, and climate change have shifted policy priorities, turning environmental protection into a global mission. Ethiopia is a beautiful country that is known for its unique nature. However, it is also facing severe environmental pressures, including the rapid degradation of agricultural lands, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity. Ethiopia could learn from the environmental protection experiences of other countries, including Singapore: the Singapore Green Plan can become a model for meeting the business and economic objectives of Ethiopia without compromising the principles of sustainability and environmental protection nationwide.
Environmental protection must be an issue of top priority for Ethiopia, as it is pursuing ambitious economic and social development goals. Ethiopia is one of the most rapidly developing African countries, which seeks to achieve middle-income status. However, these changes in the social and economic status of Ethiopians can come at a cost. It is not a secret that the economy of Ethiopia has never been environment-friendly. Sustainability is a relatively new phenomenon in Ethiopia. The task is to create optimal conditions for environmental protection, using the examples and lessons from other countries.
Singapore is a role model of sustainability and environmental protection. Since 1992, the Singapore Green Plan has been the basic framework for managing environmental affairs in the country (National Library Board, 2015). According to the National Library Board (2015), the purpose of the plan is to foster continued economic development in Singapore without compromising the environment. Although the first plan was released in 1992, it was regularly updated to create a framework for environmental protection and preservation of biodiversity until 2030. Today, the policy is an example of effective environmental management and sustainability at the national level.
What can Singapore’s environmental efforts do to help Ethiopia become more environmentally conscious-oriented? Firstly, Singapore has a well-developed policy, which encompasses programs, and steps to balance the need for economic growth and the importance of environmental protection. It is a formal policy that has been approved by the national government. It governs all environmental efforts and decisions made across the country. Singapore has designated a Coordinating Committee to oversee all environmental initiatives in the country, within limits set by the policy. The policy itself covers every aspect of environmental protection and sustainability, from climate change and air quality to water protection and public health. For example, it includes an effort to reduce the incidence of foodborne and vector-borne diseases.
Despite the gigantic steps made by Singapore to improve its environment, the results have been modest. For example, energy efficiency is believed to be lower than needed, with recycling rates showing minor improvements (Koh, 2017). However, even when Singapore is criticized for failing to meet its environmental objectives, it means one thing: the country constantly monitors the success of its environmental initiatives and takes steps to modify and adjust the essential strategies to meet the changing environmental needs of its people. For instance, since the beginning of 2018, Singapore has toughened its environmental regulations and requirements: For example, owners of new residential units would have to divide their waste into recyclable and non-recyclable. Meanwhile, businesses in Singapore are uniting around the core goals of environmental protection to promote green priorities at the national scale.
What does it mean for Ethiopia? After all, it seems that environmental protection and sustainability are part and parcel of Singapore’s political culture. Yet, this has not always been the case. Singapore has gone a long way to establishing itself as an environment-friendly nation. Ethiopia can follow the example, creating a national environmental protection and sustainability framework, similar to Singapore’s plan for pursuing sustainability and environmental protection. To accomplish this task, Ethiopian government, authorities, businesses, and citizens will need to conduct a thorough analysis of environmental issues and risks, as well as identify opportunities for environmental protection and restoration of biodiversity. Indeed, the environmental problems facing Singapore may not be the same as those affecting Ethiopia. However, the model of policy action will undoubtedly follow the same pattern – starting at the top and providing a framework for environmental protection and action at all levels.
Such a policy should necessarily include an educational component. The government of Ethiopia should promote public awareness of environmental protection and sustainability. It should also explain the essence and significance of the proposed environmental plan, once it is adopted and approved. This plan should also include sanctions for noncompliance. In Singapore, sanctions and penalties for environmental pollution are some of the toughest in the world. That does not mean that Ethiopia should follow the same path. Its policy for environmental protection and preservation should be realistic. Ethiopia has everything needed to develop the line of sustainability and reduce the scope of environmental pollution and degradation in the decades that follow.
All in all, Singapore teaches a good lesson of environmental policymaking. Ethiopia can use Singapore’s policies as a framework for developing its environmental vision and outlining steps to achieve sustainability and promote public health. The federal government should provide education and information to citizens, to build their awareness of environmental pollution and empower them to own the results of sustainable development.
Ed.’s Note: Samuel Alemu, Esq is a partner at the ILBSG, LLP. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, and Addis Ababa University. Samuel has been admitted to the bar associations of New York State, United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of International Trade. He can be reached at [email protected].
Contributed by Samuel Alemu