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4 Sep 2017

Mahdev Mohan, Singapore Management University, on Business and Human Rights Journal

Commentary: Singapore's law to hold companies liable for transboundary environmental & health impacts of haze pollution

"A Domestic Solution for Transboundary Harm: Singapore's Haze Pollution Law", 23 May 2017

Toxic "haze" from fires, often burning over dry peatland in Indonesia, has affected millions...

Singapore's Ministry of Environment...ha[s] attributed the...pollution...to the conduct "of errant companies...", and note that "their emphasis on profit at the expense of the environment and society has led to serious and harmful consequences affecting millions of people". 

Singapore's extraterritorial Transboundary Haze Pollution Act [THPA]...imposes both civil and criminal liability on errant companies domiciled or operating overseas but which cause or contribute to haze pollution in Singapore.

...Section 9...extends the..."precautionary principle"to corporations as well, obligating entities...to take certain precautionary and remedial measures....[T]he THPA...endorses...the Guiding Principles, particularly Principle 2, which provides that "States should set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory...respect human rights throughout their operations."

...Scholars acknowledge environmental pollution as one of the most significant risks to the right to health protection...

...Notwithstanding its limitations, the THPA provides a basis for an unprecedented domestic response to transboundary haze pollution reminiscent of the UN Framework and Guiding Principles. It is important to note that the greatest value of the THPA lies in the fact that it has prompted a degree of compliance on the part of companies that have responded to the preventive notices. Indonesia too has taken further strides with enforcement...