A multi-faceted solution is needed to tackle transboundary haze, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, said.
Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development on Tuesday, he noted that countries are individually trying to tackle transboundary haze. Within Asean, there is also the Transboundary Haze Agreement, where members have taken a multilateral approach to attempting to put out the recent fires. There is also a growing demand for responsible and sustainable business practices.
"But we also need to intensify regional and international cooperation in order to apply effective legal and commercial pressure on these few errant companies so that they will stop their unsustainable and irresponsible land and forest clearing," Dr Balakrishnan said.
"Ultimately we also need to ensure that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, damaging our environment and damaging the economy."
He said the transboundary haze that has afflicted South-east Asia is "a man-made tragedy and a crime".
"This is a deliberate, man-made tragedy. Vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves. It has impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft, and damaged our regional economy," he said.
According to figures cited, more than two million hectares of forests - a lot of which was growing on peatland or millennia-worth of carbon captured in the ground - have been burnt this year. An estimated 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide has been released.
Dr Balakrishnan said all this is happening because of a handful of people, a handful of big companies, which are profiting at the expense of the environment and of the rest of society.
"This is a classic example of privatising the gain and socialising the pain," the minister said.
"So we need political will, we need the ability to investigate thoroughly, we need the willingness to enforce effectively, we need responsible business behaviour, we need ethical investors and we need vigilant consumers to pledge our common commitment towards a sustainable future...," he said.