Singapore’s first public sector sustainability report: no bottled water


Singapore is leading other Southeast Asian countries by releasing its first government sustainability report. Besides carbon reduction achievements, the government has announced the gradual elimination of single-use items.

For instance, meetings will no longer provide bottled water, and the indoor temperature in government buildings will be maintained at 25 degrees Celsius. Singapore is also actively advancing the provisions of the Paris Agreement Article 6.2, actively engaging in carbon credit transfer agreements with various countries.

Singapore released the first sustainability report on  Dec.15. (Photo: lifeforstock)

According to Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), Singapore's public sector carbon emissions totaled 3.7 million tons in 2022. This represents a 5.3% reduction compared to data available since 2020, primarily attributed to the closure of the Tuas waste incineration plant. However, as large-scale infrastructure projects initiated post-pandemic gradually reach completion, carbon emissions are expected to peak in 2025.

The government's first chief sustainability officer Lim Tuang Liang also said that transparency through reporting will spur public sector agencies to minimize their environmental impact. "By sharing examples of our sustainability initiatives, we also hope that others can undertake similar efforts, and also provide new ideas that the public sector can learn from," he said.

However, the carbon footprint in this report is limited to Scope 1 and Scope 2, which are direct emissions and electricity indirect emissions. As for Scope 3 emissions related to the supply chain, Lim stated, " it will take a lot more time to be able to take into account the upstream as well as the downstream emissions from the larger value chain that the Government operates within."

MSE estimates that the Singaporean public sector will achieve net-zero carbon emissions around 2045. There is a possibility that this target could be reached 5 years ahead of the national goal. The report also lays out the other key decarbonization plans in the public sector:

  • achieving 100% cleaner energy car replacement by 2035
  • achieving 100% cleaner energy public buses by 2040, with electric buses to make up half the fleet by 2030
  • Reaching solar power generation capacity of 1.5 GW by 2030
  • Reducing single-use items, including phasing out bottled water during meetings
  • Incorporate environmental sustainability considerations into all government procurement by 2028

The Singaporean government leads by example and calls for businesses to follow suit. Starting in 2024, the carbon tax in Singapore will increase from SGD 5 per ton to SGD 25 per ton (about 19 USD). To mitigate the impact on businesses, the government also allows the purchase of overseas carbon credits to offset up to 5% of taxable carbon emissions. The MSE is optimistic, stating that businesses will soon be able to acquire carbon credits in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

In accordance with Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, Singapore is actively engaging with other countries to sign MOUs for the transfer of carbon reduction achievements. On December 19, 2023, the country announced its first-ever list of qualifications for International Carbon Credits (ICCs). Among the listed countries, only Papua New Guinea has successfully completed the signing of the implementation agreement. The carbon credits will be certified according to four standards: the Gold Standard (GS), the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) under Verra, the American Carbon Registry (ACR), and the Global Carbon Council (GCC). These certifications are expected to take effect on January 1, 2024.

The government plans to establish a national carbon registry to facilitate transactions under the Article 6 framework. "That registry will have links to carbon crediting programs like the Verra and the Gold Standard, so that, when companies buy and retire those credits, that transaction will be registered, then reflected and computed in terms of the tax obligations," said Zhang Weijie, Divisional Director of Energy and Climate Policy of MSE, who was interviewed by S&P Global.

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