New notes for CNY hongbao create annual emissions equal to powering 430 HDB flats

MAS is working with its vendors to reduce carbon emissions in producing currencies. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - The carbon footprint of the excess new notes issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to meet demand during festive periods such as Chinese New Year is comparable with the emissions from powering 430 four-room Housing Board flats annually.

It also makes up about 8 per cent of the total carbon emissions generated by the MAS, which will step up efforts to promote e-payments to reduce public demand for such new notes.

The move is part of MAS’ measures to cut its carbon emissions, managing director Ravi Menon said in a media briefing on the central bank’s 2022 sustainability report.

Mr Menon said he hopes more Singaporeans will embrace alternatives like fit notes and e-gifting to reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint of new notes for festive giving.

In the report, MAS said it will continue with the progressive reduction of new notes to reduce the environmental impact of new note issuance.

MAS added that it is also working with vendors to reduce the carbon emissions in producing currencies. Its outsourced currency operations accounted for more than 50 per cent of MAS' total carbon emissions in the 2021 financial year.

It is working with its polymer note printer, Note Printing Australia, to reduce the carbon emissions from note production.

The company has increased the use of its renewable energy to 20 per cent of its grid electricity since July 2021 and is planning a production optimisation programme to further reduce its carbon emissions in the coming year, MAS said.

The efforts will pave the way for a sustainable future where MAS will no longer issue new notes for festive giving, it said in the report.

About 100 million pieces of new notes for Chinese New Year and other festive periods are issued annually. These new notes are used once for gifting, and the majority are returned to MAS shortly after.

Most of these returned notes are recirculated to meet demand, MAS said, but added that the excess notes will accumulate and are subsequently destroyed before the end of their useful life as they far exceed the replacement demand.

"This wastes resources, resulting in unwarranted carbon emissions," it said.

Meanwhile, as the steward of Singapore’s official foreign reserves, Mr Menon said MAS will ensure that the reserves investment portfolio is well positioned for the transition to a low-carbon future.

MAS will exclude from its portfolio the equities and corporate bonds of companies that derive more than 10 per cent of their revenues from thermal coal mining and oil sands activities.

"Such companies have high transition risks but limited long-term prospects as the world transits to the use of cleaner or renewable sources of energy," said Mr Menon.

"The exclusion will minimise our portfolio exposures to companies with the largest risk of asset stranding." 

As a result of these climate portfolio actions, MAS expects that the weighted average carbon intensity of its equities portfolio will be reduced by up to 50 per cent by the 2030 financial year, compared with 2018 as the base year, Mr Menon said.

In general, even looking beyond 2030, MAS is studying when it can achieve net zero emissions for its physical operations at the earliest possible timeframe, he added. 

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.