Singaporeans should welcome the announcement that the public sector will ramp up its sustainability efforts - by increasing solar energy use and slashing water and energy consumption - to start lowering carbon emissions five years ahead of the rest of the nation. Important markers of this move are that by 2030, the public sector will raise its use of solar energy to 1.5 gigawatt-peak (GWp), equivalent to powering more than 260,000 households a year. This will account for three-quarters of the nation's solar target of 2 GWp by 2030. To achieve this, solar panels will be installed, where feasible, on all public sector premises. Also, all government cars will run on cleaner energy by 2035, five years ahead of the national goal of 2040. From 2023, all new government cars must have zero exhaust emissions. The Government's move to take the lead in low-carbon efforts follows on from the announcement in March that the public sector would reach maximum emissions around 2025, and would then begin bringing them down, five years earlier than the rest of the country would do so.
Clearly, the public sector must lead in the effort to enhance the environmental sustainability of Singapore, an existential issue whose handling requires a whole-of-government approach. Ultimately, however, what is needed is a whole-of-nation effort in which Singapore businesses and individuals participate wholeheartedly. Where the Government comes in is by way of its moral, legislative and economic heft. Obviously, the fact that the public service is prepared to achieve certain sustainability goals ahead of the rest of the country gives the authorities the moral strength to argue the case for environmental survival. Legislative steps may follow in the future to ensure that survival would gain credibility in public policy terms because the Government would have already started to put its money where its mouth is. Economically, the public sector enjoys the financial bandwidth to set the benchmark for the private sector in the way and at the cost at which it procures and uses goods that match environmental sustainability with economic efficiency.