Parliament: Air-con contributes sizeable portion of buildings and household emissions

The buildings and household sectors contributed around 19 per cent of Singapore's 52.5 million tonnes of emissions in 2017. Of that percentage, a sizeable portion would have been for air-conditioning, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment
The buildings and household sectors contributed around 19 per cent of Singapore's 52.5 million tonnes of emissions in 2017. Of that percentage, a sizeable portion would have been for air-conditioning, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament yesterday.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Global warming is causing temperatures to climb, but turning on the air-conditioner to beat the heat could be making things worse.

Emissions from cooling buildings and homes make up a "sizeable" proportion of this sector's total emissions, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said in Parliament yesterday.

Singapore generated 52.5 million tonnes of emissions in 2017.

The buildings and household sectors contributed around 19 per cent of this, making it the second-largest source of emissions in Singapore after the industrial sector, which contributed about 60 per cent to total emissions.

Of the 19 per cent, "a sizeable portion would have been for air-conditioning", said Dr Khor.

She was responding to Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera on the breakdown of Singapore's emissions and efforts to reduce them.

The land transport sector contributed around 14 per cent of Singapore's total emissions, and the incineration of municipal solid waste at waste-to-energy plants contributed around 3 per cent, Dr Khor added.

Singapore is committed to reducing its emissions across all sectors, she said. It has, for example, implemented a carbon tax, which came into effect this year.

On reducing emissions from buildings, Dr Khor said all new buildings, as well as those undergoing major retrofitting, are required to achieve a minimum sustainability standard under Building Control Regulations.

 
 
 

The Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Scheme also encourages building owners and developers to achieve higher energy efficiency, such as by reducing a building's cooling demand and adopting more efficient cooling systems, she said.

To help households make environmentally friendly choices, Dr Khor pointed to two schemes by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme - which uses a tick system to denote greener options - encourages consumers to purchase more energy-efficient household air-conditioners.

Under this scheme, five-tick air-conditioners are the most efficient.

NEA has also introduced the Minimum Energy Performance Standards to phase out less efficient appliances from the market, she added.

Singapore also aims to make public transport the preferred mode of travel, said Dr Khor.

"By 2040, we target for nine in 10 peak period journeys to be taken using public, active and shared modes of transport, and for these journeys to be completed within 45 minutes," she said, adding that Singapore has also capped the vehicle population growth to zero, except for commercial vehicles.

To reduce emissions from waste incineration, Dr Khor pointed to stepped-up efforts to practise the three Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle. She added that the new Resource Sustainability Act will provide regulatory teeth to managing electrical and electronic waste, packaging waste including plastics, and food waste.

 
 
 

Yesterday, Dr Khor also said her ministry will work closely with the financial industry and other stakeholders to develop Singapore's competitive edge in renewable energy and green financing.

She was responding to Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked about Singapore's role in the construction of new coal and gas plants in the region.

Dr Khor noted that regional investments were commercial decisions that businesses and financial institutions make to maximise their long-term risk-adjusted returns.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2019, with the headline 'Air-con contributes sizeable portion of buildings and household emissions'. Print Edition | Subscribe