Cash production contributes to around 40 to 60 per cent of MAS' total carbon footprint: Panel

Work is still under way to obtain and review the carbon emissions data from its vendors.
Work is still under way to obtain and review the carbon emissions data from its vendors.ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

SINGAPORE - Cold, hard cash is anything but green, an online audience heard on Monday (July 12) during a panel discussion on sustainability in Singapore.

Mr Wong Zeng Yi, assistant managing director at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said the central bank's currency operations contribute around 40 to 60 per cent of its total carbon emissions, and pose the biggest challenge in reducing its carbon footprint.

The currency operations - which refer to the production, processing and transportation of bills and coins - are currently outsourced.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MAS noted that a considerable amount of carbon emissions come from the raw materials used and the energy consumed in the production process.

Aside from the outsourced currency operations, the currency value chain also includes emissions from in-house currency processing, and waste incineration of poor quality notes.

But the central bank added that work is still under way to obtain and review the carbon emissions data from its vendors.

During the discussion, Mr Wong said: "We need more time to work with our currency vendors to better understand the carbon profile of their activities, but we estimate that the currency operations will account for 40 to 60 per cent of our carbon footprint.

"This is equivalent to the energy used to power about 2,500 four-room Housing Board flats for a whole year, which is quite substantial."

He was speaking at a panel discussion titled "Contributing to the Singapore Green Plan 2030", which Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan attended.

The panellists also included Mr Veerappan Swaminathan, founder and director of Sustainable Living Lab; and Ms Eleanor Quek, Environment Education Adviser and Subject Head (Total Curriculum) at Mee Toh School.

The session was moderated by Ms Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco Business and chairman of Climate Action SG Alliance.

Pointing to e-payments as one of the key means in reducing the environmental impact of cash production, Mr Wong said that MAS has been working closely with the industry to ensure that e-payments continue to remain safe, secure and easy to use.

He noted that MAS has led by example in publishing its inaugural sustainability report a few weeks ago. It brings together MAS' efforts on environmental sustainability across all its key roles and functions.

But more can be done by the wider business community.

"We must enhance the quality and consistency of climate-related disclosures for better pricing of climate risks, greater transparency and accountability of a company to its shareholders and facilitate the financing of green activities," he said.

Mr Wong noted that MAS and the Singapore Exchange will be setting up roadmaps in the coming months for mandatory climate-related financial disclosures.

These will apply to financial institutions and listed companies, and go beyond the current SGX sustainability requirements, which are on a "comply or explain" basis.

According to its 2021 sustainability report, MAS' carbon emissions has fallen almost by half in the 2020/2021 financial year, with a total of 4,383 tonnes produced, down from 8,225 tonnes in the financial year before.

This was largely the result of reduced air travel, less electricity consumption in its leased office space - the MAS Building - and lower emissions from waste incineration.

Mr Wong also referred to Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu's call for the public sector to take the lead in reducing its carbon emissions by 2025.

He said MAS is developing its own internal roadmap to achieve net zero emissions by reducing the major contributors to its carbon footprint.

This includes air travel in a post pandemic world and further reducing its electricity use, which has already declined by 23 per cent since 2013.

Mr Wong said MAS will do this by upgrading to motion-sensor LED lights and installing solar panels on its rooftops, and notching up its air-conditioning from 24 deg C to 25 deg C.