Singapore's public sector sets new targets to bring down carbon emissions

To help achieve its targets, Singapore will install solar panels where feasible on all public sector premises. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The public sector will be making sweeping changes to its sustainability and low-carbon efforts - from increasing solar energy use, to slashing water and energy consumption - to start bringing down carbon emissions five years before the rest of the nation.

By 2030, the public sector will raise its use of solar energy to 1.5 gigawatt-peak, equivalent to powering more than 260,000 households a year. This will be three-quarters of the nation's solar target of 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030.

To achieve this, solar panels will be installed where feasible on all public sector premises.

In addition, 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.

These goals, among others, were announced by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Monday (July 12). She outlined the various ways the Government will take the lead in low-carbon efforts under an initiative called GreenGov.SG.

Ms Fu was speaking at the Partners for the Environment Forum, organised by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment).

She had announced in Parliament in March that the public sector would bring down its carbon emissions ahead of national targets.

Government-owned offices and public infrastructure have set a target of reaching maximum emissions around 2025, and will then begin bringing them down, five years earlier than the rest of the country.

Under the Paris Agreement, Singapore aims to peak its emissions at 65 million tonnes by around 2030, halve that amount to 33 million tonnes by 2050, and achieve net-zero emissions sometime in the second half of the century.

Singapore generated 52.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2017, and contributes around 0.1 per cent of global emissions.

On Monday, Ms Fu added that the public sector will set "challenging goals" for energy, water and waste reduction by 2030.

Energy and water use will be reduced by 10 per cent from the past three year's average. The amount of waste disposed of by the public sector will be slashed by 30 per cent, from what will be generated next year.

Public sector buildings with food outlets will separate food waste for treatment from 2024.

Ms Fu added that the country aims to halve the amount of energy used to produce desalinated water, and is exploring new technologies in reverse osmosis to improve the production of NEWater.

"These targets will apply to the whole spectrum of public sector operations, and ensure that sustainability is embedded at the core of public sector functions," said Ms Fu.

The GreenGov.SG initiative is part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 - a road map with sustainability targets that aims to help the country reach net zero emissions as soon as viable.

With 1,600 facilities and buildings covered, the initiative will include waste-to-energy plants, public transport infrastructure and hawker centres.

Ms Fu said: "Over the years, our public service has worked hard to ensure Singapore's survival and progress. Today, the public service will lead the charge towards a more sustainable and low-carbon future, through the GreenGov.SG."

The targets for the public sector to bring down carbon emissions before the rest of the country is just one part of a three-pronged approach.

The second pillar is to ensure that Government agencies purchase products that meet high efficiency and sustainability standards, while schools and the public will be exposed to sustainable practices.

"As a major buyer of goods and services, the public sector will influence our service providers and suppliers to be more sustainable, and encourage our companies to grow their capabilities to thrive in the low-carbon global economy," said Ms Fu.

For example, public sector buildings and premises can use only the most efficient water fittings, eco-friendly building products and electric vehicles.

Ms Fu added that sustainability features will be a part of community spaces as well.

For instance, Senja will have a sustainable hawker centre, featuring food waste digesters, rainwater harvesting and solar panels.

"We hope to provide residents with greener community dining rooms, while inculcating environment-friendly habits like food waste segregation and recycling," she added.

This leads to the third pillar - which is to grow a culture of sustainability among public officers. This will be done through campaigns and sharing sessions, where employees from the public sector will learn more about the latest technologies and solutions in the sustainability space.

Ms Fu also noted that two weeks ago, the public service launched a Bring Your Own campaign which encouraged workers to reduce their use of disposables.

She added: "The Government can set the policies, but the energy to bring about concrete change must come from all of us - business leaders who want to produce their goods and services in a more resilient and sustainable way, parents who wish to leave behind a better world for their children, and individuals who care for the environment we all inhabit."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.