Singapore aiming to have emissions reach net zero by 2050; public feedback sought

Setting 2050 to achieve net-zero emissions will align Singapore’s longer-term climate target with other developed nations. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Republic is considering setting 2050 as the year for Singapore to have its planet-warming emissions reach net zero, giving clarity to a timeline announced earlier this year.

The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) on Monday said Singapore is also deciding whether to raise its 2030 climate target to support the longer-term goal. 

The current target allows the country to continue releasing planet-warming emissions, reaching a peak of 65 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030. 

NCCS said the public can give their views on the 2050 timeline and the possibility of an updated 2030 target via government feedback portal Reach. The public consultation exercise opened on Monday and closes on Sept 26. 

The latest update puts a more definitive timeline on Singapore’s plan to reach net-zero emissions, which refers to the country taking out as much planet-warming greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as it releases. 

Achieving this means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, such as by swopping fossil fuels for renewable energy.

Any remaining emissions need to be reabsorbed from the atmosphere by restoring forests and mangroves, for instance.

During this year’s Budget in February, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong had said Singapore will aim to have its emissions dwindle to net zero "by or around mid-century".

He added that the carbon tax rate in Singapore will also be increased from the current $5 per tonne of emissions to between $50 and $80 by 2030, to help the country reach its climate targets.

The increase in carbon tax is among a slew of climate initiatives that Singapore announced in recent months. 

Others include Singapore’s plans to electrify its vehicles and make its buildings and factories more energy-efficient. 

Singapore’s target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 aligns its longer-term climate target with other developed nations. 

Japan, Canada, the United States and the European Union are among the countries and jurisdictions that are aiming to reach net zero by that year. 

“Building on Singapore’s longstanding emphasis on sustainable development, making a decisive move to net zero will ensure that we do our part in the global fight against climate change,” added NCCS.

In 2020, Singapore told the United Nations that it aims to halve its emissions from its 2030 peak by 2050, and that it aims to reach net-zero emissions “as soon as viable in the second half of the century”. 

At last year’s COP26 UN climate change meeting in Glasgow, countries were urged to have shorter-term plans that are aligned with their longer-term goals.

Leaders from almost 200 nations agreed then to submit stronger 2030 emissions reduction targets ahead of this year’s COP27 climate summit, which will be held in Egypt from Nov 6 to 18.

Net-zero climate pledges backed up by stronger shorter-term mitigation plans will put the world in a better position to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

That is the target that climate scientists say will help the world avoid harsher climate impacts, such as more intense floods, wildfires and extreme weather events.

The NCCS said Singapore is well positioned to take advantage of global trends in sustainable financing and corporate net-zero targets, and develop as an attractive place for green economic activities in industry, services and finance. 

“In repositioning our economy and establishing our competitive edge early, this will allow us to capture many good jobs for Singaporeans and enhance Singapore’s value proposition in the future low-carbon global economy,” NCCS added. 

But the secretariat said cutting emissions would require efforts from all segments of society.

Companies will have to be less carbon-intensive in their operations, workers have to acquire new skills, and individuals will have to adjust to lifestyle changes such as consuming and wasting less and reducing energy usage.

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Ms Woo Qiyun, a climate action advocate who works in the sustainability sector, said of the latest update: “It is notable that we are finally considering setting a definitive timeline to reach net zero, compared to our latest update of achieving this by or around 2050.

“This way, we’ll be aligning ourselves to science – to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 deg C, global emissions need to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050,” she added. 

However, she said that the public consultation period of three weeks is relatively short, given that climate change may be a technical topic for some. 

More outreach and details should accompany such announcements, she added.

Ms Melissa Low, a climate policy observer at the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions, said public feedback is timely as COP27 is in two months.

But she added that the Government could consider other channels to collect qualitative feedback, such as over e-mail or via townhall meetings, instead of relying on a survey format.

Ms Low said these views will be taken into consideration when Singapore makes a formal revision to its 2030 and 2050 targets before the end of the year.

“The revision to the (targets) is important to all Singaporeans, and we should have an adequate chance to submit our inputs,” she added.

People can provide their feedback on Singapore’s net-zero timeline by visiting this website.

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