Budget debate: Singapore will review its 2030 climate targets this year

There will be consultations with industry and citizen stakeholder groups before plans are finalised and a specific net-zero year is declared. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore will be reviewing its climate targets for 2030 this year as it looks to set more ambitious goals.

This comes just weeks after it announced plans to accelerate its longer-term climate plan and have emissions reach net zero by or around the middle of the century.

Announcing the review on Tuesday (March 8) during a parliamentary session on Singapore's green plans, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee On Climate Change, said: "We are making a decisive move: one that is necessary, practical and implementable.

"We are making a commitment on behalf of generations of Singaporeans to come, spanning several decades into the future."

Singapore is looking to achieve its climate targets in three ways: by transforming industry, economy and society; harnessing low-carbon technologies; and pursuing international collaboration in the form of carbon markets and electricity imports.

Before plans are finalised and the country declares a specific net-zero year, there will be consultations with industry and citizen stakeholder groups because raising climate ambition, while bringing about benefits, would also entail some costs and trade-offs, he said.

The Republic has already taken steps to contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change.

In 2020, Singapore submitted its 2030 climate target to the United Nations, outlining its aim of having its emissions reach a peak of 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent around that time.

The Republic also said then that over the longer-term, it will aim to halve its emissions from its peak to 33 million tonnes by 2050, with a view to achieving net-zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century.

But last month, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in his Budget speech that Singapore will be bringing forward this net-zero target to "by or around mid-century" instead.

To help Singapore achieve this, Mr Wong said he will be raising the carbon tax rate from the current $5 per tonne of emissions to between $50 and $80 by 2030.

This is in line with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund, which set out a carbon price floor of US$75 (S$100) per tonne of emissions for advanced economies or US$50 for high-income emerging market economies by 2030 in order for the world to avert harsher climate impacts.

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Mr Teo said an appropriate carbon price will shape behaviour.

Individuals and households will have greater incentives to conserve electricity and use more energy-efficient appliances, while businesses will be given the impetus to invest in decarbonisation solutions.

He also pointed to international developments that helped Singapore accelerate its climate plans.

"COP26 at Glasgow marked an inflection point," he said, referring to the annual UN conference that was held there last November.

More countries pledged to reach net zero by mid-century, he noted, while more companies also made net-zero commitments.

"This will spur greater investment in low-carbon solutions, making them technologically and economically viable earlier."

Sustainable private financing and corporate net-zero targets have a powerful mutually reinforcing effect, he said.

"They draw capital towards sustainable projects, and make it more difficult and expensive to finance projects which are not.

"This will not only accelerate global emissions reduction, but also provide capital to create new economic opportunities in the global green economy."

Sustainable private financing and corporate net-zero targets have a powerful mutually reinforcing effect, said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

During COP26, rules governing international carbon markets were also finalised.

"With these important developments, we are now able to raise our ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by or around mid-century," Mr Teo pointed out.

Carbon markets, or the international trade in carbon credits, can offer countries another route to reducing their emissions other than decarbonisation efforts within their own borders as it means they can buy credits from elsewhere to offset their emissions.

How international carbon markets work is simple in theory: A carbon credit generated in one place is used to offset the emissions generated somewhere else.

But there were political and technical complications raised during COP26, a key one being what constitutes a carbon credit.

One sticking point during COP26 was whether legacy offsets generated under the Kyoto Protocol - the world's climate pact before the Paris Agreement - could be considered carbon credits under the new scheme.

Some countries objected to this because there were concerns about the quality of those credits and how allowing this would prevent new emissions reduction projects from being set up, among other issues.

Yet, other countries - such as Brazil, China and India, which host many Kyoto-era carbon credit projects - were keen to have some credits carried over to the new scheme.

In the end, countries agreed that credits generated under the Kyoto Protocol can be ported over to the new scheme if they had been registered from 2013.

Mr Teo said the rules agreed on at COP26 laid the foundation for rigorous, robust and credible carbon markets.

"They provide clarity on environmental integrity and accounting by buyer and seller countries when reporting their national emissions, enhance the transparency of international carbon trading, and provide the necessary quality assurance for Singapore to use high-quality international carbon credits to help meet our climate goals," he added.

Singapore will declare and make a formal revision to both its 2030 climate target and long-term low-emissions development strategy to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change later this year, Mr Teo added.

Almost 200 countries, including Singapore, had also been asked at COP26 to revisit and strengthen their 2030 climate targets to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of this year.

Under the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to take steps to limit global warming to well below 2 deg C - preferably 1.5 deg C - above pre-industrial levels. This threshold will help the world avoid harsher climate impacts.

Mr Teo said that if Singapore moves to take advantage of the positive global trends in sustainable financing and corporate net-zero targets, it will make the country an attractive place for green economic activities in industry, services and finance.

"This will reposition Singapore and bring significant benefits for generations of Singaporeans," he said.

"By moving decisively now, we are charting the path to a cleaner, greener Singapore for our future generations - with a sustainable environment and lifestyles, a forward-looking economy with new green jobs, and a brighter future at the forefront of a low-carbon world."

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