Inaccuracies flagged in Financial Times article on S'pore's carbon emissions

Singapore has been taking significant steps to curb the country's carbon emissions growth.
Singapore has been taking significant steps to curb the country's carbon emissions growth.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been taking significant steps to curb the country's carbon emissions growth, with its emissions intensity now among the lowest 20 in the world.

It aspires to peak its emissions by 2030, halve emissions from its peak by 2050, and to abate the other half as soon as viable, said the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) in the Strategy Group, Prime Minister’s Office, on Tuesday (May 4) in a rebuttal to a Financial Times (FT) article claiming that Singapore lags behind most wealthy developed countries in reducing carbon emissions growth.

In a clarification published on government fact-checking website Factually, the NCCS noted that in an article published on March 12, "Singapore fails to keep pace with wealthy peers on carbon emissions", FT also claimed that Singapore's carbon emissions growth was exacerbated by deforestation, which led to the country going from a net carbon absorber to a net emitter from 2012 to 2014.

While the Government wrote to FT on March 19, FT has yet to publish the response.

The Factually article highlights three inaccuracies in the article.

First, the Environmental Performance Index cited in the article used a wrong estimate of Singapore's CO2 emissions in 2017 at 77.5 million tonnes.

This is 28.4 million tonnes or 58 per cent more than the official record for the same year of 49.1 million tonnes, which is publicly available on Singstat.

Second, the claim that Singapore's emissions growth rate "has been exacerbated due to deforestation" is also erroneous.

Based on the latest official record in 2016, CO2 emissions from changes in land use accounted for only 0.02 per cent of Singapore's total CO2 emissions.

"In fact, the greening of the city has been a national priority over the years," said the NCCS.

"Singapore has safeguarded and grown green spaces through urban planning and sustainable management. This priority continues. The country plans to add 1,000 hectares of green spaces by 2035 and plant one million more trees by 2030."

It added that in the recently launched Singapore Green Plan 2030, a key thrust is for Singapore to be a city in nature.

Third, the FT article attributed the reduction in emissions growth of wealthy developed countries to their shift away from coal, and said that Singapore had failed to keep pace.

"The fact is that Singapore's reliance on coal has been very low since independence; since the early 2000s, the country also started to shift from fuel oil to the cleaner natural gas for power generation. Today, coal makes up less than 2 per cent of Singapore's power generation capacity," said the NCCS.

It added that as a small open economy with limited access to renewable energy, Singapore relies on advances in low-carbon technology and international collaboration, including regional power grids and credible carbon markets, to achieve this aspiration.

"Singapore is fully committed to playing its part in climate action, and will continue to review its climate goals to be in line with international and technology developments."