Singapore could develop into a carbon services hub to expand emissions-reduction efforts beyond its borders

Singapore can complement the carbon offset industry by becoming a leading and trusted professional services hub for emissions and carbon accounting.
Singapore can complement the carbon offset industry by becoming a leading and trusted professional services hub for emissions and carbon accounting.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Republic may be small, but it can still punch above its weight on the climate change front by helping countries in the region and beyond cut their carbon emissions, said Mr Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru SMC) in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1).

"Singapore can offer well-run, trusted carbon offset solutions that are based throughout the world," he said during the debate on the private member's motion calling for bolder climate action in the country.

"And at the same time, our government-linked companies and even our government, can buy these offsets, so that we can go beyond our reduction target," Mr Kwek added.

Facilitating the trade in carbon offsets will not help Singapore meet its own national targets, Mr Kwek said.

"But there is nothing wrong with helping other countries meet the tough targets - especially when we know that the lack of watertight reporting under the Paris Accord means that the real emission situation is much worse than what is reported," he said.

Speaking after a robust debate in the House over how Singapore's forests and natural habitats should be better protected amid urban development needs, Mr Kwek acknowledged that Singapore is probably "one of the least efficient countries to be a carbon sink".

Ecosystems like forests are considered carbon sinks, as they absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"But we can still shape the global outcome," he said, pointing to how Singapore could be a hub for the trade in carbon offsets.

Examples of carbon offset projects include reforestation efforts or the replacement of coal plants with renewable energy sources.

The main goal of such projects is to either capture carbon dioxide or prevent the emission of the heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere. Companies are usually set up to undertake these projects.

But the emissions reductions from such projects have to be validated, necessitating another form of carbon service. It is also crucial to establish the basis for the calculation of carbon credits, which are used in carbon trading, a third type of carbon service.

Carbon trading essentially treats carbon as a commodity that can be bought and sold between less and more pollutive firms.

Mr Kwek said: "Can we come together for a Singapore Inc solution for offshore carbon offsets? Reforestation in region, even reforestrating the rapidly diminishing Amazon rainforest? If Singapore or our government-linked companies come in, in a big way, we can shape this nascent industry."

These efforts will also create good, green jobs for Singaporeans, he said.

Singapore can complement the offset industry by becoming a leading and trusted professional services hub for emissions and carbon accounting.

"We can do so by encouraging the leading standards bodies to set up centres of excellence to shape and promote standards, in partnership with our accounting and professional services firms as well as tertiary institutes," he said during the debate.

"This will create green-collar jobs that many young Singaporeans aspire for."

The private member's motion to accelerate and deepen efforts against climate change was tabled by six MPs - Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC), Ms Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

In response, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said Singapore will promote green growth by pursuing new opportunities in existing sectors and new sectors.

"Global investors are increasingly sensitised to environmental, social and governance issues, and the right allocation of capital will support sustainability projects and unlock green growth opportunities," said Ms Fu.

"As Mr Henry Kwek highlighted, by harnessing the potential of our carbon services industry to grow Singapore into a leading carbon trading and services hub, we can build an ecosystem of expertise in this growing field."