Budget debate: S'pore public sector aims to peak carbon emissions around 2025, five years before national target

Other than the carbon emissions target, GreenGov.SG initiative will see the public sector taking the lead in environmental sustainability in three other areas.
Other than the carbon emissions target, GreenGov.SG initiative will see the public sector taking the lead in environmental sustainability in three other areas.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The public sector wants to lead by example on the climate change front, with a target to start reducing the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions it produces before the rest of the nation, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Thursday (March 4).

Emissions from government-owned offices and public infrastructure will hit the maximum by around 2025 - five years ahead of the national target to peak emissions in 2030 - Ms Fu told Parliament during a debate on the Government's sustainability efforts.

"The public service will lead on sustainability as part of the GreenGov.SG initiative which Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech," she said.

Other than the carbon emissions target - which is the first for the public sector - GreenGov.SG initiative will see the public sector taking the lead in environmental sustainability in three other areas.

This includes setting sustainability targets not just for government-owned offices, but also for public sector infrastructure such as waste-to-energy plants, public transport infrastructure, hawker centres and healthcare facilities.

"With this expanded scope, the public sector will take on a greater responsibility to enhance the sustainability of our operations," said Ms Fu.

Green procurement will be another tool to embed sustainability practices in the public sector's core business areas and influence service providers and suppliers to be more sustainable, she added.

"As a major consumer of goods and services, the public sector can and will influence the industry towards sustainable business choices and practices by incorporating more sustainability requirements in our procurement framework," Ms Fu said.

The Government will also aim to build an culture of sustainability and grow the movement among public service officers.

More details on the initiatives under GreenGov.SG will be announced at a later date, she said.

The key areas of the initiative announced by Ms Fu follows last month's release of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a blueprint that will chart the way for Singapore to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible.

GreenGov.SG was known as the Public Sector Taking The Lead In Environmental Sustainability initiative, when it was introduced in 2006.

The new name reflects the "cross-cutting role" of the Government in supporting the national sustainability agenda mapped out under the Green Plan, said the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) in a statement.

The previous initiative included features such as setting targets for electricity and water consumption, as well as the requirement for each ministry to appoint a sustainability manager to drive green efforts within the agency.

Associate Professor of science, technology and society Winston Chow from the Singapore Management University said he is encouraged by the clearer vision towards reducing emissions, and looks forward to details on how the public sector intends to account for, and reduce emissions in day-to-day operations and procurement.

Ms Melissa Low, research fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, added that it would be good to know the amount estimated to be the peak public sector emissions.

“Peaking still indicates an increased trajectory, despite it being a reduction in the rate of increase. But overall emissions will be increasing... It’s important that we ensure that where possible, emissions should see an absolute decrease and not just a decrease in the rate of increase," she said.

"Understandably this takes time.” 

Noting that GreenGov.SG is an evolving plan, Prof Chow added: “The framework allows the flexibility to include more ambitious actions in the future – from both the private sector and our communities.

"Hopefully, this flexibility enables the systemic changes needed to reach a climate-resilient future we all desire for Singapore, sooner rather than later.”