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Climate change: Singapore to set absolute emissions target with peak in 2030

SINGAPORE will enhance its climate pledge and long-term strategy this year, with a view to halve its emissions by 2050 after they peak in 2030, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament on Friday.

The new targets will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change later this year.

Singapore will commit to an absolute peak emission level of 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent around 2030, said Mr Teo, who is Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, as he spoke on the first day of the Committee of Supply (COS) debate on Friday.

In 2015, Singapore had set its 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target to reduce its emissions intensity in 2030 by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and to peak by around 2030.

Effectively, the latest move indicates a shift to a target with an absolute cap, from a target to reduce emissions intensity which measures carbon emissions per Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dollar.

An emissions-intensity target allows for carbon emissions to increase as long as the economy grows, while a target with an absolute cap does not.

In addition, Singapore's Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) aspires to halve the emissions from its 2030 peak, to 33 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050, with a view to achieving net-zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century, Mr Teo said.

While this will be "very challenging" given Singapore's limited alternative energy options, the Republic has developed a strategy with three thrusts, he noted.

"First, we need transformations in our industry, economy and society.

"Second, we will have to draw on technologies which are not yet mature such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), and low-carbon fuels.

"Third, we will need international collaboration in areas such as well-functioning carbon markets and regional power grids," Mr Teo said.

Although Singapore is limited in hydro, wind and nuclear energy, the city-state is pressing ahead with solar deployment, he noted. Singapore is significantly accelerating its deployment of solar energy, from 350 megawatt-peak by the end of this year, to at least 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030.

Industries are the largest contributor to Singapore's carbon emissions, accounting for 60 per cent of emissions. Mr Teo said the government will work closely with industry to make the necessary adjustments, capture new business opportunities and build up their competitive advantage in this transition.

In the area of urban transportation, Mr Teo noted that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced during Budget 2020 that Singapore will phase out vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040 and have all vehicles running on cleaner energy.

As for buildings, Mr Teo said Singapore has greened more than 40 per cent of its buildings by gross floor area since the launch of the Green Mark scheme in 2005. He added that the government will push on to achieve its goal to green 80 per cent of all buildings by 2030, and aim to increase the number of buildings that are even more energy efficient.

At the same time, Singapore is also aiming, as a leading financial centre, to be a green finance hub to spur investments in low-carbon solutions and drive climate action, Mr Teo said.

Meanwhile, adaptation measures are in progress. The government has divided Singapore's coastal areas into hydraulically-distinct segments, to study different options for each area.

"We will now develop these studies into detailed plans and phase in our coastal protection measures. We must start implementing our plans, and be prepared to adjust and adapt them according to the latest sea level rise projections," Mr Teo said, adding that more details will be provided during the COS debate of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources.

"While Singapore’s efforts to reduce emissions may be modest, our collective efforts with all nations can be substantial," he noted.