Policies & action
We rate Singapore’s policies and action as “Highly insufficient”. The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that Singapore policies and action are not at all consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow Singapore’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C. Singapore’s emissions projections from policies and action will be updated in the coming months, at which time its rating could change.
The assessment below is from 30 July 2020 and has not been updated.
According to our current policy emissions pathway, Singapore’s GHG emissions will dip in 2020 due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and then steadily rise in the coming decades, reaching 48 to 50 MtCO2e in 2030. Despite the emissions growth beyond 2021 projected under current policies, Singapore’s emissions will be lower than its 2020 and 2030 emissions targets, demonstrating the inadequacy of those targets. Essentially, Singapore can achieve its emissions mitigation goals with no additional efforts beyond currently implemented policies.
As of June 2020, Singapore has announced four COVID-19 recovery stimulus packages worth SGD 92.5 billion, or 19% of GDP (ING, 2020). The packages are focused on workers, businesses, households, communities and COVID-19 frontline agencies (ING, 2020), but there is no indication they are compatible with the low emissions strategy. There is a lack of clarity of where funds will be specifically channelled making it difficult to assess the impact on low emissions development. Singapore should align economic recovery with the strategy through investment support for renewable energy, energy efficiency and research and development in the energy and industry sectors. So far, it is a missed opportunity, and recovery without a climate focus does not set Singapore on a course to meeting the 2050 target.
From 1 January 2019, a carbon tax has applied to industrial facilities emitting more than 25ktCO2e/yr (Republic of Singapore, 2018). The tax rate will be reviewed by 2023 and the government has indicated that it intends to increase it to between 10 SGD/tCO2e and 15 SGD/tCO2e by 2030 (National Climate Change Secretariat, n.d.). The Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has suggested the government expects to raise 1 billion SGD over five years, which will be used to fund the Productivity Grant (Energy Efficiency) and the Energy Efficiency Fund (Tan, 2018). The IPCC (2018) Special Report suggests that a carbon price needs to be valued at a considerably higher price to be in line with a 1.5°C compatible pathway. Singapore’s carbon price is at the lower end of the price spectrum when comparing carbon prices worldwide (Jing, 2018).
A carbon tax should encourage more renewable energy in place of fossil fuel energy through changes in relative prices. The CAT has not quantified the potential mitigation impact of this carbon tax due to insufficient details on this policy. However, it is widely acknowledged that a higher carbon price would be needed to shift incentives enough to set emissions reductions on a trajectory compatible with the Paris Agreement (Carbon Market Watch, 2017; Warren, 2014).
Singapore´s mitigation strategy is based on three areas: increasing energy and carbon efficiency, reducing carbon emissions in power generation, and developing low-carbon technology (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2016).
Improving energy efficiency across the economy is the backbone of Singapore’s mitigation strategy. In its latest National Climate Action Plan (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2016), the government listed a number of policies to improve energy efficiency across all sectors, including an Energy Conservation Act, Green Mark Certification and Energy Labelling schemes, and home appliances Energy Performance Standards, among others. The Government has also implemented a target of 80% of buildings to be certified green buildings by 2030 (Building and Construction Authority, n.d.). In 2017, the Energy Conservation Act was enhanced, requiring energy users covered to have their monitoring plans verified by an independent third party and appoint a GHG manager (National Environment Agency, 2017).
The multiple energy efficiency measures are expected to improve energy and emissions intensity. According to the 2018 Biennial Update Report, emissions intensity decreased by 37% from 2000 to 2014, while energy intensity decreased by 33% (National Environment Agency, 2018). But this will not compensate for the increasing energy demand from the industry and buildings sectors, which will result in rising emissions (APERC, 2015). The Singapore Government projects energy demand to rise at a compounded annual growth rate of between 1.2% to 1.8% in the next ten years (Minister for the Environment, 2017). By contrast, the transport sector energy demand and associated emissions are expected to stagnate as a result of multiple measures to promote public transport and improve the emissions intensity of road transport.
Singapore was hailed for its rapid response to the Covid-19 crisis (ABC News, 2020; Fisher, 2020). Effective planning and leadership allowed for the initial response to keep the number of new cases relatively low in the highly populated city.
In February 2020, the Singapore government announced SGD 6.4 billion to deal with the economic and health crisis, followed by an additional SGD 48 billion in March for businesses and households (CNBC, 2020). Additional financial support packages have been outlined for aviation, tourism, land transport and arts and culture. Sector support could be offered to the energy and industry sectors to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency plans outlined in the low emissions strategy. For example, the low emissions strategy includes enhancing capabilities in forecasting solar output, deploying solar panels in public spaces, and research into emerging low carbon alternatives. The levels of planning and leadership that staved off the worst of the initial COVID-19 virus impacts, along with economic stimulus funds, offer an unprecedented opportunity for the government to accelerate the transition to a low carbon future. And yet the Singapore government doesn’t appear to have seized this opportunity.
 The IPCC (2018) report estimates for a below 1.5°C pathway would range from 135–6050 USD2010 tCO2-eq −1 in 2030. CAT calculates this to be a 1,250% to 40,233% difference from the Singapore carbon price in 2030. Although, pricing carbon needs to be understood in terms of national context, there is a large difference between Singapore’s price and the IPCC 1.5°C pathway range.
For the power generation sector, that in 2014 accounted for 38.5% of total emissions, the major trend in recent decades has been to replace oil with natural gas. As a result, the consumption of gas has increased six-fold since the early 2000’s (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2016). In 2016, more than 96% of Singapore’s electricity was provided by gas-fired power plants, an increase from below 70% a decade earlier (Energy Market Authority, 2017). 1% of electricity generation is coal and around 3% is ‘other’ (i.e. municipal waste and solar) (Energy Market Authority, 2017). Although emissions from natural gas are typically half that of other fossil fuels per unit output, they will need to be phased out completely under a Paris-compatible pathway (Climate Action Tracker, 2017). Also, processes like gas liquefaction, transportation, and regasification significantly increase Singapore’s carbon footprint and reduce its emissions reduction potential.
Mixed signals from policy makers to the public and industry around Singapore’s mitigation effort have resulted in decisions that are expected to increase, rather than reduce emissions, such as the recent announcement by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings in agreement with Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop, own and operate a Coal Gasification facility on Jurong Island (Keppel Corporation, 2017). At a speech to the Singapore International Energy Week in October 2019, the Minister for Trade and Industry noted that natural gas would continue to play a role in meeting the country’s energy needs for the next fifty years (Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore, 2019). With the implementation of a carbon tax, some of these mixed policy signals may become clearer in the future.
Renewables also play a role in the mitigation strategy for the power sector: in order to diversify its energy mix Singapore has expanded its solar energy capacity in recent years, going from 26 MW of installed Solar-PV capacity in 2014 to 202 MW in Q2 2019 (Singapore Energy Market Authority, 2019b, 2019a). The national target for renewables is to increase installed solar capacity from to 350 MW in 2020 and to increase renewable electricity to 8% of peak power in 2030 (Republic of Singapore, 2015). Public agencies are expected to account for 33% of the national target for solar capacity installed by 2020 (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2017). In October 2019, the government announced a new 2 GW solar energy target for 2030 (Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore, 2019).
Additional policies in the power sector include multiple incentives to increase the share of renewable generation and the expansion of Waste-to-Energy (WTE) capacity. PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency launched a 1 MW floating solar PV testbed at Tengeh Reservoir in October 2016. Building on this, PUB has plans for floating solar projects at reservoirs like a 1.5 MW system on both Bedok and Lower Seletar by 2020, a 50 MW system on Tengeh by 2021 (Ang, 2019).
However, this increased contribution of renewables is not sufficient to stop electricity emissions from rising, given the projected stable increase in power demand and generation (APERC, 2015). IRENA’s roadmap for the ASEAN region suggests renewables could account for 10% of Singapore’s electricity generation by 2025 (International Renewable Energy Agency, 2016).
Even assuming Singapore cannot substantially strengthen its mitigation policies due to domestic factors like the limits to renewables, a more ambitious mitigation target – that could be reached by shifting to a cleaner energy supply through low-carbon energy imports - would demonstrate the government’s commitment to contributing its fair share to global climate change mitigation.
Singapore could also demonstrate its commitment to mitigation by changing its investment behaviour in other countries. The government-controlled Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) in April 2019 announced that it would stop funding new coal-fired power stations globally. Yet DBS continues to be involved in several proposed coal power plants in Southeast Asia, in particular in Indonesia and Vietnam (Market Forces, 2019; Yee, 2019). The government should not only look at future investments, but also consider divesting their capital stock.
In 2014, the industry sector accounted for 39.9% of Singapore’s total emissions. Singapore´s mitigation strategy for the industry sector is based on increasing energy and carbon efficiency. The main policies in place are the Energy Conservation Act from 2013, which mandates monitoring and reporting energy usage and greenhouse emissions for large energy users; the Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F), which provided grants and tax incentives for energy efficiency investments in industrial processes; and the Energy Efficiency National Partnership Programme (EENP), which is a learning network for companies in the industrial sector to learn about energy efficiency ideas, technologies, practices, and standards.
In 2017, the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) was enhanced, requiring, from 2018 onwards, the energy users it covers to have their monitoring plans verified by an independent third party and appoint a GHG manager (National Environment Agency, 2017). From 2021 onwards, these companies must establish a structured energy management system, and periodically assess energy efficiency opportunities at existing industrial facilities. In 2018, minimum energy performance standards were introduced to phase out the least efficient industrial electric motors and expanded to other common industrial equipment and systems thereafter (National Environment Agency, 2018).
In the context of Singapore’s 2018 Climate Action Year, over 450 organisations, including industrial manufacturers, made voluntary commitments to improve their carbon footprint or increase awareness on climate change-related issues, such as upgrading existing equipment (e.g. chillers, lightings, appliances) with more energy efficient models, or starting recycling and waste management programmes. Given the voluntary nature of the pledges, and the lack of information to translate these targets into emission reductions targets, we have not included these in our current policy projections.
Singapore is considering carbon capture, utilisation and storage possibilities, in addition to hydrogen as an energy carrier and industrial feedstock, posed in the public consultation on low emissions pathways document (Republic of Singapore, 2019).
Singapore’s transport sector in 2014 made up 13.6% of total emissions (National Environment Agency, 2018). The sector’s energy demand and associated emissions are expected to flatten out as a result of multiple measures to promote public transport, modal shifts, and improve the emissions intensity of road transport.
Singapore’s plans to increase the length of the rail network from 230 km in 2019 to about 360 km by 2030 will enable eight in ten households to be within a ten-minute walk of a train station. Singapore’s target for the public transport modal share during morning and evening peak hours is to reach 70% by 2020 and 75% by 2030, up from 59% in 2008 and 67% in 2017 (National Environment Agency, 2018).
The Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) sets a goal for all public buses and taxis to run on cleaner energy sources by 2040 (Republic of Singapore, 2019). To cut back on road transport, in 2013, Singapore introduced a system of rebates and surcharges to encourage car buyers to purchase low-emissions cars. Since February 2018, the growth of private vehicles has been effectively capped, when the permissible growth rate of private vehicle population was reduced from 0.25% to 0% (National Environment Agency, 2018).
The Carbon-Emissions based Vehicle Scheme was replaced with the Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES) in 2018, which will expand the range of pollutants covered, to include hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) (Republic of Singapore, 2017). Under the new standards, CO2 emissions produced by electricity generation from fossil fuels will be accounted for by applying an emissions factor to the electricity consumption of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) (National Climate Change Secretariat, 2018b). Also, to help potential vehicle buyers make informed decisions, fuel economy labels will be redesigned to include information on each vehicle’s VES band.
Singapore undertakes measures to encourage people to cycle or walk. By 2030, it aims to have cycling path networks in every public housing town and an off-road cycling path network of over 700 km. As of 2019, there are cycling networks in nine public housing towns and 200km of sheltered walkways (National Environment Agency, 2018).
In 2011, Singapore began testing the feasibility of electric vehicles in Singapore, with 89 vehicles. It now aims to have 1000 EVs and 2000 charging points by 2020 (Republic of Singapore, 2019). In 2016, Singapore trialled e-buses, and by 2018, 60 trial e-buses were on the roads (Republic of Singapore, 2019). A private taxi company had their taxi operators license approved in 2018, and intend to increase their fleet to 800 EV taxis by 2022. To be compatible with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal, the last fossil fuel car should be sold in 2035 at the latest (Climate Action Tracker, 2016).
Singapore´s buildings sector accounted for 0.8% of emissions, from energy combustion related to commercial and residential sub sectors and their cooking and hot water systems (National Environment Agency, 2018), notably, emissions from electricity such as air conditioning or appliance use is not accounted for in the building sector. The government’s mitigation strategy for the sector is based on increasing energy efficiency. The main policy for the sector is the Green Mark Scheme, which encourages developers and owners to build and maintain greener buildings and requires the achievement of a 28% energy efficiency improvement from 2005 building codes for new and existing buildings undergoing major retrofitting works (with a gross floor area of 2,000 m2 or more).
Since 2013, the Building Control Act has required all existing buildings with a gross floor area of 15,000 m2 or more to achieve the minimum Green Mark standard when they have undergone retrofitting. Audits are conducted every three years and companies have to submit energy consumption and energy-related building data (National Climate Change Secretariat, 2018a). Singapore is aiming to raise the total gross floor area with Green Buildings standard from around 34% in 2018 to at least 80% in 2030 (National Environment Agency, 2018).
The Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) encourages households to buy energy-efficient appliances, while Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) will ensure energy inefficient appliances are discontinued (Republic of Singapore, 2019).
Singapore recovers heat from the incineration of waste to produce electricity. In 2017, 2.3% of Singapore’s energy supply came from the conversion of waste to energy (National Environment Agency, 2018). To raise awareness of waste issues and the need to recycle resources Singapore declared 2019 as “Year Towards Zero Waste“ (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2019a).
In the second half of 2019, the government launched the Zero Waste Masterplan detailing strategies to reduce waste sent to Semakau Landfill by 30% by 2030, extending the landfills lifespan beyond 2035 and reducing incineration emissions (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2019b). The government also introduced the Resource Sustainability Act 2019 to enforce mandatory packaging data reporting by 2020, Extended Producer Responsibilities for e-waste by 2021 and mandatory food waste segregation for treatment from 2024, and Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, including plastics by 2025 (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, 2019b).
This strategy adds to the government aim to increase the recycling rate from 61% in 2017 to 70% by 2030 (National Environment Agency, 2018). Yet, the waste sector just accounts for 0.6% of Singapore’s total emissions.