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Singapore youths call on country’s leaders to ‘boldly accelerate’ climate action

Singapore youths call on country’s leaders to ‘boldly accelerate’ climate action

Participants at the Singapore Climate Rally in Hong Lim Park on Sep 21, 2019. (Photo: SG Climate Rally)

SINGAPORE: Youth-led climate and environmental groups in Singapore have called on the Government to “boldly accelerate” climate action, saying that while authorities have announced various initiatives, the country’s actions are “not yet where they need to be”.

The comments were made in a collective statement titled “An urgent call from Singaporean youths on the environmental crisis”, as the UN climate change conference COP26 celebrated Young and Future Generations Day in Glasgow on Friday (Nov 5).

“It has been two years since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first acknowledged that climate change is a ‘life and death’ issue. In those two years, however, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss have continued to exacerbate,” said the statement.

“We only have nine years left to prevent irreversible climate change impacts. In this statement, we want to give Singapore a chance for a liveable future.”

The statement was supported by 93 individuals and 75 climate and environmental organisations, including SG Climate Rally, Blue Plan and Orang Laut SG as of Thursday.

TACKLING EMISSIONS

The statement highlighted six areas for greater action - emissions, nature and biodiversity, energy, corporate responsibility and finance, community empowerment, as well as economy and people.

Among the recommendations, the groups suggested that Singapore should peak emissions before 2025 and align with net zero by 2050, with the public sector taking the lead.

They added that Singapore should disclose indirect emissions that occur in company value chains - or Scope 3 emissions - especially for emission-intensive sectors such as shipping, aviation and petrochemicals.

This includes reporting emissions generated through purchased goods and services, business travel and waste disposal.

These emissions should be reduced in line with net zero by 2050, they said.

At the same time, they suggested that Singapore increase participation and investments in regional mitigation measures to reduce emissions.

What are Scope 3 emissions? 

Greenhouse gas emissions are categorised into three groups or “Scopes” under the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, a widely-used international accounting tool.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, while Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Many large companies in the world now account and report Scope 1 and 2 emissions and there has been increasing attention on companies to disclose Scope 3 emissions.

While Scope 3 is harder to measure, it can easily account for most of a company’s carbon footprint. According to a report published earlier this year by carbon measurement firm CDP, emissions from a company’s supply chain are on average 11.4 times higher than its operational emissions.

In August, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) proposed to phase in climate risk disclosures over a three-year period as part of a roadmap.

Under this, publicly traded companies in Singapore would be required to disclose their climate risk under internationally recommended guidelines, starting as early as fiscal year 2022.

It proposed requiring companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, and if deemed appropriate, Scope 3 emissions as well.

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Beyond this, the youth organisations also called for Singapore to issue a ban on new fossil fuel and habitat destruction-related financing.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) should also mandate short-term and long-term targets for reaching net zero for SGX-listed companies and financed emissions for financial institutions, they said.

ENERGY TRANSITION

Meanwhile, Singapore should undertake more explicit and robust energy reporting and target, said the statement.

This includes expanding regional cooperation on renewable energy such as developing the ASEAN power grid.

They also called for the country’s energy data to be more consistent with international standards such as the International Recommendations for Energy Statistics (IRES).

Currently, energy demand statistics that are widely shown and discussed on the Internet only focus on electricity and natural gas. In contrast, primary energy final demands of oil and petroleum products are omitted, they said.

“While it is important to display easier to understand infographics for the wider public without the granularity of the IRES, it is important for standard reporting methods of energy statistics to be also included in publicly released infographics and documents for more clarity and accountability,” the statement said.

They also suggested increased precision in energy sector statistics and target setting, and having greater due diligence in new energy technological developments such as solar energy and hydrogen.

“While we often take the innovative energy solutions for granted to be more sustainable than the incumbent technologies, it is not always true depending on the much more complex life cycle of new technologies,” they said.

“Such topics are also generally less discussed in innovations in energy systems and we would want to see Singapore put together a strategy report, outlining ways to address these potential concerns.”

Last month, Singapore announced that it intends to import up to four gigawatts (GW) of low-carbon electricity by 2035, which will make up about 30 per cent of Singapore's electricity supply in that year.

It also awarded S$55 million under the Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative, to support 12 projects on low-carbon energy technology solutions.

The country has also committed to achieving solar target of at least 2 gigawatt-peak (GWp) by 2030, and an energy storage deployment target of at least 200MW beyond 2025.

PROTECTING NATURE AND BIODIVERSITY

The youth also called for more action in protecting nature and biodiversity.

To do this, they recommended protecting remaining forested areas including habitats that have regrown over time such as Clementi Forest and allowing the re-establishment of native biodiversity.

While Singapore has made notable efforts in using science to inform policy decisions in managing and conserving its blue and green spaces, the authors said efforts can be strengthened by ensuring that nature conservation efforts are well-established scientifically and are sustainable environmentally and financially in the long term.

Structured and systematic approaches to manage divergent uses of natural spaces should also be implemented.

The youths also called for progressive tax reform including a higher carbon tax and carbon dividend.

Introduced in 2019, Singapore’s carbon tax is currently set at S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions on facilities that emit 25,000 tCO2e (metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) and above annually. This will be the rate until 2023, with a review of the carbon tax level and trajectory post-2023 to be done by 2022, to give time for businesses to adjust to any revision.

The collective statement said the new price needs to be set at a “sufficiently ambitious” level.

“Authoritative studies provide a good benchmark for the range of prices required to keep to 1.5 degrees. The World Bank-supported High Commission on Carbon Prices proposes that US$50 to US$100 is needed by 2030, LSE’s Grantham Institute suggests a price of US$145, while the OECD provides a central estimate of US$147,” it said.

The youths called on the Government to hold extensive consultation sessions with the public, including green groups, on the revised carbon tax policy before the raised carbon price is announced at the 2022 Budget.

Such public engagement from the Government will be necessary for ensuring the effectiveness and the political viability of the carbon tax policy, they said.

Other areas which require greater action, according to the youth groups, include empowering the community on climate and environment-related issues, protecting workers in sunset industries such as the petrochemical industry, as well as investing in good “green jobs”.

CNA's Jaime Ho speaks to Woo Qiyun who runs the Instagram page The Weird and Wild in this episode:

Source: CNA/dv

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