2018 as Singapore’s Year of Climate Action

By Melissa Low

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) held in Bonn, Germany from 6-17 November 2017, Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced that Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action. The announcement is timely, as it comes as the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the second anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

2017 saw a number of climate-related policy changes in Singapore, beginning with the carbon tax announcement during Budget in February, followed by enhancements to the Energy Conservation Act passed in Parliament in April.

Carbon Tax to Target Large Emitters

During the 2017 Budget speech, the government announced that a carbon tax on the direct greenhouse gas emissions of large industrial facilities will be introduced in 2019. This policy announcement is expected to affect between 30 to 40 large emitters mainly from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors.

The Carbon Pricing Bill, which was passed in Parliament on 20 March 2018, opened for public consultation from 31 October to 8 December 2017. The Bill indicates that the expected form of the carbon tax would be a fixed price credit based system, where covered entities would be required to purchase credits from the regulator and surrender an amount equal to their respective emissions during the compliance period. Facilities with an annual direct emissions volume of 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (tCO2e) or above are liable to pay the carbon tax.

At the 2018 Budget speech on 19 February 2018, Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat announced that Singapore’s carbon tax rate will set at $5/tCO2e from 2019 – 2023 and will be applied uniformly to all sectors without exemption.

Emissions Reporting Enhancements

To minimise additional compliance burden on companies, the Carbon Pricing Bill was built on existing procedures and requirements under the Energy Conservation Act (ECA).

Under the Carbon Pricing Bill, taxable facilities will be required to submit a verifiable emissions report starting from 1 January 2019 until the day immediately before deregistration. The emissions report will have to be prepared and submitted based on their monitoring plan, of which guidelines were enhanced in April 2017 as part of amendments to the ECA.

Now, under the Carbon Pricing Bill, those who emit 2,000 tCO2e of GHG emissions or more in a preceding year, will have to register as a reportable facility, and will have to comply with emissions reporting requirements. The threshold in the ECA was 54 terrajoules of annual energy consumption, while the thresholds in the Carbon Pricing Bill are in terms of tCO2e.

The ECA enhancements in 2017 saw the tightening of energy monitoring and reporting requirements for large industrial users of energy, including now having to comply with minimum energy efficiency standards for energy-consuming systems and submitting an enhanced emissions report detailing energy consumption, energy production and GHG emissions.

In addition to the requirement of submitting an energy efficiency improvement plan, facilities also need to implement an energy management system and conduct energy efficiency opportunities assessments for new ventures and expansions of existing business.

For certain affected companies, they must also appoint a GHG manager to prepare an emissions report. This individual must be a Singapore Certified Energy Manager certified by the Institution of Engineers, Singapore and have at least 3 years’ experience in energy management and GHG emissions accounting and in the operational processes and activities of the reportable business.

Under the Carbon Pricing Bill, in order to ensure that companies are reporting accurately, all emissions reports will have to be verified by an independent third party and approved by the NEA which will serve as the regulatory authority. If the report is considered unsatisfactory, NEA may ask for the report to be revised, rectified, recomputed, re-verified by a third party and resubmitted.

Financing Energy Efficiency Improvements

Companies are able to tap on an array of programmes and incentive schemes to improve their energy efficiency, and to help offset compliance costs related to additional reporting requirements.

The Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F), launched on 3 April 2017, supports efforts by businesses to improve energy efficiency of industrial facilities. Through the E2F, NEA places greater emphasis on improving manufacturing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises’ (SMEs) energy efficiency efforts with the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

The grant application process has also been streamlined so that companies can apply for funding support with minimal paperwork. The NEA also pre-identified a list of energy efficiency retrofit projects in order to simplify the application and processing process.

Challenges Ahead

These government initiatives are not without challenges. First, improving the energy efficiency of the industrial sector – the largest consumer of energy that accounts for 60 per cent of Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions – is one of the key strategies to reduce emissions and fulfil Singapore’s pledge under the Paris Agreement. However, these new regulatory measures and a carbon tax will incur costs that affect industry competitiveness.

As a small island state that relies heavily on trade and foreign investment, the Singapore government must pay attention to this and continue to study the optimal mix of policies and technologies to achieve its 2030 commitment, while ensuring that the economy remains competitive. Second, companies may not regard energy efficiency improvements as a priority, and instead regard the new requirements as an additional step for them in maintaining product quality. In ensuring product specifications are met, depending on the feedstock and materials used, more energy could be used to complete the manufacturing process. This is potentially where there could be a misalignment of government policies with business sentiments.

With the new policy changes introduced, much of the responsibility in 2018 will be on local companies to step up and adhere to the enhanced regulations under the ECA and Carbon Pricing Bill. If done satisfactorily and in line with international standards, Singapore will be in a good position to participate in external carbon markets in future. This is important, given that international market mechanisms currently being developed under the Paris Agreement’s rulebook is expected to play a significant role in facilitating countries in meeting their climate goals.

Melissa Low is a Research Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore. This is   a revised and abridged excerpt from Melissa Low, “2018 as Singapore’s Year of Climate Action”, ESI Policy Brief 21, published on 29 January 2018.

Singapore Youth for Climate Action is slightly 2 years old!

This January has been somewhat exciting for me in the context of my history being an environmental volunteer since late 2010.

I’m entering my 8th year in the local environment scene, and there’s this feeling of how things are suddenly more happening now, especially since 2018 has been declared the Year of Climate Action.

Back on 16 November 2017, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Minister Masagos made that declaration, and back home in Singapore, there was this big question, “What does that actually mean?”

Thrash it Out for 2018 Year of Climate Action

On 20 December 2017, with the support of people like Xinying of Climate Conversations, Peixun of Sustainable Living Lab, Michelle of TANAH, as well as Pamela and Cheryl of Singapore Youth for Climate Action, we organised ‘Thrash it Out for 2018 Year of Climate Action.” The meetup saw more than 60 people come together to just thrash things out.

Some notable things that came out of the 20 December event was:

  • Ria Tan of wildsingapore adding the label ClimateActionSG to wildsingapore news articles that feature action by Singapore for climate (govt and everybody else). Here’s the url to see all articles with this label http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.sg/search/label/ClimateActionSG
  • The people in the Biodiversity group meeting up in January- they met up at least twice to continue the conversation
  • People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze)’s initiative of a “Social Change Toolkit” which aims to empower advocates to address underlying systemic causes of climate change and to drive individuals towards a more sustainable Singapore.

For me personally, at that point, I was not too sure about the benefits of having such a meetup or open conversations. Looking back, I think it was perhaps a worthwhile effort to organise such a meetup considering it was perhaps the first and largest green group meetup in Singapore, and it allowed people to just talk, and meetup, get to know each other.

Dec 2017. Thrash it Out for 2018 Year of Climate Action || Photo Credit: MJ Photography

Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) Online Mentions

I was looking through old posts, and noticed that Melissa Chong, Cuifen, and myself were at Changi Airport, leaving for Paris on 29 November 2015. This means that SYCA, based on the FB launch at least, is slightly over 2 years old.

The past 2 years definitely has its ups and downs.

The past 2 months in particular, SYCA received some online mentions as well:

All the articles above were written by Audrey Tan from Straits Times who cover environmental news http://www.straitstimes.com/authors/audrey-tan

I think for me, aside from the online mentions, what I found valuable was having a journalist like Audrey who not only attend press events or write to cover news, but she also makes the effort to build relationships and continue the conversations. And I think we need more of such journalists, and we need to make friends with them to amplify the climate cause.

Image taken from Pinterest

Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) Milestones

As mentioned earlier, SYCA has had its ups and downs the past 2 years. As an organisation, we have had 1 round of Learning and Leadership Programme, 3 teams go to the UN Climate Change Conference, participated in 2 annual Clean & Green Singapore Eco Carnival, and our members invited to give talks to schools and community organisations (I would put in the numbers but we haven’t done a collective count).
Moving forward, SYCA members are pursuing our interests, and taking leads on various projects that contribute to the larger Year of Climate Action.
  • Pamela recently founded Tingkat Heroes SG as part of efforts for educational institutions to go disposables free. You can ‘like’ her FB page here: https://www.facebook.com/TingkatHeroesSingapore/
  • Cheryl who went to the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, is in the process of creating a climate training programme specific for youths interested to go to that conference.
  • Jeremy is encouraging SYCA members to reduce our carbon emissions collectively through a carbon footprint tabulation. In addition, he will be working on mainstreaming climate education through SkillsFuture, as well as raising awareness for contributions for Carbon Credit CSR Projects.
  • Cuifen has been reminding the team about a second Learning and Leadership Programme, and looking into providing support and momentum for the project.
  • As for myself, I’m embarking on a reading circle, based on the Climate Action Plan (both the Mitigation and Adaptation book, and which you can find on the National Climate Change Secretariat website as well). I’ve to say this was largely driven by my personal observation that people (including myself) do not have a good understanding of what’s happening at the national level, and therefore we have to read up and know this, before we know what we can do to complement efforts, or can make useful suggestion to the government. The Climate Action Plan is a good starting point, but further readings and conversations are needed. I am focusing more on coordinating the reading sessions, and facilitating conversations, and my #LepakInSG co-founder Xiang Tian is coming in to support me with the ‘questions to ask agencies’ component. We are launching the Google Form in February. And the reading sessions (yet to be named) will be happening on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from March to July.
From my experience the last 7-8 years, being a volunteer in a volunteer group has a very different dynamic than being a volunteer within a paid organisation, or being a staff and being paid to do what you do. Aside from the fact that expectations and commitment levels are different, I personally feel there’s this perpetual need to compromise on what we want to do as an organisation, and what each person wants to do. And there’s also this eternal concern of how does one engage a volunteer given that the volunteer can leave any time. There’s this interplay of compromise, respect, and patience within the organisation.

Government Engagements in January

This topic is perhaps something I have not shared on my personal Facebook, partly because it seems my FB audience prefers food posts, rather than environmental posts. So I figured instead of doing regular posts on that on my personal FB, I could perhaps share it here on this note, and share with you some of the things I attended this month.
  • Jan 3: Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Roundtable Discussion on Climate Action with Senior Minister of State Amy Khor, to give inputs
  • Jan 23: MEWR’s Pre-Committee of Supply (COS) Consultation Session on Taking Climate Action: Transiting to a low-carbon economy with Minister Masagos, to give inputs
  • Jan 24: Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC)- 100RC Workshop on Resilience Challenges and Opportunities in Singapore, to give inputs
  • Jan 26: MEWR’s Launch Event for Year of Climate Action, with SYCA as one of the exhibitors, and we were also mentioned in Minister’s speech, yay!
  • Jan 30: ASEAN +3 Environment Forum (AYEF) 2018 Organising Committee Meeting with National Environment Agency (NEA). AYEF is happening 30 June to 2 July, and I have been asked to be an Advisor to the Programme Sub-Committee. I’ve had 2 informal meetups with the NEA team before this meeting.
So, as you can see, government agencies are engaging groups or individuals from the People sector (cos you know, our agencies have the 3P sector going on; People, Private, Public sector). And the engagements come in various forms, be it through online surveys, asking for inputs on the REACH portal (did you submit your thoughts to REACH and provided feedback on the Carbon Pricing Bill in 2017 for example.. or were you taken aback when it came out in the news again in 2018?), through roundtables or focus group discussions, or one-to-one consultations.
And on a separate note, to be honest, all sorts of emotions came out during the various events, or after the event. And I think, now, I’m in a more neutral mind to say, I’m in this learning process, where I am slowly a bit more understanding of how government agencies work.
I think more importantly, in the grander scheme of things, with various types of organisations, having different roles to play in the climate action landscape in Singapore, all the pieces are coming in together for me. And there is this tinge of joy in me knowing that there are 2 follow ups with 2 bodies in the next 2 weeks, to see how they can play a role in capacity building of green groups in Singapore.

26 January 2018. Singapore Youth for Climate Action members and Minister Masagos at the Year of Climate Action Launch Event || Photo Credit: MEWR Facebook Page

Invitation to be Part of Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA)

And this I say with this phrase in mind: Volunteer only if you are creating change.
If you are someone who has the drive to do something, then maybe this is something you can look into. As much as we appreciate the comments or thoughts.. These things will stay as ‘talks’ and not ‘action’, and we want ‘action’. Maybe you are somewhat good at Strategising, Campaigning, Volunteer Management, or Fundraising, and can help grow SYCA. Maybe you’re a Content Producer and can support the COP training programme or Learning and Leadership Programme.. Maybe you’re a Technical person or person who loves data and can support Carbon related matters. Maybe you’re a Social Media enthusiast or Infographic expert. You got skillz and wanna do something bruh? We want you. Singapore needs you.
If you want to meet our existing Climate Leaders, check out these 2 events this week.
And of course, meet the SYCA team. Look out for the FB event to be published on our FB page next week (the week of February 5 to 9). We are planning to meetup during the last week of February (the week of February 26 to March 2).
SYCA’s existence would not have been possible without the commitment of its various members, and the community that supports it. We have friends outside of SYCA whom we can talk to, or ask support from. And the larger community have been giving moral support, advice, and inputs in various forms. It’s time we scale up our efforts, and be more strategic about things. What is your dream for Singapore’s future?
If you have something to share with me or SYCA in general, do comment below!

Contributed by Lastrina from Singapore Youth For Climate Action (original post here)


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