S’pore took longer to announce a net zero by 2050 target, but it comes with a plan

SINGAPORE – The Republic announced on Monday its intention to have its planet-warming emissions reach net zero by 2050 – a move that climate action advocates here have welcomed as being aligned with the recommendations of climate scientists.

The move comes after many other countries have already set such a target – with a flurry of pledges made in the lead up to last November’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

But Singapore’s longer path to announcing its intention to reach net zero by 2050 should be viewed as a reflection of its commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

The Republic did not set this target when it was trendy to do so, but only after it had an action plan on how it could cut its emissions.

Some other countries had opted to announce a net-zero target first, before following up with an action plan – sometimes years later.

On Sept 5, in launching a public consultation on Singapore’s climate targets before it formally updates the United Nations, the National Climate Change Secretariat gave a more definitive timeline to net zero.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong had said earlier this year that Singapore would aim to have its emissions dwindle to net zero “by or around mid-century”.

Before this, the Republic’s longer-term climate goal had been to achieve net zero “as soon as viable in the second half of the century”.

Achieving such a target means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, such as by swopping fossil fuels for renewable energy. Any remaining emissions need to be reabsorbed from the atmosphere by restoring forests and mangroves, for instance.

About a year ago, after Singapore’s previous climate targets were panned by international observers as being “critically insufficient”, I wrote a commentary about whether the resource-strapped country could do more to ward off catastrophic climate impact.

After all, Singapore is small and lacks land for large renewable energy farms. The Republic is also already using natural gas – the cleanest form of fossil fuel – to power the island.

Yet, the country is also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including warmer temperatures and rising sea levels, and so has to do more to show others that this small island state views the climate crisis as a threat to its very existence.

My view then was that Singapore should do more, and that it was planning to – it was just waiting to get its ducks in a row so there was an action plan to back up its headline target.