Extract of speech by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Yaacob Ibrahim at the Committee of Supply, 8 March 2010
EXTRACT OF SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES DR YAACOB IBRAHIM AT THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY, 8 MARCH 2010
(i) Sustainable Development – Overall Approach to Resource Efficiency and Mitigating Climate Change
Copenhagen Accord and International Developments
1-1. The Copenhagen Conference did not produce a legally binding agreement. However, countries agreed to continue the work through this year to the next Climate Change Conference in Mexico in December 2010. Countries also took note of the Copenhagen Accord, which outlines elements of a global framework on climate change, including long-term goals, mitigation of greenhouse gases by both developed and developing countries, financing, adaptation and technology transfer.
1-2. At Copenhagen, Singapore supported the Accord, and has since written to the UNFCCC Secretariat to associate ourselves formally with the Accord as a good basis for advancing negotiations towards reaching a legally binding global agreement on climate change. Though the Accord as it stands does not create legal obligations, it contains important elements that can facilitate the on-going negotiations. To date, about 100 out of the 194 Parties to the UNFCCC have associated themselves with the Accord. About 30 non-Annex I countries, including Singapore, have also tabled their emission reduction targets.
1-3. Countries will now need to work hard to reach a global agreement. Developed countries should take the lead by continuing to fulfil their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to substantially reduce their emissions. Developing countries too have a responsibility to play their part by taking actions to reduce their carbon emissions. I met the Mexican Environment Minister at the informal high-level Ministerial meeting on climate change in Bali recently and we had a good exchange on the way forward. I told him that Singapore stands ready to be a constructive player to help move the process towards a successful outcome in Mexico. The Mexican Minister shared his view that Singapore plays an important role in the negotiations and commended our domestic actions in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint and our offer of 16 per cent.
1-4. Climate change is a key issue for many ASEAN countries as we are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of global warming. In November 2007, ASEAN leaders endorsed the ASEAN Declaration on Environmental Sustainability, and committed to the goal of addressing climate change and preventing dangerous changes to the world’s climate system. ASEAN Environment Ministers also established an ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change to enhance cooperation and collaboration.
1-5. ASEAN members are part of the larger G77/China developing country group which has called for developed countries to contribute 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP to fund mitigation and adaptation. Developing countries, like Singapore, are not obliged to contribute, but can help on a voluntary basis, for instance through technical cooperation programmes. For example, through NEA’s Singapore Environment Institute, we have conducted programmes for participants from developing countries on green energy and climate change.
1-6. Singapore has also contributed towards reducing carbon emissions arising from forest fires in the ASEAN region. We have collaborated closely with Indonesia, in particular Jambi Province, on fire prevention and suppression. These efforts are also important to our air quality. Singapore’s air quality has been in the ‘good’ range since the start of this year. Nonetheless, due to dry weather conditions, our air quality was recently slightly affected by bush fires in the northern and eastern parts of Singapore. I understand there were also bush fires in Johor. Our neighbours are doing their best to battle forest fires in their areas and we will continue to engage them through the Sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution. I also urge Singaporeans to dispose of litter responsibly as carelessly discarded items like lit cigarette butts or matches could lead to bush fires.
Singapore’s Mitigation Efforts
1-7. To play our part in international efforts to mitigate climate change, Singapore has pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent from the 2020 business-as-usual scenario. This target is contingent on a legally binding global agreement in which all countries implement their commitments in good faith. Our target is credible and rigorous given our past efforts to reduce emissions and the constraints we face as a city-state, including our limited potential to adopt renewable energy. It is a substantial commitment by Singapore. Achieving it will involve considerable costs, and changes in lifestyle and business practices.
1-8. In her speech at the opening session of the Copenhagen Conference, the COP-15 President Danish Minister Connie Hedergaard cited Singapore as one of the developing countries that announced national targets and commented that these were examples of “ambitious national actions” that developing countries could take in order to contribute towards the global mitigation effort. Singapore was commended in the EU statement at Copenhagen. Aside from the EU and the Mexicans, the Swiss, US and some of our ASEAN counterparts also told our delegation that Singapore’s offer was appreciated.
1-9. While the detailed emissions reduction measures for each sector are still being firmed up, I wish to assure that our approach will be to phase in the measures gradually. The government will also help cushion the impact and lighten the burden on households and businesses.
1-10. A key part of our strategy to achieve the 16 per cent target is energy efficiency, and Singapore is implementing plans to improve energy efficiency even while the international negotiations are on-going. Members spoke about the importance of energy efficiency. This was also underscored by the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) in its recommendations last month. Energy efficiency reduces costs, enhances energy security, and makes our economy more competitive. The ESC proposed that Singapore should be a Smart Energy Economy. This includes stepping up measures to promote energy efficiency across key sectors.
1-11. In April last year, we launched the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint which sets out Singapore’s strategies to achieve a more vibrant economy and a more liveable environment for future decades. The blueprint is a comprehensive plan to improve resource efficiency, enhance our environment, grow capabilities and build a culture of environmental responsibility in Singapore. One of the targets under the blueprint is to reduce energy intensity by 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this, the government will play a key part and I will outline the measures being implemented in each sector.
(ii) Improving Energy Efficiency
Promoting Energy Efficient Choices – Buildings and Transport
1-12. The Ministry of National Development shared during its COS debate that efforts are underway to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, which account for more than one-third of national electricity consumption. Last year, BCA launched its second Green Building Masterplan which aims for 80 per cent of our buildings to be green by 2030, and introduced a $100mil incentive scheme to encourage the retrofitting of existing buildings. BCA will increase the mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for Green Mark certified new buildings by 10 per cent from today’s standards by the end of this year, and will also mandate the submission of building energy usage data from 2011.
1-13. Transport is another sector which utilises a fair amount of energy. As public transport is the most efficient mode of transport, the government set aside more than $40 billion to improve the public transport system to encourage more people to switch to public transport. To manage the use of private transport, the vehicle population growth rate was lowered to 1.5 per cent last year and improvements to the off-peak car scheme were recently implemented. MOT and LTA will continue to assess other measures and implement them at an appropriate time.
Promoting Energy Efficient Choices – Industry
1-14. There is significant potential for industry, the largest energy consuming sector, to save energy and reduce costs by investing in energy efficiency. We have various incentives to encourage the adoption of energy efficient technologies and practices. For instance, the Grant for Energy Efficient Technologies (GREET) co-funds up to 50 per cent of the cost of energy efficient equipment. Funding of about $2.5mil has been approved for five projects which are estimated to result in annual energy savings of over $700,000. NEA also introduced the Singapore Certified Energy Manager Training Grant to co-fund the cost of energy management training.
Mandating Energy Management Practices
1-15. Building on these efforts, we will take more robust measures to spur industries in Singapore to be leaders in energy efficiency. From experiences in other countries, the implementation of energy management programmes is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency. Studies indicate that a company can expect to reduce energy consumption by at least 10 to 15 per cent, with many companies able to achieve larger reductions. This is why some countries mandate energy management practices.
1-16. In Denmark, energy-intensive companies have to pay higher energy taxes unless they put in place energy management systems, identify and implement energy efficiency improvement measures and submit annual reports on their progress. In Japan, industrial facilities are required to adopt energy management practices and have in place training for workers and processes to be more energy efficient. Similarly, we want our companies to have the right processes and people to ensure prudent use of energy. Some companies in Singapore already adopt a robust approach to managing energy use. For instance, Merck Sharp & Dohme set the target of reducing energy use by 7 per cent this year as part of its energy efficiency plan. Such practices ought to be the norm.
1-17. Our consultations with large energy users indicate that a wide range of energy management practices exists today. We therefore see the need for minimum standards to ensure greater management attention is paid to energy. While this will ultimately benefit companies in terms of cost-savings, we also recognise the need to give companies sufficient lead-time to prepare.
1-18. By 2013, we will require companies in the industry sector consuming more than the equivalent of 15 GWh of energy each year to appoint an energy manager, monitor and report energy use to NEA, and develop and submit energy efficiency improvement plans. NEA will be consulting the companies involved on the detailed requirements.
1-19. To ensure a smooth transition, NEA will introduce the Energy Efficiency National Partnership, or EENP, in April to help companies build up the necessary capabilities before the mandatory energy management practices come into effect. We will also be reviewing our incentive schemes and exploring long-term energy efficiency financing options to cater to the needs of companies.
Energy Conservation Act
1-20. These energy management requirements for industry and energy efficiency-related legislation in other sectors will be consolidated in an Energy Conservation Act that will come into force in 2013. The Act allows for a co-ordinated approach to standards-setting for energy efficiency across all sectors, and will represent a major milestone in the government’s efforts to develop energy efficiency as a competitive advantage for Singapore.
Promoting Energy Efficient Choices – Households
1-21. In Singapore, electricity and water are priced to reflect their full cost to send the right pricing signals to consumers and minimise wasteful consumption. Households that use these resources efficiently enjoy direct benefits by having smaller utility bills.
1-22. We will continue to raise awareness of energy efficiency in households. In April 2008, we introduced the 10 per cent Energy Challenge to encourage households to adopt energy-saving habits. Household appliances such as refrigerators, air-conditioners and clothes dryers in stores now carry the mandatory energy label so that consumers have sufficient information to make energy efficient purchases.
1-23. NEA also entered into a voluntary agreement with retailers and suppliers to promote energy efficient appliances. Signatories such as Best Denki and Harvey Norman are retiring their stock of energy inefficient models and introducing more 3- and 4-tick ones so that energy efficient models form a larger percentage of models on sale.
Minimum Energy Performance Standards
1-24. As I announced last year, minimum energy performance standards or MEPS will be implemented for household air-conditioners and refrigerators in 2011.MEPS will remove the most energy inefficient air-conditioners and refrigerators from the market. Depending on the appliance category, all 0-tick models and some 1- and 2-tick models will be removed, representing about 20 per cent of current sales volumes. A sufficient range of brands and models will remain available for consumer choice.
1-25. MEPS will help consumers save on electricity bills and is not expected to significantly increase the upfront cost of air-conditioners and refrigerators. A more efficient fridge that costs the same as one phased out by MEPS can save a household about $130 a year. When all the existing air-conditioners and refrigerators in Singapore comply with the MEPS standards, consumers will enjoy a total energy savings of about $20milannually.
1-26. We will tighten the MEPS standards over time. We will also consider extending MEPS to more appliances, such as lighting and televisions.
Public Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental Sustainability
1-27. Improving energy efficiency is Singapore’s key strategy to mitigate climate change. Since 2007, all large public sector buildings have been required to conduct energy audits to identify areas where energy savings can be reaped. All public agencies are also to ensure that the ambient indoor air temperature of their premises is in the range of 22.5 to 25.5 oC, to maintain comfort without overcooling the premises.
1-28. As at end 2009, 12 out of 56 public sector buildings have completed their audits and implemented the recommendations, achieving $3mil in total annual savings. A further $1.5mil in total annual savings could be realised when improvement works in the pipeline are completed. There will be more savings when the remaining buildings complete their audits by end FY11.
1-29. Major infrastructure facilities have also improved their energy efficiency. PUB is carrying out measures to reduce energy consumption at its installations by 10 per cent in FY10 compared to BAU projections. NEA’s waste disposal facilities also implemented measures which reduced electricity consumption by about 9 per cent and achieved an average savings of over $3mil annually over the last ten years.
1-30. I am also pleased to inform that NEA has been working with organising committees of national events such as the National Day Parade, to help reduce the environmental impact of these events. NEA also developed a set of green event guidelines which are available on its website.
1-31. The public sector will continue to take the lead on environmental sustainability measures. From FY11, all Ministries will set energy savings targets. We will continue to study new measures that can be implemented.
(iii) Singapore’s Vulnerability to Climate Change
1-32. In 2007, NEA commissioned a study involving local and foreign experts to understand our vulnerabilities to climate change.
1-33. The first phase of the study covering the physical impacts of climate change has concluded. The results have been peer reviewed by international experts who noted that the study adopted well-established methodologies and that the findings are plausible.
1-34. The study projects that the average daily temperature in Singapore could increase by between 2.7 to 4.2oC from the current average of 26.8oC by 2100 and the mean sea level around Singapore could rise by 24 to 65 cm by 2100. These findings are within the range of our expectations and consistent with global projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
1-35. These findings are not the last word on this subject as climate science is a complex and evolving subject. We are not certain, for instancabout the impact of ice sheet melting. NEA will continue to keep abreast of developments in this area. We will improve our understanding as more information and data become available and climate change models become more robust.
1-36. As a result of our long-term approach to infrastructure planning, we already have some measures in place which will help address the potential impacts of climate change. For example, PUB’s current requirements for reclaimed land to be constructed to a platform level of 125cm above the highest tide level should give us an adequate buffer against the projected sea level rise in the short to medium term. In addition, we are enhancing our response to the impact of floods by expanding our network of water level sensors, and we will be studying if our drainage design standards need to be revised to cater for heavier storms.
1-37. NEA has embarked on a second phase of the Vulnerability Study to investigate in detail the impacts of climate change on public health, urban temperature and urban biodiversity. This will inform future adaptation measures that the government will put in place to address the longer term impacts of climate change. MND leads an inter-agency Adaptation Taskforce to review the sufficiency of Singapore’s existing adaptation measures and identify new measures as necessary.