The Swiss Re Institute estimates that climate change will reduce global GDP by as much as 18% by 2050 if global temperatures rise by 3.2°C — the worst-case scenario. Countries in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, are especially vulnerable to environmental risks such as rising sea levels, higher heat stress levels and reduced rainfall. Rising temperatures will impact Singapore’s water supply and greenery, increase energy demand for cooling and pose significant negative implications for public health. Furthermore, Singapore’s overall GDP could decline at a staggering ~47% by 2048 if countries do not collectively take action to reduce climate change and move toward a more sustainable future.
This calamitous threat has prompted Singapore to act with urgency. The country has initiated several programs to prepare itself with the adaptive capacity to combat the adverse effects of climate change. In early 2021, Singapore’s Government unveiled the Green Plan 2030. Its five key pillars aim to boost Singapore’s economic, climate and resource resiliency. The plan also reaffirms Singapore’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its focus on becoming a low-carbon nation in the next decade.
City in Nature, Sustainable Living & Resilient Future
In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the City in Nature, Sustainable Living and Resilient Future pillars aim to reduce carbon emissions by creating more green spaces while also saving resources by adopting a circular economy. This blueprint aims to create zero waste by implementing a robust recycling program across a resource’s ecosystem or value chain.
One example is wastewater recycling to produce NEWater — a quality drinkable water which exceeds USEPA and WHO drinking water guidelines, allowing Singapore to not only meet its potable water requirements but also address its wastewater challenges. The Singapore government is pursuing such innovative capabilities for other applications including turning waste treatment residue into NEWSand, which will be used for construction and, potentially, land reclamation. The National Environment Agency has collaborated with Inashco, Remex Minerals Singapore and Zerowaste Asia in generating NEWSand by incinerating bottom ash and using it as a road base or sub-base material in road construction projects.
The Energy Reset pillar aims to reduce Singapore’s carbon footprint by increasing the nation’s energy efficiency in its residential and commercial buildings while simultaneously implementing cleaner energy in all vehicles and electricity generation. Currently, solar energy is the most promising renewable energy source for electricity, generating 350 megawatt-peak (MWp, a measure of maximum capacity) from solar farm projects.
In June 2021, Singapore built one of the world’s largest floating solar farms on the Tengeh reservoir — the size of approximately 45 football fields and with a 60 MWp capacity. Singapore aims to achieve its solar energy capacity targets of 1.5 GWp by 2025 and 2 GWp by 2030 by deploying similar solar farms on the rest of its reservoirs and integrating solar projects across industries.
To reduce pollution from internal combustion engine vehicles, Singapore will cease new registrations of diesel vehicles from 2025 and deploy over 60,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging points nationwide by 2030. The newly formed public entity responsible, National Electric Vehicle Centre, will also cultivate a robust EV ecosystem with the development of EV-related technologies across Singapore by collaborating with industry stakeholders and other related government agencies.
Industry stakeholders operating in the renewable energy and EV sectors will have myriad opportunities to collaborate on upcoming projects and anchor their R&D facilities in Singapore. Hyundai Motor’s multi-functional facility in Jurong is scheduled to be operationally ready by 2022, with the objective of manufacturing EVs and enhancing R&D capabilities such as autonomous driving and smart manufacturing as the company launches an e-mobility pilot program in the city-state.
For the Green Economy pillar, the objective is to transform the country’s financial, small and mid-size enterprises and science & technology (S&T) sectors to gain a competitive edge in sustainability. Singapore aims to leverage its status as a global financial hub to become a leading center for green finance and carbon trading.
Concurrently, Singapore’s S&T sector has flourished from the nation’s five-year Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) plan. RIE’s objective is to develop innovative technologies to support Singapore in overcoming resource constraints and climate issues with the end goal of driving economic growth and enterprise transformation.
One of RIE2025’s areas of focus is strengthening the interdisciplinary research in emerging areas such as materials informatics, nanoelectronics and nutri-epigenetics. One notable example is NanoFilm, a company founded at Nanyang Technological University that integrates advanced materials and nanoproducts into the products of key clients from sectors such as clean energy and smart vehicles.
Industry stakeholders with a focus on R&D activities and innovative sustainability solutions in areas such as green finance, carbon capture and energy-efficient materials will have growth opportunities as Singapore develops its homegrown innovation projects and attracts companies of all sizes to join this ecosystem. Jurong Island, a special zone in Singapore dedicated to petrochemicals processing as well as oil and gas refining activities, will serve as a model for the adoption of sustainability solutions as it transforms into a sustainable energy and chemicals park. Notably, Shell has been exploring innovative methods to extract valuable resources from waste and reduce the amount of waste sent for incineration on Jurong Island.
Foreign companies often establish regional offices in Singapore as it is a gateway to Southeast Asia. The city-state offers access to a highly skilled labor force, political stability and significant government support for new investors while serving as a platform to other markets across Southeast Asia. Singapore has, without a doubt, also established itself as a trend-setter in implementing policies to achieve net zero emissions for the region.
The United States and Singapore have agreed to collaborate on climate action and environmental governance and create opportunities in green growth sectors such as energy transitions, clean energy infrastructure development and sustainable transport.
Favorable tailwinds are expected in the near future, as a budget of SGD $180 million (US$132 million) has been set aside to help Singapore companies solidify their sustainability capabilities and seize opportunities in the green economy. Industry stakeholders who are keen to join forces with Singapore in achieving its Green Plan 2030 targets should consider entering the market or establishing R&D facilities by leveraging the Resource Efficiency Grant and Energy Efficiency Fund. This investment incentive provides grants of up to 50% of capital expenditure to improve energy efficiency in operations.
Singapore’s push towards a sustainable future will create opportunities for companies operating across the key pillars of the Green Plan 2030. However, companies should always take into consideration Singapore’s lack of natural resources, limited land area and climatic conditions for their sustainability solutions.
Anthony Cheung is a Senior Analyst at Tractus Asia, based in the Singapore office. For more information, visit www.tractus-asia.com.