Singapore can cut 98% emissions, create jobs while producing innovative green by 2050

09 NOV 2022 | by Dr Augustine Quek

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s announcement for Singapore to reach Net Zero by 2050 was a landmark decision by the country’s top leadership.

Thanks to the foresight of our past leaders, Singapore’s carbon emissions have been relatively low when compared to other countries. At 51.5 million tonnes of CO2e1, Singapore’s total emissions account for less than 0.22 percent of total global emissions. Our carbon intensity emissions are also relatively low, thanks in part to our continuous improvement in energy efficiency. In fact, Singapore ranks 126th of 142 countries for carbon emissions per dollar GDP, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

However, at 8.31 metric tonnes of CO2e per3 person per year, we rank 27th of 142 countries4 in per capita emissions, in between Japan’s 8.54 and Malaysia’s 7.393 tonnes per capita. What this means is that to achieve Net Zero, Singapore must reduce the net output of each person by 8.31 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2050. And this will fall firmly on the power, industrial, and transport sectors, who account for more than 97 percent of total primary emissions in the country.

For Singapore, an international oil and gas refining, storage and trading hub, reducing these primary emissions to zero will be no small feat. It would require transformation of our economy, by decoupling growth from fossil fuel consumption. So how would we face such a transformative challenge?

First, the power sector would have to be reformed by a gradual decarbonization of the grid. It was announced that grid electricity will be decarbonized through an increase in solar energy provision within Singapore, and renewable electricity purchases from other countries. This has already begun with the importing of renewable energy through the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP), which imports up to 100 megawatts (MW) of renewable hydropower from Lao PDR to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia using existing interconnections. Such grid decarbonizations could reduce our carbon emission by nearly 40 precent4.

Second, the push towards a low-carbon hydrogen economy will provide industry with low-carbon alternatives. Under the National Hydrogen Strategy, hydrogen and hydrogen carriers (such as ammonia) will create new jobs and ecosystems, if successful. For example, the production of low-carbon ammonia can feed into an existing global infrastructure of transport, distribution and storage of ammonia for ready global markets in fertilizer and refrigerant use. Using hydrogen as fuel and feedstock for green products will reduce emissions by a further 44 percent4.

The third major pillar, transport, will effectively be decarbonised from the first two major efforts in grid decarbonisation and alternative fuels. Electric transport, low-carbon fuels for the aviation and maritime will provide a further 13 percent reduction in emissions4.

These challenging economic transformations would require not just legislative and financial incentives, but also a broad base support from businesses and individuals. And it is a challenge that Singapore’s leadership has never shrunk away from. The Ministry of Sustainability and Environment (MSE), for example, has been actively promoting the Green Plan and garnering support from communities and grassroots organizations alike. Indeed, with this recent 2050 commitment to Net Zero, climate action could become a rallying point, galvanizing action on many fronts, from improving household energy efficiency to sustainable organizations transformations.

At the Singapore Environment Council, we have been helping businesses transition to sustainability for many years. Through SEC eco-certification programs, we have reduced organizations’ carbon emission by an average of 9 percent. Our carbon management program provides a comprehensive and holistic picture of organizations’ carbon footprint, and opportunities for transformation for both climate and economic benefits.

We tell businesses and companies that the legislative landscape has been changing, both locally and internationally. Going forward, climate related risks will continue to evolve. Laws such as carbon taxes will become more common and needs to be embraced as business opportunities, or even used as a competitive advantage.

Thus, the route to Net Zero is a journey balancing economic realities with environmental risks. It requires skilful navigation among the many lives and livelihoods it will impact. Such a commitment is a great leap forward for the nation, requiring all Singaporeans to make many small steps forward.

  1. National Environment Agency, Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 31 October 2022.
  2. Hannah Ritchie, Max Roser and Pablo Rosado (2020) - "CO₂and Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Published online at Retrieved from: [Online Resource]
  3. The World Bank Group, CO2 emissions (metric tone per capita) - Singapore, 2022,
  4. 2022 National Climate Change Secretariat, Singapore’s Emissions Profile, 04 Nov 2022,

(Photo credit: NCCS Singapore)

Augustine Quek is a Manager of Development and Growth in Sustainability and Carbon Management Solutions at the Singapore Environment Council. He works on training, standards and certifications to improve environmental and social resilience for Singapore businesses and organizations.