Something grew more slowly than Singapore's economy in the last decade, and it was good news for the environment.
From 2000 to 2012, the economy grew 5.7 per cent a year on average, while greenhouse gas emissions rose just 2 per cent a year, the National Climate Change Secretariat and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said in a joint statement yesterday.
This means a 35 per cent reduction in "emission intensity", which measures a country's emissions relative to its economic activity.
This was one of the key points in a biennial report submitted to the United Nations last Friday in fulfilment of Singapore's obligations to the UN Framework Convention On Climate Change.
The switch from fuel oil to mostly natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel for power generation, helped Singapore achieve the reduction.
The report also stated that most of the country's emissions in 2012 were from power generation - about 83 per cent - either for the grid or by large industrial companies generating their own power.
Transport, excluding aviation and international shipping, contributed about 15 per cent.
The warming effect of these emissions was equivalent to that of about 48 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - termed "carbon dioxide equivalent" - and carbon dioxide itself constituted about 97 per cent of it.
Singapore has also refined the procedure for calculating emissions. It now factors in land-use categories that absorb carbon dioxide, such as forests.
Such land categories absorbed 0.239 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, which offset 0.5 per cent of Singapore's emissions.
More refinements are in store. Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced that the Government would be finding ways to enhance emission monitoring and reporting by big industrial energy users, just as the Paris Climate accord came into force.
The Government will work to reduce Singapore's emission intensity even further. By 2030, emission intensity should be 36 per cent less than it was in 2005, with a peak in emissions around 2030, said yesterday's statement.
Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, said although renewable energy will play a bigger role in the future, its scope in reducing emissions is limited.
"We only have solar, and solar energy is limited because of humidity and rain and cloud... Renewables can only do so much.
"The biggest improvement that Singapore can hope for would be from energy efficiency," he added - whether in buildings, industrial processes or electric vehicles.
For example, NTU is working with government agencies like the Building And Construction Authority and JTC Corporation to design more efficient buildings that not only feature insulating materials but also consider human behaviour in the design, and use sensors and data analytics to optimise energy consumption.
Ms Nur Adibah A. Majeed, an environmental engineer at the Singapore Environment Council, urged the public to join the cause through actions such as taking public transport and reducing electricity consumption.
"We urge our nation to come together and contribute collectively by leading greener lifestyles... Every bit of action adds up."
This article was first published on December 20, 2016.
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