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Carbon Assessment – Shining a light on Scope 3 emissions

These emissions have typically been hidden from view, but are increasingly coming into the spotlight.

By Junying Lou

Increasingly, companies are starting to expand their focus on greenhouse gas emissions from their core operations under Scope 1 and 2 to also include greenhouse gas emissions from their value chain (Scope 3 emissions) to better manage climate-related risks and opportunities.

 

But what exactly are scope 3 emissions?

In short, Scope 3 emissions are everything other than emissions from companies’ direct operations and purchased energy.  This includes all indirect emissions from both upstream and downstream and can be classified into 15 different categories, as shown in the graph below.

Overview of GHG Protocol scopes and emissions across the value chain

Figure 1: 15 Categories of Scope 3 emissions (WRI & WBCSD, 2011).

Source: GHG Protocol Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard.

 

For most sectors, scope 3 emissions are far larger than scope 1 and 2 combined. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) recent research shows that on average, companies’ supply chain emissions are 5.5 times greater than their scope 1 and 2 emissions (CDP, 2019).

 

Scope 3 calculation: a journey that has to start somewhere

Scope 3 measurement and management can be daunting for most companies because the data coverage is comprehensive while the data sources fall out of companies’ direct control. Collecting this data requires collaboration with companies’ value chain partners.  Paia typically advises companies to start by drafting a Scope 3 emission management plan to guide in screening the most material Scope 3 emissions, collecting relevant data and setting goals. Compared to Scope 1 and 2 emissions, the Scope 3 emissions quantification is more complex and uncertain and requires an iterative approach to refine data accuracy.

 

The next step: reducing scope 3 emissions

The end goal of knowing the full climate impact from across the value chain is to inform business decisions in what they purchase, produce and put into the market, and steer companies and their value chain to a sustainable direction.

Companies that have gained a robust understanding of their Scope 3 emissions can leverage different emission reduction approaches to minimise the climate impact in their value chain.

Best practices to reduce scope 3 emissions include implementing internal carbon pricing, extending product life span, procurement practices that prefer low carbon suppliers.  The table below shows carbon reduction approaches for each Scope 3 category, as recommended by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Levers for reducing emissions by scope 3 category

Figure 2: Levers for reducing scope 3 emissions by category (Science Based Targets initiative et al., 2018)

 

So why should companies care about their Scope 3 emissions?

Risks:

As more governments announce their plans to reach carbon neutrality, the risks associated with rapidly evolving energy and carbon regulations are mounting. For example, if a company sources carbon-intensive materials and products, the future energy and emission costs absorbed by suppliers can significantly increase the costs of goods paid by the company. For other companies that sell energy-intensive products, they may well expect more stringent energy efficiency regulations as well as negative consumer sentiment towards their products.

Additionally, companies may also face reputational and even litigation risks if they fail to understand the climate impacts in their value chain.

Opportunities:

Where there is a risk, there is an opportunity. Through prudent Scope 3 emission management, companies stand to benefit from improved efficiency and substantial cost saving in their supply chain. CDP recently reported a total of US$19.3 billion annual supplier financial savings associated with actions to reduce carbon emissions (CDP, 2019).

Understanding scope 3 emissions also drives innovation along the value chain and helps companies build competitive advantages as the world decarbonises. Companies that can reap carbon reduction opportunities along the value chain and offer low-carbon solutions are more likely to enjoy an increased market share and enhanced customer loyalty in the resource-scarce future.

 

Closing thoughts

As countries and organisations look to build back better post-pandemic, many signs are pointing towards an increased focused on Scope 3 reporting. As many may be aware, 2020 saw a series of net-zero commitment announcements by countries and corporations. We can only expect that these commitments will trickle down along the value chain, impacting various companies.

Quantifying and managing Scope 3 emissions is challenging and we are here to help, contact us today to know more about Scope 3 emissions and how you can effectively measure and manage them.

 

References:

CDP. (2019). CDP Supply Chain Report 2018/19. https://6fefcbb86e61af1b2fc4-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/004/072/original/CDP_Supply_Chain_Report_2019.pdf?1550490556

Science Based Targets initiative, Navigant & the Gold Standard. (November 2018). Value change in the value chain: best practices in scope 3 greenhouse gas management. https://sciencebasedtargets.org/resources/legacy/2018/12/SBT_Value_Chain_Report-1.pdf

World Resources Institute (WRI), & World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). (September 2011). Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. https://ghgprotocol.org/sites/default/files/standards/Corporate-Value-Chain-Accounting-Reporing-Standard_041613_2.pdf

Towards net zero emissions

Towards net-zero emissions real estate in Asia

The following article first appeared on GRESB Insights

by Song Lin.

Massive wildfires in California, the worst flooding in China since the beginning of this new millennium, and the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record – this is a snapshot of what a 1 °C warmer world looks like. Such extreme weather events have become more unpredictable in intensity and frequency year after year, and they are expected to become more devastating as the world gets warmer if we do not take immediate actions to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15) makes it clear that it’s not too late to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but there is no time to waste. To have a fair chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, we need to halve global by 2030, achieve net zero CO2 emission by 2050, and achieve net zero on all GHG emissions by mid-2060s.

In addition to rapid and deep reductions in gross CO2 emissions (i.e. decarbonisation), pathways outlined in the IPCC Special Report also require ramping up of CO2 removals from the atmosphere. Some GHG emissions are difficult or impossible to be eliminated. For example, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation and shipping are still expected to be major contributors of CO2 emissions in near future. Meanwhile, non-CO2 GHG emissions, such as refrigerant gases from buildings and methane from agriculture, will continue to contribute to climate change. Removal of these non-CO2 gases is not technologically feasible at the moment. In order to achieve a net zero emissions of all GHGs, the rate of CO2 removals has to exceed the rate of CO2 emissions past 2050 to offset residual non-CO2 emissions.

From a real estate industry perspective, achieving a net zero global target requires drastic transformations in how we design, construct and operate buildings. Currently, buildings consume 32% of global energy supply. With relatively longer life cycles measured in decades, developing zero energy and zero emission new buildings is especially important. Studies show that in order to achieve 80-90% reduction in building energy consumption by 2050, new constructions need to be near-zero energy by 2020. Further investments are also needed to retrofit existing buildings to the same level of energy efficiency.

Since the publication of the Special Report, more than 20 countries have adopted net zero targets. Some of these targets are published in policy documents, while others have been written into laws. With Europe leading the charge towards net zero targets, three Asian countries have made it to the list. Bhutan, which has been carbon neutral since early 1990s, pledged to maintain net zero emissions. Perhaps more meaningful examples come from Singapore and Japan. With much larger economies than Bhutan, both countries aim to reach net zero GHG emissions in the second half of this century. Collectively, however, these net zero targets only cover about 10% of current global GHG emissions. Corporate commitments to net zero emissions to support and supplement governmental actions are critically important.

Initiatives launched by industry associations, such as World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitments, have garnered meaningful support among developers and real estate investors. Adoption in Asia, however, has been relatively slow, especially in the rapidly growing markets of China, India and Indonesia. To date, there is only one Asian developer signatory from the Philippines.

In Singapore, efforts towards decarbonising real estate industry are mostly led by the public sector. As the national regulator, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) piloted Southeast Asia’s first Zero Energy Building (ZEB) in 2009, and subsequently introduced Super Low Energy (SLE) and Zero Energy categories for the national Green Mark building certification scheme. Since then, the number of net-zero energy buildings in Singapore have grown to include the newly constructed SDE4 at National University of Singapore and seven retrofitted buildings on Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) campus. In October 2019, Singaporean utility provider SP Group launched the first net zero emission building in Southeast Asia. Powered entirely by a solar and hydrogen energy system, the zero emission building is disconnected from the national electricity grid and generates zero GHG emissions during its operations.

SDE4 building on NUS Kent Ridge campus

SDE4 building on NUS Kent Ridge campus. Photo: NUS Office of Estate Development https://uci.nus.edu.sg/oed/projects/capital-projects/sde-4/

So far, most net zero energy and carbon building programmes, including World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitments, focus on eliminating Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions from the operations. In the construction industry, GHG emissions embodied in the construction materials are important emission sources as well, especially in fast growing Asia markets. The production of many construction materials, such as cement, steel and glass, have traditionally been a carbon intensive process, but some manufacturers are committed to change this.

 

Cement producer Heidelberg Cement and steel producer ThyssenKrupp have both committed to achieve net zero emission in their production by 2050, partially through carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). Beyond the production of building materials, world’s fifth largest construction company Skanska also committed to net zero emission target throughout its value chain by 2045. Other alternative solutions, such as use of bio-materials, have been piloted in Singapore. In 2017, NTU launched the first large-scale building in Southeast Asia constructed primarily with mass engineered timber.

The Wave at NTU is the first large-scale building in Southeast Asia constructed primarily with mass engineered timber

Image 3 The Wave at NTU is the first large-scale building in Southeast Asia constructed primarily with mass engineered timber. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

As a natural extension of setting science-based emission reduction targets, the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) published a set of recommendations earlier this year to guide corporates in setting meaningful and effective net zero targets. Among other things, SBTi emphasises that corporate net zero targets should include all value chain emissions (Scope 1, 2 and 3). Reductions and eliminations of GHG emission sources within corporate value chain (abatements) should be prioritised over offset measures that either reduce emissions outside corporate value chain (compensation measures) or remove CO2 from atmosphere through bio-sequestration and carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies (neutralisation measures). Corporate net zero targets should also include separate strategies and targets for abatements, compensations and neutralisations.

With pilot projects proving feasibility of new technologies and clearer guidance from SBTi on corporate net zero target setting, we can expect growing interest in net zero targets among real estate developers and investors. These efforts could be further supported by the growing market of green financing. In Singapore market, green financing in the real estate sector has grown more than seven-fold in the past 3 years. Combined with effective net zero targets, targeted green financing schemes could catalyse a transformation in Asia’s real estate and building markets.

 

Sources:

  1. IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.
  2. Kuramochi, T., Höhne, N., Schaeffer, M., Cantzler, J., Hare, B., Deng, Y., Sterl, S., Hagemann, M., Rocha, M., Yanguas-Parra, P. A., Mir, G.-U.-R., Wong, L., El-Laboudy, T., Wouters, K., Deryng, D., & Blok, K. (2018). Ten key short-term sectoral benchmarks to limit warming to 1.5°C. Climate Policy, 18(3), 287–305. https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2017.1397495
  3. Pineda, A. C., Chang, A., & Faria, P. (n.d.). Foundations for Science-Based Net-Zero Target Setting in the Corporate Sector. Retrieved 18 September 2020, from https://sciencebasedtargets.org/net-zero/
climate change effects on singapore

Climate Change and Singapore – the Physical Impacts

By Adrian Pang

Sustainability or ESG is progressing in Singapore. The recent transformation to the Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) from the previous Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) signalled a stronger intent and focus on progressing sustainability in the country. Minister Grace Fu recently expressed her excitement at Singapore’s potential in this realm. [1] She also spelled out some of the main focuses of MSE such as waste and resource management (circular economy and resource efficiency), renewable energies, digitalisation of processes and urban food security. Overall, she expects ample new job opportunities with more scientists, engineers, experts, and professionals needed to “fill in the gaps” created by growth of the sustainability sector [2]. She also urged businesses to capitalise on the current economic situation to revisit and revise their business models and plans to induce resilience and sustainability. She encouraged private entities to look past benefits and costs of externalities for the common good. Essentially, it should be “sustainability in the business and not just a part of business”. While such development is encouraging, the fight against climate change is a responsibility that must be borne by everyone. This is because Singapore, a tiny island nation is already at the forefront of climate change. On this note, let us provide ourselves with a reality check on the severity of climate change with a look at what is already happening on Singapore’s shores. Climate change is more personal than we think.

Running out of Land and Shelter

The biggest threat to the survival and even existence of this low-lying tiny island nation is obviously the rising sea level. During PM Lee’s National Day Parade address in 2019, he issued grave warnings on the adverse effects of sea level rises to Singapore. He emphasised that the country needs to “treat climate change defences like it treats the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)”. This was visualised through a map of Singapore that highlighted the low-lying areas. Areas such as Changi, Jurong Island, Geylang, and Katong will submerge under water at this rate of rise. Even Bishan and Toa Payoh, situated at the heart of the country will be affected. While this is a projection, current climate data are showing it is fast becoming a reality. Scientists confirmed that the current sea level rise is the fastest in 6000 to 7000 years, with a 3.2mm annual increase in recent years. This rate translates to a 20cm to 30cm rise in 20 to 30 years [3]. As a tropical country on the equator, the sea level rise can be a “double whammy” to Singapore. Ocean water is warmer on the equator where water molecules would expand further, leading to higher level rises. Secondly, water from melted ice caps tend to flow to the equator due to gravity, contributing to an even faster rise relative to many other parts of the world [4]. We have already seen the vulnerabilities of low-lying Singapore. Recurring floods from 2010 to 2012 in the country’s central regions have incurred severe economic and business losses. Aggravating sea level rise, of which experts are predicting from 1m (conservatively) to 2.5m (a 1-in-20 risk scenario) would make Singapore more flood prone, unsafe, and even unliveable when reality sets in [5]. This proves that climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed now and aggressively. Singapore has sound adaptation measures, such as building the new Changi airport terminal at 5m above sea level with dikes, flood gates and underground water and drainage systems, etc. However, it remains to be seen how these solutions will perform.

Drying Water Taps

As the planet continues to warm, multiple places around the world are already suffering from increasing and worsening events of drought. Singapore’s multiple avenues of water resources have ensured the country remains water secure for now. But as drought seasons become more severe, prolonged and frequent, Singapore’s water security is under threat too. This situation is compounded by the fact that Singapore has always been classified as a highly water stressed area according to many scientific and geographical sources such as the World Resources Institute (WRI) [6]. Four of Singapore’s water sources are imported water, reservoirs, NEWater and desalinated sea water. The former two are at the mercy of the climate change and droughts, making them less reliable as climate condition degrades. That leaves Singapore to rely more on NEWater and desalinated sea water. However, both processes require on average 5 to 7 times more energy and incur higher costs compared to treating rainwater [7]. In the case of NEWater, there needs to be existing water sources to be treated and recycled which is not exactly a viable solution in the long term if droughts happen more frequently. On the other hand, there is the problem of water quality with desalinated sea water. Warming climates have seen algae bloom occurring more frequently and aggressively in recent years. However, the declining water quality is not matched by the filter technologies and infrastructures in place to treat the water. This would result in lower efficiency of the water filtration and treating system, thus less and of lower quality of water treated for consumption.

Broken Food Chains

Climate change is also critical to our food chain. Once again, Singapore’s status as a land- and resource- scarce island nation means that we have to import more than 90% of our food. Aggravating droughts and rising sea levels will affect global food production. Closer to home, Singapore’s food producing neighbours like Indonesia and Thailand are already feeling the effects of these two critical climate risks [8][9]. At the current trajectory, Singapore’s food chain would be severely affected from prices to quantity and quality, threatening the country’s food security. We have experienced such disruptions. In 2015, 55 fish farms in the Johor Straits lost about 600 tons of fish due to the problem of harmful algae blooms [10].  The then Minister of Environment and Water Resource (now MSE) Vivian Balakrishnan warned that this occurrence is “likely to be a recurrent problem with global warming”.

In a gradual but even more catastrophic development, rising temperature and increase of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the atmosphere are causing ocean water to become warmer and more acidic. As the ocean absorbs 90% of the heat in the atmosphere, the ocean too has warmed by 0.13 degree Celsius over the last 100 years [11]. Such a small increment is already detrimental to the marine ecosystem, especially coral reefs where warmer water means they will take longer to grow and recover. The expected increase in temperature and cases of heatwaves across the world will only exacerbate the situation. Ocean acidity is the evil twin of ocean warming. Like its heat absorbing abilities, oceans also absorb a significant one third of the approximately 22 tons of daily GHG emissions. The increase in emissions would increase water acidity where it degrades and kills coral reefs. Together, these two phenomena would devastate the marine ecosystem as it breaks down the food chain from the very first level. Smaller species that rely on coral reefs for food and habitat will slowly dwindle, causing a chain reaction that leads to fewer food sources on our tables.

Climate Change Affects Everyone

The information above is not intended to be alarmist but as a reality check on how far behind we are in the fight against climate change. This is meant to be a reminder to ourselves of the sheer weight of responsibilities each of us has, not just governments and big corporates. There are already signs that our livelihoods will be adversely affected. Basic necessities for survival – shelter, food and water in the already resource-scarce Singapore will be threatened even more by climate change. Singapore, a climate leader on many fronts, has many adaptation solutions in place. However, to truly fix the climate, the country has to lead on mitigation solutions as well.

Therefore, as the world battles the “once in a generation crisis” that is the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not relax on our fight against climate change whose effects that can last for generations.

 

References

[1] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sustainability-growth-job-opportunities-environment-grace-fu-13031048

[2] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sustainability-growth-job-opportunities-environment-grace-fu-13031048

[3] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand/why-it-matters/climate-change-gets-personal-12143608

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/melting-polar-ice-will-spike-sea-levels-at-the-equator-24739579/

[5] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand/why-it-matters/climate-change-gets-personal-12143608

[6] https://www.wri.org/blog/2015/08/ranking-world-s-most-water-stressed-countries-2040

[7] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand/why-it-matters/climate-change-gets-personal-12143608

[8] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/21/climate-change-already-affecting-food-production-expert-warns.html

[9] https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/climate-change-adaptation-for-thailands-rice-farmers#:~:text=Rice%20has%20long%20been%20Thailand’s,the%20country’s%20main%20export%20product.&text=The%20unpredictability%20of%20conditions%20that,ahead%20due%20to%20climate%20change.

[10] https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/600-tonnes-fish-lost-algal-bloom-ava

[11] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand/why-it-matters/climate-change-gets-personal-12143608

economic recovery or climate action

Economic Recovery or Climate Action? Why Not Both?

By Adrian Pang

The raging COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world like a whirlwind, and social upheavals that have morphed into different beasts in different countries across the world have truly elevated the prominence of the “S” in ESG in a tumultuous 2020.

It is undeniable that these two events will fundamentally change how societies and the world organises and works. Social consciousness on public health and diversity have reached new heights. Even so, the pandemic and global economic fallout have slightly shifted primary discourses away from climate actions and environmental responsibilities – from momentum to transition to green economies and sustainable business models, to now focus on economic survival and resilience. In the short term, there are expected reductions of resources and budgets for sustainability due to economic fallout from the pandemic. But short-term economic recovery plans are insufficient to building long-term business resilience to face considerable climate risk.

Institutions need to create more socioeconomically and environmentally responsible strategies that address systemic changes required to transition to a low zero carbon global economy simultaneously with issues of human rights, racial, income and gender inequality, and overall health and wellbeing. Sustainable/Green Finance can be a substantial driver to lead a post pandemic world that values the wellbeing and survivability of the environment and society.

What is Sustainable/Green Finance

While there is not a formalised definition, green financing is generally perceived as financial flows (from banking, micro-credit, insurance, and investment) prioritising ESG risks and opportunities while still ensuring decent, if not positive rate of return. Green financing values social and environmental factors, impacts and sustainability. [1] It also brings accountability in business and financial decisions and strategies for the future. As the global economy reels from the pandemic, green financing is making significant headway into economic recovery plans. Entities in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors are encompassing this financial paradigm shift into their business continuity plans and economic resilience strategies.

Green Finance in Post-COVID 19 World

The COVID-19 crisis is seen as a rude awakening and a major stress test for the world’s social and financial systems to prepare for the long-term climate crisis. It is understandable that financial interventions and stimulus packages by countries need to address short-term health and economic weaknesses. However, governments should also strive to reshape ecosystems, investments, and production and consumption patterns through green financing to realise a resilient, and sustainable recovery as well as future. [2] The Financial Times argues that cost of climate inaction would amount to a staggering $600 trillion by 2100. This is inevitable at the current trajectory, as the world will not see its carbon emissions halved by 2030 as set out by the Paris Agreement. 2030 is also the expected year of climate tipping point – the point of no return for the climate crisis. Therefore, drastic measures like Green Finance are required now to make systemic changes in the post pandemic world.

The World Bank has recently published a guide for financial regulators in emerging economies to scale up green finance in their countries. [3] The guide can help financial institutions to structure and refine green finance products (e.g. loans, credits, and guarantees) as well as encourage investors to invest in impact investments opportunities that comply with sustainability criterions. The European Union is pushing for a Green Deal for economic recoveries post pandemic. The regional bloc has set up a new “Green Recovery Alliance” that brings together politicians, CEOs, NGOs, think tanks and subject matter experts across the continent to identify and drive green finance and investments. Elsewhere, the slogan “Build Back Better” is increasingly a catchphrase for many governments to tailor their economic recovery strategies to incorporate low-carbon and clean economic developments. Hong Kong and China have implemented mandatory ESG disclosure for companies while French bank Natixis voluntarily incorporated climate risk into its credit decision-making process. [4] South Korea has also pledged to a “Green New Deal” as it recovers from the COVID-19 induced economic losses. [5] Overall, there are encouraging signs that countries are embarking on the green path to economic recoveries.

Moving Forward and Organisations’ Roles

The conundrum between prioritising economic recovery or climate action remains needlessly real. Indeed, countries in Asia, of which many are emerging economies remain reliant on restoring traditional economic and financial fundamentals (which are often carbon intensive) to reboot their economies. [6] This is counterproductive to global progress made on the sustainability front.

2020 is on course to record the largest drop of GHG emissions, estimated at 8% year on year. [7] However, this reduction is due to enforced lockdowns and decreased traffic volumes globally and it is likely to be an one-off anomaly post-pandemic. The world needs to achieve at least 7.6% reduction annually between 2020 to 2030 to keep global temperature increase to less than 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of the century.

The bottom line remains, we need to protect the Earth now more than ever. The pandemic is a good reset for how things work. In fact, the world is ready for a paradigm shift on green finance where climate and sustainability elements can closely entwine with economic recovery and development.

Companies and organisations also have significant roles and responsibilities in realising more sustainable development and popularising green finance post COVID-19. Some possible actions are: working with governments to stimulate green recoveries, supercharging corporate resilience and prioritising climate risks, bailouts or financial tools with sustainability strings attached, enhancing ESG performance and disclosure, altering business models and practices, and identifying sustainable values in business deals and developments.[8] All these potential strategies can involve and abide by values of green financing. We have seen a strong push for the big “S” in 2020, let us also push for the big “E” and “G”.

Reach out to us to find more about how you can enhance your sustainability/ESG strategies and performances as well as how green financing could work for your organisation or business.

[1] https://www.cbd.int/financial/gcf/definition-greenfinance.pdf

[2] https://www.unenvironment.org/regions/asia-and-pacific/regional-initiatives/supporting-resource-efficiency/green-financing

[3] https://www.esi-africa.com/industry-sectors/finance-and-policy/world-banks-guide-to-scale-up-green-finance-in-emerging-markets/

[4] https://www.eco-business.com/news/what-is-green-finances-role-in-the-covid-19-recovery/

[5] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-environment-newdeal-analys/jobs-come-first-in-south-koreas-ambitious-green-new-deal-climate-plan-idUSKBN23F0SV

[6] https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Asia-risks-missing-green-economic-reset-after-coronavirus

[7] https://earth.org/green-economy-post-covid-19-economic-imperative/

[8] https://www.strategy-business.com/article/The-environmental-opportunity-created-by-COVID-19?gko=0051f

paris-agreement-cna-carbon-conundrum

Paris Agreement in Jeopardy? A Summary of CNA’s Carbon Conundrum

By Adrian Pang, Paia Consulting Pte Ltd

Channel News Asia’s documentary series earlier this month zoomed in on an impending disaster that is already set in motion – climate change or more accurately, anthropogenic climate change. The documentary explored the world’s profound reliance on carbon-intensive energy resources but highlighted some progress made in moving away from the self-destructing carbon addiction to provide a glimmer of hope of what could and should be done in the limited time to restore nature’s equilibrium. In the process, the documentary took mainly a Singapore-centric view complemented by international events and perspectives on the dire consequences of climate change and on finding solutions.

This piece provides a summary of the key messages conveyed by the documentary. The content follows the narrative of the documentary. First, it highlights the root cause of climate change: our addiction to fossil fuels that resulted in the dire situation and consequences regarding carbon emissions the world finds itself in. The next part of the summary presents provides a more optimistic outlook to the future with the developments of potential solutions in renewable energies as well as the simple yet complicated gesture to give agency back to nature to recover. First, the documentary reiterated the existence of potential solutions in the form of solar energy and green hydrogen. In Singapore, these potential solutions are undergoing consistent and significant development and testing. Thus, the most pressing issues is not about finding solutions but rather our willingness – government and corporations’ willingness to invest in these long-term solutions. Then, the documentary highlighted the abilities and importance of nature to regenerate itself and for us humans to coexist harmoniously with, if not live by laws of nature. The piece concludes on a note of caution that now is the time the world should drastically cut carbon emissions before climate change escalates to a point of no return very soon.

Carbon Junkies and the Consequences

Sequestered carbon from millennia of natural lifecycles of living beings that were formed into fossil fuels (coals, oil, natural gas, etc.) was always a natural process and fossil fuels were meant to be stored deep underground. However, this process was disrupted ever since the industrial revolution ushered in a new age of human progress that sees the stripping of Mother Nature’s resources as key to societal development. Human’s unquenchable thirst for fossil fuels for energy is the quintessence of this problem. As humans continue to pride ourselves on the technological advancements made in the past couple of centuries, we are ironically and rather stubborn sticking with carbon-packed resources to power our technological innovations and ingenuities. We have never moved on from fossil fuels as our primary energy sources. In fact, we fell deeper into the addiction problem to keep economies of oil-producing countries and financial markets well-oiled (pun-intended). Earth’s atmosphere was meant to be the protection but humans decided it is in their best interests to burn fossil fuels in the name of progress, thereby causing untold stress to this planet’s immune system that reduces harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. And burn we did for close to 300 years. In the process, we re-released inconceivable amount of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere.

In November 2016, the global community seemingly put aside their differences and set the world on an era defining path that was unimaginable just decades ago. 189 countries, even the reclusive hermit kingdom of North Korea, ratified or acceded to the Paris Agreement to begin intense carbon reduction to keep global temperatures in the 21st century to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels as well as to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degree Celsius. The world committed to embark on several grand steps towards this common mission. First, carbon emissions and temperature rise should peak by 2020. Then, emissions should be halved by 2030 and the world needs to be completely decarbonised by 2050. Alas, the world now finds itself slowly creeping back to square one as the euphoria waned. The 1.5-degree Celsius targets based on current data are unreachable. Carbon emissions worldwide continue to rise. Countries’ support for this once hopeful – an understatement, milestone that showcased the best of humanity are being challenged at its core as individual economic interests supersede what needs to be done. The dwindling commitment is further exacerbated by the withdrawal of the United States, the biggest economy and biggest emitter in the world. Worst, the Trump administration ramped up fossil fuel production for their national economic interests. Ultimately, the world continues to find itself losing time faltering on significant efforts to protect and save itself from the dire consequences of climate change.

While climate change does indeed spare no-one, smaller nations, especially island nations are already bearing the full brunt of human’s inactions. The documentary went to Tuvalu, one of the smallest nations in the world located in the South Pacific between Hawaii and Australia. It showcased the plights of the country sinking fast beneath the sea to highlight the devastating effects of rising sea levels – the rate of which is faster in the past few decades than the last few thousands of years. When compared to more industrialised nations, all 57 small islands developing states (SIDS) including  (The Economist, 2019). [1] Yet, these countries are on the forefront of the consequences caused largely by their much larger and mightier industrialised counterparts. In the case of Tuvalu, their commendable efforts to slow their home from sinking through various adaptation mechanisms are increasingly futile. The country’s prime minister even gave grave warnings that climate change adaptation and resilience are no longer viable for his county and other SIDS. The documentary then revealed coastal and archipelago nations are the next in line to suffer the consequences of climate change. For example, 2,000 Indonesian islands and 20% of Bangladesh would be submerged under water by 2030. It will not be long before New York City and Amsterdam – great industrialised cities would sink beneath the waves by 2100 if sea level rises 1.5m, as per the current pace of climate change.

Singapore will not be spared either. Singapore is on course to lose of land to rising sea levels at the current trajectory according to the documentary. This problem is further compounded by the emergence of the fast emerging arctic sea route from melting ice caps, in which the new trade route is 33% shorter than the current one that has for so long made Singapore one of the trade centres of the world. This imminent new trade route would threaten the displacement of Singapore as a global commercial and trading hub, reducing the country’s competitiveness and even relevance in the global economy in the not too distant future. Singapore’s government has pledged SGD 100 billion to increase the country’s resilience to rising sea levels. Raising tidal gates, dykes and reservoirs, building the new Changi airport terminal more than 5m above sea levels and polders to reclaim land below sea levels are some of the measures taken. Even so, the pace that sea level is rising, and climate change worsening is gradually prompting the conversation in Singapore to shift ns much like the aforementioned sentiments by Tuvalu’s prime minister.

Stemming the Tide through Long-Term Solutions

The best solutions are none other than those that address the issue at its core, reducing carbon emissions within its own shores while hoping the rest of the world continue to play their parts. While existing steps to reduce carbon emissions would incur significant costs in the near future, the potential long-term impacts and values far outweigh the initial costs. short, the climate driven sphere has the highest job and business opportunities while the current linear economic business models destroy value and will slowly but surely be phased out. However, the pace of it happening is still a key factor in preserving the sanctity of Mother Nature and the climate. In view of these potentials while being mindful of the limited time before climate change is worsened beyond reparation, Singapore is taking bold but necessary steps to address the climate risks dawning upon our home. The main solutions covered by the documentary focus predominantly on technological innovations and Mother Nature herself.

i. Transition to Renewable Energies: Solar Power and Green Hydrogen in Focus

The most direct and logical steps to reduce carbon emissions is to generate electricity and energy through low carbon renewables. In short, reduce or even eliminate fossil fuels from the energy equation. This is the most obvious way forward because technologies are already in place and have proven capacities to replace fossil fuels as the biggest energy generator. . This technology will only get better with more investments and refinements in the future. Several innovations in Singapore can attest to the immense potential of the PV systems and the even higher ceiling of what this technology can achieve.

a. Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) Systems

Source: (SERIS, n.d.)

In a building design and architectural sphere, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have jointly designed, built, and are managing, refining and improving on the concept of BIPV where solar panels are fitted to the façade of a building to achieve the higher generation of solar generated electricity to become an energy self-sufficient and zero carbon emitting infrastructure. So unlike solar panels that are placed on rooftops, the solar panels are integral to the infrastructure, for example as and facades. Moreover, additional electricity generated can be fed back to the major electricity grid or be stored in battery for future use. SERIS stated that there are some 160,000 buildings that have the capacity to install sizeable BIPV systems far larger than the current testbed. In short, there is huge potential and benefits if Singapore decides to venture down this path.

b. Floating PV Systems

Elsewhere, the government’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Public Utilities Board (PUB) have also collaborated on taking PV systems to the next level. The collaboration aims to evaluate the performance of different solar systems and their impacts on the environment. As a result, the joint venture has produced largest floating solar panels testbed with 10PV systems across 1 hectare on water currently in the world according to the documentary. In fact, this trial has generated better results than expected as it was found that the cooling nature of water enables the PV to be more efficient. The floating PV systems generated 5% to 15% higher electricity than typical rooftop systems as well as possessing capacities to power 200-odd 4-rooms HDB flats per year, all the while having minimal environmental impacts. With such positive outcomes from the testbed, both EDB and PUB have targeted to introduce floating solar projects in the Bedok reservoir and Lower Seletar reservoir by mid-2020. Furthermore, the joint venture wants to introduce even larger scale floating PV systems 50 times the size and capacity of the existing testbed that can generate 6,000 MWh of electricity by 2021. This target is set with the goal of ramping up 2-Gigawatt Peak solar capacity that can power 350,000 households or 4% of total electricity demand in Singapore daily by 2030.

c. Commercial Leadership & Intergovernmental Cooperation

Sunseap Group, one of the largest renewables and solar energy companies in Singapore has also aggressively attempt to push and drive Singapore and Southeast Asia to adopt renewable solar energy to generate electricity. The documentary highlighted Sunseap’s success story in the Ninh Thuan province in Vietnam on the positive environmental as well as social and economic impacts of solar PV systems. Sunseap Group has installed 449,880 PV modules in the province that can generate 20 million kWh of electricity to power 100,000 households every month. This is a significant development for one of the least developed regions in the country. The establishment of the PV farm has created positive social impacts such as providing better infrastructure and paved new roads for the local communities to connect with the urban and peri-urban areas. Economically, this project has created new jobs for the community. 2,000 employees were hired for the construction of the farms and 35 permanent positions were created after construction completion. This is one of many indications of Sunseap’s ability to be a leading figure in the development of the renewable energy sector in Southeast Asia or ASEAN region. As per Frank Phuan, CEO of Sunseap Group, he used the examples of the infrastructures in place in Malaysia and Singapore to upscale PV systems between the Johor Straits to accentuate on the fact that it is political will – whether ASEAN countries are willing to cooperate in this sphere to create a shared “ASEAN power grid” that balances countries with in the region with rich renewable energy resources against parts of the region that have high energy demands, that would determines the growth of renewables in this region. He added that the technicalities are no longer a barrier to prevent ASEAN countries from taking a huge leap towards transitioning to renewable energy.

d. Green Hydrogen

Amongst the more popular renewable energy sources like wind and solar, one source, one element has been under the radar and perhaps in the shadow of the former two counterparts – hydrogen. As the most abundant element in the whole of the universe, hydrogen also possesses the potential to become a clean and efficient alternative to fossil fuels. The only complication from venturing headfirst into using hydrogen as fuel source is its highly combustible nature. Moreover, the storage of hydrogen in conventional high-pressure tanks is not the most logistically and environmentally efficient manner to attain hydrogen if we consider the transportation of these heavy tanks. Fortunately, the Tohoku University in Japan is developing a new technology in the form of metal hydrides. Metal hydrides are metals which have been bonded to hydrogen to form a new compound. This compound, at the current stage of research and development are pointing towards the elimination of the conventional method of storing hydrogen in high-pressure tanks as it exists in metallic powder forms. But more research is required as the process of retrieving energy from the powdered metal hydrides requires high energy itself to heat and activate the compound.

Back in Singapore, a more basic form of metal hydrides system is undergoing testing. The testbed is also showing positive results. Instead of storing metal hydrides in powdered form, hydrogen is stored in a metal hydride tank using the same concept of binding hydrogen with metals. When electricity is needed, hydrogen is released from the tank and passed through fuel cells. Prior to storage, hydrogen is attained by breaking down water in a separate compartment in the testbed. Overall, the energy required for the entire generation process, from breaking down water to releasing hydrogen from the metal hydride tank only used electricity generated by solar panels. As a result, the Singapore Power Training Institute is the first zero emission building that is powered fully off the grid by green hydrogen in ASEAN region.

ii. Restoring Nature

It is undeniable that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is grim and disruptive on all fronts. However, environmental lessons while secondary to public health, can be taken from this challenging time. The pandemic shows Mother Nature’s ability to regenerate herself over the short period of time when human activities almost came to a virtual standstill. Air pollution levels decreased quite significantly, rivers became clean and clear again and the air fresher. This is an indication that humans do not actually need to take draconian measures to make changes possible. Rather we can take modest but nonetheless significant steps to eventually phase out things that are environmental detrimental like excessive carbon while allowing the Earth to heal. Nature has a strong will and has shown time and again its ability to restore itself – think Chernobyl and the nature that reclaimed the abandoned city in just a few decades. Therefore, the message from the documentary is to give agency back to nature to do what it does best, to recover and regenerate itself. In particular, restoring plants and their habitats should be a priority in major efforts to help nature to recover because plants are nature’s front liners against rising carbon dioxide level. The documentary focuses on mangrove trees as exceptional carbon scrubbers. This plant species can sequester 3 to 5 times as much carbon as land-based jungles. Thus, experts are studying closely on ways to preserve, conserve and cultivate new habitats in historically alien environments in other parts of the world. Even so, the bottom line remains – preserve and plant more trees.

In so doing, nature’s recovery and flourishment will only further benefit human’s health. It is scientifically proven that the human biology is wired to sync harmoniously with nature. The practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bath in Japan shows how human’s immersion in nature can have healing effects on the mind and body. Therefore, it is a ‘kill two birds with one stone” scenario whereby a thriving nature benefit both humans and Earth. Shifting the focus back to Singapore, it is unsurprising that this belief in nature’s healing abilities has led to the restoration of freshwater wetland in Singapore’s Botanical garden. As a result, it not only restores habitats but also act as a potential water reservoir that redirects flood water from urban areas to the area to make this city state more flood resilient. In summary, we should strive to let nature reclaim its equilibrium and us humans should coexist peacefully with, if not live harmoniously in nature.

No Time for Caution and Complacency

Climate scientist assistant professor Angel Hsu of the Yale-NUS College summarised best the reason climate change is described as the “super-wicked problem”. One, time is running out and relatively little has been achieved. Next, many people currently entrusted to solve climate change are ironically people who are causing it due to their other interests and their questionable practices in the process, best demonstrated by how these people fly extensively to attend meetings to combat climate change. Third, there is no central authority in the fight against climate change. As a result, every country prioritises their own interests before the common necessity to fix the climate and environment. Finally, and most damning of all, the persisting paradigm that climate change is a problem for the future. In reality, there is no time for caution and complacency. Carbon dioxide must begin declining this year or the world risks an irreversible disaster. Systemic changes are needed where business leaders and governments pool together resources and expertise to deal with this common enemy. We are one species after all.

While Singapore has taken good strides to address climate change issues at home, we need to be conscious that there are still other areas that could be done better. For example, the country could accelerate the transformation of public transportation system. Electrifying public buses and increasing bicycle lanes should be fairly easy to be implemented in an enclosed and well organised country like Singapore. Shenzhen, which is roughly the same economic size as Singapore has electrified all their public buses in 5 years, Singapore can surely do better than setting this target to be achieved by 2040 (He, 2018). Therefore, we are only at the prelude of the fight against climate change and the climax will arrive quicker than ever. If we do not take significant actions, the crescendo [2] of the disaster will likely drown out any hopeful progress. And climate disaster will happen more as a caesura [3] to the end of human existence than a diminuendo [4] like most lifecycles.

[1] Singapore’s percentage of world GDP was 0.42% in 2017; total contribution to global emissions was 0.11% in 2017; Singapore’s population is equivalent to 0.08% of the total world population ( (theGlobalEconomy.com, n.d.; Tan, 2019; worldometer, n.d.)

[2] In classical music tradition – gradually getting louder.

[3] In classical music tradition – a grand pause or dramatic break.

[4] In classical music tradition – gradually getting softer.

References
Carbon Conundrum. 2020. [Film] Singapore: Channel News Asia,.

He, H., 2018. Shenzhen surpasses US$338 billion GDP mark in 2017, beats Hong Kong and Singapore’s growth. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2128310/shenzhen-88-cent-hi-tech-growth-roll-hit-y2tr-2017
[Accessed 29 April 2020].

SERIS, S. E. R. I. o. S., n.d. [Online] 
Available at: https://bipv.sg/
[Accessed 29 April 2020].

The Economist, 2019. Island states have had an outsized influenced on climate policy. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.economist.com/international/2019/09/19/island-states-have-had-an-outsized-influence-on-climate-policy
[Accessed 29 April 2020].

theGlobalEconomy.com, n.d. Singapore: Percent of world GDP. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Singapore/gdp_share/
[Accessed 11 May 2020].

worldometer, n.d. Singapore Population. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/singapore-population/
[Accessed 11 May 2020].

The public and private sector, to increase focus on waste reduction

On World Environment Day this year, both the public and private sectors in Singapore upped up their efforts for environmental protection with a series of plans and initiatives. These include:

  • the unveiling of the Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017-2020 by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean,
  • the introduction of mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans and the Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging by National Environment Agency,
  • the launch of ReCYCLE, a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme by Singapore Post and Singtel
  • the official opening of the Singapore Sustainability Academy by CDL and Sustainability Energy Association ofSingapore.

Under the Public Sector Sustainability Plan, environmental targets are set with regards to the use of electricity, water, building, waste and solar energy for FY2020 and achieve them through better resource management. Transparency and Disclosure is one of the main components guiding the Plan [1]; we can expect progress against targets to be communicated. The Plan reinforces Singapore’s commitment to the Paris Agreement of reducing emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels [2].

The Public Sector Sustainability Plan is published by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), under the Sustainable Singapore campaign.

The National Environment Agency, an agency under MEWR, also introduced initiatives to reduce packaging waste. The launch of the Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging (LPRP) will help inform consumers of products that has reduced packaging and hence generate less waste. Mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans will also be introduced by 2021, for businesses that uses packaging on consumer goods [3].

The announcement of mandatory reporting of packaging data and Waste Reduction Plans by 2021 was made by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, during the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) [1]. Reduction of packaging waste makes business sense for winners of the 10th SPA awards.  Greenpac for example avoids 4.13 tonnes of packaging material and reaps about $17,200 a year in material cost savings after redesigning a microscope packaging to use lighter polypropylene (PP) corrugated sheets instead of wood [4]. Sunfresh Singapore has estimated annual cost savings of $1,320 with a reduction of 0.28 tonne of plastic packaging waste by eliminating plastic liners in their deliveries of aluminium cups [4].

Given that one-third of about 1.66 million tonnes of waste disposed in 2016 by Singapore was packaging waste [1], these initiatives are appropriate and timely.

Waste reduction was the theme of some initiatives by the private sector as well.

Singapore Post and Singtel for instance launched ReCYCLE, a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme. Consumers can now drop unwanted electronic devices into the ReCYCLE bins at selected Singtel outlets and Post Offices at no charge. Valuable metals and components in the devices would be recovered [5].

At the official opening of the Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA), winners of the 6th CDL Singapore Sculpture Awards presented artwork that utilised the SSA’s residual building materials, in line with this year’s theme of ‘Towards Zero-Waste!’ [6].

The SSA is a training and networking facility on sustainability jointly created by City Developments Limited (CDL) and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), a non-profit organisation. Among other sustainability-related events, the SSA will be a platform for CDL’s Women4Green initiative, the first sustainability network for women in Singapore. The SSA will also partner Eco-Business to set up a Sustainability Studio for the production of sustainability-related films [6].

The ReCYCLE programme and the Singapore Sustainability Academy are great examples of how partnerships between sectors can work together to achieve better environmental outcome. Indeed, that collective effort by all sectors in the economy are required to make progress, and it is heartening to see initiatives by both the public and public sector this World Environment Day.

World Environment Day started in 1974 by the United Nations, and is celebrated on 5 June by over 100 countries every year [7].

 

References

[1] https://www.mewr.gov.sg/news/press-release—singapore-launches-sustainability-plan-to-chart-green-course-for-public-sector

[2] http://www.pmo.gov.sg/newsroom/dpm-teo-chee-hean-opening-ceremony-singapore-sustainability-academy

[3] http://www.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/newsroom/news-releases/nea-to-introduce-mandatory-reporting-of-packaging-data-waste-reduction-plans-by-2021

[4] Singapore Packaging Agreement, ‘3R Packaging Awards 2016’

[5] http://recycle.sg/

[6] http://www.cdl.com.sg/images/press_release/20170605.pdf

[7] http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/about/what-is-it

 

 

COP 21 Paris Agreement: the first global consensus on climate change

On 12 December 2015, the first ever universal agreement on climate change was adopted by 195 nations. The deal was made at the Paris Climate Change Conference, also known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Major points of the agreement include a capping of global temperature rises at 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, and net-zero emissions by second half of the century. These climate change mitigation goals are accompanied by financing and review mechanisms, taking into account countries’ differentiated levels of responsibility and vulnerability to climate change.

The Paris Agreement also sends a clear signal to global markets to move to a low-carbon economy. As noted by Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishan, and Edward Cameron, managing director of partnership and research at non-profit Business for Social Responsibility, the universal and legally-binding nature of the agreement, together with a transparent method of tracking each country’s performance provides the assurance to businesses that governments will support low-carbon projects for the long term.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on climate change said Singapore will work towards the pledge of reducing emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels, by 2030, and stabilising emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) Document 2012

Launched on 14 June 2012 by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister at the National Climate Change Youth Conference in Singapore, the NCCS 2012 outlines Singapore’s strategy and plans to address climate change. The National Climate Change Secretariat developed NCCS in collaboration with the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change and with inputs from private and public groups.

The strategy plans to reduce emissions by 7% to 11% against Business As Usual (BAU) 2020 levels projected at 77.2 million tonnes CO2-equivalent. If there is a legally-binding global agreement in which all countries implement their commitments in good faith, this target will be increased to 16% below BAU 2020 levels.

Apart from reducing emissions, the strategy aims to build capabilities and expertise on climate science and adaptation. Studies are already ongoing to learn more about the effects of climate change on the island state. Moreover, growth opportunities are identified specifically on developing a cleantech industry.

Lastly, the Singapore government recognizes the importance of keeping and establishing partnerships in addressing climate change. These partnerships include private sector collaboration, public consultations, NGO engagement, and international participation to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

For more information and developments to NCCS 2012, please visit http://app.nccs.gov.sg