Financing Biodiversity

Financing Biodiversity

Biodiversity, which refers to the variety of life within an ecosystem, is crucial for the flourishing of all life on earth. We frequently draw upon nature for inspiration or new substances based on the characteristics of plants and animals. Diversity in genetic material also strengthens the resilience of the population against emerging threats of disease or climate change. The removal of certain organisms could have an unintended effect on the populations of other species that people depend on.

However, biodiversity is in danger of being neglected while climate change receives more attention. For instance, carbon offset programmes to mitigate climate change often involves the reforestation of a single species of trees[i], which is unable to provide the ecological functions of a forest ecosystem with many different species of trees. Human activities, such as the expanding demand for agricultural land, also continue to threaten natural habitats.

The need to balance climate change mitigation, human activity and biodiversity preservation is known as the triple challenge[ii]. Improvements or deteriorations to any of these three aspects can reverberate across to the others. It is therefore necessary to pay attention to the issues plaguing each of the three aspects.

In a series of articles, the Paia team will discuss the implications of biodiversity protection and loss for the private sector. This article will present an overview of biodiversity financing, while the second will lay out a potential framework with which the value of biodiversity can be better accounted for. The third article will cover means in which biodiversity can be viewed as an asset to promote conservation. Together, our articles will demonstrate why businesses today must consider the value of biodiversity alongside other ESG concerns.


The complexity of putting a dollar value on nature

Markets for climate financing have developed rapidly over the past few decades. While there is still a long road to go, there are liquid markets in many regions for the trading of carbon credits. The global Carbon Trade Exchange, the Shanghai Environment & Energy Exchange in China and Singapore’s upcoming Climate Impact X exchange are but some examples. The same cannot be said for markets in biodiversity, where financing solutions that seek to mitigate the impact of human development are scant. However, to ensure that efforts to improve biodiversity are self-sustaining and not dependent on continuous activism, such solutions are vital.

In this article, we will lay out:

1) Why biodiversity financing is more complex than carbon financing

2) Current solutions in biodiversity financing

3) Potential pitfalls in designing these financial instruments


Why is biodiversity financing more complex than climate financing?

Although the issues of climate change and biodiversity are very much intertwined, the complexity of linking financial instruments to biodiversity benchmarks is greater than for its climate change counterparts.

Firstly, the impact on biodiversity from human activities is often non-linear and unpredictable. Unlike climate change which can be modelled based on the level of carbon emissions, the interconnectedness of ecosystems often leads to cascading effects when their equilibriums are disturbed. The loss of certain species can lead to unpredictable, yet devastating consequences. Financing structures often need a quantified metric with which they can base the expected rate of return upon. It is hence also difficult to price in the negative externalities generated by firms. An inability to set the value of biodiversity in quantified terms hence hinders the development of financing solutions.

Secondly, biodiversity impact is more difficult to trade from one area to another, and similar offset programmes cannot be applied to seek out arbitrage across large distances. As the removal of organisms from one ecosystem will have implications on other species that depend on them, damage is highly localized and cannot be compensated for by interventions in another area.  Thus, unlike carbon emissions, biodiversity impact cannot be as easily mitigated through the application of the Coase Theorem[iii]. The Coase Theorem refers to the concept that efficient outcomes can be achieved through bargaining to reflect the true value of property rights. Carbon permits find a pareto efficient outcome through the trade of allowances to emit, made possible since the generation of 1kg of CO2 in, for example, the United Kingdom can be offset by the removal of 1kg of CO2 in, for example, China. This brings down the overall opportunity cost of reducing emissions. The highly localized nature of biodiversity impact does not allow for a similar system.


Current Solutions

Efforts to protect biodiversity in a self-sustaining way have sprung up. These complement regulatory action that require constant enforcement, such as poaching and logging bans.

Some areas of conservation apply the Coase Theorem to mitigate the impact of human activity on conservation. For example, farmers can be compensated for livestock loss from wild predators, preventing the farmers from retaliating. Compensation can be drawn from the tourism revenue generated by these predators, forming a self-sustaining loop. However, such schemes are often supplanted by assistance from the government or NGOs, indicating that the value of tourism is insufficient to support the costs of conservation.

In another example, the preservation of fisheries is now often facilitated by Individual Transfer Quotas (ITQs)[iv], which cap the number of fish that can be captured and allow fishermen to trade these ITQs. Hunting permits work in the same way, auctioning off the right to hunt a limited number of animals.

Other solutions combine carbon and biodiversity. Also, Australia’s Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot[v] rewards farmers who improve both climate and biodiversity performance. Under the pilot programme, farmers who plant native trees will receive payments for biodiversity outcomes, which adds on to payments from carbon abatement projects


Potential Pitfalls

While commendable for slowing the decline in biodiversity, these measures are often reliant on enforcement against illicit behaviour.

The solution involves the design of financial instruments that reframe biodiversity as an asset to the owners of the land, instead of a nice-to-have. An asset is a financial instrument that is expected to bring economic benefit. To place a value on biodiversity and pave the way for quantified incentives in its conservation, methods to determine the present value of the cash flows from biodiversity have to be constructed. This metaphor can be extended to the way in which assets are depreciated through use over time as well as impaired from improper use; the benefits brought about by biodiversity declines as resources are extracted and careless treatment leads to an unnecessary decline in value.

The Dasgupta Review[vi], a report commissioned by the UK government on the economics of biodiversity, suggests that nature be regarded as a portfolio of assets that has thus far been “mismanaged”. He advocates that the full impact of human activity should be demonstrated by the agglomeration of not only human and produced capital, but also natural capital Dasgupta also cautions against solely using a pricing strategy to resolve the tragedy of the commons issue, since the difficulty in determining nature’s value creates barriers against developing an optimal price. The tendency to underestimate the value of nature could hence give rise to overconsumption deemed efficient. In addition, having a price tag attached to the exploitation of nature could then remove the psychological barriers of people to do so, much in the same way that parents tend to be later in picking up their kids if a small fine is imposed[vii]. Finally, a system that seeks to allocate resources requires a robust system of property rights which may deprive indigenous communities of resouces they have traditionally relied on. The initial allocation of property rights may also strike some as being unfair, especially to those who believe that nature is a part of the commons and unowned by humanity. Yet, property rights are necessary for such a system because only property owners have an incentive to defend against exploitation, negating the Tragedy of the Commons.

Nonetheless, while it is important to realise that any pricing strategy would potentially undervalue the true contribution of nature to humanity, it is vital to start somewhere. These schemes can be tweaked and improved incrementally so that they tend towards a reflection of the true value of nature.

Biodiversity financing is complex, and current solutions have their pitfalls – but it has never been more essential for businesses to keep in view. In the next article, we will cover how businesses can consider the impact of such schemes and the conservation of biodiversity in general on their operations.



[i] Is planting trees as good for the Earth as everyone says? –
[ii] The Triple Challenge – WWF –
[iii] George Stigler, the First Apostle of the “Coase Theorem”-
[iv] Ensuring individual transferable quotas benefit fisheries and the environment –
[v] Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot –
[vi] Final Report – The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review –
[vii] A Fine Is A Price –

Photo by Mark Stoop on Unsplash

Carbon markets and climate policy - Opportunity in a decarbonising world

Carbon markets and climate policy – Turning Risk into opportunity in a decarbonising world

By Valerie Phua

At the 8th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, a range of perspectives across the public, private, and academic sectors converged into a key message: agribusiness and forestry must pivot towards sustainability to turn current risks into future opportunities.

In this article, Paia breaks down our key insights from the panel discussion.


Carbon credits will unlock decarbonisation opportunities in Southeast Asia

The tidal shift to a low carbon world has been palpable. With major corporations pledging their commitment to net-zero targets, carbon credits are gaining attention from investors and businesses alike.


What are carbon credits?

Carbon credits are verifiable and measurable emissions reductions from certified climate action projects. These projects reduce, remove or avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in addition to multiple other benefits, eg. community empowerment, ecosystem protection, forest restoration, and reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

Carbon credits can be bought by companies, and provide a viable way for companies to offset unavoidable emissions in their net-zero transition. However, Paia recommends that carbon offsetting should always be employed in tandem with a range of other emissions reduction strategies.


The growing interest in carbon credits holds great opportunity for Southeast Asia. Being a global hotspot for blue carbon opportunities, but also a hotspot for deforestation risk, Southeast Asia’s carbon stores may offer the highest rate of return globally[i]. And the opportunity is perhaps greatest in Indonesia.

With one-fifth of the world’s mangroves and the third-largest area of peatlands globally[ii], Indonesia’s mangroves hold 3.14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and its peatlands store approximately 57 billion tonnes[iii].


What is blue carbon?

Blue carbon refers to carbon stored in marine and coastal ecosystems over decades, and deforestation not only releases these substantial carbon stocks, but also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that these ecosystems could have removed.


With such huge carbon stores, the Indonesian government recognises the potential risk of losing these precious carbon sinks, and other vital accompanying benefits – mangroves protect coastlines from erosion and storm damage, sustain livelihoods of local communities, and are rich with biodiversity.

In 2021, Indonesia extended its ambitious campaign to restore 600,000 hectares of mangrove forest up to 2024[iv]. And efforts have admirably considered not only environmental factors, but the social realities of impacted communities. During the panel, Dr Ayu Dew Utari, Secretary of the Peat and Mangrove Restoration Agency (BRGM) in Indonesia, shared that the local government has embraced the inclusion of local communities in restoration projects. Dr Ayu emphasised that all initiatives should eventually be permanent and self-reliant, and strong community partnership involves villagers seeing the benefit of mangrove restoration to their quality of life as well.

With restoration projects well underway, Indonesia will be an attractive hotspot for carbon offset initiatives. Carbon credits will offer a way for local governments and communities to finance their climate action efforts, providing an economic incentive beyond environmental and social imperatives.


Carbon marketplaces will connect nature-based solutions with vital funds

Only last month, Climate Impact X (CIX), a new global carbon exchange and marketplace headquartered in Singapore, was launched. CIX is a joint venture by Singapore Exchange (SGX), DBS Bank, Standard Chartered, and Temasek, aiming to provide organisations with “high-quality carbon credits to address hard-to-abate emissions”[v].

With recent research showing that natural climate solutions could deliver up to one-third of the emissions reduction required to reach a 1.5 degree Celsius pathway by 2030[vi], there is a crucial need to connect these projects to the financing they will need.


What are nature-based solutions (NBS)?

An NBS uses tools already provided by nature to address issues resulting from poor land or resource use, climate change, or societal challenges. Solutions often enhance existing natural or man-made infrastructure, to spur long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits[vii]. Mangrove restoration is one such example of NBS.


However, as Mikkel Larson, Chief Sustainability Officer of DBS Bank, explained in the panel, inconsistent carbon credit quality and the lack of transparency in carbon pricing has limited market growth[viii]. The CIX aims to instil integrity in carbon markets through mapping carbon credit benefits in dollar terms, and introducing measures that prevent companies from avoiding the hard decarbonisation issues in their industry.

As the current risks associated with carbon credits are too high at present profit margins, Mr Larsen also explained that the CIX aims to facilitate investments in the lower denominations, thus improving access to the carbon marketplace for smaller corporations or investors.

With a more robust, trusted, and accessible marketplace, emissions reduction projects will see vital funds being channelled towards their scaling.

This will be especially true for nature-based solutions (NBS). As Professor Koh Lian Pin, Director of Centre for Nature-Based Climate Solutions at NUS, explained in the panel, NBS are presently the only commercially viable and scalable carbon capture solutions available.

But the research is still evolving, as estimates of carbon stocks and flows in natural ecosystems continue to be improved, Prof Koh emphasised. Another area of research would be the mapping of the co-benefits of NBS at the regional level, which an NUS project is currently working on. Prof Koh’s work will be essential to the verifiability and pricing of carbon credits, once again facilitating the success and expansion of voluntary carbon markets.

As corporate commitments to net-zero accelerate by the day, greater carbon market integrity and transparency can only be a promising development for the scaling of nature-based solutions.


Carbon regulations will shift business risks and opportunities

As climate policymakers ramp up their efforts to motivate the reduction of carbon footprints, carbon taxes may increasingly become a reality for agribusinesses to face.

One such policy that will have rippling effects across international trade is the European Union’s (EU) Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The CBAM will apply a carbon levy – mirroring the price of carbon in the EU’s cap-and-trade system – on embedded carbon in imports to the EU. In effect, this will extend the EU’s carbon market to the rest of the world.


What are carbon levies / carbon taxes?

A carbon tax sets a direct price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions, or on the carbon content of fossil fuels. Carbon taxes capture some of the social costs of emissions that the public otherwise pays for, such as crop damage, health care costs, and property damage from flooding and sea level rise – and shifts the burden onto carbon emitters. In this way, carbon prices become a means of stimulating clean technology and market innovation.


In the panel, Mr. Pasquale De Micco, Policy Officer at the Directorate-General for Taxation and the Customs Union, a part of the European Commission, shared that the EU will be releasing its CBAM legislative package proposal in July. Crucially, Mr Micco emphasised that the CBAM aims to address the problem of carbon leakage – when businesses shift their operations to countries with laxer climate policies, leading to higher emissions, essentially kicking the can down the road.

Mr Micco also explained that the agriculture industry is unlikely to be included in this proposal, as the EU is focusing on the most carbon-intensive industries, that comprise 40% of emissions. Nevertheless, with the CBAM’s stated aims to raise global climate ambition and prevent carbon leakage[ix], it is expected that should the proposal be adopted, the CBAM will eventually be extended to all sectors.

The prospect of carbon levies will create business risks as profit margins stand to be impacted by rising carbon prices. But businesses will also have the opportunity to lay the groundwork that will enable them to thrive in a decarbonising world, through strong emissions reduction targets and immediate action.


Turning risk into opportunity

From the revitalisation of nature-based solutions in Southeast Asia, to shifting regulatory environments, the world is making a bigger bid for climate action than ever before.  As governments and corporations awaken to the imperative of climate action businesses must adapt to changing risks, while capitalising on new opportunities.  This has always been aligned to Paia’s approach, to help companies assess and manage the risks, and opportunities, that ESG, and climate change, pose to businesses.



Paia is a team of dedicated sustainability specialists, providing advisory on the business risks and opportunities that sustainability issues pose, and how best to apply those within existing company structures and strategies. To enquire about how we can help you, speak to us today at

[i] Market for carbon credits shows signs of recovery – The Straits Times

[ii] Indonesia pushes to restore peatlands and mangroves at the center of the climate crisis – ASEAN Today

[iii] Indonesia renews peat restoration bid to include mangroves, but hurdles abound – Mongabay

[iv] With stories and puppets, environmentalist battles to save Indonesia’s mangroves – CNA

[v]  DBS, SGX, Standard Chartered and Temasek to take climate action through global carbon exchange and marketplace – SGX

[vi] Nature and Net Zero – World Economic Forum

[vii] What are Nature-Based Solutions? – NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions,well%2Dbeing%20and%20biodiversity%20benefits.

[viii] A blueprint for scaling voluntary carbon markets to meet the climate challenge – McKinsey

[ix] Carbon levy on EU imports needed to raise global climate ambition – European Parliament

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

Harnessing natures innate power to address the climate crisis

Earth Day special – Harnessing nature’s innate power to address the climate crisis

By Ho Ning Li

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme released a New Deal for Nature, calling for “transformations to recalibrate humanity’s relationship with nature, and harness nature-based solutions for climate change” [1].


Nature-based solutions can provide up to 37% of the cost-effective carbon dioxide mitigation needed through 2030 to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels [2]. Nature-based solutions include green and blue infrastructure initiatives such as forest and wetland restoration, climate-smart agriculture and urban greening. These initiatives accelerate the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that plants and soils sequester, hence mitigating the warming effect in the atmosphere.


Adaptation to climate change impacts is also a key benefit of nature-based solutions. Besides being effective carbon sinks, healthy ecosystems can significantly reduce the impact of climate-related natural disasters such as floods, storms and droughts [3]. For example, mangroves and coral reefs can protect coastal communities from rising tides and storm surges. In Singapore, the government plans to employ mangrove restoration in addition to building polders and dykes to tackle rising sea levels [4].


According to the United Nations (UN), coral reefs are expected to reduce damages from storms by more than US$4 billion annually [3]. Natural ecosystem’s ability to regenerate also means reduced maintenance costs compared to man-made structures such as sea walls.


The value of nature is increasingly recognised, not just for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but also due to our dependence on ecosystem services. The collapse of natural ecosystems and biodiversity loss will devastate economies and livelihoods and threaten the survival of mankind. In the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, “biodiversity loss” was ranked by leaders in business, government and civil society as one of the top five threats to humanity in the next 10 years [5].


The UN, in its New Deal for Nature, has called for a global commitment to implement natural capital accounting in Systems of National Accounts by 2030. In March 2021, a landmark framework was adopted by the UN to integrate natural capital, such as forests, wetlands and other ecosystems, in economic reporting [6]. The framework — the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) marks a major step towards addressing the inadequacies of the traditional gross domestic product (GDP) for economic reporting.


For businesses, natural capital reporting and disclosure of nature-related risks and opportunities will be increasingly expected. A Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), similar to the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework, is in the works and will be finalised in 2023 [7].

Nature is an intangible capital to be harnessed, but more importantly, to be protected.



[1] A new deal for Nature – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

[2] We are at a critical point for the future of the planet – The Nature Conservancy

[3] On Earth Day, harnessing the power of nature to heal herself – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

[4] Explainer: Why we need to use nature in the fight against climate change – Today

[5] New Nature Economy Report Series – World Economic Forum

[6] UN adopts landmark framework to integrate natural capital in economic reporting – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

[7] Why a Taskforce is needed – Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures

Image credits: Photo by Timothy K on Unsplash


President Biden signs an executive order on the Paris climate agreement

What Biden Re-joining the Paris Agreement Means for Climate Action

By Nicole Lim

As you may have heard by now, newly inaugurated President Biden returned the United States to the Paris Agreement. This will officially take effect in 30 days. The President also signed executive orders [1] overturning some of Trump’s other policies that had environmental implications, including putting a halt to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Since Biden first announced [2] that re-joining the Paris Agreement would be one of his first moves in office, many have been anticipating this day. For climate action and for many other reasons, today was a day that marked the beginning of a new era.

But beyond the politics and symbolism of it all, we wanted to take a look at what this all means for climate action and sustainability.

Ambition, leadership and science

As world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), behind China, the U.S. re-joining the Paris Agreement must come with bold and decisive commitments and plans to significantly reduce GHG emissions. When the U.S. first joined the Paris Agreement under the Obama Administration, the U.S. had pledged to reduce emission levels between 26-28% by 2025 from 2005 levels. At present, it is not on track to reach those goals.

Much has changed since then, and Biden will now be expected to raise the bar by setting more ambitious targets that capture its “fair share” of emissions. Not only that, with China announcing its commitment to be net-zero by 2060 [3], the E.U. to be the same by 2050 [4], and many other net-zero commitments by strong Asian economies, the pressure is on for the U.S. to take on an increased leadership role.

Thankfully, science, as Mr. Biden indicated in his executive order, would guide U.S.’s climate action.


It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science.

Executive Order, 20 Jan 2021

Therefore, we can minimally expect that Washington will set targets in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) guidance on reducing GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 (from 2010 levels) and reaching net-zero by 2050.

Organisations and corporations often adopt or align with national climate targets. With the U.S. being a crucial player in the global economy, their targets send signals and inform how the private sector globally might respond to climate change.

Climate finance and pricing carbon

A striking feature of Mr. Biden’s executive order was Sec. 5.  Accounting for the Benefits of Reducing Climate Pollution. It requires all agencies to capture the full costs of GHGs through incorporating the social cost of carbon” (SCC), “social cost of nitrous oxide” (SCN), and “social cost of methane” (SCM) into cost-benefit analyses in decision-making. To facilitate this, the President has established an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, led by economists and scientists.

The Working Group has been tasked to publish an interim SCC, SCN, and SCM within 30 days (by 21 February 2021), and establish a final SCC, SCN, and SCM no later than January 2022. These costs will be used by agencies in valuing GHGs from change in regulation and other relevant agency actions. The Working Group will also be providing recommendations to the President on where and how these costs can be applied in decision-making.

Mr. Biden also made clear that these costs are to “reflect the interests of future generations in avoiding threats posed by climate change”.

The President also has a $2 trillion plan to invest in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy [5]. This plan will see the transformation of the U.S. automotive industry to produce increased zero-emission / electric vehicles, green infrastructure, carbon-neutral power, energy-efficient buildings, investment in green innovation, clean agriculture and job creation. Since Biden’s announcement, stock prices of ESG companies that stand to benefit in a decarbonised world have soared [6]. We can expect to see these sustainable, ESG-focused companies to be at the forefront in the coming years.

Ahead of stronger sustainability and ESG regulation, companies are already bracing themselves for increased expectations [7], and some trade groups and organisations have begun meeting with the Biden team to review ESG matters and potential risks.

Outside U.S. shores and as part of commitments under the Paris Agreement, the U.S. will also be expected to play a big role in helping developing nations finance a fair, just and equitable shift away from carbon-intensive industries and fossil fuels.

Moves to watch

So much today, but it is only the beginning. Moving ahead, there are many developments to look forward to.

With COP26 around the corner, it is likely that we will see the U.S. and its newly assembled team of climate experts [8] convene with other leaders to ramp up ambition and align action ahead of the COP. In light of many other nations committing to a green transition, will we see unity and global solidarity like we saw in Paris? Backed by green technologies and corporate ambition, will world leaders take bolder action?

Come 21 February, the Working Group will announce an interim SSC, SCN, and SCM. Based on the Obama administration’s formula, the price per ton would now stand at $52. However, Trump officials reduced it to between $1 and $7 per ton. Economists believe that the Biden administration’s price might start at $125 per ton to better reflect latest climate science and market realities. [9] We can expect the price that Washington sets to impact analysts’ valuation of companies, which will be carefully watched by investors.

By 1 February, the Biden administration has promised additional executive actions to address the climate crisis. Subsequently, the $2 trillion climate package is expected to be passed. With so much optimism surrounding this, it remains to be seen if they will live up to expectations and deliver the action needed in our race towards a decarbonised future.


These series of events have instilled hope, inspiration, and ambition. The global pandemic has awakened the need for change, we are optimistic that the world will embark on an acceleration of climate action like never before.


What does this all mean for your organisation? Paia helps companies build resilience against climate change and increased expectations to decarbonise. Over past two decades, Paia has been supporting leading corporations across the region to prepare for a decarbonised future through strategically integrating climate and ESG considerations into business. Do speak to us to find out more.











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?


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.


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.



CDP. (2019). CDP Supply Chain Report 2018/19.

Science Based Targets initiative, Navigant & the Gold Standard. (November 2018). Value change in the value chain: best practices in scope 3 greenhouse gas management.

World Resources Institute (WRI), & World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). (September 2011). Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard.

Towards net zero emissions

Towards net-zero emissions real estate in Asia

The following article first appeared on GRESB Insights

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

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.



  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.
  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
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.














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.










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 ( (, 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.

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] 
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The Economist, 2019. Island states have had an outsized influenced on climate policy. [Online] 
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[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].






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






Before the Flood

Earth Day Film Screening at NUS: Leonardo Dicaprio’s Before the Flood

The NUS Energy Studies Institute (ESI) and the US Embassy jointly organized a screening of the 2016 documentary film about climate change, ‘Before the Flood’, on the 6th of April 2017. Held at the NUS University Hall Auditorium, the film screening was prefaced by a panel discussion on climate change.

‘Before the Flood’ is a powerful documentary, driven by an engaged and empathetic Leonardo DiCaprio. He takes on the role of investigative journalist as he travels across the globe to interview politicians, researchers, innovators – subjects interviewed include former President Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Pope Francis. It is in the linking of multiple places in the world that presents climate change as a multifaceted reality, connecting groups of people in the face of an unrelenting threat. DiCaprio masterfully journeys from the flooded crops in India, to the smog-hit industrialized cities of Beijing, to the melting ice sheets of Greenland, the political impasse of the White House, the magnitude of factory-farming in the US, and even to Hollywood, to explore the effects of climate change. The documentary shows with stunning clarity the different ways in which people are organizing against climate change. In China, DiCaprio is educated on the importance of data, and how grassroots movements have called for more transparency and reporting by companies. This has created momentum for citizen-built data collection and data sharing platforms, providing citizens with leverage to demand accountability from companies and specific policy changes from their government. In the US, DiCaprio sees instead a move towards carbon pricing across the economy, from the private industry through to government legislation.

‘Before the Flood’ is a very visual, educational documentary, focused not just on showing the effects of climate change, but also the ways in which things like data, reporting, innovation and policy can be used to develop short and long term solutions. For more information on the film, please visit:

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