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Eyes in the sky, tougher rules turn spotlight on big climate polluters

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Satellite monitoring and tougher climate reporting regulations for companies are set to bring greater transparency on greenhouse gas emissions from big polluters around the globe, including Singapore.

That means emissions data from refineries, power plants, factories and even airports are set to become more accurate and open to scrutiny.

In Singapore, this could soon mean more transparency around the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, that are taxed on the amount they emit.

Under the carbon tax, about 50 facilities with annual emissions of 25,000 tonnes or more are subject to the annual $5 per tonne charge.

They report their emissions data to the Government. But the Government does not disclose the names of the facilities or the level of emissions from each of them, citing commercial sensitivity and confidentiality provisions in the Carbon Pricing Act.

“Publishing a list of emitters and their emissions without providing context of the business’ nature or the size of its operations may not be helpful in understanding how well a company is doing in mitigating its emissions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) told The Straits Times.

But as governments and companies pledge tough targets to cut emissions, transparency is becoming essential to monitor progress.

“The energy transition is happening at lightning speed, and transparency of data is essential to understanding how energy use and emissions are changing,” said Mr Dave Jones, head of insights at Ember, a global energy think-tank.

“If governments are really interested in a fast and efficient transition, they should be pushing to make more data publicly available. It is in the public interest.”

Dr Kim Jeong Won, a senior research fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, is looking at the design, effectiveness and impacts of global carbon pricing schemes.

“Under mandatory carbon pricing schemes, like national carbon tax and emissions trading systems, transparency on carbon emissions data is particularly essential to monitor companies’ compliance and more accurately evaluate the environmental impacts, such as carbon reduction,” she said.

Trace and track

As data transparency becomes more important, a project backed by former United States vice-president Al Gore is trying to bring greater clarity to emission sources.

Introduced during last November’s COP27 United Nations climate talks, Climate Trace is a publicly available database of about 80,000 polluting sites around the globe, including Singapore.

The site lists emissions from refineries, power plants, roads, airports and others, and is quickly expanding with the aim of having facility-level data representing all major known sources of emissions.

It covers the main greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and is aiming for monthly and eventually weekly data.

More than 100 organisations are collaborating with the project, with Mr Gore and Google.org among the funders.

Information comes from 300 satellites and more than 11,000 ground-based sensors, with artificial intelligence used to interpret the data to calculate the emissions at the source.

“We combine many sources of information because the more we know about each emissions source, the better we are at finding and measuring them,” the group says.

The Climate Trace global map is a work in progress. For Singapore, it shows several refiners, waste plants, plus Changi Airport and more sites will be added during the year, a spokesman told The Straits Times.


Satellite monitoring and tougher climate reporting regulations for companies are set to bring greater transparency on greenhouse gas emissions from big polluters around the globe, including Singapore.

That means emissions data from refineries, power plants, factories and even airports are set to become more accurate and open to scrutiny.

In Singapore, this could soon mean more transparency around the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, that are taxed on the amount they emit.

Under the carbon tax, about 50 facilities with annual emissions of 25,000 tonnes or more are subject to the annual $5 per tonne charge.

They report their emissions data to the Government. But the Government does not disclose the names of the facilities or the level of emissions from each of them, citing commercial sensitivity and confidentiality provisions in the Carbon Pricing Act.

“Publishing a list of emitters and their emissions without providing context of the business’ nature or the size of its operations may not be helpful in understanding how well a company is doing in mitigating its emissions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) told The Straits Times.

But as governments and companies pledge tough targets to cut emissions, transparency is becoming essential to monitor progress.

“The energy transition is happening at lightning speed, and transparency of data is essential to understanding how energy use and emissions are changing,” said Mr Dave Jones, head of insights at Ember, a global energy think-tank.

“If governments are really interested in a fast and efficient transition, they should be pushing to make more data publicly available. It is in the public interest.”

Dr Kim Jeong Won, a senior research fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, is looking at the design, effectiveness and impacts of global carbon pricing schemes.

“Under mandatory carbon pricing schemes, like national carbon tax and emissions trading systems, transparency on carbon emissions data is particularly essential to monitor companies’ compliance and more accurately evaluate the environmental impacts, such as carbon reduction,” she said.

Trace and track

As data transparency becomes more important, a project backed by former United States vice-president Al Gore is trying to bring greater clarity to emission sources.

Introduced during last November’s COP27 United Nations climate talks, Climate Trace is a publicly available database of about 80,000 polluting sites around the globe, including Singapore.

The site lists emissions from refineries, power plants, roads, airports and others, and is quickly expanding with the aim of having facility-level data representing all major known sources of emissions.

It covers the main greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and is aiming for monthly and eventually weekly data.

More than 100 organisations are collaborating with the project, with Mr Gore and Google.org among the funders.

Information comes from 300 satellites and more than 11,000 ground-based sensors, with artificial intelligence used to interpret the data to calculate the emissions at the source.

“We combine many sources of information because the more we know about each emissions source, the better we are at finding and measuring them,” the group says.

The Climate Trace global map is a work in progress. For Singapore, it shows several refiners, waste plants, plus Changi Airport and more sites will be added during the year, a spokesman told The Straits Times.

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