Photograph of the chimneys of a factory where we can see smoke coming out. In the background we see the flag of Singapore.

By Natalie Tham
May 27, 2020

As an affluent nation, our relatively comfortable lifestyles present a greater threat to climate change than other nations. Many Singaporeans are consumers of meat, go holidaying at least once a year, shop (and throw out preloved items) frequently and own private transport. Most Singaporeans have air-conditioners installed in their homes as well, and as a means of coping with the hot and humid climate, many have made it a habit to leave their air-conditioners on overnight.

The website What is My Carbon Footprint showed that the average Singaporean generates an alarming 9000kg of carbon emissions per year, more than twice the world's average, and more than 4 times the target to maintain a sustainable footprint. This compounds existing fears that climate change will impact Singapore more greatly than other nations – the Meteorological Service Singapore had previously shared findings that Singapore is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world.

We took the carbon footprint quiz in the SP Utilities app to get a clearer idea of the average Singaporean's carbon footprint, putting ourselves in the shoes of an average Singaporean. We assumed the role of an individual who: does not practice recycling household waste, does not have dietary restrictions, commutes for 100 minutes on the MRT daily, and travels twice yearly - once for leisure to Japan, and once more for a business trip to America.

Different mobile screens of a carbon footprint quiz tracker.
Different mobile screens of a carbon footprint quiz tracker.

Here are the results: The carbon emissions of a Singaporean individual with such a profile turned out to be a whopping 10,592kg, more than 3 times of the sustainable goal of 3,000kg.

The results screen of a carbon footprint quiz tracker.

Closer to home, our neighbouring countries' annual recorded carbon emissions per capita is almost comparable to ours: Malaysia stands at 8130kg/capita, Taiwan stands at 11720kg/capita, while Japan emits 9539kg of carbon dioxide emissions per capita.

We sure have a lot to learn from other eco-friendly countries. Switzerland tops the list for being the most eco-friendly country in the world, based on the Environmental Performance Index published in 2018. Carbon dioxide emissions per capita are a mere 4700kg. Meanwhile, France, second only to Switzerland on the list, records an average of 5130kg of carbon emissions per capita.

The table below shows where we stand as compared to the rest of the world in terms of carbon dioxide emissions per capita. Despite having a small population, Singapore is the 27th highest carbon dioxide emissions emitter in the world.

A graphic of the CO2 emissions from fuel combustion ranking.
Extracted from the National Climate Change Secretariat

Meanwhile, the table below shows the top five countries in the world on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which "ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across ten issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. These metrics provide a gauge at a national scale of how close countries are to establishing environmental policy goals."

Top 5 countries in the Environmental Performance Index of 2018. In first place is Switzerland, then France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden.
Top 5 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (2018)
Results of Singapore on the environmental performance index.
Singapore is ranked 49th on the Environmental Performance Index (2018)

Evidently, Singapore has a long way to go in reducing our collective carbon emissions, but we can definitely jumpstart our progress in combating climate change by actively living sustainable lifestyles. Instead of throwing out a preloved item, is it possible to repurpose it or donate it to someone who may need them? How about reducing your meat consumption, starting with one meat-free meal per week? It's difficult to cut down our energy consumption as Singapore is a tech-savvy Smart Nation, but if we all turned to solar energy as our main energy source, we would see considerable cuts in our carbon footprint.

Singapore overview.