Sustainability research at NUS gets a boost from Temasek

As an urban island-state, Singapore has limited access to renewable or alternative energy sources, and faces threats from rising sea levels and other adverse effects of climate change. To enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the nation, researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have been actively working on technological innovations to reduce our carbon footprint.

Now, these research efforts will be further strengthened with support from investment company Temasek. It has recently pledged a gift of S$15 million to co-fund a research centre that harnesses hydrogen for sustainability applications, and a gift of S$3 million to implement a research programme to develop a knowledge database and toolkit for blue carbon stocks in the region.

This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr Heng Swee Keat, on 29 September 2021 during his speech at the Ecosperity Week 2021 presented by Temasek. The event gathered global business leaders, policy-makers, investors and civil society from the region and beyond for discussions around the opportunities in decarbonisation and climate action, reimagining nature and resources, and sustainable investing and financing.

New centre for innovative hydrogen solutions

Hydrogen is the world’s most abundant element, and has shown promise to be a green fuel for Singapore in its fight against climate change. To harness its potential, NUS will establish a new Centre For Hydrogen Innovations (CHI), bringing together the best talents from the academia and industry to generate novel solutions to support Singapore’s national carbon reduction target.

NUS Deputy President (Research and Technology) Professor Chen Tsuhan said, “The establishment of CHI is timely, made possible through the generous gift from Temasek. CHI will be the first hydrogen research centre in Singapore, and it aims to empower Singapore to be a gamechanger in enabling a hydrogen economy, diversify our nation’s energy supply to strengthen energy security, and contribute to the global agenda of combatting climate change.”

In addition, CHI will leverage NUS’ thought leadership, state-of-the-art facilities, and unique strength in translating interdisciplinary research to address complex and system level challenges involved in the deployment of hydrogen technologies. In this way, the new Centre will be well positioned to serve as a nexus to build an ecosystem of industry partners, as well as to scale and commercialise the technologies across the supply chain and downstream applications.

The new Centre, which is expected to be operational in 2022, will conduct research in the areas of hydrogen production, transportation, storage and end-use applications that push technological frontiers. It will also testbed technologies for deployment, and will contribute to the development of researchers and industry practitioners to support a hydrogen economy.

New research programme on blue carbon

Nature-based climate solutions offer multiple benefits to society, including clean air and water, food security, and livelihood opportunities. Such solutions can provide over a third of the cost-effective mitigation needed worldwide to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

To deepen our understanding of nature-based climate solutions and coastal ecosystems capable of sequestering carbon dioxide, known as blue carbon ecosystems, the NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS) will embark on a five-year research programme funded by a S$3 million gift from Temasek.

An effort to improve the quality of carbon credits, this new NUS-Temasek Blue Carbon Project is one of the largest and most comprehensive blue carbon monitoring academic projects in the region. It builds on nearly a decade of NUS research in measuring blue carbon, particularly in mangroves and seagrasses, to address critical research gaps on blue carbon science.

“We are deeply grateful for the support from Temasek. This project seeks to address the existing knowledge gaps to inform the development of robust and defensible blue carbon monitoring, reporting and verification methodologies that are acceptable, scalable and deployable internationally,” explained Professor Koh Lian Pin, Director of CNCS.

Under the programme, CNCS will develop a knowledge database of blue carbon stocks in the Southeast Asia region, which holds the highest density of carbon prospecting for investments in natural climate solutions, to help governments and companies identify the most important blue carbon sites for their protection to achieve climate mitigation goals. In addition, the research will also help inform the development of new models and techniques for better carbon monitoring, reporting and verification with potential applications at scale. This includes field and laboratory experiments on carbon storage and sequestration processes as well as carbon stock assessments through remote sensing analyses.