First published online at The Straits Times
SINGAPORE - The organisers of the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix have set out a plan to halve the emissions produced from energy sources during the race weekend by 2028.
This comes as a study by Singapore GP of the carbon footprint of 2022’s race weekend found that most of the emissions generated – 96.1 per cent – came from providing the energy required to power the event.
It aims to do so with a broad slew of initiatives, some of which kicked in for 2023, including the use of LED lighting across the entire 4.94km Marina Bay Street Circuit and 1,396 solar panels installed on the roof of the F1 Pit Building in July.
The 2023 event will take place next Friday to Sunday.
The solar panels, Singapore GP said, will generate enough electricity to power the building for the entire race month.
The study found that the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted over a five-month period, from the time work started to set up the circuit in July and, after the race, to tear down all the infrastructure in November, was 2,372 tonnes.
This figure does not include the emissions produced by the freight, logistics and travel requirements of the racing teams.
In comparison, an individual living in Singapore produces about 8,310kg of carbon dioxide for the whole year.
Elsewhere, the Singapore GP is looking to use B100 biodiesel and hydro-treated vegetable oil in all its on-site generators and shift away from conventional fossil fuels such as diesel by 2028.
B100 biodiesel is a biofuel composed wholly of oil from vegetable or biological sources.
According to Mr Chia Chien Chang, lead analyst for carbon management and circular economy at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) EcoLabs Centre of Innovation for Energy, B100 biodiesel produces 20 per cent less emissions than diesel.
Mr Chia told The Straits Times: “The possible knock-on effects from the race switching to using B100... will definitely spur interest from other similar outdoor event organisers to potentially switch to biodiesel usage in pursuit of greener events.
“On the R&D side, there will be more demand-driven research from the industry towards research on improving biodiesel’s characteristics, like better quality and higher energy content of biodiesel for different applications.”
Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, said that additionally, the production of biofuels would aid in the capture of carbon, thus lowering the carbon footprint.
The effort to make the Singapore Grand Prix more sustainable falls in line with Formula 1’s own efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.
Ms Ong Ling Lee, executive director of sports and wellness at the Singapore Tourism Board, said: “Sustainability is a collective responsibility. We are committed to work with like-minded industry players to scale up in sustainability solutions and capabilities for the Singapore race.”
Such efforts, said Associate Professor Charlene Chen of the Nanyang Business School, could go unnoticed by racegoers unless they are made visible, as consumers are unlikely to read sustainability reports or pay attention to news of these initiatives.
“An increasing proportion of consumers are concerned about sustainability... and will judge the Singapore GP’s sustainability efforts based on simple cues that are obvious, such as ‘bring your own’ messages or recycling collection bins,” said Prof Chen.
Mr Chia said that while the targets set by Singapore GP seem realistic and achievable, given the broad slew of initiatives proposed, he cautioned about the heavy use of renewable energy certificates to offset unavoidable emissions.
About 85 per cent of electricity consumed in the 2022 race was covered by these certificates, Singapore GP said.
Some $150 million is spent to host the annual race, with the Government putting up 60 per cent of the total cost, with the remaining 40 per cent covered by Singapore GP.
The race’s organisers declined to comment on how much the certificates cost.
In August, retired four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel spoke out about the race’s immense carbon footprint and whether enough efforts were being made to reduce emissions.
Dr David Broadstock from the National University of Singapore’s Sustainable and Green Finance Institute said that while the report covered only the emissions generated within the circuit, it was unfair to expect Singapore GP to be accountable for other events that take place as part of the race weekend.
“Like any big event, there is going to be an environmental footprint, with people flying in and travelling. But there is also an economic footprint, since people are spending money and staying in hotels,” said Dr Broadstock, who is the institute’s energy transition lead researcher.
He added: “The question that major event organisers must ask is, how do we host major events, whether it’s an F1 race or a Taylor Swift concert, with the smallest environmental footprint possible?”