Despite producing only 0.025% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, Brunei has one of the largest per-capita carbon footprints in the area. The sultanate’s warmest year was 2016; the average temperature has grown 1.25 °C since 1970. By 2100, it is predicted to increase to 4 °C. The hotter and drier circumstances, brought on by the increased temperature, make heat waves more intense and severe which has caused devastating forest and peat swamp fires in Brunei.
Brunei’s forest has historically been able to absorb all the carbon emissions, making Brunei a carbon-negative country. However, Brunei is no longer a net carbon sink as of 2020, which means it is now emitting more greenhouse gases than it absorbs. This is due to an increase in energy consumption by local industries. Planting more trees can increase the country’s carbon sink, which is one of the 10 key strategies under the Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BNCCP) to solve the climate change crisis. BNCCP Strategy 2 focuses on increasing local forest cover by planting 500,000 trees by 2035 to reduce carbon emissions and restore the nation’s previous status as a carbon sink.
A smartphone application called Atmosphiere, created by SPHIERE, is made available to the public to track carbon emissions and contribute to tree planting in Brunei, further assisting the implementation of BNCCP Strategy 2. The launching commenced on 13th August and was followed by a tree planting event at the Berakas Forest Reserve.
The Managing Director of SPHIERE, Haji Ahmad Najib Haji Mohidin, stated during the launching that currently, Brunei’s forests cover 72% and must be increased to 80% (through afforestation and reforestation) in order for Brunei to become a carbon sink in the hopes that Atmosphiere will be able to receive between 2,000 and 3,000 (plant orders) per month.
Following the event, 105 saplings were planted. Another 915 pledged trees are to be planted, which is mostly through corporate donations made by 22 companies, totalling 1,020.
Atmosphiere allows users to pay to place orders for tree planting at Bruneian forests and parks for $28 to $38 per tree and in exchange, receive photo updates of the tree’s status every month. Users can choose to volunteer to plant trees as part of the strategy’s goal, integrating the public and private sectors to guarantee a successful reforestation programme. Atmosphiere also offers planting site options and tree species suited for planting in the habitat.
Furthermore, Atmosphiere has a feature to monitor the users’ carbon footprint using a calculator. This feature is provided by BCCS which follows the global standard from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The calculation considers many aspects of energy use, such as vehicle ownership, electricity consumption, and cooking gas. The application will indicate how many trees users need to offset their footprint to promote a sustainable lifestyle.
SPHIERE was founded in 2016, providing IT services such as design, website and mobile application development. The application was developed in collaboration with Shell LiveWIRE Brunei, the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation, the Forestry Department, the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, and the Brunei Climate Change Secretariat. SPHIERE also collaborates with business partners to supply the tree saplings, and plant and maintain the trees.
Additionally, Mandatory Carbon Reporting has been strategised under BNCCP since 2021. The government is anticipated to create legislation mandating the submission of carbon data monthly and annually by ‘all facilities and agents that emit and absorb greenhouse gases’. By improving monitoring, carbon reporting aims to increase transparency of greenhouse gas emissions and aid . Brunei in its transition to a low-carbon economy as Brunei’s annual carbon footprint per person is among the largest in the area at 10 tonnes, which requires the planting of 200 trees to counteract.