Statement by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the G20 Environment Ministers Meeting on 16 September 2020
1 I thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the G20 Presidency for hosting the G20 Environment Ministers Meeting. The Presidency has demonstrated great leadership in bringing countries together, especially during this difficult time amidst a global pandemic, to ensure that we are all still able to engage in discussions. Singapore is honoured to contribute to this important endeavour.
2 Singapore commends the impressive work of the G20 on Combatting Land Degradation and Habitat Loss and Improving Coral Reef Resilience and Conservation. As an international community, it is important that we work together to identify sustainable solutions to address these issues, particularly in light of the challenges brought upon by climate change, in order to prepare for a carbon and resource-constrained future. Singapore identifies strongly with the principles of sustainability—as reflected in the recent renaming of our Ministry to the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.
Combating Habitat Loss
3 Singapore is a small, littoral and highly densely populated city-state, and our natural inheritance, both land and sea, is therefore very important to us. Since the 1990s, Singapore has been undertaking habitat enhancement measures to mitigate habitat loss and maximise green spaces.
4 Through our Nature Conservation Masterplan, in accordance with accepted science-based methods, we strive to restore habitats that have been lost and enhance existing habitats.
5 To increase the viability of habitats, we are creating a pervasive network of greenery, such as roadside green corridors known as Nature Ways to connect areas of high biodiversity. Trees, shrubs and ground cover are planted to mimic the emergent, mid-canopy and undergrowth layers of a natural forest in these Nature Ways to link fragmented natural habitats and enhance biodiversity in our urban environment. We even have colonies of smooth-coated otters as residents in our waterways! We hope that our efforts to make Singapore a City in Nature will contribute to the long-term sustainability of our existing habitats.
Enhancing Our Coastal and Marine Environments
6 Singapore’s biodiversity is a significant part of our natural heritage, and this conviction extends to our coastal and marine environments that we strive to conserve and protect. The sustainability of our coastal and marine areas is also vital in supporting the biodiversity, habitat protection, liveability and development of our country. Despite our growing urbanisation and small size, our coastal and marine environment is home to over 250 hard coral species, 12 seagrass species, 100 marine fish species, and countless others. We have various initiatives and safeguards in place to ensure that our coastal and marine environments are conserved in a sustainable manner. For example, we have developed the Marine Conservation Action Plan (MCAP) which details our efforts on conserving our marine biodiversity through, among other approaches, species recovery and habitat enhancement.
7 In addition, visitors to our coastal and marine environments are given a unique recreational experience as a means to educate them about our marine natural heritage. We also work closely with the academia and volunteer groups to test-bed research projects in habitat rehabilitation, restoration and enhancement technologies.
8 Through this integrated, multi-stakeholder approach of conserving our coastal and marine environments, we have been able to balance the competing demands within these areas in such a way that has brought boundless benefits to a multitude of species, including the marine turtles, giant clams, Neptune’s cup sponge, rare hard and soft local coral species, across a wide range of marine habitats, including coral reefs, sandy shores, and seagrass beds.
9 Specific to the topic of coral reef resilience, Singapore would like to share one of our most recent marine enhancement projects called “Grow-a-Reef Garden” project. This project has been our largest artificial reef installation project to date, where eight reef structures were installed on bare sea-beds to facilitate the growth of new coral reefs at the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. Each structure, termed a “terrace house” for corals, was specially designed to maximise coral settlement and the growth of encrusting species, and to provide shelter to fishes and other mobile organisms.
Addressing Marine Litter and Microplastics
10 Singapore also wishes to express our commitment to addressing the global issue of marine litter that needs to be collectively and urgently addressed.
11 Singapore not only has in place stringent legislation and regulations on pollution control and waste management, we aim to minimise waste at source through our comprehensive and integrated solid waste management and collection system. Litter that enters our waterways is trapped by litter traps installed at appropriate locations and expediently removed by flotsam removal craft. This further reduces the possibility of any marine litter, including plastic debris, from ending up in waterways and the ocean. At the same time, we are actively pursuing circular economy approaches under our Zero Waste Masterplan, so as to turn more of our trash into treasure.
12 We also actively contribute to the continued work on the 2019 G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter, and we are heartened by the efforts of the G20 Saudi Presidency to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the work done on marine litter and microplastics under the 2019 Japan Presidency.
13 It is imperative that we ensure the sustainability of our terrestrial and marine environments, as these are pathways that are critical in helping us to stay resilient in a low-carbon and resource-constrained world.
14 This year, the G20 Presidency’s endeavours to bring focus on the health of coral reefs and land degradation are timely, in the light of the recently launched Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 that highlighted the world’s failure to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that were set in 2010, as well as the Living Planet Report 2020 by WWF that highlights the continuing decline of the Earth’s biodiversity. These reports demonstrate that these issues must not be ignored even in this tumultuous period of the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that discussions are ongoing with the Deputies to finalise the draft G20 Environment Ministerial Communique.
15 Singapore looks forward to seeing a consensus of this hard-fought document which we stand prepared to fully support at today’s meeting. We also welcome the Executive Summary for a Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats and theGlobal Coral Reef R&D Accelerator Platform.
16 It is through our collaborative efforts as a global community to address these challenges and co-create innovative solutions, that we can build a more sustainable and resilient future. We would like to thank the G20 Presidency for giving Singapore the opportunity in joining other delegations in the G20 community to contribute meaningfully to the process.
17 Thank you.